It's not often I initiate the "let's go have a beer after work" conversation. So recently, after a relatively crazy night, I did just that. So there I am with Amanda at the Slippery Noodle, a beer in my hand a Pinot in hers when Martha plopped down at our table.
Martha looked like she hasn't had the easiest life. Who am I kidding? Martha didn't look like she'd had an easy day. The right side of her face was covered with cuts and bruises. Her hair was a mess. She had layer upon layer of clothes on. She had a Budweiser in her hand and was ready to talk to someone -- anyone. And so there she was at our table, talking to us as if we were her best friends.
Turns out that Martha is homeless and had been struggling all day to find a place where she could get out of the cold. She was leery of the guys sitting at the bar behind us and thought they were trying to steal her coat. We were leery of her because ... well, she just kind of sat down at our table. A couple of guys who work at the bar gave us the "Are you guys OK?" and "Who is that woman?" looks. When part of my beer spilled on the table, she told me not to get napkins and wiped it up with the sleeve of her sweatshirt.
She was chain-smoking and upset with herself that she was smoking at all because she had quit for the five years she had been in prison. Turns out she had been stabbed while she was locked up, too.
She talked about her former life in Arizona, when she drove 18-wheelers and rode horses in her free time. She told us about the transvestite hookers at the Flying J and her desire to skip town before her parole was up in June. And there I was, wishing this woman would leave our table but transfixed by her at the same time.
I wanted to know what she had been in prison for, but thought it rude to ask. I wanted to know about her childhood. I wanted to know who had caused all the cuts and bruises on her face. I wanted to know what she was doing with all that Vicodin in her sweatshirt pocket. I wanted her to find a warm place to sleep, but I didn't want to be the one responsible for helping her find one. She wanted to buy us a round, but we declined.
In the end, Amanda and I snuck out the back door to avoid Martha asking me for a ride ... somewhere. I kind of wonder where Martha is now. I felt bad about ditching her there, but ... but ...