When I told her that she was beautiful she smiled like the Cheshire cat. She knew that I meant it too. I don’t think she’d heard that in awhile. You want to take my picture? She said. My picture? I told her that it would make my day. There was so much going on around her that wasn’t beautiful. The heroin touts were busy running back and forth from Natoma out to the cars idling on 6th Street, looking at me with Hyena smiles. I could feel a certain malice in the air, like a current in a wire. I said, All right, are you ready? I knew I didn’t have much time. A white man with a camera on 6th Street. She put her hands on her hips and looked up into my eyes. She couldn’t have been much over five feet tall. She had a story for sure. But we all do. Hers I knew would be different than mine, with all her belongings in a Hefty bag and living out there on 6th Street. She was a survivor though, stronger than I’d ever be. I showed her the picture on the back of the little screen. You’d think she’d never seen a mirror before. She was giddy over it, that little image. I wished I could have given it to her, to have, to keep forever. I wished she would always keep that little smile she smiled. I wished I could have given her back what was taken from her in the first place. I wished the five-dollar bill I gave her meant more than some token gesture to ease my conscience and that it might actually go toward a meal. And God I wish I had asked her her name.
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