He stared at the back of the door, the wood grain seemingly sinister to him, as he thought of the woman, her generosity and her kindness. In the long months and days of calling nowhere home never had he been treated with such compassion and feeling. On those nights where the cold was too great to bear out of doors he had ventured into various shelters and was always greeted with people holding themselves in piety. It was as though they were there for the social example, the bragging rights of saying they were ‘doing good’, without ever giving a thought to the people they were supposed to be helping. He knew not all people were like this but it was so very hard to remember genuine goodness when so often the world showed another side to him.
There was no blame he put upon those superficially motivated people for his predicament, nor did he fail to thank them when they would hand him a blanket before pointing to a barren spot on the floor, but each callous gesture meant to be taken for kindness had left him hardened. In truth he had come to look upon the cardboard villages and steel barrel heated alleys as places to find community and generosity. How very strange it was he would find community, camaraderie in the form of people who, above all others in this world, had nothing of material to give but everything in spirit to share. Rarely did he stay longer than a few days, perhaps a week, but in that time he would live with the other invisible people of society without fear of derision or pity.
Christopher knew he had been lucky in his travels so far as Lolo had told him. She had shown him her scars from fighting with another ‘residentially free’ person over a particularly excellent tarp and about how the offer of sharing it had not been enough. With a shrug she had acknowledged it wasn’t hers and the other person had just as much a right to it as she did. His only response was asking her why she fought over it to begin with if that had been the case. He could recall readily, and with a smile, her response: Because, at that time, I thought I deserved that tarp. Now, I know better.
He understood what she meant as it had been echoed by every respectable vagrant he had met. Deserving was a myth. Wanting was something one in their positions could not afford. Needing was limited to necessities of survival. No one was entitled to anything.
And now he stood in a pristine bathroom, fabric soft and thick beneath his gnarled fingers and gratitude overwhelming him. He placed the clothes reverently upon the hooks on the back of the door knowing they would be warm and whole. So unlike those adorning his person. Each layer of clothing had multiple holes and smelled of garbage, dirt and body odor. He had become accustomed to the stench over the course of the year but now felt ashamed that he would dare wear such things in a home so lovely as this, in the presence of as kindly a woman as his benefactress. His shoulders drooped, the movement catching his eye in the mirror and drawing his gaze up.