Twas the night before Christmas…

“Christine!!!!” I yelled out my truck window this morning. When she heard her name she looked my way and broke out into a big toothless smile as I turned the truck off.

I passed her on the bridge as I was crossing into Columbus this morning. On the streets she is known as “Two Step.” For whatever reason she takes to steps forward and one step back. How she does it and sway from side to side is beyond me however she does get to where she needs to go.

Christine is from New York but likes the south because the winters are easier she says in her New York draw… Our girl is homeless, mentally ill and has health problems in her legs which is why I suppose she takes her two steps forward and one step back. “Two Step!”

I reached over and grabbed the necklace and perfume I pulled from a box of goodies my sister Chris sent from Pennsylvania. I had set them aside for just her and I was hoping I would find her today.

Standing in the road I held the perfume out to her and said in a cheerful tone…”Merry Christmas Christine!” Her eyes lit up like the stars in the sky on a clear southern night and danced as small tears rolled across the beauty of blue God graced her with. Her exact words… “Oh, thank you…perfume! I will smell nice.”

If that second could have been frozen into a time where I could have shown the world over and over what the thought of “smelling nice” could really mean I would have given my next breath in order for everyone to see.

I then told her that I had something else. I opened my small plastic bag and pulled out a necklace. Together we straightened it out and as I held it up she looked up to where it hung off my fingers said…”Oh! That is beautiful!” I gently placed it over her head and let it fall across her old worn sweatshirt stained from sleeping on the ground and food. She looked down at her Christmas gift and only said, “Beautiful!”

I asked her how she had been and she told me the other day she went to “the park” to eat. [“The park” is a park in town where the homeless go at a certain time on Saturdays and a church brings them food.] She explained that while eating someone found out it was her birthday. Her voice picked up speed and she started to stutter. My heart began to beat to the rhythm of her words as she explained someone gave her a “beautiful” piece of cake. 

Desperately trying to describe the colors on the icing she fumbled and stammered explaining purple…

My heart began to melt as blue, pink, like blue, sorta lavender slipped from her rose shaped lips. I finally said, “purple?” She said, “Yes, yes purple.” She further went on telling me how blessed she was to get the piece of cake for her birthday and then she glanced and touched her necklace once again. “Now this.” She said. “I am blessed.”

I asked her where she was staying. She said in “The park” when it is warm, but because the nights are getting colder now she walks across the bridge into Phenix City and sleeps in the laundry mat at night. 

I drove into Columbus tonight and stopped at a red light. Dressed with a Santa hat on his head a friend of mine walked up to my truck…James wished me a Merry Christmas as the light turned green. He is homeless and I wondered where he would sleep tonight as I drove away.

I circled back around by the “Y” and could see Timmy still on his bench…again wondering when he was going to head off to his “spot!” I made my right to head back across the river to go home and on the far end I could make out that “Two Step” was heading back home. (To the laundry mat)

Seeing ahead of her I noticed 4 men were walking towards her. Being Christmas Eve the streets are empty and I intently watched in the darkness that shadowed over Christine because of a broken street light that the men would simply pass her by.

As I turned to my right I sighed after seeing the men kept walking and Christine never looked up. She was alright.

“Not a creature was stirring…not even a mouse.” Where is Christine’s family tonight? When she was a little girl and recited “Twas the Night Before Christmas” did she ever dream she would be a mentally ill woman living on the streets in a southern town calling a park and laundry mat home?

Did she think her days would consist of walking cement staring at the ground? Did she think she was blessed to smell pretty, have a “beautiful” necklace around her neck and be able to eat a piece of cake a stranger handed her because it was her birthday?

It is Christmas Eve, I’m sure by now Timmy made it to his spot, James tossed his head from side to side showing off his Santa hat all the way down Broad and Christine… has she gone to sleep?

My friends from the streets won’t dream “visions of sugar plums” tonight. They sleep with one eye open hoping nobody will put a knife in their backs and Christine? Well her chances of being raped sky-rocket on the streets. The men take advantage of her mental illness…to me that is rape.

 I looked at my Christmas tree and gifts underneath after I got home. I heard Christmas songs coming out of the radio in the kitchen and wondered what blessed really means? No quick answers came to me and I suppose I will have to get back to you on that. Maybe it means different things to us all…

But you know what? I think Christine comes pretty close to what God says. It’s a box of perfume and a necklace from Pennsylvania. A piece of cake she thinks someone brought just for her. It’s me bowing my head praying Christine sleeps sweetly tonight and that nobody touches her in a foul way…

I received a gift from my friend today. It was watching her beautiful blue eyes moisten with tears of gratitude.

Merry Christmas Christine!!!!


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