I noticed her as I searched for the building where my interview was. My thoughts were on direction but something about her standing there on the corner all alone, holding her sign, made me think of another time and another place. Even as I parked in the building's lot I couldn't stop thinking of what makes us do the things we do. If I call myself a writer (and most days I like to) then the world was my ocean of material and here was an immediate morsel I couldn't in good conscience ignore. Or so I told myself. Besides, I had about thirty minutes to kill before my interview. Who knew what could come from a casual conversation? I had moved here to explore my writing opportunities and it would be wrong to ignore one thrown in my face. This inner conversation boosted my confidence that she wouldn't hit me with her sign if I approached her so I set off around the building to see if she still stood on the corner. I adopted an air of nonchalance, as if I were just walking around. It was my disguise.
She was older, maybe even close to my own age. I smiled as I got close and she smiled back as she walked past me. I realized engagement would have to be instigated by me. Her sign read "Lord forgive us and our nation" on one side and "Let God love you" on the other. An interesting combination. Do we have to be forgiven to be loved?
I stepped back and smiled again. She stopped for a moment with a hesitancy that I ignored. "Could I ask you a question?" I said as she stared at me, never letting the sign down. "Is that an abortion provider? Is that why you're out here?"
"Yes," she replied. "They do abortions here up to nine months. People come from all over the country to get abortions here cause there are only three states where they do abortions up to nine months and New Mexico is one of them. This guy," she pointed to the building behind her, "has another office in Dallas. They can't do them as late there so he sends those people over here."
The whole time she talked to me she kept edging away, back out to the corner to hold up her sign. I found it odd that someone who would stand on a street corner holding such a sign showed no real desire to engage someone who walked up to them. I did ask if she had many people stop and talk to her. She said yes, that "we" have some turnarounds from the cars passing by. I don't know who the "we" was. Maybe there are others who are there at times and they do the talking.
I'm not writing this to take a stand on the abortion debate. It's an issue I have some issues with myself. In my experience I have found those who protest to be reflections of the trouble within that debate. Sometimes I think we satisfy our own needs more than others by doing something like standing in front of an abortion provider with a sign that speaks not to the people passing by but to a vision of an upset deity. And perhaps there is the root of the problem. Maybe it wasn't the people passing by she wanted to connect with. Maybe she was making a point more to her God than to the people going into that clinic. I have to wonder if she needed to let God know she was on the job and if that wasn't the real point of her actions. Surely most of the cars passing by on the busy street in front of her couldn't even read the small print on her sign. And if they guessed what it might refer to I cannot imagine that many gave it more than a passing thought, yea or nay. It would, in my opinion, help her cause more if she engaged in one-on-one conversations with people but that didn't seem to be something she wanted to do with me. Speaking one on one appeared to make her uncomfortable.
So I left her to her penance, wishing her luck but not saying what for. And she didn't ask, just smiled and went back to her corner. When I drove by after my interview she was gone, her time of servitude over, I suppose.