O P I N I O N
She walks up and down the blocks of my neighborhood almost daily. Everyone in this area has seen her…getting in and out of cars, yelling and screaming to herself throughout the day and night. I’m not one to make assumptions, but I grew up in a neighborhood that was filled with addiction, violence and despair. With that being said, it’s safe for me to assume that she’s soliciting herself for money, and more times than not, she’s under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol.
On most days as I’m heading to work, she’s somewhere on my radar. She’s usually walking on the opposite side of the street, if not, directly in the middle…oblivious to traffic and the world around her. Her tiny frame smothered in an oversized jacket, sniffling from the cold, with the determination of a woman on a mission. I try not to lock eyes with her, for I don’t want her thinking that I’m a future trick. My appraisal of her is usually done in 3 seconds. I can see if she’s having a bad day, if she’s high, or if she’s been burned by her latest trick.
This is her life…her reality…I watch it all unfold from afar.
I remain humble and non-judgemental because we aren’t too far apart on society’s spectrum. Both rejected in some shape or form, both judged and both still making our paths regardless of circumstances.
Our major difference is our choices. Hers is high risk for short-term gains. She could very well get in a vehicle with the next serial killer, never to return. Her next drug fix could end her life on the spot. As someone returning to society going against all odds, it makes me wonder.
What got her here?… Did she have a father figure? Who stole her innocence?…and how did her self worth reach this level? She can’t be older than 26, easy on the eyes, with a nice smile when she’s not high and screaming at the top of her lungs as she strips off her clothes. Although that’s only the exterior, her potential could be endless. All life has endless potential…
I look at my 7-year-old princess, and my resolve for her to grow into something special only increases. As long as my heart beats, I refuse for this to be her fate. However, I do understand that parenting isn’t easy, and there’s no guarantees that we’ll raise a productive member of society. We can all think of countless examples of children raised in families that mirror some of those picture-perfect laundry commercials, only to raise children who went against the grain.
To all of the newly released fathers, you will feel as if it’s your duty to make up for lost time. That’s understandable and noble. But please remember to plant those seeds of growth and success. Sacrifice time for your children and constantly build them up. Although my 9-5 can be grueling and draining, I make it my duty to spend some time with the kids on my day off. These are dividends that will pay off in the future.
Even when she has me singing, “Old Mac Donald had a farm,” beating me up with pillows, and ruining my floors with slime toys, I know it’s all for the greater good.
To the young woman mentioned above, If she happens to read this, realize that you have a crown on your head young Queen. Get help, and surround yourself with the right people. Your awakening is within arm’s reach. I wish you safety and serenity on these cold nights.
Anthony Payton is a Brooklyn-born content creator and media maker, a proud father who loves writing, cooking and learning. “Transition” explores the reality of life after prison, where he’s been, and where he’s going – something Anthony knows first hand. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org