My hand pushes down on the bleached out mattress, and I watch it recoil back to me. I flutter as I feel an arctic chill hit my naked back; fluorescent lights flicker with the annoyance of loci flying around on a summer night. My patience is wearing off as I continue to stare at the hands skipping around the clock. I tell myself to wait a few more minutes, and remember that things could be a lot worse. I scratch at the tape itching over my arm; the IV has been carefully placed inside the left arm, fluids dripping slowly into my veins. Memories start flashing before my eyes one after another. My homelessness had turned into an enduring life experience that which made me into the grateful person I am today.
It’s 1990. I’m as tall as a yard stick; my feet are firmly planted in the earth, grunge stuck in between my toes, cheese holes scattered through my shirt, and the smell of rotten sewage lingers off of my body from not showering for days. Voices echo around me as I’m slouched against the 1980 burnt-sienna Chevy Chevette. Light peaks through the soaring trees in woods with radiance, I breathe in the crisp fall air. “Today is supposed to rain, coldest days of the month, 23 for the low,” I overheard my mother’s boyfriend Rodney bellow out to her and the others. The vigorous sound of the car door being shut as my mother appeared behind me snatching up my pocket sized hand into hers left me startled. The insides of my stomach began to turn like gears and gnarl like hyenas that haven’t found their victim in months.
My naked feet delayed as we walked down the dirt road filled with tiny coarse rocks that felt like shards of glass cutting into me. Leaves were settling and winter was drawing near. Trees elevated so high that it interfered with the only source of light. The sound of my heart pulsated so hard it could be heard through the silence. Cold sweat beaded off of my forehead as I gripped my mother’s hand tightly. I looked down the embankment. The quarry was filled with coco-colored dirt, murky water, tires, and bags of trash. Large rocks sticking out along with weeds and trees were growing through the water. Mom tried to guide me to the bottom of the water and force me to bathe in the filth. I pulled my hand away, and my mother got on one knee. Her hazel eyes met mine; she became still like a humming bird but angry. “Do as you’re told!” I quickly bent down bathing myself rapidly, while tears glazed over my eyes and trickled down my cheek.
The sky was turning dark grey as clouds formed walls. The walk back became more frigid no matter how fast I walked. I kept my arms inside the shirt trying to keep warm, and icicles had formed by the time we reached the spot called home. Rodney and his brother Brian sat by a camp fire that pushed off little warmth. Laurie and her son Shawn sat across from him holding McDonald’s cups with cereal in them. I patted Mom’s side, begging for food like a starving dog. Mom opened the car door, scrambling around to find nothing. Shawn looked over at me; he tossed a couple of ketchup packets; thunder rolls crashed above my head; terror went through me as I knew the temperature was about to drop as darkness was hovering over.
I followed Mom over to the slanted wooden shack with nothing but a tarp for a roof. Mom pushed the rusty lock and creaked the door opened. I climbed up the wooden pallet and under the thin wool blanket to dream of summer. I woke up to a puddle of ice with showers of rain splashing on my face, and my teeth chattering back and forth. I forced myself up; they had locked me in. I screamed pounding at the door crying for help for endless hours until black turned to grey.
The door opened. I fell out towards the ground covered in vomit. Mom grabbed me and picked me up all I could hear was her fighting with Rodney. They walked what seemed like miles with a black and white lined umbrella hovered over my head; cradled up tightly in her warm arms, I could see her breathing in the air. We came up to this long tan building with several ambulances outside of it. Mom carried me inside the sliding glass doors. A nurse was standing right in front of the counter facing the doors, and Mom had rushed over to her, just as the lady looked down on me. Our eyes met, and there was fear in her eyes. They had glossed over. She grabbed me from my mother and snapped her fingers quickly to other people.
Everything seemed to spin is circles as I dazed in and out, finally waking up with an IV attached to my arm. The hospital's plain white walls seemed friendly and inviting to me; the cold white mattress felt warm to my skin. The doctor explained to my mother that I could have died from hypothermia and pneumonia, and they would be admitting me for observation.
I was three. I’m 28 now but that day is unforgettable; it showed me that no matter how certain things seem to be having imperfections, like this doctor’s office with the same four plain white walls, flickering lights, and the nuisance of loci humming, I am not only privileged to be alive but to have a home with running water, electricity, and heat.