Monday, September 8, 2014


Steven is well over 6 feet tall. He is the tallest man that I've seen come to the center. He has wiry, curly hair that has gone white and grey in some parts. I have only seen him without his baseball cap once. His eyeglasses often have slight smudges and fingerprints imprinted on them. His eyes are brown and they are kind eyes. They are usually tinged with yellow and the redness in his eyes makes me wonder if he slept well the night before, or if he even slept at all. His skin is dark and leathery and he smiles easily. His smile is boyish, as well is his laugh. It's loud, careless and throaty. And there are times that his laughs sound like hiccups. His shoulders have a slight slump to them and are often holding the weight of a very old, weather worn black backpack. One time, he showed me what was in his backpack. He pulled out a tattered, old sci-fi book first, then he pulled out a 2013 calendar full of scantily clad cartoon warrior women. He showed me his favorite ones. He's a Veteran.

He calls me 'mija' whenever I ask him about his day, when I ask if he likes the food, when I pour him another cup of juice, when I ask for that old war story he promised to tell me or when I tell him I worry about him and to be safe that night. Other times, he calls me 'Aurelia' because he thinks that's easier to say than my name. We had a good laugh over that one. But it doesn't matter. He knows my face, which is the only thing that matters to me. Sometimes when I pat him on the back after refilling his cup, he grabs my hands and thanks me. His hands are soft but you can tell they have a story to tell. His breath always has a smell of alcohol. Beer is his weapon of choice. Sometimes I worry when I don't see him for several days. It all started when he came in one day with a headache. I told him to drink water, stay hydrated. He told me that was no use, his head hurt because someone pistol whipped him behind him a Chevron gas station. He consoled me by telling me he's 'had worse'. Nothing about that made me feel better. But soon, he cracked another joke and he made me believe he would be just fine. And he was.

I asked him two questions when I took his photo.

Steven, what's happiness to you?

Happiness is waking up in the morning and going to sleep at night.

Steven, what do you like about yourself?

I pray.