Vacant Chapter 4 Questions

Vacant Chapter 4 Questions

We sit in silence for quite some time, and I can tell she’s nervous about telling me what’s going on. I don’t want to force her. When she’s ready, she’ll let me know. As I wait, I realize it’s the first quiet night I’ve had since she moved in.

I really don’t want to make assumptions because things aren’t always what they appear. However, as I sit playing protector to this girl, scenarios run rampant through my mind. She has very few clothes. Irregular bathing does not bother her. She is careful, but trusting – not at all shy. She’s young and alone; she has no furniture and no utilities. All evidence points to her being parentless and homeless.

I can relate.

Don’t get involved.

Keep things simple.

Take care of yourself!

_

Don’t get involved.

Keep things simple.

Take care of yourself!

_

Don’t get involved.

Keep things simple.

Take care of yourself!

_

No matter how many times I recite the mantra in my head, it’s useless. This life isn’t suited to girls who are alone, no matter how equipped they are to deal with the shit life flings at them. Women are taken advantage of in the blink of an eye when the opportunity is given. I make a mental note to be sure Emily doesn’t suffer the same fate, particularly by my hand. I’m sitting on Emily’s mattress, my head against our shared wall. She’s leaning into my side, quiet, in what I hope is peaceful sleep.

After thinking this situation over for a while I shake my head, realizing I’ve already talked myself into this, into helping Emily; I find it nearly impossible not to now. Eventually, I drift off with determination and the realization I’ve opened a big-assed can of worms… for both of us.

Hours later, my inner alarm clock wakes me. There is a little drool on my shoulder and it’s kind of gross. I lay Homeless Girl down on her bare mattress and make note to bring over an extra set of sheets. Who knows where she even got the mattress? I’m sure it’s infested with who-knows-what. I may be poor, but I like clean. There are some things that shouldn’t be bought in used condition. Shoes, underwear, and mattresses quickly spring to mind.

During my run, I think about the upheaval I’m getting myself into, and the reality of the situation is weighing heavily upon me. As a kid, I was lucky enough to be moved to a safe place where all my basic needs were met. I never had to fend for myself in the physical sense; emotionally, though? That was another story. I run an extra two miles trying to process everything. I decide this is my chance to pay it forward. I ignore my mantra as it only serves to confuse me further at this point. The fact remains I’ve already gotten involved, and I try to rationalize how much trouble one small girl can really be. Part of me feels like it’s none of my business what her personal situations is, but if I’m going to help her, then I want some basic information. She doesn’t have to tell me her life story, but I need to know her circumstances.

After I get home from work and knock on the bedroom wall, I chuckle to myself thinking it may as well be a shower curtain for all the privacy the thin, flimsy wall provides. I yell, telling homeless neighbor girl I’ve ordered pizza and she should come join me for dinner.

“You’re the best! I can’t believe you got us pizza!” She won’t stop gushing about how nice I am or how “awesome” the pizza is. When she came over, she looked a bit skeptical, like she wondered what I wanted from her in return, but I didn’t even want to think about what that might mean.

Food, clothes, shelter. That’s all…

As we eat, I try to think of the best way to bring up her state of affairs. I find that being direct is the best solution. I watch as she inhales her third slice of pizza, I rationalize I need to start referring to Emily by name. Calling her Homeless Girl and Neighbor Girl isn’t helpful for either of us. I need to see her as a meaningful person, not a ‘problem from next door’. Emily needs to hear her name, if for nothing else, so she knows she exists.

“So, I have a couple questions. I’ve been thinking about this since last night,” I pause making sure she is receptive to my inquiry. She nods indicating her permission. “Question number one: Where are your parents?” She eyes me quickly, and then takes a bite of pizza, chewing slowly.

She’s stalling.

“I don’t know my dad, and my mom passed away recently,” she says quietly. I take her answer at face value because I know how difficult the loss of a parent is.

“Where were you living before?”

This time she’s a little quicker to answer. “We lived in shelters for a while. Then my mom got sick.” She takes another bite of her dinner then continues. “I know how things work. Since I’m almost eighteen, there isn’t too much the state will do for me. I would live in a home for a few months then get tossed out on the street. I figured I might as well get a jump on living, you know?”

I wonder how she’s able to be so light-hearted about this. Emily’s smiling which she tends to do on a regular basis. This girl – almost woman – has had some terrible circumstances, yet almost every time I see her, her smile brightens the room. I find her positive outlook on life is rubbing off on me.

“My next question was your age, but you’ve already answered that. When do you turn eighteen?”

“In a month,” she replies. I take several minutes to think about the information she’s just told me while finishing my own slice of pizza. Living in a shelter would explain her lack of inhibition. There is no such thing as privacy when you live with fifty other people. She’s used to being watched.

“Hey, I went to the grocery store you work at today and filled out an application. I looked for you, but you must have been on break or something.” I just nod; I don’t need this complication spilling over to my work. As soon as I think it, though, I regret the thought. I can’t think of Emily as a complication.

“They said they weren’t hiring right now, but will let me know if something comes up. On my way home I stopped at the convenience store on Jamison. I found out they are hiring, so if the grocery doesn’t work out, I could do that instead,” she finishes, and then takes a fourth slice of pizza. I know my face pales, and she doesn’t have a clue why. I have no idea how to tell this girl I don’t even really know, occasionally uses my shower, and who I just referred to as a complication, that I don’t want her to work in a convenience store because Dad was shot in the parking lot of a 7-Eleven.