They are the nameless, the faceless. The silent legion. They could disappear off the face of the earth, and you’d never notice. One of their ranks lives on the corner of 34th and 7th. If you noticed her, as unlikely as that is, it would probably be because of the smell that occasional quick wash at the public library can’t cover. Her hole-ridden socks peek out like tongues from the gaping mouths of her Chucks’ toe boxes. The color of her jeans is unidentifiable; if they weren’t dark wash before they certainly are now. Her greasy curtain of hair hangs over her face, hiding her from the world, just the way she likes it. The piece of cardboard she sits on has weathered many storms and is a bit damp from the last one, but she feels a certain kinship toward the former tree with “fragile” printed across it.
You’re probably moving too fast to notice any of this, of course. You don’t like to linger in the streets, where the din of taxi horns and seven million people being is just too much. She doesn’t find it overwhelming, though. To her it’s a comforting hum, the sound of freedom. Her childhood was much louder. Yelling, crying, all the glasses smashing until the only things left to break were bones. No, it’s much quieter here. Here she can sit and just breathe. People don’t think about breathing all that much. They take it for granted that they’re very existence won’t antagonize anyone, but she doesn’t. No, the privilege to just sit and breathe was hard-earned, and she is in no hurry to give it up. On the coldest nights, when they come trying to convince her
to go somewhere for the night, she is adamant in her refusal. If she isn’t under the stars for even one night they might disappear, and she’ll never see them again. That is not an option.
Some of the others talk about their dreams sometimes, how they still hope they’ll come true someday, but she doesn’t bother with any. Maybe one day, when she doesn’t wake up in cold sweats with unformed screams still in her throat, when the cigarette burns fade, when she stops looking over her shoulder, she’ll take the time to wish. She’d start off small with a daydream or two, something she can afford to lose if it all goes wrong again. For now the stars are enough. Are more than enough. With the stars you’re never truly alone.