Like We Don’t Exist

The other day while I was walking to Port Authority after a doctor’s appointment, I noticed a young boy swaying and stumbling under the weight of his huge backpack like if he was drunk.

Photo Credit: Louie Ortega | Creative Commons

At a distance, he appeared too young to be walking alone on the streets of Manhattan. I felt a tug and decided I would try to catch up and speak with him.

When I did, I discovered that he was a she, with short dusty brown hair, soft brown eyes, and wearing baggy khaki pants with a matching military jacket which seemed to droop on her 4″11″ frame.

“Hey, thanks a lot,” she said when I slipped her something. She had a beautiful smile even though most of her teeth were missing and her face was covered with sores.

If I were to guess, she was no more than eighteen years old, a transient and addicted to Meth. The sores were from scratching due to formication–which is the sensation of bugs crawling on or underneath the skin–a common side effect of Meth users.

“What’s going on?” I asked. “Everything,” she said with a sigh, looking down and around to avoid making eye contact with me.

“I’m sorry to hear that. I noticed you back there and I’m glad I caught up to you,” I said.

“Really? You noticed me? Wow. No one ever notices me. It’s like I’m invisible or something. Even people I know and thought were my friends, avoid me.” Her voice cracked.

“I know what it’s like to feel invisible,” I said. I could feel my face flush and tears welling up. She searched my eyes. “My name is Whitney,” she said sticking her hand out to shake mine.

Here we were, two strangers, crossing paths, unbearing our souls on the corner of 42nd Street. The heartbeat of New York City. The epicenter of fame and fortune. As we stood there and talked, people rushed around us like we didn’t exist. The irony.

Before we parted ways, she asked if it would be okay to give me a hug. Even though I’m not the hugging type, I said yes. When we hugged, I knew she meant it.

Suffice it to say, this was the most memorable experience I’ve had in a long time. It was real. There were no walls, barriers, masks or pretenses. In contrast to all the years I worked in Corporate America, where pretenses and playing politics were the norm and being real was frowned upon. Go figure.

Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.” Matthew 23:26

“Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught?
But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.” Matthew 15:17-18

  • Pearl R. Meaker

    What a wonderful experience. I pray that her encounter with you gave Whitney hope in her dark world.

    • Thank you for reading and commenting, Pearl. I appreciate it. Blessings.