Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What's in a name?

Dear Sally,

I have no idea what your real name is. This is how we refer to you when we tell stories in my office in beautiful downtown Calgary.

I have no idea who you are, where you came from or what drove you to live on the street, pushing around a red shopping cart that likely contains every last item you possess.

I can't imagine the type of life you live. I hope I never have to find out. For that matter, I hope no one I love ever has to find out.

I came frightfully close last summer when my severance cheque started to dwindle and I had no job prospects.

But I managed to survive in a positive, healthy way. I wish you could have done the same.

I know not why you must direct your anger at me. You seem to recognize me and choose to throw all of your bile in my direction.

Several months ago, I went downstairs to grab a latte at the Well. It was a good day ... the cast was off my hand, the sun was shining and I was about to sip at the goodness of a cup of French vanilla syrup, espresso and steamed milk. Yummy.

You were pushing your cart up the street, pointed a grubby finger at me and yelled: "Sluts like you are the reason why I'm separated from my husband and my children."

I was stunned. And congratulations. There are few people capable of leaving me speechless.

Just a month ago, I was returning from birthday lunch with one of my best friends. There simply is nothing like a quick stopover at Hooter's for a celebration of your 36th. Why didn't we just go to the peelers anyway?

It was a cooler day, so I didn't quite recognize you all bundled up. But I hopped off the C-Train and started merrily walking my way back to the office.

You see me and yell, "You should suck a dick. It will probably make you feel better."

Sound advice, I'm sure. But I was in a good mood and I refused to let you rain on my birthday parade.

You've said things to my co-workers. But you're not near as mean and bitter towards them. They even tell me you can be quite cheerful.

I don't scare easily but my new life downtown has opened my eyes to the base level of humanity -- the one where people get pushed in front of the C-Train for a dime bag, or the one where someone sprays buckshot into the park where people like you sleep, or the one where the bus driver says to a trainee, 'This is a fun corner to drive past. You can watch the bums fight over a beer.'

So I now keep my eyes open for you. And I will cross the street when I have that opportunity.

I missed that chance yesterday. I was crossing the street and didn't see you coming, once again. But this time, I was locked into my MP3 player ... I was probably grooving to Tool, or maybe it was Led Zeppelin's Kashmir.

I know it was me at whom you were yelling. I redirected my eyes, hopeful you would turn your attention elsewhere. But I could hear your screaming over my music and I could feel the piercing stares of the others in the crosswalk.

You continued your tirade at my back and maybe I'm fortunate they were only words and not a knife.

I've thought about confronting you. I've thought about introducing myself to you. But I'm still not convinced it would improve your opinion of me.

But I won't let you ruin my day. I won't let you make me as unhappy as you are.

I've worked hard to be where I am today. And you won't change that.