Worn shoes and tattered clothes are a direct contradiction to how I carry myself. Even when the smell rolling off my body turns my empty stomach, I keep my shoulders square and my head held high. Not that it matters. No one looks directly at me anyway.
I see myself though—the vision of broken glass bleeding on humanity —but I won’t succumb to the hunched figure of a tired man. Society doesn’t see the fragility of my grief or my desperation for help.
No, what they see is the reality I’ve painted for them. A cold thin figure with sunburned skin and the pitiless smile I grant them if they look in my direction. Wincing, they turn away to look at anything but me.
I’m worse than invisible. At least the invisible can’t be seen.
Me? I’m an outcast. Deplorable by definition. Unworthy. Unapproachable.
Twenty-five years old and completely alone.
My only human contact comes from rushed figures pushing past me as I walk on the sidewalk to make my way home from work.
Home. The word itself is laughable. As if I have a home.
I have a place where I stay. A couch I sleep on. But no actual home to speak of.
There are days though, days like today, when I don’t want the company of my old pastor. When I don’t want a couch or a bed or even a corner to sleep in.
I just want myself. My eternal silence where all there is to hear is the crushing of every broken dream I’ve had since youth.
The North Carolina rain complements my damp mood, so it’s only fitting for me to be outdoors for a while. Unemployed from a job I never really needed. A martyr made to survive off scraps because of a dignity I can’t be stripped of. It’s all I have because they took away everything else. I don’t know what I did to piss Karma off, but she’s an unforgiving bitch. Relentless in delivering her punishments to me.
In my worn shoes and tattered clothes, I lie down on the concrete floor outside of an abandoned building and let the sky’s tears fall on my face. The cold rain makes my teeth chatter as lightning flashes above me.
A lifetime ago, I felt the gentle caress of a palm on my cheek. And, damn it to hell, I want it back. I wanther back. The familiarity of her touch. The lull of her voice. Her eyes that could see past every mask I wore, the answers to questions she never asked. All of the broken promises I uttered in desperation, fully aware I could never keep them.
Her warmth soothed me, made me whole.
I met Yanelys when we were eight years old. She was my beginning, the reason I started living, and I always thought she’d be there until the end.
From the moment I met her, she became my constant. When my parents fought, I’d quietly creep out of my bedroom window and into her bedroom, knowing she’d keep her window unlocked in case I needed her. When the police arrested my parents and took me away, her parents gave me a home after my social worker had deemed them fit as my guardians. And when we were teenagers living under the same roof, I’d sneak into her room and crawl into her bed, needing her to hold me together.
The only time we were away from each other was when I’d lived in a group home. This happened before we lived together, before I knew what it meant to have a home, when my heart still teetered on the edges of dejection. My life at the home wasn’t optimal, but it was safe, which somehow made everything worse.
I was twelve years old and away from my best friend, my safety blanket, who knew all my secrets and kept her promise to never expose them—until she felt she no longer had a choice.
I never held that against her. Even on the longest nights on a hard, lumpy bed, I’d count my blessings with every inhale and exhale. I was alive because of her. My dad would have beaten me to death if she hadn’t told someone.
The day she’d told her parents, her dad had shown up at my house and held my parents at gunpoint while Yanelys and her mom broke into my bedroom through the window. They stayed with me until the police and ambulance arrived. That night, I thought God had finally seen me. I was safe.
But then the police took me away. Sure, no one hurt me while I was at the group home, and Yanelys and her parents would come visit me, but it wasn’t the same. I could no longer make that split-second decision to seek out Yanelys when I couldn’t cope.
And there was so much I couldn’t cope with back then.
There’s still so much I can’t cope with.
Starting with Yanelys’s tears.
She was the one who pieced me together when I was nothing more than a jigsaw puzzle with missing pieces.
And I was the one who tore us apart, ripping my heart straight out of my chest in the process.
It’s okay though. Without her, I have no use for a heart anyway.
Forced or not, it was my decision, my doing.
Yessi Smith lives in South Florida with her husband, seven-year-old son, and newborn baby. She is also owned by a neurotic border collie and “ferocious” rottweiler.
She has a bachelor’s degree in business management and a master’s in human resource management. She has held several jobs, from picking up dog poop to upper management positions. Now, she hopes to leave the business world behind, so she can live full-time in a world that does not exist until she places her fingers on a keyboard and brings it to fruition.