She opened her eyes after her first deep sleep in three weeks, wondering how she made it to this bottom bunk plastic mattress.
“If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it!” read the poster with the outstretched-armed, blue-sashed cartoon Jesus taped to the glossy-paint cinderblock wall.
“Another day, another shelter,” she mused as her arm lunged under her head where her pillow should be for her sack. Hand grabbing air, she jerked upright, firmly smacking her forehead on the bed frame above. Wincing, she remembered losing her things to a toothless man two days before.
The head smack made the fluorescent lighting extra bright. She quickly scanned the beds and women around her. She heard male voices further down the hall.
“Gentlemen versus Ladies,” she sighed, flopping back onto the bed. “This place must be upscale.”
The room smelled like teenage boy laundry dipped in turkey gravy, and held scattered conversations directed at no one in particular.
In an adjacent bed, a wild-haired form peeked out from under a tattered blanket and sputtered words at a tightly gripped, matte-finished family photo boasting the Olan Mills logo.
“Probably from the eighties. Probably not even her family,” she guessed of the picture.
A younger face she recognized but could not place bent down, trespassing into her dotted lined personal space. “Hey! You slept through the meal,” it snarled with tobacco-induced grit as it thrust a napkin-wrapped biscuit under her nose.
She accepted it in silence.
Another female voice cut through the murmured chaos, announcing “Lights Out!” in a lukewarm, syrupy sweet lilt that reminded her of canned peaches.
All went dark.
“This is too much,” she thought.
She began to hear sniffles from overhead. The high-pitched whimper of a young child. And then the singing started; a mother-daughter duet of “Twinkle, Twinkle” and rhythmic nose-blowing.
“Oh God,” she groaned as she sat up. “I can’t be here anymore,” she announced too loudly into the dark. She gripped her biscuit, scooped up her lace-free sneakers and plodded to the door, half-conscious, coasting on the fumes from which she’d feed her broken soul.
*Joining the Five Minute Friday writers in today’s prompt, HERE. This piece is loosely based on my estranged aunt, who spent over half of her life homeless, despite my family’s guarded attempts to “rescue” her in the many material ways we thought necessary. What do you think are the best ways to show Jesus to the homeless?