Aria was sitting on a street corner playing a bright blue guitar. This spot is often occupied by homeless buskers, but Aria did not fit the mold. She brightened up as soon as I asked for the opportunity to photograph her. I asked where she was from, and she said that she was traveling around the country, “This is my college education.”
Aria graduated from high school in Texas last year. She is very poised and well spoken – I bet that she was near the top of her class. Her parents are financially well off, but she left home without their blessing, so they will not send her money. She said, “I'm living in a tent with homeless people, so I guess I'm homeless.” There was a bit of defiant pride in her voice and body language. I said, “You have to be careful, not everyone is nice out there.” Aria answered, “I'm lucky that I made a couple of friends. They will help protect me.”
I'll bet that her parents are worried sick, and with good reason. She seemed so out of place that it crossed my mind that she could be a student doing a thesis about the homeless life, by embedding herself into the culture. But then she wouldn't keep herself so clean and tidy. And her speech immediately gives herself away as someone educated. I felt uneasy about all this.
As we parted, I shook her hand (again), looked her squarely in the eye and said, “Stay safe.” I hope she does.