First Things First

By Virginia Amis

First thing in the morning, Robert lifts himself from his custom orthopedic bed and stretches his well-toned muscles, a product of his personal trainer sessions four times per week. He begins his cleansing routine in a shower with seven shower heads, using shampoo made from organically grown herbs and finishing with personalized skin toner to soothe his face. He removes his button-down shirt from the cleaner’s bag and slides into his Italian loafers. He stops by his favorite coffee shop in CityCenter where everyone knows his order before the door closes behind him. 

First thing in the morning, John tries to recognize his surroundings as he can’t remember where he chose to sleep the night before. Is he in the homeless shelter next to the railroad tracks or huddled by the heat exhaust from the City/County building?  Huddled by the building, he determines, stretching out his sore limbs, cramping from the cold hard pavement that served as his bed. He runs his hand over his unshaven face, longing for a razor. He smells bad smells, some from him and some from the rotting food in his backpack that he saved for breakfast. If he hurries, he can be at the front of the shower line at the shelter a few blocks away, but he has no clean clothes to replace the filthy ones he wears, so it does not matter much if he misses the shower today.  Hurrying is difficult, too, because the shoes he is wearing are tight and the soles have holes he has tried to patch with newspaper. His nose detects the aroma of coffee from the shop in CityCenter, near to where he spent the night, but he has no money to purchase a cup. The shelter has coffee, and maybe there will be some left after his shower. He begins moving in that direction, hopeful that the morning barista from the shop with the expensive coffee will smile at him through the window. Maybe even give him a free cup of coffee. 

Robert pushes open the coffee shop door and bumps into John.  For a moment the two men stare at each other.  Robert covers his nose with his hand and John looks away, ashamed.  As Robert walks in the opposite direction, John watches his brother’s back and murmurs a prayer to bless him.