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Andie Charalambolous

Black coffee, with sugar if you’d like any, but never any milk, creamers, etc., only water (that I would often use to dilute and cool off the coffee), juice, granola bars, cake, pizzas—one pepperoni and the other chicken—grapes, raspberries, blueberries, cheese, crackers, and vegetable samosas. This is what I remember most about Thursday afternoons in the city that summer. I’d spend afternoons in a safe haven in the downtown’s east end, in a small converted house, hidden by bushes and trees, locked at all times, and only visible if you focused your eyes past the beverage sign hanging from the corner convenience. Some days, we would get so sidetracked with the food and company, and the fact that it was scorching hot and nice out, we’d forget what had brought us there in the first place.

Week after week, I found myself surrounded by beautiful women glowing from the inside, radiating outwards, forcing themselves to pick themselves up after trauma, to dust themselves off after the wreckage, and to continue striding through the world like they were boss (because they were). Words could not describe the strength and mental motivation these people had delved from their souls and clung onto. Some days, when I went to put my name down on the sheet at reception to sign out, I didn’t even want to leave.

Walking from the subway station to the place we all came to call safety, and home, for those couple months in the hot heat of the season was the most liberating and comforting feeling I had felt in a while. Screams were replaced by laughter. Tears of angst and frustration made way for tears of laughter. Strangers (even though I was sure I would never see them again, and I wished I wouldn’t; because that would mean they were doing well) became my friends- my sisters that I had seen myself in. Each story was a reflection, and the simple act of exchanging these stories, was in itself healing. I felt pride in the courage that we all had to even be there, and to seek help in one another. Honestly, a lot of the time, (I’m not even going to lie) the free food was the only motivation to go, but once I was there however, it was (always) the company that made me stay.

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