A Girl Named Echo
She liked to be called Echo. That wasn’t her name of course, but she hated the name given to her at birth. She was named Alexandra, her twin Alexander. He died. I met her late last night as she scoured through the trash can I sat near. As many homeless, she carried a big Hefty type trash-bag that held everything she owned. She was immensely organized for this life she found herself. I asked her if she wanted to have my cans, and I helped her find and place them exactly where she would know where it would be when the recycle bins opened and she would get her average of $5.00.
After she got organized while humming, she then went for the multiple tobacco butts on the ground. She didn’t use them as she found them. Instead, she had a tool she had made that hooked the tobacco out of it’s tube. She put all the tobacco in a zip-lock bag. She then took the discarded papers, and would roll her own smokes, and it didn’t seem to bother her how carefully I studied her.
She began to tell me her story, how she had become homeless, that she was 24, she had her three kids taken away. They call her Auntie Alex when she does see them. That hurts her more than anything else in her life. It wasn’t just that they didn’t know she was her mom, but that her name Alex was used despite the knowledge she hated it.
What was impressive, was the way she spoke. She was articulate, she understood verbiage and words that I would have to look up before I felt sure about using it in a sentence, She knew the words from her father. The man who she said beat her if she didn’t get the meaning correctly. He also fathered one of her children. And yet the gift of language gave him forgiveness, that shocked me. She learned how to use the words in sentences by getting old books that were going to be tossed out. By reading those, she taught herself how to speak.
I asked her to wait, I stepped inside, retrieved a little money and handed it to her. “You don’t have to do that. I will be alright.”
“Please, I insist.” For the first time all night, she looked directly at me. “You are a special person. Thank you.” She gathered everything she owned, gave a little wave and she was gone. She was nothing but a beautiful reflection of hope. Perhaps it will find her. She was the high point of my weekend. A girl without a home named Echo.