After my recent “discovery” of Ashley Stevenson, I’ve been thinking a lot about Ed Sheeran’s song “The A Team.” Coincidentally, which is to say, in the Universe’s divine, randomized, perfect organization, I’ve also been mounting my life’s portfolio of street photography and encountered the photo, shown below, of a young woman who was seemingly living out of a laundry cart in Washington, D.C. in the fall of 2007. I knew nothing of her and my encounter was limited to snapping a few shots and moving on. She sat quietly, scribbling in a note pad, and I wondered about her story long after. Only in viewing my photos did I notice the name “Angel” on a tag on the trolley. I wondered whether she was a student in one of the 20 colleges and universities in the city. I wondered if she was homeless, as she seemed quite at home there in the small park.
It is easy to write such stories, especially if one is a writer as I am. I could imagine she’d left home due to abuse, or perhaps she lost her way to drugs or worse. Or, maybe she was a rich kid, an all-around success who decided to travel on the cheap through the world, making her way and learning the light and darkness first hand. In any case, she was here, on the streets, in D.C., and I hoped she found her way to the next stop.
Others aren’t so lucky and endings are often tinged with sadness or painted in broad, despairing brush strokes, as Ed Sheeran can perhaps attest. And no, I am no great, liberal savior of street denizens and am far more likely to tell one to eff off as to reach out, but I do help shelters — those who help those helping themselves — and I hope my instincts were wrong and Angel was never among that lot. But if she was, then, I hope that now, some 9+ years later, her time in the park, on the street, in that life, are but distant memories faded by the sun of too much joy.
Angel girl, this song’s not for you, I hope.