I gave twenty dollars to a woman on the side of the road today.
I rarely look at the people with cardboard signs and cheap marker ink staining their fingertips. But today was different.
Her sign said: Anything would help, please help me.
I don't know if I did it because she was a woman, or because she didn't buy a proper marker that wouldn't stain her fingers.
I don't know why I gave her twenty dollars.
As I sat at the light in one of the many wealthy areas of Sarasota, surrounded by Mercedes and BMWs and Lexuses and Cadillacs, the woman in a Toyota Corolla rolled down her dark tinted window and gave a woman in a battered pink cotton blouse a twenty dollar bill.
As she approached me, leery, I smiled to her. The kindest smile I could pull across my face.
I'd folded the twenty. I don't know if I was hoping to surprise her with it or avoid showing the much wealthier people refusing to hand this woman anything, how wasteful I am.
That's why she's driving a little Corolla and not my Cadillac Escalade. Because I "waste" my money on someone who will drink it or smoke it or inject it away.
But my heart told me to do it. My gut, really.
And I'm done ignoring it. It's never steered me wrong.
All the bad things that have happened from decisions I've made were because I went against my gut.
But I'm not positive this was a gut decision this time. It felt more like a, "why not."
You have a twenty dollar bill that you're going to buy an over-priced lunch with because you won't take the time to pack a lunch each day. This woman might feed her whole family with it.
Or, she might buy a boatload of Natural Ice light beer with it and drink that for lunch.
It makes me think of the older style movies. Before bad guys had a shitty childhood or were abused or exiled by their peers. Before bad guys had a framework for their badness.
Back when bad guys were just sadistic fucks with no backstory. A sick concoction buried in the belly of a slobbish writer who lived vicariously through his villains.
This woman had a story. She had a reason for standing there under the shade of the carrot wood trees sprinkled about the roadway divider.
Why she chose a wealthy area, I'm not sure. Maybe she was testing locations. Or maybe she was just desperate, thinking wealthy people have more to give and therefore she'd do better in this neighborhood.
For all I know she lived in that neighborhood. For all I know, she was wealthy. Rough and sun- and life-hardened, but wealthy. And my twenty dollars was merely a tissue to blow her nose with to clear the pollen from her nostrils.
For all I know, though, is that she could have food and water for the next two meals. And that's enough for me.
That's a twenty well spent.
'How's your business going?'
'Fine.' I hate it.
My fingers are crossed, but I'm not sure if that's enough anymore.
They always end up letting you down.
It always happens in droves.
She caught me with the knife when I was sixteen, maybe seventeen.
There's no winning with blame.
Every time I think I'm getting better at this whole life thing, I do something wrong and set it back.
I like getting older.
There's something about with age and experience comes wisdom that's exhilarating.
I'll see this one through, I tell myself. I'll finish it.
After this, I'll put it to bed. After this, I'll move forward.
Something I learned as a visual artist and writer is that some of the best healing comes from expression.
There's something surreal about standing in front of a crowd of strangers—writers who all want the same thing.
At the end of the Writers In Paradise sessions, everyone got a chance to present a refined version of their submitted work, or a new story they were working on.
I was the only teenager at Writers in Paradise with Dennis Lehane, Sterling Watson and other well-known authors back in 2006.