Changing and Growing in the Midst of Sorrow

Melvin had recently been evicted from his condominium in downtown Chicago, having lost his job manufacturing wood and lumbar products, as the Company sought to move jobs overseas to save money. He had frequented homeless shelters, but would no longer succumb to such horrid living conditions; the hundreds of bodies packed in a small room, the grotesque odor of unlaundered clothes and perspired bodies, the frequent violent outbreaks, and the awkward mumbling and grunting that would keep him from sleeping. He decided to start spending days in a suburb just a few miles south from the city, where he could detach himself from the busy streets, the memories of his job and the people he worked with, the condo he mortgaged, the corner pizzeria, and everything that at one point made his life fulfilling and exciting.

One night, while roaming around in the suburbs, a torrential storm had hit, and Melvin sought refuge in a vacant house he had frequently seen during his strolls in the area. Melvin frantically opened the door, seared in, and entered. The 2-story camelback shotgun house had been built at least a half-century ago, and abandoned for some time. The house was built entirely of wood, and was extremely narrow and rectangular in shape. When Melvin probed the house, he could hear the creaking floors, see the paint-chipped walls, smell the dusky odor, and feel the chill breeze. His senses gave him a full appreciation as to the age of the home, and the many years that transpired since it had last been occupied. He felt that the walls were closing in on him when he walked through the entrance down the hallway, and soon became elated when he discovered an escape route up a flight of stairs in the rear that led to a sizeable bedroom. Melvin would soon spend most of his day in this bedroom because it was spacious, and had windows which allowed him to get sun and fresh air, and look outside where he could see the small trees that bore fruit, mainly berries. He also enjoyed the security associated with being upstairs, since he was trespassing in staying at the home.

The transition to this vacant suburban home would soon allow him to gain some inkling of normalcy. He would no longer be a straggler on the street, a nomad wandering around with fierce insecurity and dolefulness due to this job loss, but most of all, he would no longer be fearful that he would die on the rugged streets at the hands of another who may have suffered a similar fate. The streets had made Melvin a changed man; he now appreciated a vacant dwelling that had walls, a roof, and a sofa. That was all he wanted and he was content with that.

On the eve of his 1-year anniversary since first discovering the home, Melvin sluggishly woke up with the sun beaming at him, and a backache from the old, raggedy sofa he slept on. Melvin had grown an emotional attachment to the sofa- it was there for him since the beginning and he felt it would bring about bad karma to replace it. He grew to appreciate this timeworn piece and made maximum use of it, despite its many imperfections. Melvin ate on the sofa, read biographies of world leaders, wrote in his journal, and of course, managed to sleep on this incommodious sofa. This day was different though. Soon after waking up, Melvin felt terribly ill. His heart was racing, he couldn’t breathe, and he felt an excruciating pain in his chest and jaws. Melvin stood up and walked towards the window in hopes that the fresh air would cure him of this sudden pain. When he looked outside he was shocked to see that the landscape had changed; below him was downtown Chicago and there was a man in a striped suit that resembled the CEO of his former company, and he was walking out of a manufacturing plant with a few other men in suits. Melvin was confused and wanted to ensure he wasn’t hallucinating, so he hurriedly walked down the stairs, stumbled through the main entrance, and opened the door. The moment he opened the door, the man in the striped suit, the CEO of his former Company, told him he was sorry to have laid him off, and offered to provide aid to Melvin since he looked so sickly. Melvin, trying to gain his bearings, told him that it was too late, and invited him upstairs to see the sofa where he had done so much contemplating. The CEO, with a look of bewilderment, followed him, keeping a safe distance behind Melvin and cautiously looking around. Once they were both upstairs, Melvin asked his former boss to take a seat on the sofa next to him. Melvin then looked over at him while gasping for air, and conceded that it had taken a great deal of time to combat the depression and anguish that had arisen from losing his job, and that only after he moved in this vacant home and begun reading and learning about historical figures and events, that he was able to find a sense of self-fulfillment. At this point, Melvin had a deathly pale look on his face and had cupped both hands on his heart. Melvin managed to reach for a note he had written from his pocket that he jotted down from his readings, and handed it to the CEO. Melvin then collapsed on the sofa, with one arm across his chest, the other arm dangling down from the sofa, with a look of peace on his face. The CEO unfolded the note, and read it aloud- “the cure for sorrow is to learn something.” Melvin’s wish came true; his last moments were spent on the sofa where he did much learning and underwent a transformation sprung by the very man that shared the sofa with him during his last minutes.

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