(written November 2014, while in a treatment center for Eating disorders)
One sentence I heard years ago in a cheap movie theater holds lifetimes of meaning.
A WHITE FEATHER floats whistfully through the air.
Every time I see a park bench, I think of it.
I own a closet full of shoes now, but none will EVER measure up to my original pair.
It is a sad feeling to look around me and see such ignorance.
I am bathed in it daily…
…my nostrils saturated with a new dew point of insanity that reaches and claws it’s way further into me with every opportunity it is given.
This is the way of things.
Standing on a street corner, clothes tattered, thunder rumbling, and every last possession of mine stuffed hastily into a torn bathroom trash bag.
Arms wrapped protectively around my bundle,
contents semi-spilling from the torn side I had attempted to tie back together earlier that day…
…”Thank God I’m pregnant,” I tell myself sarcastically, “or this would be REALLY difficult.” as I hoist my luggage back onto my baby bump.
Lightening cracks across the sky, immediately followed by the deep rumble of thunder releasing rain in an instant downpour.
I am soaked to the core in 3.2 seconds, and barely notice.
My sneakers are swimming in the flowing river that was, moments ago, a dried up gutter.
Craning my neck to see my feet over the side of my now slick baggage, I wiggle my toes underneath the split-mouthed puppet-looking sneakers smiling widely back at me. My frayed laces whipping around in the current.
They have seen better days.
“If those shoes could talk” I think to myself- cars honk and a brand new Escalade tears around the corner spraying an array of mud, grit, grime, rain gutter sludge, and wealthy smut in my face.
I wipe the crud out of my face, de-composed and abrazoned, thunder rumbling under my shoes, reflecting perfectly the shock waves of emotion cursing through me.
Dark, angry rain clouds gather above, moving slow but intentionally as if reacting to my imbalanced situation.
“How,” I ask myself “can someone with more than enough in this life, NOT SEE the desperate need in this world? Why does this greed continue?”
I have been thrown in with, and categorized as a “Dope Head” and a “hooker”.
I am sick. Battered. Litterally running for my life.
“There was no room in the inn” takes on a personal meaning.
What did her shoes look like?
My gaze moves up-
People sipping happily on warm latte’s. Smiling. Cozy.
They would be remembered.
My rain soaked hair hangs in my face.
___________Memories stil echo__________
I stand in the serving line today.
The look in their eyes brings me back and I’ll never forget.
His shoes look like mine, the ones I walked so far in. The ones I bled in.
I know that look.
I still have my shoes, in the back of my closet.
As those words infamously said:
“You can tell an awful lot about where a man has been, by his shoes.”
“She’s just a hobo. She’s just a streetwalker. They’ll do anything for a fix. Don’t make eye contact, just keep on walking.”
But people!!! I have a story!!!
I have a life!!
And…come to find out…They ALL do!!!
Guess what? EVEN the streetwalkers,
and the addicts,
and the quote, un-quote “low-lives” too!!!
Their stories tend to be the MOST understandable,
but the MOST ignored too.
Bus stops and corners become their passing grounds, desperately in need of disability but born without a chance.
The SYSTEM’S pit against them, designed by educated, slimy, greed & vanity obsessed politicians,
so far removed from the need and reality of poverty the system’s intended to serve…
We become a simple business decision made for financial gain, on outdated data and statistics.
Needs are never considered,
This is how suffering is perpetuated.
“She’s a curse cuz she’s pregnant, just one more mouth to feed.
Another drain on our hard earned tax dollars.
It’s people like her we don’t like around, who can’t keep their legs closed
and get themselves knocked-up for the welfare money.”
Their voices still echo, as I stand in the serving line.
Memories of shelters like this one flash through my mind.
I’ll never forget the cots where we slept,
Identical cubicles containing a persons whole life.
I’ve walked in their shoes
I recognized that expression
“Thank ya, ma’am” he says, full of genuine gratitude and pain.
His shoes look like mine and I can already tell an awful, awful lot about where this man’s been…
by his shoes.
“Pack up and go, you’ve got til tonight”
They think I called my abuser cuz he showed up at 8.
