Mary Beth Meehan

Rhonda – Providence, RI

Rhonda – Providence, RI

Rhonda says this portrait of her shows “mixed emotions”: “happy and kind of sad at the same time.”

When I first met her, she was walking toward me on Plainfield Street. The sun was in her hair, which was the most incredible shade of red. It wasn’t just red, but magenta, purple somehow – brilliant. “Not everybody can pull it off,” she says.

Now it is weeks later, Rhonda’s hair is black, and we are sitting together at the Dunkin’ Donuts where she works. I give Rhonda the photograph and talk about how I’m trying to learn something about the people who live in Providence. She tells me she has a second job as a certified nursing assistant, taking care of a woman in Warwick. She is raising an 11-year-old son, as well as a 5-year-old niece, whose mom isn’t able to do it. On the side of her neck is tattooed the name Gloria – “That’s my mom,” she says. “She’s number one.”

Miraculously, at this moment Gloria comes through the door, accompanied by one of Rhonda’s sisters. Rhonda hands the portrait to them and says, “This shows mixed emotions, doesn’t it? What does it show?”

“Struggle,” replies her sister. “It shows the true life of struggling.” She turns to me and says “No one struggles like she does.”