I Know Why.

I know why homeless people stay homeless. As I was riding my bike in the rain to the mission this morning, I thought to myself, ‘This is why some homeless people get stuck in poverty. If I didn’t have a job or a home, how could I get one?’ I thought about this because it was raining pretty hard and my tires on my bicycle were spitting water all over my pants. By the time I got to the mission, I was drenched, cold, and out of breath. If I had been a person who was unemployed and on my way to a job interview, there would have been absolutely nothing I could have done about my appearance. My pants were literally soaked through. My underwear are still a little soggy and it is exactly twelve hours later. How many people do you think would hire a person who can’t even show up for her interview looking halfway presentable? Is there anywhere that will let you work the first couple of weeks until you can afford to buy a uniform? What if you still can’t afford a uniform after the first two weeks? What if you can’t afford to pay your water bill and don’t have perfectly clean clothes each day? I think about this frequently because I wonder how people are supposed to get a leg up when we place such high expectations on people in the work force. Surely there is somewhere that helps people help themselves, but I don’t hold my breath.

*

Today was writing club: Write On! Huh? One of the students led the group today. He brought a prompt, which was a list of fifty words. We picked numbers between one and fifty, then used the words that corresponded with the numbers in a story of 300-500 words. The words were pretty lame, according to the student, but I made my first (lame) foray into writing fiction using these words:  plastic grocery bag, candles, large drink cup, mustache, and poster.

It Seemed Like Child’s Play

I stopped in front of the wanted poster hanging outside the candy store next to the grocery store on our town square. “Small Town USA,” our town motto rang in my ears. I moved here when I had a child, so she would be safe. I thought there was too much crime in the big city to raise children there.

Usually they wear leisure suits with wide lapels in these posters. Apparently, the perpetrator’s wardrobe updates end in the late seventies. This man was no exception. Movie villains are always well-dressed and looking for a good time. Slick mustache and hair combed straight back: every movie villain has the same style. Sometimes the hair covers a bald spot. Sometimes the bald spot shows through. But this wasn’t a movie villain. This was a man who had been spotted in our town.  This was simply a pervert looking for a good time.

I stood there looking at the poster, thinking about how it resembled a B-movie poster when the wind picked up, cold and fast, bringing with it a large drink cup wrapped in a plastic grocery bag. The whirlwind circled around me as if it was trying to tell me something, like Lassie explaining that Timmy fell into the well. I ignored the icy gust, and kept staring into the eyes of this man in front of me, shuddering and thinking about my beautiful daughter and how this man was loose in our neighborhood. All I could think of was his sleezy mustache and greasy comb over. They consumed me. They haunted me. They made my skin prick with cold.

The wind howled around the building, the plastic grocery bag crinkled and scraped its way across the parking lot, taking with it the cup, which must have been empty. The pair blowing across the pavement made me wonder about their former contents. Someone’s lunch. An after work snack. Halloween candy collected by a small child. I put my collar up to shield my neck from the sudden cold, and thought about the mustache and the hair. This man with his piercing stare could be anywhere, lurking, waiting for a small child to pass his way.

I began to question. Was the grocery bag clutched by small hands, greedily collecting falling leaves? Those could have been my daughter’s hands wrapped tightly around the plastic handles, waiting for a piece of penny candy. They could have been the hands of the boy next door, holding the bag for his father on the way home from the store. Had the pervert’s dry, cracked hands, having been run across his greasy hair, having caressed the ends of his mustache, gripped that large Styrofoam cup? Had his lips pulled the soda through straw to quench his thirst?

Now the drink was gone, the contents of the bag were gone, and the child was gone. I thought about how scared my mother had been that I would be kidnapped as a child, and now I had my own worries. But my morose imagination had run away with me. When the wind whipped past my collar and began to sting my eyes, I remembered I needed to pick up candles for my daughter’s birthday cake.

*

Exercise: biked to the mission then to Burris

Food: banana, milk, two Bliss chocolates, Clif bar, tea, apple, almonds, pumpkin spice steamer, sun chips, pasta with stir fry, M&Ms

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One response to “I Know Why.

  1. unfinishedportraitofsam

    that very concept (the impossible situations of poverty/homelessness) has been bugging me recently, which is weird. here’s the thing: i think we expect too much of people in the workplace (beginning with our costumes, business suits, etc), but i don’t think it’s inappropriate or unreasonable to ask employees to practice good hygiene and to have clean attire out of respect for customers and other employees…
    but to what extent are companies responsible for helping people achieve those basic things, if they know they’ve taken on a worker in a tenuous living situation? i really like movements that focus on housing first, for that very reason (because i’m not sure employers really should have to worry about it), but they’re so damned expensive, and that fuels ALOT of anti-“handout” fires…

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