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JUST BELOW THE SURFACE: Homeless at 1/150th of a second.

A homeless woman at the 66th Street/Lincoln Center subway station in New York City.

A homeless woman at the 66th Street/Lincoln Center subway station in New York City on August 6, 2015.

 

Text / Photography EDWIN PAGÁN @thepaganimage

JUST BELOW THE SURFACE at the 66th Street subway station at Lincoln Center, a homeless woman sits at a fortress of a wooden bench, her white-streaked hair pulled into a casual bun. She sits alone intently contemplating something. Perhaps she is mauling over one of a million things she considers during her long day’s journey. Perhaps there’s not much to contemplate at all, as her mental faculties no longer allow it (or never did).

Near her, stacked high like a pallet of compacted garbage, is a tangle of plastic bags containing unknown other items. They are tied together forming a large cube of “refuse” (I think) -- “my things” (she may say). What do these bags hold? Her belongings in their entirety? Nothing of consequence perhaps, just an idle mind’s keepsakes that provide an insular sense of ownership in the shallow wasteland of dignity? Or, is she reminiscing over one moment in a lifetime of memories?

She sits quietly, her piercing eyes trained on a small piece of paper she fiddles in between her fingers. A receipt? A phone number for a shelter a kind-hearted strap-hanger gave her? A photo of a loved one—or of herself—back when capturing a moment in a photograph still meant preserving a memory for the future so as to assess the culmination of the past? Of belonging, of existence. But does she exist now, really? Perhaps those bags are her personal hard-drive and are full of remembrances that help her pass away the time during her endless sentence of solitude. Is there someone somewhere missing her?

Down here she is one of many. Above, a concert has just let out where a joyous 3000+ patrons have sullied their senses with 115 decibels of culture. Down here she is shackled with an ardent silence that most will never know. She is a woman. She is homeless. That should mean something. We must do something.

All these notions taking place at 1/150th of a second.

 

Published: 8/7/15.