Wednesday, September 5, 2012

I Might Have Killed This Person

Toina Hanson
 
If so, it was an accident. 
 
Sometime last fall, I was driving in the jalopy with Susie Sue.  We were coming into downtown Portland, along a strip where homeless people often stand by the road, "signing."  Signing means standing where people stop for a red light, holding up a sign asking for money.  "Hungry.  Please help."  That sort of thing. 
 
The woman you see here, named Toina Hanson, was there, holding a sign.  I must have barely noticed her (there are a lot of homeless people in Portland, Maine), because I barely remember the incident.  But Susie Sue remembers.  She nudged me as we stopped at the light, and I took this to mean: "Give the woman something."
 
The smallest thing I had was a $20.  So I opened the window and gave it to Toina.  She was excited.  Said: "God bless you!"  Something like that.  I guess you don't get a lot of twenties while out panhandling. 
 
Susie Sue said: "Did you give her a twenty?"
 
I said: "Yeah."
 
"Jesus, Patrick.  She's a junkie.  That's way too much money.  You probably just killed her."
 
Toina's body turned up recently in a wooded area on the edge of town, a couple of miles from that stoplight.  A hiker out picking wild blueberries found her skeletal remains.  The cops estimate she was laying there in the woods since last fall, right around the time I gave her all that money.  They say there were no signs of foul play.
 
If she were alive, Toina would now be 31 years old.  She doesn't look anywhere near that young in her photo.  I know people her age who still look like teenagers.  Toina had no home.  I'd guess she weighed about 70 pounds.   
 
We've got a machine here, and it grinds people right up.  Disappears them.  Leaves them for dead.  Nobody misses them.  Nobody notices.  The wheels roll on.  Some random nature lover finds the body almost a year later.            
 

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