A Little Goes A Long Way

A Little Goes A Long Way

A Story by Eleah Ruffin

This is a non-fiction piece I wrote for Creative Writing. Based on true events from my life. When I was young, my family and I ran into a homeless woman and decided to help. Written from woman's POV.

The nighttime sky expands beyond the horizon. The buzzing of cars coasting by on the dark, slick roads fill the still air with a gentle hum. Orange lights that dot the streets give off an annoying glare to my eyes. The streets are practically deserted, save a few nightwalkers prowling around, destinations unknown. I’m pushing the stroller onward, my eyes darting all around, desperate, searching. There had to be something close by. 
A cry pierces the thin air. I stop, sighing to myself. I rub my face gently, hoping to get some dirt off my face. I lean down to stare at the baby. Poor boy. I could imagine he was hungry. The feeling was mutual. On cue, my stomach begins to twist and growl. I need to find something, anything. I wouldn’t complain. I just need some sort of food; for him and for me.
I reach out to him and caress his cheek. He continues to squirm and writhe in discomfort. I shush him softly and hum a tender tune. My singing always seems to calm him down. Hopefully it would work. I hate seeing him so upset. He was just a baby, he didn’t know any better. He didn’t know anything, couldn’t speak. All he could do to let me know something was wrong was to cry. My first goal was to find some food. 
My humming did the trick as his crying ceased and his eyes closed swiftly. He fell fast asleep. I smile to myself, thanking God that he was a heavy sleeper. I step back and stretch to look up at the sky. It was hard to see any of the stars because of all the lights. That was one of the bad things about living in the city. There was no natural life, no nature or anything to give it that something. Just the empty sky filled with invisible stars. But being homeless has its perks: I have all the time in the world to sit in my thoughts and listen to the sounds of the world around me.
I grab the handles of the stroller and continue to move forward. The baby is silent as I creep on. Thank God. I have no idea where I’m going to find food, but I have to try. I’m sure I can find something for myself. I’m not so sure about finding some sort of baby food. I think he can eat some solid foods, he’s big enough. I’ll feel better if I can find him some baby food, but I have no idea how likely that will be. 
As we push on, the buildings to my right open into a large alleyway. Other than a few dumpsters, it is empty. Gum, trash and other debris glitter the ground. The walls are covered in graffiti and some wrappers. The filth that is spread along the ground doesn’t faze me. I’ve been to places way worse off. Honestly, this was one of the best spots I’ve ever found. My attention turns to the trashcans, my hopes growing. Maybe there was something in there. I push the stroller forward, keeping it to the side so I had room to explore. The baby is still sleeping, thank God. I lift some of the lids and abruptly step back. The smell is rancid and burns my nose. A few flies began to zip through the air, startled by the disruption. I hold my breath, eyes stinging from the odor. Dear God, it smells horrid. I’ve done millions of times, dumpster diving and rustling through trash. So why doesn’t it get any easier? Why is it that every time I have to hold back tears and ignore the shame that always washes over me?
I take a deep breath. You have to. You have to. Just do it. I swiftly pick through the bin slowly. I’m careful not to get anymore dirt on my hands than there already is. I don’t know when the last time it was that I got to wash up. My luck didn’t seem great so far. I kept picking up old wrappers or snack bags, but they were empty. I try to stay calm as I continue to sift through. In my searching, I hear footsteps approaching. I ignore them and continue to sift through. It was probably just some folks on a night stroll. Suddenly, a voice calls out to me. “Ma’am?”
I freeze, perking up instantly. Who else would they be referring to? There was no one around. My eyes pass quickly over the family in front of me. A family of five: a mom and a dad, two girls and one little boy. It must be nice, having a family. They’re wearing decent clothes, not worn out rags like mine. A few of them were holding small boxes, to-go containers. They must have just come from dinner, family time. 
The little girl stared at the stroller, then at me. What? Has she never seen a homeless person before? The dad took a step forward, holding out the to-go box with a plastic fork to me. “Here, you can have this.”
I couldn’t believe what was happening. A family, giving me food? This never happens any other day of my life. “Really?”
“Yes. Please, take it. Please.” He didn’t seem like he would leave until I took it.
“I…Thank you.” I took the box, repeating the same words over and over again. My heart began to swell with gratitude. This was actually happening. I felt my mouth just salivate at the thought of the food. The family went on their way as they wished blessings. The little girl shed a smile at me, waving shyly before chasing after her family. I reach for my stroller and set off. The baby was still asleep. At this point, I don’t even know how. I continue a little way down before I find a spot to sit and rest for a bit. I open the box, the sweet aroma filling my nose. There was some rice with meat in some sort of sauce. I have no clue what kind of food it is, but I don’t care. I use my fork and dig in. 
God it tasted like heaven. The sweet nectar mixed with the rice was divine. My taste buds were rejoicing, thankful for decent food that wasn’t found in a trashcan. I felt my tongue grow hot. The food was a bit spicy, but I continue to eat it. However, the more I ate, the hotter my mouth grew. I had to stop, fanning my mouth to ease my discomfort. I sat there fanning myself, and to my surprise, the same family appeared before me. They look at me as I fan myself and I smile sheepishly. I tell them that the food was a bit hot.
They smile and chuckle while I blush. I was so embarrassed, I couldn’t even handle spicy food. The father comes closer, handing me some money. “You can use this to buy a drink.”
I thank him graciously, not expecting him to show so much generosity.
“Also, I’m pretty sure there’s a place a little down the road from here where you can get a room for the night. If you just go down this road, you should run into it. Here’s some money in case you need a place to rest.”
I blink furiously to stop any tears from dripping down my face. I thank them repeatedly. The little girl smiles at me timidly, hiding behind her mother. They give their regards one last time before setting off to head home. I stand there, my box of food in one hand, and some cash in the other. I’m having a hard time registering everything that was happening. I have enough money to hopefully buy the baby some food, and maybe a drink for myself. I’m not sure about getting a room but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try. I could feel a smile stretching on my lips. I grab the stroller and begin to push onward. The orange lights glitter around me like fireflies, the sound of the stroller rolling against the gravel echoing into the night. 

© 2017 Eleah Ruffin

Author's Note

Eleah Ruffin
I wrote this from the perspective of the woman, trying to paint the story from her point of view. I know my own perspective like the back of my hand, so it was a bit interesting to try and write it from a different one. Again, this is a creative writing piece.

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Added on April 10, 2017
Last Updated on April 10, 2017
Tags: Nonfiction, Poverty


Eleah Ruffin
Eleah Ruffin

My name's Eleah. I'm a college student and a potential Psychology major and currently unknown minor. I have loved writing since I was in middle school. Though I unfortunately don't have much time for .. more..