She stood in the shadow of the building. It was early still and the working warriors had not begun to emerge from the subway stairwells. She was waiting for them to arrive, in their collective flurry. It had become a matter of watching and knowing. Over the previous months, she had come to learn their ways and she knew it wouldn’t be the first ones. The first ones would just come in ones and twos. They would be concentrating on their early morning meetings, of which they wanted to be way early as to impress their boss. They wouldn’t notice her. She would only be a pale gray blip in their peripherals as they slipped by. Most if not all, in too much of a rush to do more than toss her a blank stare.
The second wave would be better. They would be in more of a hurry, wanting to be just a bit early, so as to have time to mill around the coffee urn to get in their banter time. Discussions of who did what, with whom in the previous evenings dance of hormones, would set their pace for the rest of the day. That time could not be missed. With them, she knew if she came further out of the shadows, they would have to make a concerted effort to avoid her, and perhaps some would toss a coin or two her way.
The third current of arrivals coming up the stairs would be the most difficult. These were the ones running late. The clock was ticking and they moved with a speed that could knock one back into the wall if one was not careful. She had to really get out in front, almost in their space so to speak and block the pathway, thus slowing them down. The looks on their faces, a mixture of anger and contempt, made her wince, but she had learned that if she stood her ground, they would dig deep into their pockets, and being in such a rush, would toss whatever bills they could find, just to get her out-of-their-way. Perhaps she would get lucky again today, and someones lunch-Twenty, would be tossed her way along with the crumpled Ones she usually caught.
The final wave was the best. Not that they were more generous, but having already missed their deadline, they took on a more resigned aura. They would have slowed down their speed, and with the slower pace, they actually would look her way and see her for what she was. Desperate. Sometimes they would even stop, for gosh sakes, and ask what she needed. Those that did this totally unnerved her, but she did her best, and responded that something, anything at all would be a help. When they would smile and nod, she always had to take a deep breath so as not to cry out in anguish.
Once the tide had ebbed, only then could she rest. She had tried her best, as she did every day. Swallowing ones pride was the toughest part. Moving back into the shadows she sat on the cold pavement. She began to count her offerings, killing time, awaiting the afternoon rush-hour home.
Words, Inc., Wednesday:
(1) shadow, and (2) first