It is dusk when I see you, washing in a pool of rainwater at the side of the road. You are tiny and thin, clothes thin too, wind icy. Nearby is the folded cardboard that is your home.
You speak so fast into the wind that I barely understand. Behind us are silent houses with high walls. Perhaps the people inside are enjoying a glass of wine before dinner.
You speak of losing your bungalow and the brutal indignities of life on the street. Your story evokes empathy and fear in me at the same time – fear that I may open the door to unbearable need, that you may come home with me and never leave.
Maybe I simply do not want to be disturbed. My prayer beads are in my hand. You are walking away when I call after you to say that I will bring you things.
I do, but they are not what you want. You say you want coffee and money. You do not dream anymore about a more beautiful world.
I take this twilight meeting as a visitation. I realise that I am not asked to solve your situation but to meet your eyes and not look away. Rather than rush to give you something and retreat to my cocoon, let me meet you here and allow right action to arise on its own. Let me welcome the outcast, the innocent, the orphan, in us both.
You come in difficult guises, in the void of grief at my daughter’s exile, in the raging fire on the mountain, in the dark dying of the rose in the courtyard.
You come to me today as Renée.