Impoverished Dignity

October 28, 2017

Cold wind blew against my face. I pulled out my old,cracked phone. Approximately 12:04 pm. I came out of the night shift at 11:30. One bus and 4 blocks later and I was at my apartment complex. After a restless day of scrubbing tables I always looked forward to finally collapsing down on my bed and letting all the problems fade away. At least for seven hours.

The second I walked into my apartment, the fumes hit my nostrils.

“Would ya hurry and come in, I need a new cigarette.” My stepmom Janice yelled. She didn’t need a new cigarette,not for another 50 years considering the large intake of nicotine in her lungs. I slowly walked over to the counter and pulled out a lighter from the drawers underneath. I set it on the white table by the couch and quickly went up the stairs before she could say anything.

The cinnamon air freshener I had bought last month at the dollar store had already faded. Only two steps forward and I was at my nightstand. It was a deep set mahogany. I remembered when my dad would sit beside it and talk to me until I fell asleep. He stopped doing it when I grew older. The loss of my father was almost like the loss of my entire will to live. I had already lost my mom when I was only 4 years old. Now that my dad had passed away it was as if everyone was abandoning me.

    “Sierra, is that you?” A soft voiced asked. Everyone except Caleb. He stood at the doorway, the light behind him made his light brown hair almost blonde. We shared the same blue eyes of my father and whereas I had inherited our father’s chestnut hair color he had inherited his mother’s. We looked fairly similar considering the fact that we had completely different mother’s. 

“Come here, Caleb.” I said. He walked over and sat on the edge of my bed.

“How was work?” he asked me.

“It was great.” Although it wasn’t great at all. My arms were sore, I was fatigued, and the customers frankly got on my last shredded nerves. But Caleb didn't need to know that. Caleb was my half brother but treated him like my own brother and always tried to shield him from the harsh truth.

“Mom was out today.” he squeaked. I absolutely hated it when she went out to get drunk and left Caleb at home. He was only 10.

“Caleb, soon we’ll leave this place. I’ll turn eighteen in November and I’ll buy us an apartment. We won't have to deal with this anymore. Now go back to sleep.” I hugged him and he trotted back to his room. I set my phone by my nightstand and drifted off to sleep.

I had many things that I wanted to pursue when I got older but a specific one I had was to go to college for engineering. It would completely change the future of Caleb and I. But things came at a price. I had no money and therefore no way of getting into college. But I was determined to change this. A couple years ago I had stumbled across this program called HTP organization and was focused on helping teens out of poverty. Switching social statuses was an incredibly hard thing to do but this program helped out. And the best part was that it was for teens interested in engineering,which I adored, and I had an interview the next day.

I woke up to my malfunctioning alarm that I had kept since I was 12. With all the other important problems who had time to get a new alarm clock? It was 10:00 AM! I had overslept! I frantically looked around for my clothes and forcefully shoved them on. I washed up and ran out the door. My dad’s old car was sitting outside. I could take that or be late. My decision was made in a millisecond. I grabbed the keys off the counter and ran to the car. The ride to the interview was a long one.
           I whipped past 6th avenue. I checked the clock, 7:45 am. That meant I had 10 minutes to get to an interview on the other side of town that could change my entire life. I could hear the pounding in my ears and I was sweating in my green turtleneck. It was now 7:50. 15 minutes later I was on the street of the HTP building. The red light finally turned green and I pushed on the accelerator turning onto the building parking. Heart pounding and ten minutes late, I walked in.

The moment I walked in my name was called.
I looked at the source of the sound and saw a pale old woman behind the desk.
“You’re late. But you’re lucky they are too.” She had said in a raspy voice.
         She held out a small piece of paper and slapped it into my hand. It felt like sandpaper on my palm. I quickly ran to room number 230 and immediately took a seat. The windows were open and light was pouring through them. There was a small draft coming front the vent on the wall beside me.

“Hello”
I nearly jumped out of my seat.

             “It’s okay,” he said “ It’s only me.” I turned around to see a middle aged man standing by the doorway. He was very tall with a small beard. Those next minutes went by in the blink of an eye. I was asked questions I knew immediately after they were asked. Then he asked me for my narrative. For the interview I needed a written description of the biggest aspect of my life. I had spent weeks on a narrative of how I got into engineering and how much of a big part of my life it was. Now I couldn’t find it! My mind raced a mile a minute. I digged through my backpack and still found nothing. I remembered the look on the man’s face. He told me I had 15 minutes to write a new one while he went for coffee. Just like that.

                 I could not believe how many things had gone wrong in one very important day. Regardless I knew I could do this so I got to work. But the engineering genius in me just wouldn’t come. I had absolutely nothing else I wanted to write about and I couldn’t even function. Then I made a decision. I decided to not be ashamed of where I was at. I decided that it was okay to share my struggles in poverty with the world. I wrote down everything that boiled up inside me and the beautiful things I felt like I couldn’t reach because I was poor. The loneliness I felt because health care hadn’t saved my father and mother and the worry I had everyday for Caleb. It all just incredibly flew onto the paper. When I had finished I put it on the main desk and walked out. I remember my last sentence said, I am not ashamed of my hardships, in fact I strive on them.

                 And I still believe that as I stand on the balcony. Below me hundreds of teens all looking up to me as if I am there hope for better days. That day was a stepping stone to my success and I don’t just believe my last sentence, I now preach it.






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