(Herbie’s Note: Broken Hearted Savior first appeared in Static Movement in July of 2009. It also appeared in the Static Movement Special Edition Print Issue (Volume II) at the end of 2009.)
Broken Hearted Savior
They sit in a line by the old red brick wall. The wind tears through their meager coats and shirts, the cold air bites through their skin. Many of them sit on the concrete sidewalk, heads down, their few belongings between their knees. Some of them talk; two or three of them huddle close together for a little warmth, but most of them only sit quietly, lost in thought.
Around them the world passes by, cars, people, birds in the trees. The minutes and the hours and days of their lives.
The doors open to the large church and a burley man with frizzy hair and a white and red checked apron steps out. He beckons the people inside. Many of them move slowly, their joints stiff from the cold temperatures. They gather their belongings and push their way inside, their skin warming with the heat of the large room.
Plastic bowls sit on folding tables covered in white throwaway cloths. Cups of water and a spoon sit beside each bowl, along with a napkin that holds two slices of white bread.
They bow their heads and listen to the prayers of the pastor. He speaks to them as they eat. Many of them pay no attention to his words. The warmth of the room and the soup in their bellies are the only thing that matters. They lick every drop from the bowls. Many of them use the bread to wipe up the remaining juices.
With the meal over, the doors open again. They shuffle back into the cold of winter.
They say nothing as people walk by, many of them staring down or looking away. Those people, the ones with homes and families and food in their stomachs, they try not to make eye contact and their skin even crawls as they go on their way.
And they sit again, many of them waiting for the doors to open for the night, for a cot or floor to sleep on so they wouldn’t have to hide under the bridge or sleep on a park bench again. Warmth for a night.
Until then they sit and think. Think about how they got there, how their worlds became one without a home or job or food or love. They think about a childhood where joy was abundant and play was allowed. Friends and family that have faded like ghosts in a dream world.
And there I am. I sit and watch them each day from my perch in the loft of Ever Never, a place where those poor unfortunate souls go who have no one to love and no one to love them back. There is no warmth there; there is no food. There is only darkness and the forever wandering of souls on streets of gray where the demons lurk in houses and buildings and in trees and gutters; where escape could never happen; where loneliness is their eternal reward. It’s where dreams are forgotten and nightmares are a reality.
My heart is heavy. Tonight I must take one of them from this world and into the next. They know me, but they pretend not to see me in my rags and long hair, my dirty skin and sad eyes.
I walk the sidewalk, looking away like every one else, pretending I don’t see the homeless at my feet who silently beg for some sort of help or mercy. The chatter of the few ceases when I walk by. My presence alone is like the chilled wind from the Northern Shores. One of them shivers.
Near the end of the wall sits two people, possibly a couple. The man’s skin is dark from years in the sun, his bag at his feet, old work boots not quite worn out yet. The woman’s skin is rough, like leather. Her hands shake and her lip quivers. She gazes up at me. Her eyes are yellow and red veins surround the once brilliant green of her irises. There is a blood blister on one lower lid. Her hair is graying though I believe she is much younger than her appearance would tell.
A tear trickles from the blistered eye.
I walk on and sit down not far from them.
Night comes, the chill in the air heightens and the woman leans her head on the man’s shoulder. He puts his arms around her and it is a gesture of love that most married people don’t have.
I look down, feel the tug of my heart and know that this man will never be the same after tonight. He has lost most everything and now I must take the only thing he has left. I stand and my heart sinks.
He rocks her back and forth and whispers sweet words to her. He doesn’t see me, or maybe he does, but wishes not to believe I am here. I touch her head, feel the brittle strands upon her head and I feel her life, what it was and what it is. She once smiled with an exuberance many people never know. She once ran in the parks and on the playgrounds, boys chasing her as she giggled and tried to escape them. She once had parents who loved her, a brother who protected her. She once had a child…
My heart catches.
She once had a child that died at birth. A little girl with wisps of dark black hair. She once had a good life and never envisioned herself on the streets begging for food and praying for a place to sleep each night. Life didn’t pan out as she thought it would. A child that died and a husband that left her. The streets became home…
“Come,” I say and take her hand. Though she doesn’t move, her spirit stands and we walk away, side by side.
The night grows dark all around us and we step into a blackness no living creature could ever know. I let her hand go and she is gone into Ever Never.
I turn to see him crying and cradling her lifeless body. His cries are loud. Her screams louder still…