Photo courtesy John Moore
I have one of those faces, the kind where a stranger will sit down and confide all kinds of personal events and occasions, happy and sad, broken hearts, personal history.
I make notes afterwards when something captures my attention.
Recently at a cafe, I was sitting harmlessly and writing in my journal when a middle-aged woman asked me could she sit down at my table as the place was packed.
In due time she said she could write a story about her sister so I politely cocked an eyebrow at her. I was taking a break as I only have so much energy in my day now.
Her sister had always been trouble, since the day she was born, she ran away at fifteen and had a baby at sixteen that she gave up. Her father banned her from the house when she showed up one time, drunk and abusive. She would have been seventeen then, Anne, my temporary friend, told me. Her mother's heart was broken. Rosie went off again and they would hear from her now and again, looking for money. It was obvious she had a booze and drug problem. She was with a whole series of fellahs who abused her and, Anne suspected, pimped her out as she complained she couldn't work because of injuries.
Dad died and mom was left on her own even though Anne invited her to live with herself and family. They hadn't heard from Rosie in a long while when mom got cancer and lasted only a few months before succumbing.
Rosie showed up year ago at her doorstep demanding her share of the estate. Anne refused to give it to her even though she had set her sister's portion aside in a trust account. She knew she would hasten the death of her sister who already looked wrecked and at least thirty years older than her age from hard living.
Surprisingly, Rosie accepted she wasn't going to get the money unless she sobered up and got clean. She next asked where their mother was buried.
A month after that, a cop showed up at Anne's door and asked her to come to the graveyard.
She did. And there by mom's grave was a small tent with the opening facing the grave and Rosie sitting inside talking away at it.
The cops had received many complaints about the "homeless old woman" occupying a gravesite who never stopped talking.
Surprisingly, Rosie was sober and coherent.
"I'm telling her everything," she said to Anne, "My whole life story, so she will understand why I didn't see her."
Anne had a brainwave.
"Come home with me so you can tell it to me every night," she said gently,"And I will type it up, and you can read it to her every day."
And slowly, with the cop's help, they gathered up the tent and the bits and pieces left of Rosie's life.
"And what a story she told me," Anne looked at me, tears glistening on her lashes, "It would make the very hairs stand on your head."
And she got up then and left without even a goodbye.