Writing about thieves

I take a break from work to walk the uneven alleyway north, downtown. The walk, the street, the faces: they’ve all become a metaphor of the writing process. It’s always the same but a little different if you look carefully enough, no different than anything else.

I walk the alley to clear my head and make space to write. It’s a shit street and I’ve done it a thousand times now, 18 years at the same office in Seattle’s SODO district. I’ve memorized the bumper stickers, graffiti, the abandoned railway tracks jutting up from the asphalt they call “orphan tracks.”

I came here writing about the homeless, tracking the characters in frames day by day, season by season, wondering about their existence and mine. They take root in the spaces between cars by the fence and razor wire keeping people out of the ship yard, cropping up like weeds, wherever they can find purchase.

I wrote about the guy with the wolf tattoo on his chest making art out of scrap metal and broken bicycle frames, how the Health Department and cops made him remove all his stuff in a matter of minutes; he had been living there all summer, did anyone notice he was there, or gone?

And today, a kid who got beaten up, missing his shoes: blood on his lips, circling a small parking spot in his socks, with broken glass, unfolding a flannel shirt as a blanket. He looked at me and I looked on, then caught my reflection in a car and wondered if we felt the same in some way: who had I become, combing the alleyways looking for myself.

I wrote about them because I wanted a story, wanted to make people care, but I didn’t need to know them really, it’s better if you don’t, as a thief.

About pinklightsabre

William Pearse publishes memoir, travel journals, poetry and prose, and lives in the Pacific Northwest.
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10 Responses to Writing about thieves

  1. alesiablogs says:

    Difficult subject. I will feel so helpless when I walk by those that live off the street wanting to help, but knowing my help could come at a cost if I tried to do it alone. I do my best at different intervals (giving someone a free meal or a few bucks), but I can never relinquish the pain in my heart.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      I like your new photo Alesia! And the picture of Luke and his teacher from earlier this week. Have a nice weekend and thanks for stopping by.

      Like

  2. rossmurray1 says:

    One of the things that appealed about my time in journalism was detachment being part of the job. It’s the safe way to go.

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    • pinklightsabre says:

      Yes. Happy start to summer to you and your family Ross. Enjoy your weekend! Hope you’re well.

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      • rossmurray1 says:

        It’s groovy. I know I’m always recommending books you have no time to read, but just finished The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster and thought of you.

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      • pinklightsabre says:

        I need a new book and will mark that. Thank you Ross; appreciate you thinking about me. Trying this DeLilo book about 9/11 and not sure it’s going to stick. Life is good.

        Sent from my iPhone

        >

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  3. ksbeth says:

    it’s hard to immerse yourself in it, and then separate yourself, once you are in the mix.

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