it begins with a voice

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In the small space between the front grille of a blackberry Scion xb and the wall of a parking garage huddles a mass of rags and matted brown hair that only slightly resembles a young woman. She is probably 15 or 16 years old; this opinion is based solely on the size of her tightly curled body more than any discernible facial features or observable clues. It is late one November night in downtown Seattle near the Moore theatre on Second Avenue. A place where winter nights are not only cold, but more often than not the month of November brings a steady drizzle of rain that manifests in the form of an omnipresent mist. This mist creates a dampness that coats and seeps into the pavement reflecting the multicolored lights of the emerald city. An illuminated Seattle cityscape-a beautiful sight to the traveler, to the tourist, to the happily employed masses that inhabit the towering concrete jungle of high-rise condominiums and apartment buildings.

The mass of the car and the concrete block parking garage walls provide limited shelter from the ever-present wind funneled across the deep cold seawater of the Puget Sound. The radiator of the car provides some small measure of warmth but only for a few minutes. Nothing in this environment prevents the dampness from oozing through the thin layers of her worn waist length coat, plaid shirt and brown pants. She plays the mouse game, stooping her shoulders lower and pulling her coat collar up to cover her face. Her posture says, “I do not see you. Please don’t see me.” Invisibility, she believes, is her only friend. Being invisible protects her from predators who can clearly see her as the mouse in a game of life and over exposure. This is why she hides and cowers in the small spaces between the walls.

She quickly peeks from around her collar, her sharp green eyes darting up and back down into safety. It is not a hopeful glance. She maintains no illusions or expectations of unsolicited help. She has come to expect nothing from strangers and has received nothing in return. She is curious about the approaching voice, a quiet voice, a calm soft soprano’s voice. A woman’s voice. She knows to pay attention to voices. In the few months she has lived outside she has learned that not paying attention is dangerous. Loud voices are dangerous. Male voices are dangerous. Cajoling friendly voices regardless of gender are potentially dangerous. Her ears cue to the tone, ignoring the words and focus on the underlying meaning beyond the words that transmit a tendency for violence or forced intimacy.

What does it mean? What does this voice want?

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