Broken in Chicago

Words play me like a man his guitar on a lonely night.

I pick up my scrawny self, lean against the street lamp in my torn corduroy jacket, stick my fingers in the holes at the bottom of my pockets and let them wiggle. Momentary pleasure.

Then I pick up the magazine which had played me, like fingers smooth on oiled strings, and fling it at the man who calls himself my father lying sprawled across the sidewalk.

He doesn’t move. He’ll be out for the next few hours. The bottle lies empty in his loose grip. I pick up the bottle, throw it against the cement wall and it shatters, making me flinch and then grin, just a little.

Then I sit down again beside him, because at eight years old, I have no where else to go. And I pick up the magazine with its bright pictures of happy people and its words saying “light” and “hope” and “peace” and I wonder, What do they mean?

The sky turns deep grey. It’s night-time. I can tell what time it is by how ashen the sky. It’s never blue here in downtown Chicago. Only different shades of grey. Like a person about to be sick.

I feel like I’m going to be. I haven’t eaten since yesterday. I envy the fat rats scurrying. They have homes. Food. If Dad doesn’t wake up soon we won’t make it to the shelter in time.

Inside the magazine is a picture of bread which makes my mouth water. Beside it, a cup of wine and a man with a beard, smiling. In big angry letters it says, “Eat; this is my body broken for you.”

Suddenly I look down at Dad’s body broken across the asphalt, and once again I throw the magazine. Hating it for its mockery of my life.

(written for Geez magazine, commenting on the fickleness of words)

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