Is my heart a muscle that is tucked neatly behind flesh and bone, or is it the space within in me growing larger than the skin that once encased it, reaching out towards the world with each new experience of love? I say the latter. My heart is expanding, reaching out to greet you.
I tried texting my husband over and over again. I pressed three on my contact list and his phone rang. He wouldn’t pick up. I heard the key in the door, and I said, “Oh no! We need milk and I tried to catch you before you made it home.”
“Let’s go” he said.
I put my shoes on, he locked the door, and we walked the four blocks to the little market.
When we walked in, there was a disheveled woman getting a cup of coffee. My husband said hello to her, and she turned to him and smiled. I headed for the refrigerator to get a half gallon of milk. My husband was still talking to the woman who I knew was homeless, because I figured out how my husband knew her. She is a guest at the soup kitchen where my husband volunteers on Fridays.
My husband always speaks to the men who work at the store. They exchange formalities in Arabic. The man behind the counter asked, “You know her?” tossing his head in the direction of the woman who stood a short distance away from the counter sipping her coffee.
“Yes. I do.”
My husband turned to the woman and said, “Michelle, I will buy you your coffee.”
The man who was working the cash register said, “You know she is homeless, don’t you? She is homeless and she buys the most expensive water. She buys the French stuff” he said with obvious disdain.
My husband said that yes, he knew her.
The man at the counter said with sarcasm, “Why don’t you give her a room at your house if you like her so much?”
At the same time, Michelle, who heard my husband say he would buy her the cup of coffee was whispering, “There are good people in the world. There are good people in the world.”
As we walked out, my husband said, “Will I see you tomorrow, Michelle?
She smiled and said, “Yes. Thank you”
On the way home my husband said, “I’m fairly certain that Michelle has schizophrenia. She talks to voices a lot. She is also very fearful. We watch out for her on Fridays.”
I said, “I can’t believe that man! I don’t care if she buys the “French water” it is probably the only luxury she has. She needs to feel human too.”
My heart broke as I listened to the man behind the counter criticize Michelle as if she wasn’t standing there.
My heart grew in the store as I watched my husband treat someone who has so little the same way he would treat a friend.
When we got home my husband said, “Michelle couldn’t stay with us even if we brought her here. She is just too fearful of other people.”
What was said in sarcasm became a consideration for my husband. He thought about it, if only briefly. I know if it were a different world, he’d bring her home.
If you could see me, you would know my heart broke open in that store to make room for it to grow again. It’s so large now, it’s close to you. Reach out, and I’m sure you can touch it.
Rebecca Chamaa has been published on Yahoo Health, The Mighty, Role Reboot, Manifest Station, and others. She blogs daily about living with paranoid schizophrenia at http://www.ajourneywithyou.com
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