Monday, January 24, 2005


A few years ago I was in Sarasota, Florida and staying at a downtown shelter. One night I walked in the shelter door and was turned away because the staff said that my time there was over.

They told me that I had "used up all my nights" for that particular month.

I had been staying there for less than three weeks. And I didn't know a soul in that city.

Later on that night, I sat down on a pier and watched "cigarette" boats skim across the bay.

I also considered my options.

The next day I got into a conversation with other homeless women. That conversation led to the realization that women were spending nights in the park. On the beach. By the trees across the street from a large hotel. Outside.

I went north to Tampa, found a library, logged onto a computer and found the NewsCoast message board. I spoke my peace, logged off, checked out "The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon" by Stephen King and left.

The next day I returned to that same library. And I logged onto the computer again and posted another entry on the same message board.

I used quotes from King's novel [with credit to him] and tied them in with my own comments about my situation.

I talked about being homeless in Tampa and did it in a very unique way.

After a few days I returned to the library and opened an email from Brett.

I'll never forget the way that reporter began his message to me. He said: "Hiya."

He said that he was a writer for the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. He said that he had noticed my postings on the message board. He wanted to talk to me.

I didn't believe a word he wrote.

Arrangements were made for me to meet another guy [who has nothing to do with the media] and get back down to Sarasota.

The guy who brought me down to Sarasota was a complete nutball and I wish that I had never met him.

Brett met me at the downtown Sarasota library. He didn't see me at first.

I walked up behind him. He was wearing a suit jacket that I thought was too heavy for the weather and held a small notebook in his hand.

It only took a second to realize that he was the reporter that I was supposed to meet. Brett had "media" written all over him.

He drove me over to the Herald-Tribune building. I could tell that he was a bit confused.

I was all cleaned-up and wearing a black dress.

[I had stayed in a motel the previous night. The nutball guy paid for it. He swore that his intentions were pure but his behavior told me otherwise. After he paid for the room and drove off to do whatever, I moved to another room!]

So there I was, sitting in a courtyard outside the news office, examining my painted nails and smiling at Brett.

Dwayne came out and took one look at me and adopted the same expression as Brett.

I didn't look at all like the person that they imagined I'd look like.

"So...Ruth..." Brett asked. "What are you trying to accomplish?"

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