Belligerent, threats, and stories…they should have seen right through.
But the judgmental aspect of the human mind runs true.
Standing in the gutter in the rain I turn to my right,
my fellow bag lady huddled there alone.
A bag of crooked bones, wrinkles, and sun-baked flesh and moles.
She grins her bitter beer face grin, peering at me from under her hand stitched umbrella.
Striking as hard as the lightening bolt behind her, those old eyes squinted through a thin sliver of leather eyelids.
But I’ll never forget her soul…sparkling back at me.
A kindred spirit.
One who had been baptized in the horrors left unspoken,
carrying labels long since pasted on.
There are NO WORDS.
…but she knows.
I notice her shoes.
The frayed NIKE symbol, sun-bleached and peeling from the side, no socks, rubber bands for laces, and the soles worn completely off with duct tape creatively holding them together.
Those memories still echo, as I stand in that line.
Their worn, dirty hands send me back to that time.
I’ve WALKED in those shoes!
We’ve carried the same cross!
I recognize his pained gaze.
My old pair of sneakers sit on a shelf in my closet.
I remember the words:
“You can tell an awful lot about where a man’s been by his shoes.”
Night falls as I wait at the bus stop,
My drenched belongings in a heap next to me.
I feel a kick and look down.
And there, as clear as day, I see a tiny footprint formed on the side of my belly.
Fear forms in a riptide, beginning in the gallows of my gut and crashing into the walls that threaten to stop holding me together.
“How will I do this? how can I possibly parent this child when I don’t even know where my next meal is coming from?!!!”
Like so many times before this, I’m brought to my knees by the guiltload that hangs from my shoulder blades.
“I’m carrying the spawn of the devil! It hates me!”
Terror rips at the ribcage that cradles my child.
I feel like someone else’s baby factory!
How I wish…
But will I be able to protect us both?
As I pull my hair back, a rough looking character pulls up in a red truck and solicits me for sex.
This is the third time today!
At least he offers me 50, the last one only offered 20.
Is this the going rate for a sweet girl with all her hair and teeth?
That’s all I’m worth?
God that money could pay for food, maybe a hotel room…
a cup of that delicious hot coffee across the street that all those oblivious important happy people are drinking.
It’s several meals if I make it stretch.
It’s a new pair of tennis shoes!
Turning him down, he peels off yelling some classy remark kicking up dust and dirt with his rear wheels, making the baby jump – triggering a large contraction just as the bus pulls up…
…and then keeps on going!!!!
In a momentary bout of insanity, I forget I’m this pregnant, and spring into a full sprint determined to STOP the BUS!!!
Arms flailing in the air, yelling and running at my very hardest.
The driver see’s me alright!
I’m close enough to almost be able to TOUCH the bus!
Oh, he see’s me- I see him!
He’s just an ass, and won’t stop!
I chase that forsaken bus an entire city block…and BAM!!!
A stab of searing pain runs through my hips, reminding me of my nearly full-term pregnancy
…and that I just did a major NO NO!!!
Crumpling to the ground, Hard contractions combined with searing pain made it clear that at 29 weeks pregnant…
I was now in labor!
He Freaking saw me!!!
The emotions still echo, serving food in that line.
Each mans tattered and worn clothes brings me strait back to the memories still so fresh.
Each pair of shoes tells a tale of their own,
of real life,
of the human condition.
Don’t judge them by their status-
For to truly understand a man’s experience-
YOU MUST WALK IN HIS SHOES!!
I keep my pair in my closet.
I’m observant, and I listen.
For my hat’s off to all those with shoes like the pair I still keep.
Cuz I’ll ALWAYS remember that simple sentence,
words spoken so plain and profound.
The WHITE FEATHER a symbol,
yet followed with purpose and unbridled composure.
Dancing in the wind,
A traveler wild and free.
It’s adventures right there in plain sight to be witnessed…
Did you notice where it chose to take it’s nest?
I’ll leave it be.
Cuz the human mind is AMAZING!
It’s INSPIRING the possibilities!