A journalistic yet creative account of my orchestrated run-ins with a homeless woman in Midtown Manhattan over a span of three months.

Somewhere on 50-Something Street

A late afternoon thunderstorm had just rumbled through Manhattan and Paula was drenched.

She was sitting on the corner of 5th Avenue and 50-something Street, under a spotless glass display case that was filled with perfectly placed designer jewelry. From across the street, I watched her shiver and grip the filthy beige fabric wrapped around her while I waited for the crossing signal. During the minute I stood there, about a dozen people dropped money in the small jar in front of her. She thanked every one of them, but none of them broke their stride enough to hear her.

In Midtown Manhattan, a break of stride is an annoyance, especially if it’s unnecessary. Stopping is inconvenient. Everyone wants to beat every red light and every green light is accompanied by a marching band of honking taxicabs, jargoning businessmen, and babbling tourists. I could have helped Paula, but I was on the opposite side of the street and it was my band’s turn to march. I continued up 5th Avenue toward Central Park, where I would turn left and follow the horses to Columbus Circle and then take the A train back to Brooklyn.