The Homeless Woman Who Hates Me (July 15, 2010)

Each morning, I walk down the same side street in Rogers Park, en route to catch the Metra commuter train downtown to my office. Each morning, at exactly the same time, I pass a mentally unstable homeless woman who appears to have a standing, important appointment. Unwashed, slovenly and usually muttering to herself, our paths intersect at the same moment, and I have paused to admire her punctuality, given that I am a creature of habit myself. I know not where she goes, what her name is, or what her back-story might be.

However, this woman seems to be under the impression that she has me all figured out. I noticed this oddity about a week ago, but as a characteristically self-conscious person, I attempted to blow off the ideas creeping into my head, believing that I should not read too much into the actions of a mentally ill lady in a hurry. But when my husband, iPod permanently fixed to his ear, attentiveness of an unmedicated ADD patient, noticed the same phenomenon, I knew there was something there.

Last week, as Eddie and I traversed the sidewalk, I made an effort to step behind my husband, clearing a path for my unnamed acquaintance to pass by unmolested. Instead of appreciating my good manners, I was treated to a pause, followed by a purposeful look of scorn before she sighed heavily and resumed her rush down the pavement. What had I done? I took it in stride and went about my day.

This past Monday, a bright and sunny morn, I could see Lady Supersonic approaching for the better part of a city block, and evidently she could see me too. Again I attempted to clear a path for her to pass without Eddie and I acting as sidewalk hogs. To my utter astonishment, Lady S. took this movement on my part as an invitation to play an impromptu game of “Pavement Chicken.” After my first move, she made a move of her own to align head-on with me. I stepped again to the left, and she followed. As we came closer to each other, I began to wonder if she was seriously intent on crashing into me.

Seems so. After two tries at waltzing out of her way, I held my ground, leaned forward and vowed to deal with whatever happened next. We were less than three feet apart when Eddie grabbed me roughly by the arm and shoved me behind him. He then asked me if I had gone mad myself. What was I to do? I don’t WANT to have a collision with Lady Supersonic, but ought I to allow her to continue acting as my sidewalk bully?

And exactly what is this all about anyway? Why me? My husband is handsome, well-dressed and looks every bit the part of a Wall Street player (though he is, in reality, just an anomalous IT hottie). Why doesn’t she hate him? I realize that sounds childish, my wanting Eddie to get sucked into Lady S.’s vortex of hate, but seriously, it’s not fair!

Supersonic knows nothing about me. She doesn’t know that I spend my working days fighting for human services in Illinois, making twice minimum wage in the process, when there are certainly other jobs I could take. I suspect Supersonic’s morning appointment may in fact have to do with some kind of outpatient services she is receiving – services I devote my life to funding and protecting.

Lady S. also has no idea that the image she chooses to see each morning, that of a corporately attired woman in sunglasses with a fabulously attractive husband, belies my background, where I rose above growing up in the most dysfunctional and abusive of homes, to become a responsible citizen (of sorts).

As I say, it is wrong of me to expect clarity of mind from someone who has her own problems to deal with, but if there is any sensation I find most uncomfortable in life, it is that of being egregiously misunderstood. I long to stop Supersonic and ask her what it is about my person or mien that immediately strikes her with such disgust. But my husband says that would be crazy. Would it?

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