You may be wondering what the latest is on Cherie, my friend who spends much of her time on the bench at the north end of the station at 181st St on the A line.

I haven’t written much because there hasn’t been much to report. What began with a bunch of grapes ended a week or so later with left over Thai dinner. I gave that to Cheri one Saturday several weeks ago, warning her that it was a bit spicy. Turns out it was not just far too spicy, it was down right offensive. When I next saw Cherie on my way to work the following Monday, she bluntly and directly told me: “I don’t want no food, no gifts, no nothing from you any more.” To which I replied feeling sheepish, “I hear you. I get that.”

Since then we’ve remained polite though I don’t see her much anymore. As we enter March and hints of spring are around the corner, I suspect the bench on 181st St will remain less and less one of  her “places” to be.

While I wait to see her again, and pray for how to engage her in a genuine way, I realize my minimal contact with her has opened my eyes.  It’s made me wonder – in ways I really haven’t before – where do people who have no home go to use the bathroom?  And what if they have diarrhea or they get their period and need a bathroom more often, where do they go then?  Where do they go to bathe?  Do they ever even get to bathe or take a shower?  How do they pass the endless hours of each day?  What do they think of the hoards of people they see getting off and on the subway trains each day, knowing they – most of them anyway – have jobs and homes to go to? What do they hope for, for themselves? For their lives? What are  they living for day-to-day?

I don’t know the answers to these questions but interacting with someone who makes her home in the subway has forced me to consider her life – and the many privileges of mine – in a whole new way. And its given me ideas about things to talk with her about when I see her next.

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