street lamps make me a shadow at night
and a curse by day

A’isha Esha Rafeeq-Swan, Homeless Poetry: The Holocaust of the Homeless

It was still dark when she got to Joni’s apartment. The little studio was part of a fourplex, without the double-doored security that a lot of apartments had, and Joni had left the light on over her door. She was grateful for it; it had rained the night before, and the stairs up were wet and treacherous. Trying to be as quiet as possible, Sonia unlocked the door with the key Joni had made for her, and padded inside, carrying her shower things.

Out of courtesy, Sonia kept her head straight to avoid looking in the side of the room where Joni’s bed was, even though the younger woman had put up a folding screen. She stole into the bathroom and started running the water for the shower. As the water warmed, she brushed her teeth and went to the bathroom. She noticed the sticky note on the mirror, as she always did, and though the words were not from her religion, it was still comforting to know the woman who had opened her home to her was god-fearing.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28) it read, and even though it was the exhortation of a different Book, she was reminded of how her faith instructed her to say “Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our Protector.”

She kept her ablutions quick, not wanting to use up her host’s hot water or goodwill, wiped down the surfaces she’d touched, and slipped out of the apartment as silently as she’d come. Today the words on the mirror nagged at her. It was hard to feel like Allah was her Protector when everything she’d once possessed had been stripped away. She tucked the shower things away in her neatly packed trunk, grateful Joni let her leave the damp towel to hang dry in her bathroom.

Life had tumbled pretty quickly. First her husband, then her home. she’d started doing her classwork at cafes and in fast-food restaurants, nursing a coffee or a small meal. Now, with most indoor places closed, she’d taken to parking by a nearby hospital, as its visitor WiFi was strong enough to reach the lot. She had even found a bench near some outdoor power plugs. With an extension cord, she could charge her laptop, and since she had access to a shower and her clothing was still neat and tidy, no one challenged her right to sit there and work.

So engrossed in her classwork, she had to scramble when she suddenly realized how little time she had left to head over to her part-time work at the bookstore. As she drove, her thoughts returned to the sticky note. She gripped the wheel and clenched her teeth. How could good come from death? From loss? If not for the pride of her husband, this would have ground her to dust. For his sake, she would endure. Sonia shifted in her seat, sitting up a little straighter.

Like a funeral home, the bookstore was quiet and still. So few people came to shop anymore. She spent the time pulling orders from the shelves, packing them up, and labeling them for shipping. But busy hands left her mind drifting back to the words of Joni’s God.

Sometimes, after prayers, she could convince herself Allah provided. After all, she slept safe in her car. She had access to free WiFi, her small paycheck from the bookstore paid for food and classes. And shared grief at the weekly bereavement support group had brought the kindness of a young stranger, who offered her bathroom every morning. Sonia often took time to scrub the fixtures all down, leaving everything fresh and gleaming as her small token of thanksgiving.

The next morning she tried not to read the small sticky, whose words hurt so, but this time she noticed Joni had added a new note to the mirror, next to the other one, as if to complement it:

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit. (Psalm 24:18) Sonia closed her eyes in a momentary rush of pain. Yes, she breathed, recognizing truth. Her thoughts went out to the woman sleeping on the other side of the door. Timidly, wonderingly, she touched the new little note. Thank you. For it was as though Joni had placed it here for her. 

[Cover image |]

One thought on “Homeless

Leave a Reply