The Doors of Refuge

December 6, 2007
By Grant Benson, La Mesa, CA

A line of people juts out of a building. Each of them bearing a weathered and tough appearance. Vehemently they stare in the direction of a man towering over the rest in front of the doors of refuge. Another man, of a distinctly lesser stature, resides near the end of what has become a vast congregation of the unfortunate. He stares as the rest do with passion and yearning. As the line progresses onward, the man steadily sheds the face full of longing to be replaced by the look of defeat. Years of familiarity have scored their marks upon his face as he realizes the impending disappointment. Age has conspired against him. Now trapped within the confines of a wheelchair, he no longer has the nimbleness he once retained. Relying on the kindness of those around him has left him without residence for the better part of two years. He has been given the hospitality of many institutions such as the one at which for a while he was attempting entry tonight, but for no more than a day. Twenty-four hours is all the man is given in which he may call home. These places are his sanctuaries, his protection.

Tonight he must face the long, dark of hard pavement, and a chill that sweeps the empty streets with malice in its veins. Being acclimated to the harshness of life outside his refuges does not make it any more bearable. Each time he is afforded the luxury of staying another hour in the penetrating frost, another piece of him becomes lost to the blackness. His one solitary hope of home and soothing warmth is all that shields him. Huddling between two houses with no more than merely enough space to fit, he concentrates, calling to him the last remnants of strength to evoke a distant and fading dream. His chosen and favored technique when thrust into this situation, in recent days it has become an increasingly arduous task to perform. His vigor, his will, wanes. He has but to hold to each day and the prospects of a new sanctuary, a new safe haven to keep from plunging into the bitter black.

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