Homeless in New Orleans.

A Bum’s Rush

The old woman turned and smiled, just long enough for me to miss seeing the thick walking stick she swung toward the side of my head.  I should have known better than to get so close, as it was a common reaction on her part, well known by those who inhabit or visit the French Quarter on a regular basis. 

In your effort to help someone in trouble, to break through the reflections of their experience, it’s a common danger more often than not, that they will fight to control some semblance of their world, regardless of who is making the attempt to help them.

When I first came to New Orleans it was a surreal experience. I stepped off the Greyhound bus, it was early evening, late August, the heat was dissipating and the surrounding tree covered grounds, were paved with cardboard boxes, the bed of choice for the average homeless person.  It’s sad to say what become’s average at times for some souls. 

It was a sultry night with the expected drunks, and dope heads, but the unexpected presence of children alone or with friends, and homeless families, all seeking some level of peace and rest from the day’s efforts to survive.

The Bus Station was a sanctuary.  A place away from the river, away from the dangers of the boardwalk, and away from the Quarter where anything could happen, and usually did at one time or another. It was the circling of the wagons from the violence so many thought to escape, even if for just a moment.

The old woman; Gabbie, as I like to think of her, had a voice that reminded me of a children’s movie I remembered from years past.  Trembling, high pitched, a falsetto of innocence hoping in every note to find beauty in the life yet to come.

I stepped back, ducking Gabbie’s manic swing, just barely escaping another lump on the side of my head.  On the days that I was able to find her, she didn’t always miss.  I had a meal tray with me and I was in danger of spilling it as I stepped back to give her space and time to calm down.

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