my sad lament

I am involved in a lot of different things through my work, but as I mentioned yesterday and a few times in the past one of them is a seasonal program, a simple yet compassionately run project that brings anyone who needs it in from the cold no matter their state, if they can keep it together they can come in. I always breathe a sigh of relief when it opens because we are doing more and there is room for everyone but then spring comes around and I find I dread it's impudent arrival. The warmer days and still cold nights mean a lot of things but most of all it means the end of this place.

Tonight was the end so I went back alone even though M wanted to come because I needed my own way to say goodbye. I walked in to the usual crowdedness and that alone is a knife in the heart because tomorrow our doors will be closed and in a perfect world we'd be empty by now. The fear is palpable in some because they haven't figured out a Plan B and tomorrow is coming fast and others are so used to this their hope is gone and it's merely the latest inconvenience in a lifetime of woe. I notice one man on crutches with a disposable camera taking shots of the building and of a few friends. I ask him if he wants me to take one of him and he poses; this place was good to me and it's important to remember that when I'm gone. I can't help but touch his hand for a moment, words are meaningless and I have nothing else to give and we sit for a minute. The volunteers seem especially kind, giving everyone extra food and coming around to refill the drinks. I stopped to thank them and they mention their sadness and that they made extra food because filling bellies was all they could do and we clasp hands and they promise to see us again next year.

The staff are out back furiously BBQ'ing, even though dinner was already served it's their own way to say goodbye and they'll pull it out once things quiet down, a late night snack for all. Everyone has their game face on because no one likes what this day means and yet everybody knows the score. I see some old timers and we sit and talk, we hug and one or two of them kiss me on the cheek because we never know if we'll see each other again until we see each other again. Almost everyone I talk to says thank you, even if we weren't appreciated all the way through goodbyes make even the toughest sentimental and above all there's a simple camaraderie. I know it is their suffering that matters and my emotions are nowhere near the point but I will hold these moments inside my heart.

I have to pry myself away, I simply don't want to leave and yet my child and partner are waiting at home. Dusk turns to dark and I say a few more goodbyes and share a few more hugs and walk out the door, pausing to turn and look at the whole of it, folks milling around and watching TV, some are sleeping and others heading to the shower with tiny donated bottles of shampoo. I deliberately soak it in and I feel the tears I've been swallowing all night fill the back of my eyes. I walk into the darkened parking lot and when I reach my car I climb onto the hood and sit and cry, my tears shame me because any sorrow I feel is meaningless in the face of this suffering and yet if nothing else I hope it will make me try harder tomorrow because at the end of the day I'm just a girl who hates the injustice of this and sometimes the losing feels so much more than the winning and all I can do is bear witness the best I can.