By Rabea Stueckemann
Tightening the scarf around my neck, I observe the different shapes my breath assumes when clashing against the cold air. Trying to warm my fingers, I notice thick layers of fog wrapping the area in a mysterious atmosphere. There is something sad about this neighborhood at 9.15 this Wednesday morning.
Two homeless men search the dumpster for something eatable. They look exhausted. I only stop wondering how they got into this situation when I smell the fresh croissants and coffee that one of the two women next to me takes out of a bag that says “Eugene City Bakery.” “We are so fortunate,” I tell myself and look at the two men again. As I will learn, they are not the only people having problems.
Putting on my headphones and focusing on my computer, I try to avoid staring at the women sitting at a table only a few meters away from me. “The last thing I can think of right now is food,” says one of them and lets her head drop on her arms. “I just needed to get out because I go crazy at home,” she says. The dark shadows under her eyes reveal a significant sleep deficit. The other woman gently strokes her arm and tells her to stop worrying. “You will find a way,” she says. They remain silent for a few minutes and all I hear is one of the men shouting out his amazement about things people have thrown away. “People are stupid,” he says.
Meanwhile the woman’s sadness has turned into frustration. She speaks louder and bangs her fist on the table. “I knew he wasn’t good for her. He is way too old,” she says. She zips up her jacket and folds her arms across her chest. “What a great idea just to leave home. He’ll make her quit school sooner or later anyways,” she says. The other woman, probably her friend, urges her to remain calm. “There is nothing you can do about it,” she says. “Lena is 19 and she knows what she wants. Plus, she will probably do the opposite of what you tell her just to prove you wrong,” she says and looks around. “It’s just so ridiculous,” the mother says. “And Michael doesn’t say anything either. He thinks I am overreacting,” she complaints. “Well you know as good as I do how they are,” her friend says. “Rather say nothing and stay out of trouble,” she adds. “This whole discussion has been going on for so long now and there is nothing you can do,” she tells her friend. “Try to forget about it for a while. Fighting doesn’t get you anywhere,” she says and takes a croissant out of the bag. She takes the lid of her coffee cup and watches the steam soaring into the air. The mother does not react at all. She just sits there with her arms across her chest, her eyes following the two homeless men walking away.