Sunday, February 02, 2014

The Sad People

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.


Lawrence Roy Aiken said...

You could start another blog with stories like this from your rounds about the richest and poorest parts of Charlotte. On the other hand, it might grind you down after a while. This post would fit perfectly with the idea I had for a blog called Tales of the Second Great Depression but it's all I can do to keep my spirits up to function most days. It's a sad, lonely old world out there. We pay lip service to this dismal truth from time to time, but that's all most of us can do.

I know from personal experience that too much time spent by oneself is not healthy. If you were not anti-social and weird already to begin with -- and we all are to varying degrees -- you sure as shittin' will be after enough time living alone. It takes years to get over it, too. As much as I hated the idea of roommate drama, I knew I had to have them if only to force me out of my own darkening mental cave after my mother died.

And nothing changes the world like having parents or other central figures (e.g., but not limited to spouse or children) suddenly removed from one's life. It's like the sun goes out, and all the planets that were once family drift out into the darkness. It was certainly that way when my mom died. I was astonished at how many other people it affected. It turned out her existence in our lives was the only reason most of us even talked to one another.

"All the lonely people/Where do they all come from?" Does it matter? Moral of story: make some goddamned connections and keep in touch, for fuck's sake. If you can.

Vicki said...

That is so sad. What happens to the people who are evicted from their homes? Are they provided with emergency housing?

James Robert Smith said...

Here in the USA? Nothing. The streets. The banks rule and they get what they want.

James Robert Smith said...

Roy: I've thought about doing a blog about USPS, but several problems arise when I consider it:

Most days are boring as dried dog shit (to coin Stephen King). And also I still work for USPS (which limits what I'd truly like to say).

The depression of what goes on in the world, and in my own country is often overwhelming. What happened to this lonely woman is beyond criminal. I doubt she ever lived anywhere else in her entire life...and now it's gone for her.

Yeah...I don't want to think about it too much.