Continued from yesterday's post . . .
I picked her up the following week right where we'd left off, at the drop-in centre. She'd asked that I meet her inside, as she had an appointment that might take longer than expected. I parked the car and entered via the back entrance, where a group of gravelly voiced men were gathered, smoking and laughing and swearing. One apologized for his language as I approached and held the door for me.
Inside and to the left, tables and a food service area. To the right, more tables, the washing machines against a wall, and computers, two of which were occupied by men playing solitaire and Bejeweled. Around a corner, a carpeted meeting area with two large tables. My new friend was seated at one, her back to me, speaking softly to a nurse practitioner. No privacy really and nowhere for me to sit and wait, unannounced, but a few feet away from her in a row of empty chairs. My ears honed in. She was crying. There was despair in her voice; it hadn't been there when we first met, or had it been there all along and I failed to notice?
Her children missed their father. Her daughter cried every night for him. They'd been in the motel too long. The children hated it there. The apartment search had thus far been fruitless. She had her own medical issues to manage and they were becoming overwhelming. The nurse practitioner was sympathetic, murmuring reassurances in soothing tones.
They stood after a few minutes. She turned to leave and quickly wiped away her tears when she saw me. After a few words of nebulous encouragement, the nurse practitioner was on to the next patient, while we checked on my new friend's laundry. Wet clothes and no available dryers. She'd dry them at my house, I announced, and we bagged the clothes and ventured out into fall sunshine.
Had she eaten? No. Alright then. Let's start with lunch. Her eyes filled up again and I searched my purse for the Kleenex I keep handy for the kids' runny noses and sticky fingers. I suggested a nearby cafe that serves an African curry I thought she might like.
At lunch we talked about her home country, a place I'd searched on Wikipedia the night before. She told me of its topographical beauty. We spoke very little of her present situation while we ate. She was not fond of the curry. Too much sauce. It stung a little, not being able to offer her a slice of home. Why did the chef have to put too much sauce? Hadn't she been through enough already? Impossibly, I had hoped that lunch would be perfect and make everything all better. It was going to be a long road to better.
After lunch, back at my house, her laundry spinning in the dryer, we reviewed the list of approved apartment buildings she'd been given. If memory serves, there were six buildings; they were owned by the only landlords in town willing to take on social assistance recipients.
She is a refugee claimant, you see, who came here with nothing but her children and a suitcase of clothing. Near daily laundry and the struggle to be seen and heard are her realities.
To be continued . . .