Why you should care

Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.

In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”

Rose Marti Loston
Gainesville, FL

Today is a good day, because I’m helping people find happiness. My name isn’t Rose, or Marti, anymore. It’s Granny. I’m 70 years old, and I haven’t been called anything other than Granny for 20 years.

I take care of all my children around here. None of them are really my children, no, but these people you see walking around, their heads down, their eyes dull, walking these streets day in and day out — they need me. God sent me back years ago. I died, you know — I had a stroke and died. And he told me, “It’s not your time yet. Go help people find happiness.” So I came back. That’s what the doctors said.

My job now is to take the meanness in people and squash it before it gets too big for them.

 

I live in the alley down that way, third to the left under the Cowboys’ sign. I’m a late sleeper, so you can find me in the fourth pile of blankets until about 11 or so. That’s when I go down to the library for a bit. I love to read, and it’s air-conditioned in there, too. In the summer, sometimes it gets up over 100 degrees, and with the stomach cancer, I can’t drink enough water to stay healthy. They let me stay there until 1 or 2, most days. Last week, though, I left at high noon, and wouldn’t you know, I caught that bum who’d been stealing my stuff! And before he left, he looked me in my eye and peed on my blankets. Right there on my blankets. People can be animals; they try to get me down, but they can’t anymore. Nothing is as ugly as love is beautiful, you know.

So, that’s what I do all day — walk around and talk to people; love them, if they need it. You find the kernels of sadness they carry, you know? You find those, and you toss them out like so much litter.

I didn’t used to talk to anyone at all, at least not to people. People just want to hurt you. I didn’t need to be hurt no more. My own mama left me at an orphanage in Kentucky when I was just 13 months old. My own mama didn’t want me. I broke out when I was 12 or so, and put my own self through high school. Some college, too.

When I was a teenager, a man and his wife let me stay in their barn. I took care of their animals sometimes, and I talked to them — the animals, I mean. I stopped talking to people when I was around 16. Not for years after I was raped the first time. It’s easy for them, you know? To take advantage of a young homeless girl, an orphan with no family, no name. Been assaulted a dozen times since, and the last one gave me HIV. It don’t bother me none, though. I turned tricks for a few bucks until I got it, but even without it, I’m too old for that. My job now is to take the meanness in people and squash it before it gets too big for them.

Round 3 o’clock, my friend comes to find me and brings my little dog. Yesterday she brought me this new skirt. I can twirl around and it makes a breeze on these old legs. I like the colors, too. And it don’t smell like piss, like all my other stuff now.

If we go around the corner, we can get a drink. They let me have one shot a day at this small bar. They don’t let me stay too long. They say they don’t want me scaring away the customers. But I don’t scare no one. In the evening, I sit outside the local coffee shop and work on my novels. I write them myself and I draw all the covers. I’ve got three for sale on Amazon. That’s the only time people call me Marti. The books, they cost $40 online, but I’d take a dollar if you could spare it now.

I never had any children of my own, no. And I’ve never had a home. I wouldn’t know what to do with one. The world has been my home, and the people in it my kids, and I’m Granny. And I’ll be Granny tomorrow. I’ll be Granny till the day I ain’t. Till the day I’m just gone.

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OZYTrue Story

Good stories from around the globe. Essays and immersion, into the harrowing, the sweet, the surprising -- the human.