I first saw her on one of those sickly yellow evenings when the sky looked dirty and disgusting. The sun set as night crept aimlessly from the horizon. Darkness fell like a blanket up on the city. My parents and I had stopped at a light on our way home from spending Thanksgiving in west Texas. We had driven for seven hours and would reach home in another twenty minutes. For lack of conversation, we played music which my mother, for some unknown reason, wouldn't play anymore. In place of that depressing silence, I played the music in my head.
The girl stood at the intersection we had stopped at. Her trench coat's tail mingled with the cold wind. Beneath the coat, she wore a dark gray tank top and baggy, black pants. She had her hood on, her course, black hair drenched over hr face like curtains. With tanned, oily skin, she didn't look to have had a bath for weeks. A sign, black marker on cardboard, she held read, "Homeless, kicked out by parents." Etched, short and simple, in slanted, narrow letters.
I'd seen so many like her before that I no longer noticed them, like a smudge on an old wall seen once and then never again. Why, then, did she captivate me? Not her age, for I had seen many younger than she. Not her looks, however cute she seemed beneath that grungy shell. Not pity; she smiled and laughed at nothing, as she swayed energetically from side to side. Her smile seemed also genuine, not feigned to hide her feelings.
As we had pulled up to that light, I had slung my head back over the seat, eager to escape confinement of that vehicle. I sat on the driver's side, the girl not eight feet from me. My emotionless gaze remained on her even as she looked from our car to the next and then to the next, and so on. Her smile did not cease despite the number of cars that did not help her.
For a moment, I hoped, out of mere curiosity, that her eyes would meet mine. I did not think that I wanted her attention for any specific reason. Then the light turned green, and she fell behind us. We had not made eye contact.
We moved closer to home, the scenery, like time, moving past me slow yet unnoticed. I had not moved at all during that time. The sight of her I had taken in like an image in a fleeting glance, knowing, but not knowing, that I had seen her. All at once, the thought of her had left me. How she made me feel, however, remained – a feeling of compassion, a deep well within my stomach. I wondered where the feelings came from and then stopped caring altogether. It was unlike me not to dwell on my feelings, yet we had left her. The first time I should ever see her, all of the feelings I would have for her, and then she was gone. An interminable silence from my closed lips, and my beating heart played all the sound I would make.