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A short, non-fiction by Nathan R. Carlsen

Seven O’ Clock my time was done at work.  I shut down, logged off and put to sleep all that I had open.  I set the phone in its cradle so it would magically charge the battery in its sleep over night, like a babe at its mothers breast late at night almost sleeping.

I slipped my Old Navy peat coat on and slung my canvas Gas Mask NDO Mark 1 bag over my shoulder.  It held my 300 plus dollar HP Mini secretly inside, not that anyone actually thought I carried around a mask in case of a tear gas attack.

I turned off all the lights I could, locked the back door and then the front door and kept walking to the elevator.  I lazily hit the button to call it up three floors strolled inside and pushed the button for the first floor.  The doors opened, I exited the elevator and walked past two more door ways until I found myself on 1st street and Lake. I patiently waited for the lights to inform me that it was relatively safe for me to cross the street (though I knew the lights didn’t have any actual power over the cars to stop them from running me over, just the authority to say when someone can or can not go.  But this was only visual information, something that might be missed, say, if one were checking their text or music player…hopefully today wasn’t that day it happened to me, dot, dot, dot…)

Thankfully it wasn’t and I made it safely to the other side, I walked past the place my room mate works, past the parking lot I sometimes park and kept walking.  I saw two people enter the liquor store and wondered how many they already had that day.  Then I wondered if I was being too critical, too judgmental.  I walked past the Building for Women and thought about the picketers who sometimes protest out front.  I wondered how many abortions actually were performed there, and what other things they offer for women.  I stopped myself before I thought too much about the complexity of the issue between free speech and the right to protest, right to life, and women’s rights and the other most likely good things they do there.  I kept walking.

I walked past the porn shop, remembered the guy parked at the meter at ten in the morning getting his fix for the day.  I thought about what might be in there, part of me thinking what it would be like to see, but the other part was growing bigger and stronger and told me that it wouldn’t be worth it.  I kept walking.

I saw a young woman with a slight limp, she looked cold, walking towards the bar.  I thought about stopping, thought about showing I cared.  But I remembered the other times I did stop, some of the memories not so positive.  I remembered the man I tried to help who was very inebriated who had a long gray beard with snot and spit in it.  He was drunk, he hugged me, thanked me for helping him.  I helped him by calling the police and getting him to detox…that’s what he wanted.  And I remembered the man who, after beginning a conversation about God, argued with me about who Jesus was and how he looked on the Cross.  He asked me if he stabbed me in the heart right then, where would I go?

I remembered those times and I kept walking.

I walked past the memorial that recalled a dark day in our city when white men wrongly accused three black men of rape, removed them from the jail where they were being held and hung them.  I walked past the building which doubled as a church and a skate park ministry for kids, and past a body shop and an audio/visual services shop.

I walked past the soup kitchen where James (the man who was drunk, who had spit and snot on his beard) stood and stumbled while we waited for the police to come.  Afterwards, the man who ran the soup kitchen said it was sad that “inside there is a human being,” he said this as they took him away in the squad.

I said that I should volunteer there someday, he said he’d like that.  I kept walking.

I walked past the downtown AA meeting place, past the clinic parking ramp and came to the bus stop.

A woman was standing there, waiting.  She asked if she could buy a cig from me.  I said I didn’t smoke and kept walking.

“Good, don’t start.  I’m addicted.”  She said as I walked by.

I stopped and turned.

“You working on that?”  I asked.

“I got too much to deal with right now.”  She replied.

I paused, but only for a second.

“Like what?”

She didn’t hesitate.

“My daughter is an addict, so I had to stop taking my pain pills.  And my son is in jail, but he found the
Lord and said so in a letter.”

“Those first two things were kinda bummer, but that last part was good.  Sounds like God is working in your family.  That’s really good.  But…do you want some prayer.”

She said yes.  I prayed for God to continue his work in her family, for her to be a good example to her children, to point them in the right direction.  As I prayed, I stood in front of the wind to block the cold from her as she shivered.
She thanked me, I said God bless, she said the same,.

Then I kept walking.

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