43: Night

43: Night

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen

Night

Everyone entrusted with a mission is an angel.

~Moses Maimonides

The last bus pulls away. What now? I’ve missed my connection. I yank the threadbare coat around my thin nurse’s aide uniform. It barely reaches my hips. The white nylon pants contain no warmth against the bitter night’s wind. Shuddering, I swallow. I’ll walk, no choice, no money for a cab. It’s about four miles.

“Stay by the street lights,” the voice inside me instructs. Who cares if it’s through the worst section of town? That’s where I live now. It’s all I can afford since leaving home three weeks ago. A room with a mattress. Food tightly sealed in cardboard boxes, providing inadequate protection against mice. Maybe in a few months I’ll be able to afford a room with a bed in a nicer section.

It starts to drizzle. I jerk my hood in place. Squaring my shoulders, walking briskly, hoping to slip into the night unnoticed. My rain-soaked pants cling to my calves. The weak light from the street lamps elongates my shadow, throwing it into darkened alleyways. Safety is behind the four walls of my room, snuggling under my grandmother’s comforter.

The houses now are worn, steps crumbling, some windows boarded, some dimly lit behind torn shades. I wonder about the people inside. Hopefully they’re warm. My shadow no longer keeps me company as the streetlights disappear. It’s a struggle to keep my imagination in check every time I pass an alleyway. I refuse to play the victim. My mother blaming me for my father’s nightly visits. I’ve carried the burden of night for years.

My breath catches. Footsteps sound behind me. The night is gathering its powers. A man’s voice yells to someone. My numb hands pump at my sides picking up my pace. The footsteps behind me mirror my speed and expand. My fear is palpable. I hear voices murmuring to each other. They sound closer. My tears fall, mixing with raindrops hitting my face. I pray in earnest.

Out of nowhere a car pulls up besides me. I freeze. Glorious rays stream out the car’s roof light contrasting with the dark letters TAXI. My breath catches again. The passenger door opens. The golden glow from the interior light accentuates the driver. His shoulder-length white hair and flowing white beard are beacons against the dreaded night. Familiar soulful eyes grace my heart.

“Get in,” he says.

“I have no money,” I reply.

“Get in now. You’re not safe.”

I obey. Strangely I don’t feel cold in my wet clothes sitting silently besides him. He drives to the building that houses my sparse room, never asking for directions. He turns to me.

“Remember you’re never truly alone.”

I nod in agreement. I open the car door and walk to the porch steps as if it’s a dream, turn to wave goodbye. I glance up and down the street. No evidence he was there.

Smiling, I touch my hand to my heart. I now cradle my own dawn pulsing deep inside me. The knowledge of a loving cosmic presence sustains me.

~Anne Merrigan

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