By Gemma Sidney
There’s a woman who stands on the corner of my street each night, stoic and with purpose.
Her long and strong legs, encased in sheer pantyhose, are like two exclamation points, striding out from underneath a red miniskirt as she casually slouches against the wall. A blouse, thin for this weather, hugs her skinny frame. This season has been tough on her.
The gentle breeze rustles her hairpiece; a blonde lock caresses her cheek, rouged to perfection. She repeatedly licks her thin, painted-red lips, more nervously than lasciviously.
Her large hands reach into a snakeskin purse and find the cigarette packet, are steady as they select a cigarette and light it. Relief as she takes a drag on the first of many cigarettes for the evening. Her silver rings wink at me from the shadows, light catching on them from the headlights that play on her body and then take their leave.
On the nights that I pass by here, I always look for my late night woman. I’m comforted by her presence but never look her in the eyes, unconsciously afraid of what I may see reflected in them. I imagine that she has a piercing regard that could sum a person up in a matter of seconds. She’s seen so much with those eyes. And if somebody was to look deeply into them, as an equal, what would they have to tell?
When she isn’t there waiting on my street corner, I wonder what she’s thinking about to pass the time. About her next short reprieve from standing? About her distant next meal? About the family that should have shown her love and respect but instead taught her about disappointment and regret?
Is it nighttime in her thoughts? Do they meander along a street-lit corner like this one? Do they visit moments in her childhood, hearing the laughter of the children in the locker-room, the lonely evenings spent waiting anxiously for the return of a parent, which might not happen for days? Are they blank, floating on a puff of smoke, drifting rhythmically in the void?
Or is it daylight and she’s waking up somewhere new, clean and free?
There are so many versions of ‘woman’ Gemma, and there’s something kind of heart-halting in this one. How much do we know about any woman we see only casually – but especially those who opt for a life on the street? There’s always another layer, and another few again, underneath the surface of anything. Maybe I’m wrong, but it seems to me one of the things about women is they wonder about other people. I’m not sure how much men do. But we women wonder about other women, other versions of ourselves, other choices – are they better/worse/different? None of us can judge, but yes…we wonder.
I really enjoyed this piece Gemma. Great imagery and you have me wondering (and caring) about this woman right along with you.