A friend in need
She was sitting on the floor against a wall with her arms wrapped tightly around her legs and her head resting on her knees. Her hair hung forward hiding her face. She had been there for some time, not moving. I wondered if she was sleeping, she was so still and quiet. But she had an air of despondency about her.
This was not a particularly safe place for a young woman to be sitting on the floor alone, seemingly unaware of her surroundings. She looked vulnerable. She had a small backpack next to her. She was not holding on to it so it was easy pickings for any chance thief.
I had been sitting waiting for a friend to arrive but she had just texted to let me know she had been delayed and wouldn’t be able to make it. I had noticed the young girl when I first arrived and had been watching her. Something about her had me worried. There had been a time in my life when I had been very depressed. I was lucky to have had family and friends around to help me through it. This young girl looked so alone.
I went and sat close to her, but not crowding her. I sat quietly for a while. She didn’t acknowledge my presence in any way. I wasn’t sure she was even aware of me being there. I started speaking softly to her, introducing myself, letting her know that I had seen her sitting there and was wondering if she was okay. She didn’t respond. I sat quietly again, just being there, hoping she could feel my presence as being with her and non-threatening. We must have sat there for about half an hour before she lifted her head a bit and looked at me with a sidewise glance.
“Why are you here” she asked. I thought about what to say. “You looked lonely, and this is not a good place to be sitting alone. I thought I would keep you company for a while” I said. She continued to stare at me with that sidewise glance, her head still resting on her knees.
“You look a bit lost, are you okay?” I asked her. She put her head back down on her knees, her hair hiding her again, but I caught sight of the tears as she turned her face away, I could see her shoulders and back shaking as she cried.
I moved to sit in front of her rather than by her side, a bit closer but not touching. I was sitting cross legged and leaning forward. “What can I do to help” I asked. I waited to see if she would respond. After some time had passed with no response, I started talking quietly again. I told her about my aborted meeting with my friend, about what we had planned to do that day. I told her a bit more about myself, just talking to fill the silence and give her time to recover.
“So” I said eventually, “do you have anywhere to go, anyone you want me to call for you”. She looked up with such a look of despair, tears awash in her eyes and just shook her head. “So” I said again, “Is that nowhere to go or no one to call or both?” “Both” she whispered. I waited to see if she would say anything more.
She slowly told me her relationship had just broken up and she had had to leave the flat she shared with her boyfriend as she couldn’t afford to pay the rent alone. She was a student at a community college and had been working part time, taking any jobs she could find. Her boyfriend had been quite demanding and possessive and she hadn’t realised how controlling he had been and how isolated she had become. He had gradually stopped her seeing her friends and they had all moved on. She didn’t have any family she could call on. She was so tired and scared she couldn’t think what to do. She didn’t have any money for a room or for food. Her head dropped again and her shoulders sagged. She was crying again.
I sat quietly for a few moments, thinking. I didn’t have any concrete ideas to offer her but I did have some connections I could call on who may be able to assist her. I told her about my friends and how they may be able to help her if she would like me to contact them. I waited.
She looked up again and said she was so unhappy and lost, she just couldn’t cope anymore. She lay down with her head on her bag and curled into a ball, sobbing. I reached out and put my hand on her arm, just to make some physical contact with her. I called my friend who was part of a community outreach team and told her what was going on. She agreed to come down to talk to my girl. I just sat there until she arrived, being a friend in a time of need.
Jasmine Thompson, New Zealand (860 words)