Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015 @ 10:22 am
Brussles sprouts. A fourty pound case of brussles sprouts.
The kitchen hums around me, the regular staff moving in a choreographed ballet. Steam belching, metal clanging, and a tinny radio blaring feel-good soft rock.
Slice the end, discard outer layer, mark the end with an 'x'.
Fourty pounds of brussles sprouts.
After an hour, I barely make a dent. My inner completionist is crushed.
I am placed out front on a service line. I'm told to be the vegetable person. Grab plate, scoop vegetables, pass plate to the starch man.
There's a lineup of hungry people stretched around the side of the gymnasium. Mostly dark clothing, with the occasional flash of thrift store neon. Men grizzled with beards, women lean and lank with huge dark eyes. Their hands worn, grey, calloused. Their faces mostly dark, either due to genetics or to living a life out of doors.
I barely have a chance to look up, scooping vegetables onto plate after plate in rapid fire action. I run out of plates - there is a lull. I look up. Their faces. Who am I? What do they think of me? Another privelidged white woman. I'm unsure whether to smile or to remain neutral. I feel humble.
At the halfway mark, I pause. A thought jolts through my mind. I recall my mother telling me that my bipolar cousin has been living at the same shelter in Kelowna. I look up. What if he's here, now? What if he is in this line?
After five hundred scoops of vegetables, the service is complete. We move to the dining hall, wiping down the soiled chairs and picking up stray napkins. I stare at a high chair. White plastic, covered in sticky crumbs. I wipe it down carefully, immensely sad.
I lay in bed at night: a cup of tea, a book, and white flannel sheets.
I think of the soiled high chair.
Feeling a mixture of gratitude and guilt, I roll over to sleep.