Her name is Mary and she is homeless, living in a tree. She tells me this with a sense of unabashed pride. This was my first time talking with any homeless person, and I was taken aback by her openness to tell her story to a stranger like me.
My first question to her was, “Mary, how did you become homeless?” She paused not a second and said:
A few years ago, I was living with my boyfriend. I turned 50 (I’m 55 now) and he threw me out onto the street. He tells me that I am fat and ugly and he don’t love me anymore.
She stops and spends a moment recalling that time. Then, continues:
You know, I am not fat but pleasingly plump and I am quite pretty. These are his issues, not mine.
She certainly is spunky, if nothing else. So, I move on to, “what is it like to live without a home?”
I live in a tree which is not safe at all. I have been raped twice in the past few years. People take advantage of homeless women – it’s not safe.
She proceeded to show us her scar on her neck and described the large bump on the back of her head. She was about to ask whether I wanted to feel it. Telling her that I am not a phrenologist, we moved on. But, I couldn’t help but wonder whether she looks at the scar and bump with pride, badges of survival on the street.
I wanted to wrap up this interview as the Barrio was awaiting my camera. Onto, “Mary, what do you do all day?” She smiles a broadly and toothily, a sense of pride and accomplishment washes over her.
My friend and I keep this park clean. Every morning we pick up all the trash. Isn’t this a beautiful place? And, it is dedicated to Cesar Chavez! You know of him, right? Each morning we have a little fire to heat up some food. This morning we had mac’n’cheese. You can’t even tell we were here!
I would really like to help the homeless here in Tucson. One day I am going to build a shelter to house and feed them. You know, I have 250 big ones to do this.
Where she has $250,000 and how she got it was a bit unclear to me. But she seemed happy with the thought of these plans. The more I talked with her, I am realizing that she is always looking ahead, putting the past behind her. If only we could do that as easily.
I notice you are a photographer. I like to take pictures too. Make sure you check out Meyer street – that’s M-E-Y-E-R. There are lots of interesting things to photograph. Remember, it’s Meyer Street – that’s M-E-Y-E-R!
I said thank you for the tip and readied myself to go. But, she had one more nugget for us.
I am god loving and I love to sing. I think I have a beautiful voice. I sing at the local church all the time. You want to hear a song I wrote?
And she began to sing.
When she was done, we said our goodbyes and headed to Meyer Street – that’s M-E-Y-E-R! As we were leaving she asked if we could send her some photos.
My email address has my name “Mary” and “Christ” and the number “69” at Gmail. 69 is my favorite number because it’s my favorite position!
Oh my, spunky indeed. There is always a sense of pride with everything she opined, no matter what. And, I think I would like to help her in the future, though I am not sure how.
Here a just a few photos of the Barrio Viejo, on M-E-Y-E-R street.
Mary certainly lives in a beautiful and unique area. And, remember, it’s all about the light!