Her shopping cart parked outside and loaded with cans, bottles and cardboard, Evelyn emerged from a 7-Eleven in Hillcrest with a fresh cup of coffee. She sat down against the convenience store's wall, in the shade and out of the midday Sunday heat.
Two sidewalk sign twirlers approached the store's entrance. She asked them if their jobs were hard to get. 'Yes,' one said.
'Really hard?' she asked, getting no response as they entered the store.
A 47-year-old native San Diegan, Evelyn wore a tank top and sweat pants. A few gray strands and a little bit of stuck gunk stood out in her dark long hair, which sported thick bangs that came close to obscuring her eyes. She spoke softly behind crooked front teeth and was a bit hard to understand. Asked if she wouldn't mind being interviewed, Evelyn said talking about picking up bottles and cans is 'boring.' She agreed to a conversation nonetheless. But it didn't get far.
Among the few details of her life that she managed to give was that her second husband-whose name she would not, or could not, provide-died five years ago from cancer. She said that several times. Asked what he had done for a living, she said he received Social Security. Evelyn's been on the streets since he died. She sleeps 'under a bridge' that 'leads to a canyon.'
Questions about her childhood, her parents and her first husband appeared to make her uncomfortable. She abruptly stood up, saying she had to continue picking up bottles and cans. She repeated that numerous times, sort of like Dustin Hoffman's Raymond repeatedly announced the impending broadcast of 'Wapner' in Rain Man.
Located in an alley a few minutes later, and presented by a CityBeat reporter with a large bag of cans and bottles, and by a passing motorist with a couple of dollars, Evelyn's otherwise stern face brightened. 'Thanks!' she said. But a second attempt to extract information was as unsuccessful as the first.
'I gotta pick up bottles and cans,' she said, 'by myself.'