In the Lonliness

Some childhood memories stay with you, as clear as they day they happened.  But the meaning of those memories changes I think.

 

Walking slowly.

Hanging back.

Brows furrowed,

partly from the morning sun

partly in fear.

 

One of the last through the doors,

cold heavy steel pushes against my bare arms

encouraging escape.

 

A wave of ammonia hits me in the face as soon as I step in,

mingled with the odors of sweat, vomit, loneliness and death,

they drive through my nose and mouth, up my eyes, through my forehead,

and into the section of my brain programed for fight or flight.

 

A howl scream moan comes from somewhere inside.

I hesitate in the doorway.

My Sunday school teacher bumps into me and

gently pushes me into the entryway.

 

The other kids have formed a line.

Last in, I find myself at the end,

unprotected.

 

Children sing while I scan the room.

Three grandmothers sit near us,

smiling, keeping time with their heads and feet.

Others, further back, sit, staring at nothing.

 

Wandering zombies complete the picture.

One closes in from the left.

Slowly spinning, her wheelchair describing a large arc,

propelled by one tenacious foot, the only part of her that seems to live.

 

As she eases past I catch her eye.

Her head tilted, translucent sagging skin melts off her face

and mingles with the line of spit dangling from her open mouth.

As her eyes meet mine, she greets me.  “Aarrrrrrghhhhhhh.”

“Arrrrrrghhhhhhhnnn.”

 

Does her foot pause as she passes me?  Her chair slow?

 

I look away, pretend to sing,

stare at the back of the room, at nothing,

wait for this to end, and

try not to breath

in the loneliness.

 

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