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Homeless With Her Pennies
They syntalated at the palm of her flushed pink, sweat glittering hand. Miniature beams of light sparkled their bronze surfaces and created little stars of color, which bounced in a disorderly pattern, like fairies dancing beneath spotlights. She held them, skeptically, beneath the boiling sun, her body feeling as though the powerful rays of heat were roasting it, and inspected them, meticulously. Once she studied their color, and patterns, she began to count, murmuring the amount in a whisper.
“One...two...three…” she ignored the people pushing her by, the arms that hit her shoulder, and purses that jabbed against her ribcage, thoughtlessly...carelessly. Finally, after confirming with herself that she had counted the correct amount that was cupped, delicately, with her hands, she drew in a deep, exasperated breath, wiped away the garlands of sweat twinkling along her eyebrow and mustache with her aching arm, then stuffed her treasures into her pockets. Clearing her irritably burned throat, her tongue feeling as though it were structured out of sandpaper, dried and tasteless, she began the dangerous, unpredictable journey toward safety. Toward the unknown.
In that blazing moment, as she waited on the curb for the impatient cars to zoom by in an endless stream of grey, blotched with mixtures of color, her eyes glued to the horizon, which had already bled with the dark, velvet shades of sunset, she had no clue where that would be tonight.
The word tightened her chest, as if turning her restless heart into stone, twisted her stomach into incomprehensible knots, gurgled something repulsive in the pit of her gut….
Each day, with the limited knowledge she had absorbed from her few, colorful experiences of school, she snuck out of her hiding place, utterly sleep deprived, and stepped into the bombastic, crowded city, cluelessly. Oblivious. Her eyes would scan her hyperactive surroundings, at the dozens of mortifying buildings and skyscrapers, at the shops clogged with greedy, eager teenagers, followed the honking, metallic river that habitually whooshed beneath the traffic lights, in the hopes of finding a comfortable area to pause.
Desperation burned her dried up throat, sent freezing surges of panic down her spine, which made her wonder, for a quick, horrific second, if ice cubes were sliding down her back.
In reality, despite how nebulous it made her feel when she strode, in a ghostly manner, head down, bony-sharp shoulders hunched, down the sidewalk, her home didn’t reside in cozy four walls, and dependable rooftops, wasn’t stitched in the welcome mats that decorated thresholds.
Her safety jingled within the pockets of her crusted jeans, was counted in the scorching afternoons that would float by, constantly, like the pollin it carried, sometimes when dusk was a chilled purple, or during a rosemary, yellowish dawn, and glimmered with a captivating shine whenever they rested, conscientiously, at the palm of her hands.
Despite her lack of idea where safety was offered, after long, sizzling hours of maneuvering through the clustered areas of town, weaving through clumps of people, and standing, thoughtfully, on the little crub as if she were a statue that decorated it, she finally found the ideal place.
Not safe, logically, and authentically. It was not a spot she would pick, out of a handful of safe places, to lay and rejuvenate in exposure, but it was, in the midst of chaos, a somewhat version of an oasis. A sort of fresh, clean breath of necessary air.
The alleyway between the Snider Plaza bakery, and Sheldon’s Pawn Shop.
Jackpot, she thought, eagerly.
Quietly, she crept along the street, her pockets jingling with every step she took, and glanced over her shoulder every so often for fear the immortal danger, which forever lurked in the still nights, was charging toward her. Each time she realized she was isolated with nothing but the winking stars and roaring airplanes above, just her and the rat stretched sewers, and occasional presence of beeping cars that rumbled by in a smear of brief, shadowed grey, she would sigh, uneasily, with relief.
Solitude was an enormous comfort. Loneliness was all she had ever known. Company wasn’t encouraged when choosing a life within the streets, when scavenging the city grounds for scraps of food, and scouting for spots to hide and recharge.
Holding her breath, she sprinted away from her curb, zooming straight forward, across the road, a strip of yellow against the tranquil air, and stopped, using the wall to keep her panting body from falling. The heat that persistently gnawed its way through her trustworthy, leather boots, and the sweat that slid down her back, gradually, like warm slugs, throbbed her head, as if thousands of wasps were penetrating the sides of it, buzzing the cramped space of her mind. She squeezed her eyes shut, sat against the damp wall in between two enormous boxes, rested her head against the cardboard, realizing just how heavy her eyes were, how much they burned, despite the absence of sun, and began to control her breathing.
It didn’t exist in her world, wasn’t a constant that she would wake up to, like a neighborhood that would awake from the echoed annoyance of a construction sight each weekend. It didn’t peel her eyes open each rosemary dawn like an alarm clock, or a melodic choir of birds would. She couldn’t obtain it the same way she could pick up a twig from in between the cracks of pavement, was unable to consume it as fast as a famished child would consume cake during a delightful summer evening.
It constantly changed form, location, and appearance, floated underneath bridges, rested beside lakes, or even seeped through the doors of a carelessly unlocked door during a heavy midnight. She would follow it, like she was following a gliding path of crumbling, autumn leaves, chased the vibrant colors that continued to shift, until it was in her grasp. Each day, throughout each journey she hunted the blurry object known as safety, she found it impossible to breath, as if she were stumbling through the dark, hoping the light that would lead her out of the shadows was to the right, or to the left. Her compass was kept in the center of her instincts, her intuition, and she relied solely on faith, and trusted her wide perception. A map, or directions, was nonexistent.
Tonight, her safety was on the grimy, concrete floor, was pressed against a damp wooden wall, lodged in between cardboard boxes, with the heat of the bakery swirling like the soft breath of a harmless dragon from the marbled window above. Safety. She stretched her legs, grateful for this little moment, this tender place, which was as quiet as a kiss on the cheek, and began to relax, dropped her stiff shoulders, allowed her iron-strong arms to roll like limp, uncooked noodles against her sides. Before dozing off into a deep, unwakeable sleep, before concocting fairytales, and unrealistic dreams, before slowing the pace of her loping heart, she pulled her treasures out from within her pockets.
They were the one constant thing in her life. The things she knew would never, as long as she kept them safe, put on costumes, and change location.
“One,” she began to count in an inaudible, breezy voice,” two….three...four...five…”
Her pennies glistened underneath the moonlight, like rare blobs of gold, some intelligible, with their spotless, crystal-copper surfaces, others invisible from the rust crusting their edges, the dirt stains shadowed them within her palms, and made them look like miniature pieces of coal, or rock. Either way, she smiled at them, her handful of pennies, and wondered what she would purchase the next day, how many she would collect from the cracks of the sidewalks, or if any would be offered to her from within the middle of a Starbucks Line.
“Six...Seven...Eight...Nine...Ten” She finished with a large yawn, shoved her treasures into her pockets, then closed her eyes, surrendering herself to the tireless night. She allowed the heat of the wall pressed against her gaunt back, the glow of the bakery window a few inches above her unkempt, frizzy hair to lull her into an unbreakable spell, for her vulnerable, scrawny body, to be pulled into an irresistible, delicious haze, welcomed dainty visions, and pathetic dreams of houses and mothers to swallow her.
Within seconds, she, with her pockets crammed with pennies, was gliding through the sky, chasing starlight, rather than the unfair safety, laughing over the moon with the cow, as the cat below filled the air with a jumble of tunes, which permeated from its fiddle..