A rare day

sun 3It is a rare day that my office is quiet. I am looking around with a strange wonder at the silence. Soon, one person will come in followed by three more with paperwork to review, an emotional crisis from a jilted lover, problems with work, and so on. The list of needs is endless, as is their ability to surprise and delight, disappoint and frustrate.

Their future is limitless, unless one takes into consideration the difficulty in navigating through government benefits and broken systems. The world is their oyster, aside from the series of trauma based experiences that brought them to the point of living in transitional housing.

This work is not easy, but it is not about me. Ego must be checked at the door each day because this is not where one comes for validation or even that warm, fuzzy feeling. My supervisor described my role in terms of the tangible.

“You have to be like jello over razor blades that will cut you at some point.”

Yet, it is worth the cuts and the chaos. At the end of the day/week/month, there is always a victory, someone breaking through another barrier that was previously impossibly impassable. The quiet gives me the time and space to remember that, there is always a small victory.

Believe in each other, believe in humanity.

Humanity has to win because if it doesn’t we are no better or more evolved than our fore-monkey mothers and fathers picking fleas from the furry backs of one another.

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Holiday SNAP

candy

Sitting in the government office, Anna waited for someone to call her number. She held the tag in her hand, identified no longer by a name. Rather, she was “23”. Another person trying to get something for nothing.

“I brought my paperwork,” a woman clutched a handful of rumpled documents. A slew of greasy kids stood behind her with wide eyes. They were quiet and listless, a stark contrast to the little girl from a different brood who was twirling and dancing in the middle of the office.

A boisterous woman who appeared to be the child’s mother, sat facing away from the girl, talking into her cellphone. She laughed like a crow who just outsmarted a scarecrow as her child ran the length of the room, energized by soda and cereal, the breakfast of a future champion. A massive purse sat half open on the chair next to her, a soft pack of cigarettes peeked out, calling to their owner to be smoked.

Another woman raced through a hundred words a minute as she explained the reason for her visit, high from some stimulant she smoked or popped just before coming in to join the existing motley crew. The intake person, bedecked in a Christmas sweater with reindeer earrings, tried to keep up with the woman in front her, made the reindeers swing violently from either side of her head.

“Take a number,” the intake person said, nodding her head and the reindeer in the direction of the number dispenser.

Anna wondered if she remembered to turn off the stove before she left home, Christmas shopping, and about a person’s basic right to food and shelter.

“Socialist thinking,” she laughed, hearing Grandfather’s voice interrupt her thoughts.

He was against anything that resembled a handout. It reminded him too much of his own childhood, his parents, what he worked so hard to escape. When she accepted the PrettyPoorPerson scholarship, he nearly disowned her.

There was a trick to it somehow. He had yet to crack the code, ten years later. If only he could remember what had made him so angry.

A young man waddled past Anna, just barely keeping his sagging pants from falling to the dirty tile floor. He reeked of marijuana. It was so pungent, Anna felt that she could see it, not unlike Pigpen’s cloud that travelled overhead as he travelled through the world of Peanuts. This young man’s cloud hovered in the space around his body as he travelled through a much meaner and less forgiving world.

Anna pulled into herself, wishing things were different. Sick, embarrassed, and broken, she never saw herself in this type of a situation.

“Number 23,” a woman yelled in a flat voice.

Anna’s time had finally come.

Sidewalk Speculations

sidewalk

Two men skillfully maneuvered a brand new cooling unit down a cracked and broken sidewalk. It looked like the kind that would normally pump cold air into a three story house in a neighborhood of similar three story homes, and would sit in its own landscaped portion of the yard, complete with mulch and a creatively shaped bush to distract from the obvious eyesore.
No one stopped to ask where the unit came from or where the men were headed. As a general rule, these are silly details that don’t really matter on this sidewalk, unless you are a cop.
I know exactly where it came from; I watched the pair of men struggle as they wrestled it from the back of an old pick-up truck and onto a dolly. They nearly lost control of it when they lowered it from the bed of the truck to the ground. I envisioned it falling onto the man guiding it down to the dolly, his arms and legs sticking out on either side, in a very Wizard of Oz scene. My next thought was it falling sideways and onto the hood of my car. I cringed at explaining the unlikely story to my husband, already skeptical of most of the dings and nicks on the car.
The men shouted quickly in a foreign tongue, angry at each other and at the monster. Its only defense was in its uncooperative size. If only gravity had its way…
Then of course, I would have nothing to speculate about as the cooling unit was wheeled farther and farther away, well on its way to being scrapped for copper and other semi-precious metals.

Jinxed

One week ago, we walked along a nature trail, happily taking in the fresh air and newly naked trees.  Fallen leaves lined the path; birds flitted back and forth in front of us in flashes of red and brown.  It was a perfect afternoon.

“Can you believe we haven’t been sick, yet?” my husband asked, swinging his arms alongside his body in a casual Sasquatch style.

Suddenly, the sky clouded over and the birds disappeared.  An eerie silence fell on us as my mouth dropped open in disbelief.  I looked around to see if anyone heard what he had just asked.

Unbelievable! What was he thinking?

The look on my face must have led him to believe I didn’t understand the question.

“Can you believe..” he tried to continue and repeat himself.

“Stop!” I yelled.  “For the love of all things holy, don’t say it again.”

“What?” he asked in earnest.  He really didn’t know what was happening.

What have you done?  I wondered silently and shook my head at our bad luck, like a black cat had just crossed our path as we walked under a ladder; I knew what our future held.  I knew it with absolute certainty and it wasn’t good.

“You jinxed us! That’s all I’m going to say. I don’t want to talk about it anymore and make things worse.”

He laughed and shook his head, a complete non-believer.

He stopped laughing a week later when he got sick with a fever, chills, runny nose and the works. Yet, somehow he remains a disbeliever and chalks his illness up to the flu season and the high prevalence of unwashed hands in the work place and gym.

Now, it’s my turn to laugh.  A big hearty and healthy laugh.  It wasn’t germs that got him sick, it was talking about it and jinxing himself.  Its superstitious and maybe even a little ridiculous, but there’s something to it.

A little something called denial, and that’s more powerful than any old regular pathogen trying to sneak past my immune system.

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