Updated: Dec 15, 2020
¨Truck come yet?¨
The query is a trending topic on the street corner, hard information on the subject scarce. Scarcity unites us all on this unfamiliar morning. We'd all arrived across the street from the eerily yet appropriately quiet elementary school before 8:00 am that Monday morning, each intent on securing a place in the rapidly lengthening queue.
A bread line.
The destination to which cocksure capitalists had always assured me my dumb hippie ideas would lead.
The irony was delicious, but inedible...and so, here I stood.
An icy razor wind slices through our layers. The Sun arcs into the steely sky, shrinking indifferently as it rises. A miserable experience with plenty of company...practically all walks of life were routes to this meeting point.
The mother with a sleeping stroller baby and an impatient kindergartner in tow, obviously out of other options.
The stoic working man, his ungloved hands bearing the cinder-block calluses of a life engaged in labor. The pair of old friends, exchanging weary laughter and intermittently lifting their masks for a swig of malt liquor.
A woman who likely never considered herself becoming a charity case, her silk scarf casting nervous glances in all directions as she parked her late-model crossover and the grey neighborhood creaked to life all around her.
Her desperation clearly overrode her apprehension.
We all find ways to eat, it's what we do.
Minutes turned to hours as the line extended past a set of row homes and disappeared around a street corner. Lying dormant through the morning hours, the school building on the opposite corner lay dormant, devoid of both teacher and student, a massive mausoleum for old ways and normal days. A few homeless humans gathered at the wake.
Here, standing in its shadow, we found ourselves at their grim repast. Damn, it´s cold. My phone breaks the bitter stillness, chirping out from a coat pocket with unseemly delight. Welcoming a few seconds of distraction, I reach in and retrieve it. An alert from the Citizen app. Police report. A corner store robbery, first thing in the morning. Less than 10 blocks away. The fifth of its kind in the last 24 hours. The take from that heist? $283 USD.
Pros, they were not...but their desperation clearly overrode their apprehension.
We all find ways to eat, it's what we do.
Hard truths come to mind.
The most wonderful time of the year coming to a close, with seasonal jobs reaching their seasonal end.
A New Year spent moving out into the gutter as national eviction moratoriums expire. I think of the nine-meal anarchy clock on any stable modern society. How this bread line is a lifeline for peace.
I hope those stimulus checks start coming soon.
A freezing gust slashes through my thoughts, dragging me back to the present where two pairs of gloves are slowly losing the battle for my fingers...I hope this food truck comes soon.
A bleak silence hardens in the wintry air as the minutes crawl by...a side effect of our strained times shatters it.
Her internal distress was apparent from the moment we laid eyes on her unmasked visage...the furrowed brows and wary eyes on the hidden faces of my linemates were billboards for our shared consternation. She spoke. Freely, and at length. Introducing herself as the wife of Christ, she spoke out to her captive audience, revealing what she believed to be great truths on planned pandemics, systemic obedience, and divine grace. A number of places ahead in the snaking line, the stoic working man, weight of his world bearing down on his long-suffering shoulders, frost biting at his fingertips, quickly lost patience with her sermon.
His quiet suffering, the pandemic that had crushed his job, the economic fallout that threw all he knew into question, the torturous uncertainty that had caused their paths to cross, was all too real.
The man soundly rebuked her in terms unfit for the Bible, and they exchanged venom and virtue for a time. Satisfied, Mrs. Christ offered us all blessings and curses as she left without food, treatment, or salvation.
Finally, just after 10:30, the truck came.
Volunteers worked diligently to unload the bounty of bread and nonperishables as the expectant eyes of those waiting willed them along in their tasks. Fresh fruit and other munchies made a tantalizing surprise appearance, and the heat of the crowd´s collective yearning loosened December´s frosty grip for a few fleeting moments.
...but as supplies slowly dwindled away, it was difficult to ignore that this season would only get colder.