By: Deanna Erdmann
I know I am in a house. I have this vague realization that it is mine, but it is entirely wrong and not mine all at the same time. The walls are stained yellow with decades of nicotine use. Mattresses are haphazardly thrown on the floor in every room I wander through. The mattresses are stained or ripped or flat or just…ugh… yes, ugh… that sound you make when something is so disgusting that there is no accurate word to describe it. The few windows I find have huge blankets nailed into the walls above them so that the blanket is more of a curtain than anything else.
I can’t wrap my head around it because it is so cold. I’d rather have the sunshine with a warm blanket than both dark and cold. I hear the shuffling of feet and materials from the room next to where I am standing. My stomach falls into my feet, and I can feel the bile rise in my throat. I reach a shaking hand out and slowly push open the door, cracked straight down the middle and nearly wholly dislodged from the hinges.
A young man is standing in the middle of the room. He is a shell of a human being. His too-skinny fingers are buttoning up pants that are far too baggy. He grabs a ratty hoody from a pile on the floor and hurries past me without making eye contact. His eyes tear up with shame, but his face is set hard with justification. I twist my body to watch him walk away, only to have my attention pulled back to the room by a sound from the corner. There on the filthy mattress is a girl… no, a woman. She is propped up on her thin arm, reaching with her other arm toward a baggy and a spoon. She proceeds carefully, almost like she is holding a diamond, placing a little chunk of something in the spoon. She reaches for a lighter. She continues concocting her poison, so desperate for its deadly relief that she doesn’t tuck her breast back into her tattered bra. A dingy sheet thrown over her legs doesn’t hide that only one leg is in her shorts.
I feel something slide down my cheek, and it is only then that I realize I am crying. Every inch of me cries out to her, but I don’t say a word. Her eyes flutter toward me, but she quickly looks away to continue her mission to numb herself. My body shakes with heartache for every unwanted touch she has endured.
I turn, and I run. I am not sure where I am going. I must get out of this house of mine that holds so much pain. When I make it to the street, I am shocked at how full it is, in contrast to the death house. This road is mine too. These people in business attire, walking with earbuds and telephones, are my responsibility too. They don’t know what just happened to that girl. They don’t know that she is just feet away. I try to walk in front of them, but they veer around me, hardly acknowledging my existence, let alone my voice, as I scream. An old lady grabs my arm and begins to lead me away.
We walk into the side building of a church, and she begins to load my arms up with used clothing and off-brand food. Used and off, just like the girl. I am sobbing as she gives me the items, she thinks I am grateful, but I am ashamed. I am embarrassed that she brought me to the side building of the church and not into the sanctuary so I could feel the Holy Spirit. I am sorry that generosity is only considered in the used and discarded… the unwanted. She… we are giving the desolate the used and unwanted, which my soul feels reflects how used and unwanted people truly see themselves.
I try to pile all my newly acquired stuff into a torn child’s lawn chair to carry it more manageable. I don’t know where I am going to go. I must walk past all those businesspeople to get to that poor girl, but what if they think it’s all for me? What if they think I am discarded and unwanted?
I exit the side building of the church and run into my husband. I try to tell him what’s happening and everything my heart is breaking for, but he can’t seem to understand me. He gently places the used and unwanted stuff on the ground at our feet and lovingly takes me into his arms. Maybe it’s my words or tears, but he thinks I need to be loved. I want to be understood. I like the girl to be understood. I like the young man who was torn to be understood. I feel myself slipping away into my sobbing soul. Sometimes understanding doesn’t lead to redemption, so I break for the hopeless/unwanted who don’t know how desperately some of us love them.