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Posts Tagged ‘homelessness’

It was on a hot, humid August day in 2006 when I first met her. She was sitting on a bench on Demonbruen Street just off the infamous Music Row in Nashville, TN. Her faded blonde hair was pulled neatly in a bun. Though her face was deeply tanned and weathered, her eyes were a crystal blue and when they caught mine, something resonated deep within me. Looking at her from the face up one might think she was someone’s grandmother waiting for her children to finish their shopping at one of the upscale shops. Or perhaps they dined at one of the quaint restaurants that catered to the music industry and the well dressed young people of the city that stood across the street from the bench where she sat.

 

But then you notice…she’s dressed in layers of clothing, way too many layers of clothing for a 90 plus degree day; and you quickly realize the layers of clothing she’s piled on herself have probably never seen a washing machine. Heavy black boots hide her feet from the occasional warm breeze that stirs the dusty, dried leaves on the street. Sitting beside her is a large, tattered suitcase, a neatly folded blanket and a smaller opened suitcase holding trinkets and CD’s, which I later found to be her ‘store.’ People would give her things and she would promptly add them to her store and sell them. I couldn’t help but notice how she held her cigarette with an air of sophistication as she watched the people walk by, many totally oblivious to her presence there.

 

Yet, it was evident to me … that bench was her home.

 

Truth be known, I’m not sure I would have noticed her had it not been for the fact that we needed the bench she sat on. I was helping a friend shoot the opening scene for a TV comedy pilot. The sequence called for a battered, dirty, homeless man to be sitting on a bench with a sign propped in his lap which read, “will work for free” as our star sat beside him with a bottle of Jack Daniels wrapped in a brown bag. The two would commiserate over the lack of good jobs and our star would offer the man a swig of Jack. (I would like to believe we were naïve at the time, because today I find no humor in that scene.) Regardless of what I think or feel now, in order to accomplish securing that bench for a few hours to shoot the scene, we paid the woman with the neatly done hair and the eyes of blue crystal ten dollars to vacate her bench.

 

She packed up her belongings, shook our hands and walked across the street to the small gourmet coffee shop. Once again I couldn’t help but notice how blue her eyes were and how deep they spoke. During the hours it took to shoot the 30 second scene, I went over to the coffee shop numerous times to refill my coffee and get iced tea or water for the crew. I’d see her through the shop’s window and watched her write on a yellow legal tablet and wondered what words she was lost in.  As I’d walk through the shop’s door without fail she would lift her head and draw me directly into her gaze. I’d give her a faint smile, before walking quickly to the counter, anxious at the time to get away from the truths held in her eyes.

 

Little did I know her eyes held the stories that would change my life forever…

(C) 2008 Penny Carlton

All Rights Reserved

 

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