5 O’clock on North C Street

5 o’clock on North C Street is very different from what one might imagine. It’s so quiet, a quiet that is not familiar to this campus during operating hours. There are people set up in random spots, drinking water or smoking. Sometimes they are chatting but most often there are blank stares, I can’t help but wonder if those blank stares and slow movements are physical laments. Small acts of crying out about injustice.

On Friday all I wanted was to get home. I was tired and as I packed up my things I was a little grateful that the street would be so quiet that I could just walk to my car and drive off without incident.

What I should know by now, nearly 3 years into employment on North C Street, is that if you ever think something will be incident free, you are wrong.

I opened my car door and heard, “Hey! Hey! You! Hey!”

It was a familiar voice, Alicia. I just love Alicia, she’s funny and she’s beautiful and, she is living with severe mental illness.

Alicia walks up and down North C Street every day in layers of clothing that are so incredibly dirty. Alicia has not showered in months and it’s obvious. Alicia can’t hold a linear conversation for too long without talking to people I can’t see or cursing about something.

“Hey, Alicia. What’s up?”

“Is my son in there?”

“In where? In Maryhouse?”

“Shut up! Are you open? I need to go in there.”

“No, my dear, we close at 2:45.”

“Well, what the $#&* time is it?”

“It’ 5 o’clock, we haven’t been open in quite a bit. Your son isn’t in Maryhouse, I was the last one in the building.”

“I told him to wait for me. I told him I would be right back.”

“I’m sorry, Alicia.”

She was holding cheap smokes, her nails were black underneath. She would scratch her head and look right through me as I spoke.

She walked off cursing at someone or something.

We know part of Alicia’s story but even more, we know her.

We care about her and these moments are so hard but we try to find glimmers of beauty in the dark.

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