he didn’t fall through the cracks. they swallowed him.

I haven’t seen you in years. You were supposed to come back.

In an ideal world, you would have come back. You would have come back, picked up your medications, and taken them religiously, as if your life depended on it. Because it does.

Today, you stopped me at my tracks in the hallway. Two years later.

Your face, with all the harsh angles. Your eyes, so full of defeat.

You gave up. You gave up.

Limping.

You used to make long strides with your long legs.

Now, walking quickly makes you out of breath. Your lungs hunger for oxygen.

I do not want to look you in the eyes. But I force myself to. I tell myself to keep my poker face. Complete the task.

But you are not a task. You are a human being. A person. With a heart beat. And a soul who is burdened.

Because after incarceration, you grieved your father’s death.

And you could not deal. You did not know how to deal. You just wanted to run away. It was easier. This white powdered best friend helped you, more than anyone else did. But it’s toxic. And it landed you in jail. The cycle continues.

You sit in my office. In pain. With a fever. Helpless. You ask me if you can go home. Though I calmly told you, soon, it would not be soon. You lean on my desk. And you wait.

One phone call.

Two phone calls.

Three.

One application.

Another phone call.

You gave me your trust. To do things on your behalf.

I do not want the power to choose which hospice you should go to.

But you gave up.

Even after you swiftly leave, because you could no longer sit still from your pain, my heart ached for you. And I sat in dread and in tears. Knowing that your story would soon end, because you will not fight.

You send me an email. Full of gratitude. And what is this? Is it a shimmer of hope? Is it a hope for life? Or hope for death? I cannot tell.

But I tell you what’s next, logistically.

And then, unexpectedly, I pleaded.

I pleaded for you to fight.

I pleaded for you to fight, if not for yourself, for your mother, who lost her husband and may lose her son.

And I told you about the living miracles that I have seen walking through these halls. Miracles because of the ounce of hope they have.

It was the ounce that mattered.

If it were up to me, I would have enough hope for you. I would have enough fight for you. But, it doesn’t work that way.

I sit. And I wait. For what happens next.

And I hear this poem, and am comforted that my heart is not hardened. Comforted that my heart still grieves. Comforted that I can be sad. Because a burned out social worker, gives. no. fucks.

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