Out the Office Window: Brittany

Backstory for a character in Out the Office Window.

Brittany put in a long stretch as a homeless, or disadvantaged, person in “the world’s most livable city.” Being an energetic soul, she was one of those itinerant window washers who hung out in the winter at the big bus shelter under TVNZ headquarters on the corner of Victoria and Hobson Streets. She was there when Auckland Transport initiated its anti-roosting campaign, during which AT began removing all the benches it could lay its hands, or tentacles, on. This did not cause Brittany and her friends to push off, only to move into doorways and stairs when they needed to rest or sleep. Brittany took her meals at the Auckland City Mission when she ate, but more often she drank. She was gregarious and could make friends with anybody; contrariwise, she was quick to defend her turf and her rights against all comers. Her best pal was old Haeatatanga, who would match her bottle for bottle when they took a break from window washing to binge. The Future Focus Policy, which went into effect in January, reduced her welfare benefits by half. Most of her friends were also affected. The purpose of the policy was to encourage single parents and other recipients to find employment, but between childcare needs, transportation difficulties, mental illness, substance abuse, lack of work skills, so forth, most of Brittany’s acquaintances sank even further into destitution – with no benches to sleep on, thanks to the relentless AT. Perhaps on those occasions when Brittany and Haeatatanga sought help from the Sallies, Shirley’s occasional contributions to the Salvation Army were used to assist them. Brittany had a daughter who she didn’t talk about. The girl lived with her poppy in Manukau City. That winter, old Haeatatanga had been complaining of the dreaded lurgy. She carked it the day after her benefits were halved. Her passing was not easy. Brittany held her hand at the end. Alone with the woman’s body, Brittany experienced an awakening. After seeing to it that her friend’s remains were properly collected, she made her way over to the Methodist Church on Pitt Street to wait for the next Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Suddenly, she had a desperate craving to lift herself up out of the cold, damp street. Her transition and recovery were hard. She attended many AA meetings. When the time for restitution arrived, she made the journey out to Manukau and found that her father did not want to see her or for her to see her daughter. Brittany remained on the street. There were no AA meetings in Manukau, so she attended those held in the Old Central School in Papakura. In time, her father let her spend time with her daughter. This proved to be a healing process for both mother and daughter; they helped each other. Brittany’s greatest fear had been that her daughter would hate her and be filled with anger. It wasn’t so. Her daughter was an angel. Once Brittany felt that she had reestablished some sort of relationship with her father, and with her daughter, she returned to the city. One day soon after, she was on the street in front of Sean’s building. It was hosing down and she stepped close to the building’s entrance to wring out her cardy and drip on the mat. A sympathetic maintenance woman, the same one who helped Shirley get in, held the door open for her and arranged a spot in the building for her to call her own, if only temporarily. The woman fixed her up with some castoff clothes and Shirley, renewed, took thought of her future.

2 Responses

  1. Sounds like New Zealand. Never been there. “Dreaded Lurgy” sounds like the “goon show.”

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