Morning arrived with fury, and I was not well rested. The shelter staff was kicking the beds of everyone still asleep into gear and yelling out the time-frames and instructions for breakfast.

To say the morning wasn’t cold would be a lie; at least it was for me. I was freezing, but the weather outside was warm and muggy, and I was very ill. Luckily, my diet had primarily consisted of liquids throughout this experience. I also didn’t draw too much attention to myself as I fit in with the dope-sick crowd in the bathroom who were also involuntarily flushing their systems, but for another reason.

I then made my way outside to stand in the chow line that starts in front of city shelter and thanks to the delay; my place in the line was in the street. Here I was, increasingly ill, and thought that I just needed to eat, but I was out of my element and confused. The people at the front of the line were fighting over who is first in line, while I moved to the end of the line as I was increasing nauseous. I tried to take in the morning air and observed the clatter of the line. From my new vantage point, I dug out a small notepad and began writing my notes and observations as if this was to be my last act on Earth.

The Chapel Waiting Area

A thousand thoughts were racing through my mind as I was trying to capture the details and high points from the last day and a half. My headline was a scribble to the effect of, ‘Is this breakfast and is this part over yet?” Although it was not, nor would it be anytime soon. There was a delay on breakfast, the volunteers had not shown up to cook it and we were herded into an adjoining structure, a chapel. You would have never known it was a chapel until you were inside.

We were instructed to fill the pews. Directly behind me, a group of people with extreme southern accents played Insane Clown Posse over portable speakers in competition with the noise of the chapel. This noise within the chapel was a wave and the wave not praising the name of the lord. Conversations about things to do, narcotics had followed them inside, as well as stories of recent arrests, robberies, and being sold bad drugs. Dialogues such as this carried on until a scene worthy of a prison movie exploded loud enough to turn the chapel quite.

The silencing event occurred only a few pews in front of me. A man had left his coat on the pew and walked off, but shortly after he left another man sat down where the coat was. When the man who left returned he did not appreciate that his coat was being sat upon or that his seat was taken.

The two men rose to their feet and began posturing and name calling. They half-circled around each other, sizing themselves and the situation up, while shouting like savage beasts in the wild. The crowd was oddly quiet, no one jumped in and no one antagonized the situation. There were, of course, murmurs and rumors about the cause and outcome, but nothing based in this reality.

Suddenly, and as if nothing ever happened, the man who originally possessed the seat took his seat back without conflict and no further verbal exchange. He simply sat down and the other man found another seat a few pews back.