There are individuals I have always referred to as ‘the sad people’. These are folk I have met from time to time. Sometimes it’s just people I’ve watched from a distance, keeping them appropriately at arm’s length.
They are the people with no one. No one who loves them. No one to worry over them. No one to see how they are doing.
I have met them more often over the past couple of decades because of my job as a letter carrier. I suppose that in that capacity I become one of the few people with whom they can interact, at all. So it was with a particular woman on one of the streets that I deliver.
From the nature of the mail that I would deliver to her modest house in a working class neighborhood I just have always assumed that she inherited the place from her parents. I never have figured out her age—she’s one of those people who are hard to peg that way. She might have been younger than I am, or older, or the same age. I have no way of knowing. I never saw anyone visiting her other than a couple of her neighbors. A couple of times I spoke to her to discover that the power had been cut off to her house and she was without the means to heat the place, sometimes in the depth of winter.
Because of moments like this, I assumed that she was on some kind of disability. She didn’t seem to work, so income must have been coming from some source, inadequate though the money obviously was. With her, there was something slightly off. It wasn’t something you could just name, but something wasn’t right. No family. No husband. No children. No close friends. No one.
If you’re lucky, at some point you have parents who love you and care for you. I would try to piece together her history without actually knowing it. I always figured that her parents were long gone, and that they had left the house to her. It was their way to assure that their love for her would linger as a roof over her head, at least.
A few days ago she was on the tiny porch of her little house, standing with a battered suitcase while a woman waited for her in a car in the driveway. To the right and left of the porch were the plastic flowers and little pinwheels she’d put in the brick planters on either side of the steps. I handed her the mail and smiled and asked her how she was doing.
As she reached out with that strange, uncoordinated way I had always noted to grasp the letters, she replied. “Not well,” she said. “The bank is kicking me out of my house.”
I looked at her, standing there with the old suitcase. “I’m so sorry,” I told her.
“Do you have a change of address card?” she asked.
“I don’t, but I’ll bring you one tomorrow.” She came down the stairs. I turned my back and proceeded on my way, speechless.
The next day I got to her house. There was that sheriff’s department card in the window. Locked by order, it said . They had wasted no time. No time, at all.
I will never get over the overwhelming presence of the sad people I meet.