When my father and I deliver meals Saturday mornings, our first stop is the apartment complex behind the hospital, the one with the Tudor façade and sign that reads This is a Drug Free Building, where sagging boxes clutter the balcony and feral cats sun their bellies on the stone staircase. I take a foil-wrapped tray up to the second floor, first door on the left. The man inside wobbles, tipping back and back before grabbing the door to steady himself. I try to ignore his lazy eye and hand him his food. My father slips a second meal through the window on the end of the porch. If it’s locked, he taps on the glass. The man is in there, putting on rubber gloves so he can take what we bring him from the world outside. When we deliver meals to the tiny woman on Delsol Lane, she’s naked except for a white bed sheet clutched to her chest, and she nearly falls to her knees before dropping onto the couch beside an open package of crackers. Cornflakes spill from the dog dish on the porch, and she says she’s starving because she hasn’t seen anyone in a long time and cannot make her stove work, though someone brings her hot food every day and her stove is only unplugged. When we deliver meals to the woman in the house with the peeling paint, I wait in the car while my father goes to the door. She lives off Idaho Street, in the heart of a weedy lot surrounded by chain link. An orange plastic chair, the kind once found in school classrooms, sits beside the stoop, next to a wooden ladder with two broken rungs. He leaves the meal on the threshold inside the screen door, and as we drive away, we glimpse her bending for her food, a pink flash of housecoat, a breath of white hair. When my father and I deliver meals to the woman in the Section 8 apartments behind the cancer center, he stays in the car while I punch the four-digit code to get inside. She’s on the couch where she fell asleep playing solitaire, her forehead pressed against the seat of her front-wheeled walker. I set the meal beside her, on a mess of used tissues, and shake her shoulder until she stirs. When we deliver meals to the widower in the tin-roofed house on the way to the paper mill, my father goes around back, to the shop where the old man builds model airplanes. If the old man sees my father first, he sneaks up behind him and pokes his finger in my father’s ribs. “Stick ‘em up,” he says and laughs until he cries. When we deliver meals to the Fleetwood wilderness camper on the east end of town, where a deep freeze sits in the dirt alongside an exercise bike and a mewing black cat, yesterday’s meal may still be in the cooler because the man drinks and sometimes forgets to eat. My father and I take turns going to the door, and if he answers, we hold our breath against the ammoniac smell of urine. When we deliver meals to the man on Lindsay Creek Road, past the Lucky Inn and the taxidermy shop, we turn into the trailer park, first singlewide on the left. A rope holds up the driver’s-side window of his SUV and a broken-down Winnebago is parked out front. If we’re lucky and the man answers the door, we get to see his glorious hair: thick and shimmering, cascading down his shoulders in silver waves; if God were real, this is what he would look like. When we deliver meals to the Ho Hum Motel, our final stop out by the bus station, to the two old women with the same last name, one of them always asks, “Do you by chance have an extra?”
There are never any extras.
And as we drive away, we talk about the weather or we don’t say anything at all. We try not to think about them, these sisters who share a single room, a bed, same as when they were girls. We try not to look behind us either, at the motel with the red neon sign: no vacancy.