The Girl on my Porch
At around 10:00 pm my 19-year-old son came home from work and upon climbing the back stairs to the porch he heard talking. Walking around to the front of the house he sees someone talking on a cell phone that is plugged into my Christmas lights, she is crying. She gets off the phone and apologizes, rambling, "my boyfriend threw me out of his car, I don't live here, I'm from Texas, what town is this, my phone died and I needed to charge it, I need to call a cab, I tried knocking but no one answered". My son told her the town, said it was ok to charge her phone and gave her the address so she could call a cab. He calmly came into the house, locked the door and came to my bedroom where I was sleeping. I am so startled awake that it takes me a second to process the words, "there is a woman on our porch".
He tells me everything that he knows and I wake my husband to go down and check it out. Thoughts of a home invasion are running through my mind. I am equal parts scared but so shaken up that my son had to deal with this "woman" and how he must have been so stunned by her appearance on our porch. I live in a small town, well small compared to my hometown of Philly. My town is so small and quiet that if my neighbors and I all hear a bunch of sirens we go to the group neighborhood FB page to see if anyone is hurt or needs help.
After a few minutes, I hear my husband talking to her, he comes back in and says she is waiting for an Uber. I finally go down to the door and come back and say that is not a woman, that is a girl! A girl about the same age as my oldest son, maybe younger. There is essentially a child crying on my porch, huddled in the corner, charging her phone. I am no longer worried about a home invasion, I only see a child who needs help.
Now growing up in Philly I still have a big ass dose of "always watch your back" embedded in me so I cautiously open the door to talk with her. I ask her if she called for a car, she says she tried ordering an Uber but she doesn't have the app. I scan her face, clothes and her bag. No coat, she is wearing the typical teenage uniform of a hoodie and a beanie. Her phone is all cracked up and plugged into my lights. Her bag looks like a furry laundry bag, not a duffle but it is stuffed with clothes and on the very top is a teddy bear wearing blue PJ's that she picks up when we talk, it plays music. My heart sinks. I ask her where she lives, she says Texas. I ask her if she has a place she can go, she starts to cry and gives me two locations, one being her grandmother's house but says she is not sure which one is closer. I tell her they are about the same and to give me an address so I can get her a car. She mentions something about payment, I ask again for the address. I go back in, keeping the main door open and my eyes on her. My husband orders the car. I go back to her and tell her how long, and what the car will look like. She mentions payment again and I say it's ok. She starts crying again about her boyfriend. I say I get it, I had a shitty boyfriend once. I go back in and get her a blanket and tissues. She thanks me so profusely for the tissues that it makes my stomach turn. No child should be that grateful for tissues. This is when I realize that although she seems embarrassed she doesn't seem humiliated. All I think is, if this were me I would feel so humiliated, not in a judging her kind of way but in an, "if this were me" kind of relating to her way.
Then I remembered that desperation often doesn't leave room for humiliation. When you are strung out on despair how can there be any room for humiliation? It almost seems like some sort of primal way to protect ourselves. If she was humiliated she wouldn't have been able to bring herself to come up to my porch, knock on the door and ask for help. How do you turn someone in that desperate position away? Well, you don't.
I checked on the time again of the car. I went back out and said, I don't know who dropped you here, she interrupts with "my boyfriend" and picks the teddy bear up again. Lord is this child pregnant? I continued, I don't know what address you just gave me but I'm not sending you back to him, am I? She says no and I pray that is true. I look her in the eye trying my best to hold her gaze and say to her, listen, hun, I used to have a shitty boyfriend and I want to tell you something, you deserve better. She puts her head down and mumbles, "I know".
I was very aware of how this could all look and feel to her. I didn't want to overwhelm her or frighten her off. I tried to help while still respecting her boundaries. I was also so struck by the sight of her sniffling in a hoodie, freezing on my porch under twinkling Christmas lights. I was even wearing red PJ's with snowmen all over them for heaven's sake! This all felt insulting to her pain but after a day to think about it, I hope it was the opposite.
Maybe she will remember the kind lady in the silly PJ's that had a nice warm home and looked her in the eye with the dignity that she deserved and realize that maybe her life can be more. That she is worth more.
The car came, she handed me back the box of tissues and thanked me again, I said, "be safe, honey" and she again thanked me and said "happy holidays" which just about shredded my heart.
Lord, let her be safe tonight
I closed the door and locked it. Before we all went to bed my husband opened up his Lyft app to check on the car. We wanted to make sure the car arrived at the address she gave us. He watched the app until it arrived. We have no idea if the address she gave us was a safe place but we at the very least wanted to know that she arrived. The whole night and the next day I second-guessed everything I did, wondering if I did enough. I will never know but I hope she remembers the kindness she received that night and uses it as a line of hope to cling to. One line of hope is sometimes all it takes to pull yourself up and out. Let her be light
I hope you all have a safe Holiday and I hope your New Year is filled with Hope.