Matthew was a man with dark hair, and a disheveled look. His beard was unruly, but matched the character and hue of his matted hair. He breathed the same air as the people dressed up in suits and ties and scrubs walking through Skid Row. He lived in the same world, even the same country as the people trekking through, but he seemed as distant from them as humanly possible.
Matthew sat in the scorching sun, back against the corrugated garage door, with a cigarette adhered to his lips.
The smoke rose high into the cloudless sky.
His eyes were flushed with the mist of memories that could fill a reserve from past experiences. He was so calloused to this life that he hardly noticed when someone sat next to him on the course, hot cement of the sidewalks of Los Angeles.
At first he retorted with something about not having any tobacco to share. When he realized no one was asking for a smoke, he became a little friendlier.
Matthew’s eyes seemed to be heavy and look burdened, as if he had cried his last tears years ago.
He sat in a rigid manner, muscles tensed, ready to move the minute he felt he was no longer safe in the lethargy he sat in.
When he finally came around, the conversation roared to life. He talked about the dysfunctional family he had been in. As he let the words slip out, his face would become rigid and tense. His eyes would stare off into the distance to show he was trying hard not to remember the details, while he continued to divulge.
He lit up another cigarette mid-sentence. He was meticulous about where the smoke was being blown, not to bother or offend anyone around him.
He explained that his sister once said, “If you lost your family, remember that we are all God’s children and your brothers standing beside you.”
Matthew continued on saying that we need to treat everyone else like they are brothers and sisters.
The comment lingered in the air as Matthew continued to converse. After being asked; Matthew said he wanted to pray for his sobriety, and that he could go see his daughter again. He confided that he was still struggling with alcoholism, he had been for some forty years, but he wanted to clean up.
By the end of the conversation, this hardened man had let all his guards down. The same safeguard that made him look older then he actually was. It was as if a wall had been removed and the true heartbroken Matthew took the place of the man resting against the wall just minutes ago.
He asked what books of the Bible he should start with, as he enthusiastically reached into his coat pocket to pull out a New Testament. He sheepishly removed a leather-bound book with the pages falling out, the same book that was being held together by a rubber band, which he had admitted to using the pages for tobacco paper. He said that he read the page first before smoking it.
He laughed as he thumbed through the pages; not really looking for any page in specific, just staring at the content of that book with half of its pages missing. That leather-bound New Testament looked like it had been through as much distraught and calamity as Matthew himself.
He looked up and smiled. When he snapped back to reality, it seemed to almost remind him of his newly found revelation.
After being directed to John and 1 John, Matthew elatedly got up and walked away. He hopefully headed towards the direction of where he was staying to retrieve his other Bible from a desk drawer.
The next night out on skid row, Matthew was nowhere to be found. He hopefully took any means of transportation and headed straight to his family.
Matthew was not actively seeking sympathy, rather he was just relieved for someone to sit down and listen to his story.
Look for the graphic that will be tied to this story! It will be up soon.