Monday, January 25, 2010

The Rag Doll

Going through some papers, I just found this essay I wrote while riding the bus in San Francisco on November 6, 2002. I'm observing a bag lady who is so covered in rags that I never actually saw her face:

The woman is completely covered in tattered rags and torn clothing. Not one square inch of skin is visible to the outside world, even her eyes are hidden. How she sees enough to walk is somewhat of a mystery.

She scribbles notes on a stray news page - something about cab drivers. Bags and bundles of belongings follow her on her journeys throughout the city; I have come across her on nearly every bus line.

How do I know it is a woman? The frame that holds up this curious bit of obvious invisibility is so small, the wind might blow her away, like the trash she lugs around.

Where does she live? What must her house look like? Perhaps she's homeless. Yet there's something about her that seems proud, like she knows more than we do and must protect us from that knowledge.

Perhaps she's an alien. If one were of the scaly, green-skinned variety, and, say, trapped or left behind here on Earth, one would have to make due.

She just got off at Fillmore and Sacramento wearing tennis shoes. I get the sense that she's Chinese, maybe because I often see Chinese people wear air filter masks. Are they smart or just paranoid? I always wonder.

Mostly I think no one sees the Rag Doll but me.

God, I miss the bus.

(Photo: Liz Hafalia/SF Chronicle)


Susie said...

This puts me in mind of my latest fascination...


The Discovery Channel has Hoarder week and I cannot look away.

It's such a difficult syndrome to deal with because their stuff makes them feel safe.

I wonder what her house looks like too.

ClizBiz said...

I know that show! It gives me such a mix of revulsion and compassion. These people's stuff actually takes over their lives and relationships. So sad.

BlogInSong said...

In some ways all of us are taken over by our stuff. Like say our phones, cars, computers and ipods. Who are we without them?

I imagine the Rag Doll as a character in a William Gibson novel, who is smarter than than the rest of us. Like you said, like she knows something.....something we don't. I love your essay. I miss the bus too - in the LBC

ClizBiz said...

Yes! She was a Gibson character - hiding, knowing, being. Time will tell who knows what.