February 23, 2019

These Old Bones

Last night I sat at a folding table at the Santa Monica Homeless Shelter, playing dominoes (aka Bones) with a few clients who live there.

Jason (aka Yoga Man, a forty-five-year old pole of a man who doesn't look a day older than twenty-eight) said to the group, "Look at Tina (my aka because they say I look like Tina Fey). She even bought new dominoes for us."

I gazed down at the rows of white tiles with their black dots laid out in the formation of a cross and shook my head.

"No, no fellas. I've had these bones over twenty years," I paused, "And they've seen some darker times, my friends."

The mental montage of the places these bones have traveled flooded my thoughts ...

A sticky table in a smoky joint nestled somewhere on Bush St in San Francisco where I accidentally fell in love with someone as broken as me.

The white formica desk in my office as Ice Cube blasted from the boombox and the rancid smell of some unknown brown liquor wafted in the air.

The round patio table on my deck in Venice surrounded by bottles of Coronas and ashtrays crammed with cigarette butts.

To the folding table in the Santa Monica Homeless Shelter ...

Sitting with those three men who've seen their fair share of darker days, I felt a split-second of grace. The kind that comes with redeeming love and forgiveness and a ton of letting go.

I set my tile on the table. "We've been through a lot, me and these bones ..."

The men nodded, mmm hmming. Because they knew. They got it. Their eyes held the weight of their own brokenness.

Yet ... there we were. Slouched low around a table playing dominoes. Our laughter and shit-talking (which is part of the game) danced through the room--Chris involuntarily shaking from some sort of neurological disorder, all-smiles Jason dropping slang like, bolt de doors and follow dat cab, and OG Art slamming down tiles and taking everyone's points--as we shared life together. We made new stories, not concerned about the endings because all that mattered was that moment. The place where love enters. The kind of love capable of gluing the broken pieces back together.

I lost by two houses (aka 100 points), per usual. After twenty-plus years of playing dominoes I still suck. As I hugged my friends goodbye, Art handed me the spiral notebook for score keeping.

"You hold onto this for when you come back," he said.

I took the notebook and grinned. "We're gonna fill this up. Maybe I'll even win a few!"

Art let out a hearty laugh, Chris jerked a nod, and Jason cracked that twinkly smile. "Yeah, Tina. You gonna win a few."

I walked out into the chilly Santa Monica night thinking, I just did ... 

Me in my younger rookie days. Not much has changed. I'm still one of the fellas. Only sober. 

If you ever feel called to volunteer in the city of Los Angeles, there are plenty of life-giving opportunities right here: http://hopeforla.org/volunteer/