Wednesday, 11 August 2010

The Story of Cindy

I see her almost every morning as I head to work.  A solitary figure in a long black skirt, a man's black windbreaker, sturdy boots and a hat pulled low over her face, despite the raging south Florida heat. She's usually carrying a bag or two, but never more than you'd see after someone has been shopping at the mall. Never enough to give her away. Never enough bags to look homeless...but she is.

If I stop for tea or a bagel before work, she's often there  -- sometimes eating her own breakfast, sometimes just sitting at a table, sometimes walking past.  We've talked now and then.  She knows me well enough to say hello, to chat for a bit.

The first time I talked with her, she was sitting alone on a bench by the fountain.  It was well over 90 degrees, but she was dressed entirely in black.  Layers of black.  I said hello, and she began to talk to me.  Her face was surprisingly young -- maybe late 30's or early 40's.  Her voice and her vocabulary suggest a very good education, a comfortable upbringing.

She used to be an artist, she told me. A good one.  She had a studio and a future. She shows me some sketches from one her bags.  The subjects are confusing...a bit of this, a bit of that, but the skill is very much there. She tells me she lost everything to a partner, who took her studio, destroyed her career. She watched the partner walk away with the success that should have been hers.  And that was the end. She didn't say how -- I have no idea if she walked away from her former life, had a breakdown or simply gave in to demons that may have existed all along.

But the result was a loss of her home. And perhaps saddest of all, a loss of her name.  You see, I call her Cindy to myself.  She looks like a Cindy.  But she says that when she stopped being an artist, when she lost her future (her words), she also lost her name.  Whatever she loves or likes, she tells me, she loses.  It is taken away.  So she hid her name, even from herself, so she would not lose it. She would not say more.

So nameless, she walks the streets and rides the buses in South Florida.  Always clean, always polite, always dressed from head to toe in heavy back clothing.

A lost soul, who lost her own name...

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