I fled from my home unplanned late one night because I was afraid, and in those early days I had to get used to a lot more driving than I’d been doing. I kept a bag of groceries in my car.
I had lost my home in an instant, along with my sense of safety in the world, my hopes and dreams of my marriage and even my wish, in the acceptance of that loss, for a compassionate ending. I lost my tenuous grasp on a conviction that the situation was in any way salvageable.
I was getting a constant barrage of harassment from my abuser by text and email. Every time my phone notified me I felt like I might throw up. I had multiple panic attacks each day.
I used to shuttle donations from a yoga studio where I set up a collection container for Urban Ministries, a homeless shelter in Durham. After I delivered bags of clothes for residents I got in my car and opened the maps app on my phone, which naturally assumed I wanted to go home. Sitting in the parking lot of an urban homeless shelter, I lost it. Of course I wanted to go home–but there was no home left to me. No words could possibly convey the depth of despair I felt in that moment.
I bought a small basket and filled it with fruit–my feeble attempt to make my car feel like home. Cara Cara oranges are my favorite. Ordinarily, oranges bore me but with their cheery pink flesh and unusual sweetness, these are special. They have a limited season at the beginning of the year. I was delighted to have some to put in my fruit basket.
One day I’d just seen a Jeep and had a panic attack. I was driving around shaken and exhausted. I pulled up to turn onto Broad St and a homeless man stood at the stoplight looking for help. I caught his eyes, frightened and pleading. I saw myself in my brother standing there, empty hands open.
I rolled down the window. There were two oranges left sitting on my passenger seat, put there to offer myself comfort and sweetness in turbulent, fear-filled times.
“Are you hungry?” I called out, “I have oranges.”
His eyes lit up as he came to me. He took the oranges from my hand and set them on his backpack then returned and took my hand tenderly in both his.
“Thank you so much,” he said, “You’re an angel. God bless you.”
He bowed his head gravely and kissed my hand. Tears filled my eyes.
“Thank you,” I returned, voice trembling, “And good luck.”
I remember when I rolled my window back up thinking that might well be the only kiss I would feel for a long time. Certainly, it’s the only kiss I remember that brings comfort rather than pain.
Cara Cara oranges are in season again, and their pink flesh and sweetness remind me of those first terrified days after I left. They remind me of my love for myself and the love I shared in a brief tender moment when two humans needed comfort in a time of crisis and affliction. I hope that my brother found his way–and that I, too, might be on a road that leads me home at last.