Jars of Glitter

Last night, along with white canvasses, half empty tubes of paint and tired brushes, I brought glitter for the women to work with. “What should we do with it?” they asked. “Anything” I said. They smiled crooked smiles and laughed out loud, looking at one another. At first they were not quite sure what to do. The jars sat in the middle of the table like party favors waiting to be won. I was the first to open the jar of silver. I pinched the glitter and spread it over the ocean waves on my canvas. I passed the jar to the woman on my right and she did the same. Another woman opened the emerald green to adorn the leaves on her oak tree. A woman named Lucy sprinkled glitter over her entire canvas like a third grader might do. All at once I saw the women as the children they once were, living in a time that was perhaps easier for them. A time before addictions set in, a time when they played with baby dolls without the threat of losing custody. A time when they weren’t so homeless.

As the women children worked they blew excess glitter from their paper into the air. It reminded me of stars in the night sky—stars that I could touch. As I reached out to touch them, I looked at the women and made wishes for them. I wished so many things for them. I wished they would sleep well that night, despite the fighting on the streets outside the barred windows, I wished they would be given fresh fruit for breakfast instead of stale bagels. I wished they had enough money to visit the dentist. I wished that strangers would be kind to them and that empathy was real.

By the time I left the glitter was everywhere, in the cracks of the linoleum floor, in my iced tea, on my face, and in my hair. I went to sleep that night tired from all my wishing.

I wake up in the morning with glitter on my pillow, I imagine the women did too– and the distance between us isn’t so far apart.