Lauren Schmidt




    The Haven House for Women and Children
    LaQuita was chewing her cuticles when I noticed
how thin she had become, so careworn and thin. This afternoon,
her face was not its usual honey-gold, but gray—her hips thin,
    wrists thin, all over thin. I asked her if she’d eaten today,
and with pink-rimmed eyes fixed on her fingers she shook her head.  
    I pulled eight singles from my jeans, bills as soft and worn
as used tissues, and held them out for her to take to the Wawa at the corner.
She held the money in a stiff gaze, but did not move until I took her wrist,
    pressed the slim fold in her palm, and closed her fingers around it.
She returned with two bagels, a convenience store coffee,
    a cherry Gatorade, a plastic knife, and one small cup of cream cheese.  
I waited for the honey to return to her face as she ate and ate and ate.
With the last lump of food still stuffed inside her cheek,
    LaQuita approached to give me a wrinkled Wawa receipt
and drop a dime, a nickel, and two pennies in my hand.



(Originally posted June 25, 2015)


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