Happy Thanksgiving Pete

I walked the two blocks briskly. The wind was bouncing off the buildings, and blowing cold from the Boston harbor. The wind blew sections of the morning Globe, not yet retrieved by the intended recipients. it cut through my London fog, like a sharp knife.

 The train platform was eerily desolate for a Wednesday in the city. Thanksgiving weekend I surmised, many of the office dwellers and commuters had taken an early extended weekend. What was normally a bustling commuter spot was now more like a ghost town. I spotted the bus shelter, a clear 3 sided Plexiglas enclosure offering nothing more than a windbreak. Thankfully on this cold windy morning only one person were inside. A man huddled in the far corner, in jeans and a Navy pea coat avoiding the howling wind. No sign of Gary my regular commuting friend.

 Behind the shelter a neon sign lit the day breaking grey sky and blinked “Joey’s Coffee Spot”. I stepped inside for a hot coffee for my wait at the bus shelter. I ordered three cups, one for Gary and I and one for the other person sharing the cold bus shelter.

I stepped in to the cold chill and hurried to the bus shelter. I sat on the bench and the young man in the pea coat looked up making eye contact. At first glance His dark hair was coming out from under a stocking cap. his eyes a steel blue. He looked afraid.

“Morning I said.” I offered the hot coffee as I envisioned the Indians, offering their gifts of food on the very first thanksgiving. The spirit of the holiday not recognized immediately, made me realize, what a fleeting thing in our society. My own awkwardness was making this point to me. I smiled and introduced myself.

“Pete” he said in a low voice as he accepted the coffee. A small smile creased the corners of his lips. He held it in both hands to embrace the warmth. “Thank you”. Was all Pete said.

“Headed to work or coming back”? I inquired seeking to make small talk to comfort myself. My head swiveled looking for Gary. Adding another voice would make this less awkward I thought.

“The shelter kicks us out at 6.” Pete shared matter of fact like. I am on my way to Roxbury, to spend thanksgiving with my family.”

It was as I used to call them, a $5.00 moment. The moment when in the past, I dealt with the plight of homelessness in America with a $5.00 dollar bill. My shame bought off cheaply I now realized.

It was hard to imagine a shelter in the financial district of Boston. Let alone the legion of the homeless I never seemed to see when I moved about during my day.

“Well Pete, I am glad you’re getting to see your family for thanksgiving.”  I looked again for Gary; he was definitely running late this morning.

“No I won’t be seeing them; I will be visiting their graves. They are buried at St. Michael’s cemetery. They died when I was in Iraq, a house fire they told me. By the time I got back here, they had already been buried there”.

“You’re a veteran, I asked shocked”? I was simultaneously swimming in my discomfort while attempting to hide in my coffee. How the hell could this happen? “You must be very angry Pete “.

I sat in absolute shock as uninterrupted; Pete told his story to me. It forever will change my thoughts on Thanksgiving and what I value as important, as well as what I am thankful for.

“No, I’m not angry, I am thankful. The church took care of the burial in my absence. I am fortunate the shelter provides me a place to sleep and a meal in the evening. They are helping me to get my VA benefits approved. Seems’ I have to prove I am shell shocked. Most of my friends never came home. The people in Iraq don’t have a functioning government, they have no roads that are not war torn anymore, no electricity most days, and the war continues every day. They never know when a bomb may go off. You can’t sleep with the sound of bombs and artillery. I get to visit the graves of my family; many of them don’t know where their relatives are buried. They have no timetable for when life will get better.

I just have to wait on the VA. Then I hope to go to school with my GI benefits. I can rebuild my life. I am thankful to still have it. By the way, Thanks for the coffee. I think I will walk now that I have gotten warm again”.

Pete got up and limped away down Boylston Street. His prosthetic limb altering his gait, yet he moved at a brisk pace.

I heard the voice of my friend Gary. “Who was that, are you ok”?

“It could have been you or I Gary; it could have been you or I”.

 © J.K.Dark onthedarkside.wordpress.com

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~ by onthedarkside on November 24, 2010.

One Response to “Happy Thanksgiving Pete”

  1. This one made me so sad I couldn’t comment for several days. Hell, I have tears still. Feels like I’m there with you.

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