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I stared ahead to stop myself from staring too hard.
This man, looked to be in his late 80’s, walker and all-
just sat there eating his sandwich from Jack in the box,
looking hollow and pained. I wasn’t sure if he was homeless
or not, his aura spoke of someone who was alone, I felt
like I was violating his space when looking in his direction,
something about someone eating seemed so intimate to me,
though that didn’t stop me from wondering if this was his first or
last meal of the day.

I waited for my number to be called. I looked up at the “Jack in the Box” sign.
it reminded me of a time where my meals were limited, living in motel rooms
and scrounging up change to get something off of the dollar menu from Jack in the Box.
Heavy memories came rushing through me. It was about 2 a.m, not sure what day it was,
but I know that I was just released from jail. Somebody was on their way to get me,
wasn’t sure who, but whoever it was…they had to buy me the Bacon cheeseburger
at jack in the box. I thought about that thing the entire time I was in jail (about 36
hours) I see a mini-van pull up, a red one. It’s my aunt Stacy. She rolled down her window
and screamed out my name “Kimberly Renae!” I laughed out loud. She was drunk. I suppose
I should have felt afraid or upset to see my intoxicated aunt pulling up to drive me away from
the jail drop off location, but I wasn’t. She was a pilfered individual, lost in a sea of dysfunction and
struggle, much like myself. People like that gravitate to one another, so I understood her. She was
hungry for the pain of failure to go away. I got that. I was hungry too.

I felt like a martyr when I got into the car. “You are a gangsta, kid!” one of her friends says. “I
can’t believe you got locked up! Were you scared?” says another. I shake my head no. I wasn’t scared.
I was starving. “Can you guys take me to Jack in the box by the house?” I open up
my bag holding my items from when I was arrested, still had the same $5.00 from yesterday.
At least I have something.

When we eventually got back to the house, my mom was there, my brother, cousins. They all
sat and looked at me. They were all so curious how the smart and structured Kim had wound
up in a cell, wanted to know what kind of people I met in there, if they tried to hurt me. Who I’d met. “Prostitutes” I said. Told them that a lot I’d met were there because of a man. Domestic violence, selling their bodies, drug charges. They were amused, I was ashamed. I had gone in there a poor yet intelligent girl, and came out a poor yet intelligent girl with an arrest record. I walked upstairs and sat on my cousins’ floor, took my food out of the bag, and started to eat.

I was about 2 bites in before I slowed down. I looked at my food with tears in my eyes. I was breaking down. At that moment, I realized that I was at my lowest of lows. Don’t know if I can
put it into words that will express it, it just feels…empty, yet at the same time like my body was filled
with cotton balls. Each bite after that felt like I was choking it down. Choking down my reality…it was difficult to swallow.

Years beyond years have passed, yet this memory is still very vivid. Weird, I know…but watching this elderly man slowly eating his food reminds me of myself. I wonder what his memories are, what he thinks about as he is eating, if he is still that struggling person that I used to be (and sometimes still am.)
They call my number, and I go to get my order.

Jack In The Box…If you only knew.

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