Portal 2019

Page 58

window fat globs of slushy snow fall as I put my hood up, turn the doorknob, and walk out looking for a warm place to do my next fix. I want to drown my feelings in a liquid pool of opium, but my tiny stash will have to suffice. What do you do when you’re homeless? You wander. You move to stay warm. I only packed a few pairs of socks, sweatshirts, shirts, pants, and a raincoat.

( How do you pack for homelessness? What do you leave behind? ) Motion helps alleviate the constant chatter between my ears. Like an open dial tone, it’s there everywhere I go. I wander over to Nicol Street and take refuge in the McDonald’s bathroom. I stare at myself in the mirror, a small bag of heroin clenched in my fist. My eyes close and I break the trance. The stall door locks behind me. The flick of a lighter echoes through the empty bathroom. Much of the time I kill before going back to the shelter is a blur. I lie supine in my cot, my eyelids heavy from the long day behind me. Daniel kneels beside me. “Are you ok?” I shut my eyes tightly, pretending I’m asleep. Daniel grabs the blanket at my feet, unfolding it and spreading it across me as if he were tucking in his son. He puts his hand on my shoulder. “You’ll make it through this.” I turn the key in the ignition and pull out of the mall parking lot. The sun is slowly setting; the clock on my dashboard reads 7:00 p.m. I know where I need to be. A few minutes later, I’m sitting in a circle at a meeting. An addict is sharing his riveting tale of riding the winding, rigged roller coaster of addiction. He speaks of his spiraling plummet down to a dark and shallow existence on skid row, his temporary climb to a false high. I try to focus on his story, but I can’t concentrate. I think about having watched Captain America: The Winter Soldier the night before. I recall a scene in which Steve Rogers and his ally, after surviving a heroic battle against Hydra, are recovering in a hospital room. Rogers wakes from his coma and says three words: “On your left.” I remember the long talks with Daniel in the office at the shelter. I remember him praying for me. I remember him holding me, saying, “I believe in you.” There’s a shuffle in the empty chair beside me and Daniel takes the seat on my left. I put my hand on Daniel’s shoulder and whisper, “Thank you." ( ) Walking Spectre Veronika B. Kos

*Daniel's name has been changed to protect his identity and preserve his anonymity.