How did the homeless woman get into the locker room in the first place?
Why is the fact that the police officer was Kind and Patient so important?
I don’t know the whole story. I was a minor player, a walk-on, an un-credited character in a non-speaking role. The camera only caught my entrance, my eyes widening at the unexpected sight of the male cop in the woman’s locker room. The hitch in my step hardly registered, as the camera panned back to the center of the action.
Why didn’t they send a female police officer?
I cannot see the center, only the edges, as I move through the scene. The cop standing, right arm outstretched, holding open the door to a toilet stall. Two of the gym staff, hovering stiffly, adding to the tension in the brightly lit, tiled and mirrored space.
The path to my locker, temporarily mine by virtue of my combination lock hanging from it’s latch, was such that I could only hear, not see, the cop say, Kindly and Patiently, “Is there somewhere I can take you ma’am?” as I moved along it. At the end of that path, all connection to the scene ended.
There was a TV in the locker room, tuned, as usual, to a major network where the familiar voices of the morning show people were talking about the giant tree in Rockefeller Center. The volume was the same as always, just a bit too loud. Good for covering up embarrassing bodily sounds, but bad for when one wants to know what is happening behind one’s back.
Finished with the locker, I turned back, intending to walk to the nearest mirror, to check the placement of my winter hat before exposing myself to the world outside the gym. But the scene had moved. The homeless woman was now at one of the sinks. I saw only her back, as viewed through the mirror behind her, a large mound of dark cloth, bent over the sink. The thick ankles and bulky shoes underneath the only proof that the mound was indeed human and not a pile of laundry.
It was at that moment that I made the assumption of homelessness. (And it is still only an assumption.) The tension emanating from the three people around her, cop and staff, was not of the threatened (as from a criminal) or worried (as from and injury or illness) it was of the stress that comes from dealing with a person that none of them knew, exactly, what to do with. Who else but the homeless can cause that sort of tension? A person who’s entire existence is defined by doing nothing wrong beyond being in a place where she does not belong and, more importantly, is not wanted.
I could not cross the invisible line that separated me from the scene. I exited, hair unchecked, stage left, unnoticed by anyone, more anonymous, for the moment, than the woman at the sink.
I don’t know what happened next. I will never get answers to the questions I’ve asked.