Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Fingernail Polish

There she was curled up under a tree, nodding in and out. It was now 8:00 P.M. and two hours previously she had asked if I had a cigarette. I had looked at her a little surprised she'd even ask. I couldn't imagine any decent adult passing a cigarette to this baby.

She still had that nongender look that our youngest have right before they blossom into teenagehood. So young you can still intermix them and play a good game of concentration trying to match pairs of male to male and female to female.

"Hey, do you have a cigarette......

Two hours later and she was curled up like a puppy who had dug a hole for itself under a tree. Trying hard to stay awake but heroin had her in its grip. "oh look, that's so sad!" said the youngest of my unruly group of addicts jostling to get back into the van after their twelve step meeting. It was her and the most recent addition to the rehab center who stopped in their tracks and looked at me. Both of them just young enough to think adults still have the answers tucked away in some secret belt that you receive when you hit thirty.

I lightly touch her shoulder.

"Hey, do you have anywhere else you can go?"

She immediately jumps up and stumbles into us. My youngest whispers "She's afraid we saw her nodding out and are going to make her move." She looks at us with no real comprehension, shivering in the cold and all of fourteen and ninety pounds soaking wet. It was then I spy her fingers as she clutches herself shivering. I spit it out, a verbal vomit that was ridiculous. 

"You take that nail polish off right now. You're telling every pervert walking by that you're a girl. TAKE IT OFF NOW! "

That woke her up and I think I scared her a little bit. But don't judge me too harshly, see it from my point of view. A little thing, vulnerable, asexual with the only true indication of her sex there on her small, ragged, chipped up, polished nails. I wanted her to hide them away far from the evil that surely stalked her. 

 She put her nails out in front of her as if she was a pin-up star admiring the work her manicurist had just done and said. "just because I'm on the street doesn't mean I don't want to look pretty." Those words pinged through my heart like a shot. To be so young, so high, so vulnerable, so hopeful that fingernail polish will make a difference.

"I just want to be pretty."  

I took off my hoodie and handed it to her. I told her to put it on and to pull in her hands while she was sleeping or around any place or person she felt could be dangerous. I asked her again if there was anywhere safe for her to go. 

She touched her tree, "There's light here and people are coming and going. I'm right by the street." It was stupid of me to ask if there was anywhere safe. There is no such thing, especially when you're a young girl on the streets.

She stood there swaying, trying to stay awake. Afraid someone would make her leave her tree. The youngest whispers, "isn't there anything we can do?" I shake my head no. Right now in Portland, families are being turned out onto the street so their landlords can raise the rent for the new chump who will happily pay it. With sources scarce we make our youngest pay with their lives.

"No. Get in the van."

I look at her one last time, she has already started to settle back into her hole. Curled up like the puppy she is. A bag of Doritos by her side and what looks like to be chocolate milk in a water bottle. I tell her to be safe and she doesn't even look up or bother to respond. 

"That was really sweet that you gave her your jacket!" the youngest said as we drove back to the center. I didn't agree, I can get another jacket with a snap of my fingers. But what I can't get back is my peace of mind.

Our future is nodding out under a tree, high on heroin. Wondering how much dick she'll have to suck for her next fix. Hoping this time they pay her.  

And I was worried about her fingernail polish.

My pictures are from the homeless community here in Portland Oregon. But you don't see this on Portlandia do you.