Christmas Opens

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May 11, 2021 by ellie892

December 25th, 2019

The cats jump on me. Demand to be fed. I think of how I could have been at the Black Swan Hostel in sunny Seville. I’m so happy to be in my daughter’s home and hang a cinnamon angel on a looming plant in her living room. I purchased the cinnamon angel at a pop-up Christmas Market near the Octagon in Budapest from a street vendor who complained about the nonsense on social media and how she had to wear ‘man boots’ to stay warm. I paid far too much for the angel, but was entertained by her stories detailing how she made the ornaments she sold. 

Yet, it is very early, check Google maps, have a piece of toast and coffee. I dress warmly and walk over to the Logan Square Metro Station to ride the Blue Line. There are still people waking up from sleeping on the trains overnight. Chicago allows the homeless to rest during the off hours. The cars are mostly empty since everyone else is at home. I sit down and watch how one by one men and women gather up their blankets and belongings before they depart at various stations. As the train empties, there are a few of us left in the subway car.

I need to get to Washington Station so I can take in a Sunday service at Temple United, which is near Grant Park, walk around, stop off at the Russian Tea Room, have a meal and then head back before dark. That was to be my Christmas Day 2019. There are ten stops before Washington Station where I will get off and walk five minutes to arrive at the church,.

At Division Station a slender man around 45 years old enters the subway car. He sits on the other side of the aisle. He seems agitated. He is yelling into his cell phone, in fact he begins to cry explaining to the person on the other end that he can’t see his kids for Christmas because the place where he gets his insulin is closed for the holidays. I notice the colour dain from his face and he shutters as he begins to swear and scream, “I can’t make it to the hospital. I can’t.” So I move closer to him and sit in the seat in front of him. I know what to do and turn around to face him; offer my help. I have a stale cough drop in my purse. He calms down and says he’ll be fine and thanks me.

I remind him that I’ll be right there if he changes his mind. I tell him, I can change my plans, just ask. He says it’s his stop next, and gets up – staggers to the door of the train. I follow him out and offer my arm. He takes it and we travel the several tunnels and take the buses to his hospital.

I learn that he is an artist, his orbital bone was broken in a fight, so it healed funny, that his mother had died recently of a brain tumour and he has a new cell phone for his daughter. Eventually we arrive at the hospital, wait for his prescription, and travel back to the city core and the only pharmacy open in Chicago. Long line, so I take him for Tex-Mex, which is our Christmas dinner. Two hours later, his script is filled. We become Facebook friends and go our separate ways. I return to my daughter’s apartment. I give the cat’s more food. Read the book of poems my daughter wrapped up as her gift to me.

home for the holidays

floating in and away 

through closing tunnels

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May 2021


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