Sitting at Starbucks…
“You dropped your dollar,” a man behind me in line says as I step away from the register. I thank him, pick it up and take my seat on an armless, cushiony, brown chair.
“That was really nice of him,” the woman sitting next to me comments. I don’t bother opening my book. She tells me she would have returned the dollar too.
Her name is Sandra. She used to be homeless, she says. . “I never thought it would happen to me. I guess sometimes you have to watch what you say.”
We chat for a few minutes. Then I tell her about my blog and ask if she’d be interested in sharing some of her story. She agrees.
Her soft brown eyes set upon mine, and she gingerly pats the back of her afro.
Sandra spent 1½ years on the streets of San Diego starting in December 1990, after getting laid off from her job at Longs Drug store in El Cajon. “I used to go around asking people to give me something to eat. I would never ask for money,” she adds.
Sandra would go to St. Vincent on Imperial Avenue to shower, but she chose not to stay there – too many rules and restrictions.
For her, the streets were more congenial. “Sometimes I was spit at. People would throw things at me. That was just for the first couple of nights. But knock on wood, people were really nice.”
Then on a summer day in 1991, Sandra was near the downtown courthouse, when she recognized an old friend. She called out to her. “She didn’t recognize me at first,” Sandra said. Her friend was in disbelief.
But she offered Sandra a way to put her life back on track: A home. “[She] took me under her wings and got me a job. I guess she trusted me enough to live with her.”
I start asking another question, but Sandra lets me know that this is all she is comfortable sharing. And it is more than enough.
I see Sandra every now and then at the CVS in North Park. She’s a cashier. If I get her register, I end the transaction with: Good seeing you again.
She responds: Good seeing you too.
Or vise-versa. Either way, it’s nice.