The worst thing that can happen is that she yells at you, that’s all. And that’s not even bad, you can handle that. Just walk up and say hi. Maybe she’ll want to talk, maybe she’ll—
“Hi. My name is Bethany. How are you tonight?”
The words rolled off my tongue before I could stop over-thinking. Approaching a stranger is no small feat for an introvert like me.
Two pairs of eyes stared at me, a bit apprehensive, but not hostile like I had feared. I felt see-through. Teeny tiny.
Domino sat with a seagull feather poking up from the back of her head. Her body was randomly decorated with tattoos. And scars. She was petite and beautiful.
Her belly protruded visibly with the tight shirt she was wearing, perfectly framing the new life growing inside of her. Seven months.
We talked for a little, Domino, her boyfriend and I.
“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to get diapers and stuff,” Domino said. Her eyes drifted off, following the groups of people walking by. A constant flow, night after night.
This was baby number two. More than half of her twenty years of life had been spent on the street. She was having another boy, and wanted more than anything to keep him. His middle name was Bella. Beautiful.
Her first baby—she described him as the perfect cherub, gerber baby—was taken from her and placed in foster care. She blamed the father.
The smell of popcorn from the Metro 4 theater wafted through the air, mingling with the baby powder Domino was using to clean up her socks.
I continued to feel teeny tiny.
What could I offer? What solution, what hope, what answer?
Oh Santa Barbara. Full of wealth, sustainability and entrepreneurs. Yet we still have pregnant twenty year olds sleeping on our streets.
Scribbling the number of a local shelter for pregnant women on a scrap of paper, I knew it would take more than a phone call to get Domino and her baby somewhere safe.
It would take sacrifice. She seemed to recognize that a little. If I was serious about seeing her off the streets, there’d have to be sacrifice on my end too.
We talked for a while longer, they told me more about their lives, what it’s like living on the streets of Santa Barbara.
I had to leave, but I promised to look for her again. To check-in and see if she made the call. As little as I felt, as inadequate and afraid, I knew I couldn’t walk away and pretend like everything was going to be okay.
“All I want is a camera. I want to have a picture of him, just in case they take him away again,” she answered. I had asked if she needed anything.
She was homeless, maybe not sober all the time. But she was a mom. She loved her babies. She was guaranteed nine months of uninterrupted time with them, but afterwards was uncertain.
She wanted to make sure that she could carry more than his memory if Bella was taken. Like her first baby. That’s all she had of him.
All the people who walked by that night, all the other nights she sat on the dirty sidewalk with her growing belly. I hope someone else cared about Domino, encouraged her to get somewhere safe before her baby came.
I looked back, her silhouette still visible from down the block. Domino and baby Bella.
I haven’t been able to find Domino since that night. If you’re in the Santa Barbara area, keep an eye out for her.
If you come into contact with a pregnant and homeless women in the area, get them connected to Villa Majella. They can help both you and your friend on the journey.