It is hot downtown. And with camcorder on tripod I search for a homeless person to interview. I am waiting for the traffic light at Water and Bernard, ready to end my search when a grey-haired woman glides in beside me and asks, “D’you have a twonie you can give me?”
Her puffy face looks tired, and she is beyond the careful attention that women with money often give to their appearance. Standing there in a grey melody of wrinkled cloth, her eyes seem to ask me again, “D’you have a twonie you can give me?”
“How about I buy you a meal,” I reply, sharing information about my project. “Sure,” she says to both. So I motion to a spot around the corner, set up my camera and begin.
Terse, monosyllabic answers punctuate the interview. And when questions about her life on the street are asked, she says, “Can you just take the picture!” She is hungry, and intimidated by the camera. So I cease recording, and invite her to a restaurant nearby.
While she waits for a sandwich she sips Coca Cola, and looks at me with a tight little grin. “I caught’m cheat’n on me…” she says, her lips now stretching like elastic bands “…after thirty years of marriage.” I respond by listening – now understanding her reluctance on the corner.
“I fell into it…being on the street. I was afraid he was gonna hurt me, so I left.” I continue to listen – to the lines on her face, to the sheen of unwashed skin, to her ceiling glances where she replays bitter memories. “But I’m going back,” she adds. “I’m not afraid anymore. And I’m going to get some of my money back.” I sense that she is finished with the interview, so I do not press for more information. I wish her well, and make my way home where I consider what has transpired.
Wrapped in the comfort of a coke and sandwich she has kept our bargain, on her terms; teaching me that the street is within you. While she fishes for twonies, we in our cozy homes wander the avenues and alleyways of our own making, sometimes unexpectedly taking this or that exit onto Kelowna streets beside her.