Robert Sparks Journal chapter 2: Portrait of Heidi.


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Another installment of Robert Sparks’ Homeless Journal…

It doesn’t matter where you are. Odds are you’re always going to find yourself around three types of people, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Whether it’s the mall, your local police station, or in the war room of a political campaign, you can bet you’ll see your fair share. Right now it seems as if the bad and the ugly have a stranglehold on the good. What I’d like to do this time around, as opposed to my first entry, is focus on the good and her name is Heidi.

Heidi is what you might call the matriarch of the tent city outside the shelter I’ve been in. She’s a weathered but energetic spitfire who moves as if she were fired out of a .357 Desert Eagle every morning. She is the eyes and ears of the street. Like so many of the inhabitants here, Heidi is like a layered draped sherpa guiding a rag-tag motley expedition up Mt. Everest in the middle of winter. Even if that winter comes with 90° plus weather.

With her trademark black beanie pulled half-way over her eyes to the point where she has to tilt her head back just to see where she’s walking. Then of course there’s her brown leather jacket which rests upon a black sweat jacket that covers-up a grey sweatshirt which meets the waist of a pair of black cargo pants that are either tucked into a beaten pair of tan hiking boots or just above a pair of well-worn shoes. For many years she’s willingly called the street her home and many of them have been spent right here on Massachusetts.

“I like it. It’s fun.”

That’s her answer whenever she’s asked why it is she choses to sleep in a tent on a dangerous and unpredictable stretch of sidewalk instead of the home she has waiting for her. She is constantly on the go. A wheeler and dealer who knows the vices of everyone around here and just who exactly who is screwing who in more ways than one.

She is usually among the first to notice whenever people show up to handout food, clothing/blankets, and his and her gift bags consisting of various toiletries and hygiene products. She will see to it that whoever can’t make it to the delivery point, for whatever reason, are taken care of by bringing back as many items as her tiny 5-foot-nothing frame can handle.

To watch her in action is exhausting and at times a little irritating if she’s managed to rope you into watching her growing cart of “things” that seems to grow to new heights on an hour by hour basis. A face-palming honor that I have experienced for myself firsthand. She trusts me. In fact I think next to Heather – a weeble-like stationary gypsy who speaks in sudden bursts and sounds as if she has a cheek filled with broken marbles and who happens to be the one person Heidi looks out for the most – I’ve become her main go to due to a mutual respect.

It’s hard to say no to her and it’s not about her clout – she’s about as threatening as a kitten on Prozac. It’s the simple fact of knowing that she has a lot of people around here who depend on her to help them make it through the day as comfortably as possible. She’s very much a leathered skin guardian angel in tattered garb who not only knows her lot in life, she’ll fight and claw to make damn sure that no one will ever take her out of it.

Out of all the people I’ve met since being here. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Heidi is without doubt the one that I will always remember right up until I draw my last breath.


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