A Not So Mythical Fairy Tale

So this homeless woman was sleeping in a church doorway. It was about 3 AM in the morning, in the quietest, coldest pre-dawn imaginable somewhere near downtown Tacoma. A freezing damp wind kept poking icy blasts into the holes of her threadbare blanket as she lay sleeping on some scrappy pieces of damp and dirty cardboard to protect her from the cruel cement. Her cold feet, especially her big toes, ached and hurt. Her feet had not dried out in over two days. They had blisters from walking in ill-fitting, soggy shoes. She needed to pee really badly, to use the bathroom. But there was no safe private place to go for another 3 hours until the little store run by a nice immigrant fellow two blocks up the road opened. He sometimes gave her a small paper cup of really bad stale coffee, but at least it was hot. She was aware that she didn’t smell so good. Her clothes were filthy and she hadn’t had a shower in weeks.

A cop came up and heavily shook her out of her slumber. He said, “I’m sorry ma’am, but you can’t stay here. You’ll have to move on. You’ve been warned not to stay here on several occasions.”

So she gathered up her black plastic, well-worn trash-bag, struggling to keep the contents of all her worldly goods from spilling out of it and into the mud. At least she could be grateful the cop hadn’t arrested her again. She wrapped her blanket into a makeshift carrying pouch and put the black plastic trash bag into it, hoping that the contents wouldn’t cascade into the gutter as she slung it over her shoulder. She went across the street a half block from the church and wearily plopped down on a Pierce County transit bus-stop bench, located in a dark part of the street, hoping not to be noticed so she could cry in some privacy and dignity. She quietly wept for a moment, thinking of the home she used to live in, the warm bed she used to sleep in, the husband she once loved, and the children she last saw 2 months previously in a supervised visit.

She gradually noticed a Mideastern looking guy, with a rough kind of Semitic appearance. He sat at the opposite corner of the bus stop shelter. At first, she had not seen this guy in the shadows. He was dressed oddly, had some kind of rough blanket robe hanging on his skinny shoulders, one of which poked partly through a tattered hole. He also a long staff in his dirty calloused hands. His black hair was matted and dirty. Somehow, this guy looked vaguely familiar, but she could not place him. She thought that maybe she’d seen him on occasion in one of the homeless encampments. “Are you homeless too?” she asked.

He grunted in a guttural accent, “Yeah. It seems I’m not welcome anywhere, although once I had a lot of friends and a big family. But now nobody pays any attention to me.”

“Yeah, me too,” she whimpered in a half-whisper. “They just threw me out of that church doorway again for the umpteenth time.”

The stranger said, “Yeah, I know. I saw that happen. It’s heartbreaking. But don’t feel too bad about it. They threw me out of all their churches many centuries ago.”