Every day she walks hurriedly, skittishly down one street named for a King and another marked by an X. Dark, sweaty and scrawny as a weed her first name is Alicia, her last name is who knows. With hair of nap and filth every moment of every day she asks but one core question. “Can you buy me a two piece?” Hence, the only name to which she now responds is Two-Piece.
A crack head, whore, petty thief, and general pest her soul was shattered long ago. Last year she was pregnant. God only knows what happened to the baby. And two days ago some grown ass man beat the hell out of her, in the middle of the street in broad daylight in front of the local high school, raining blow upon blow upon an already addled head.
Many witnessed the beat down, but none intervened. And no one called the police, their cell phones ever ready. Perhaps they didn’t want to get involved? Maybe they were too busy with their own affairs? Or possibly they figured that for Two-Piece getting her ass kicked is business as usual?
She may well have deserved rebuke. Maybe she threatened the tattered remnants of his manhood? Once she pulled down what little is left of her pants and sprayed foul piss on the window of a local business. When confronted by the angry proprietor, she retreated screaming “I ain’t shit and I’ll never be shit.” Her latest enterprise is to jack grade school children of their lunch money. Karma is a bitch.
Still, what kind of man beats a helpless woman? And what type of degenerate would lie with much less impregnated a woman as bad off as Two-Piece? What they say can only be true. Somewhere in the world there is some man who will screw anything. All that is necessary is hair, a heartbeat or an electrical hum and sometimes not even that. The one who beat her may indeed be the one who did her.
She now sits curled in a fetal position in a grocery cart pilfered from a neighborhood Shop and Save. Strategically positioned in front of the local chicken shack, she plies her trade. “Excuse me, but can you buy me a two piece?” And so she remains and so she begs all day long.
What will she do when the weather turns? The year is almost over and the calendar hastens autumn. Colder winds will blow as ice and snow covers the ground. To continue residency in a shopping cart on streets that never forgets, seldom forgives and pities none is a death sentence. Freezing to death in a basket is a hard way to go.
Worse, Two-Piece is hardly alone. Lawanda specializes in five dollar blow jobs delivered in city dumpsters. While TeShe, one of the more obvious members of the LGBT community, flashes his flat chest on busy thoroughfares. With a name that is both insult and identity, he too will be sexually assaulted if he hasn’t been already.
Two-Piece, Lawanda, TeShe as well as others too numerous to name are hardly innocent. They have done more than their fair share of dirt and are undoubtedly reaping the rewards of their misdeeds. But they are not inherently bad people. Rather, they are broken people, more of a threat to themselves than to others.
They are the avatars of the formerly incarcerated, the lost and forlorn, the homeless, mentally ill, chemically addicted, unloved, discarded and abandoned. And their situations are emblematic of greater concerns including children without families, criminality, fratricide and self loathing.
We see these and other problems with a clarity that is crystal. We hear the cries of a community in crisis and smell the decay of lives that are lost. We taste the scorch of bitter defeat and touch on a daily basis those who are vanquished; they who have given up.
Never has there been a greater need to address these issues. But when it comes to dealing with the riddles presented by Two-Piece, the excuses fly like weaves in a hair salon.
Perhaps the challenges are too big, the issues too complex? Maybe we don’t know what to do or where to begin? In either case we are inured to our plight, desensitized to our pain and accustomed to our suffering. And we are comforted by the false belief, the unreasonable expectation that someone else should do something; that another will take action, maybe the government, perchance some agency but seldom us, never us when in reality, its all about us.
So we do little of nothing. Instead we offer one lame alibi after another, treating Two-Piece and what she represents with the indifference of gross neglect and a blasé faire that borders on cruelty.
Many expected Two-Piece to have died long ago. They marvel at her endurance, her ability to survive. Yet, absent some profound intervention her fate is sealed. Like many in our community, Two-Piece is not surviving. She is instead dying, slowly, excruciatingly and inevitably. She will pass and probably soon, not from one cause but from many. Hers will be the death of a thousand cuts.
But while she may be crazy she is hardly stupid. Bidding her time, waiting for the inevitable day when the pain subsides, when she is no more, she is more than aware of her destiny. The inhospitable womb of a grocery cart is how she chooses to transition.
In summary, this is our clarion call to action. Two-Piece is but a metaphor of much larger problems, i.e., our passivity in the face of existential challenges and our tendency to look behind and away rather than forward.
It may well be too late to save Two-Piece. But it is not too late to save us. At the very least we are obliged to try. The question is will we?
Leo Barron Hicks, Founder and CEO
Blackacre Policy Forum