“That’s my cube!”

“That’s my cube!”

His little buzzed-cut head came up to that awkward bony part of my calf that sits right below my knee.

I looked down my long arm at the white wall I’d put my hand on, then back down at the sweet face. His pointer finger was stretching towards the smaller-than-normal cubicle that someone had managed to fit two child-sized beds in.

I smiled, “Yeah? It’s yours?”

“Yeah, that’s my cube!” he said, stretching his finger higher into the sky.

“It’s such a nice cube.”

“Those are my jeans!”

“That’s my sweater!”

“Hey, that’s my shirt, why did you go into my closet?”

“Who said you could wear my cardigan?”

“That’s my spot on the couch!”

“Jenna, where’s my toothpaste?”

This is the ongoing struggle of having a fifteen year old sister: we can essentially share everything we own with each other, yet absolutely hate the idea of it.

We claim things and we claim people like we are God.

And there’s a little boy off an exit in Smyrna who can only claim a small cubicle full of donated sheets and donated pillows and donated blankets and donated toys and donated clothes; he can’t even claim his styrofoam dinner plate, let alone the meal that we’re feeding him.

So at dinner, I ask him if he wants the egg casserole or the French toast, and he shies away, that little finger pointing at the French toast. He makes me smile. His friends and mother and his mother’s friends make me smile.

The first time I walked the halls of the church, I had been a junior in high school. Someone at my school had looked at me and said, “You: you can handle this responsibility” and I’d been nominated for a role I wasn’t sure I fit into.

My mom, she fit the part. Her heart was hungry to feed, craving to love, eager to learn and connect with the women at the shelter.

Now I walk the halls as a junior in college, and I know that little boy can’t even claim the cubical he’s so proud of; his mom will grow in the discipleship program until she’s reached her goal, and they will be gone.

“That’s my cube!” he said.

I’m handing him his french toast on his styrofoam plate and thinking about the boy who has my heart.

“That’s my cube!” he said.

He’s coming back for seconds because he doesn’t know if anyone will be there with breakfast to serve him tomorrow, and I’m remembering the day I threw away every momento and picture from their hiding place in my favorite book only to wish I could slip new memories between the pages.

“That’s my cube!”

He’s thanking me– thanking me– for his meal, and I’m trying to remember how “I love you” sounded the way it sounded that night in April.

I didn’t ever sit down and think about being the girl who served suppers at shelters. Just like I didn’t see myself being the girl who people thanked for her words.

No, with all my might and willpower I thought of how I could be the ghost girl, the girl who left a hole when she was gone. My time was spent trying to be stunning, trying to captivate. Sure, there were words in my heart that beat so heavy they hurt my own chest, and I knew I was meant for a life spent shrinking in the midst of inflating my Jesus.

But I wanted to dance in the light of being missed so much it hurt; I wanted to be the face behind the sleepless nights and the thirty minute drives to make everything right because life without me was hard.
Because life without him has been so hard. And he sleeps at night just fine. And I’ve missed him so much it hurts. And his car isn’t ever going to just be sitting in my driveway.

There’s a little boy who lives in a church in Smyrna because his mom used to live under the bridges of the city I fell in love in. Sometimes strangers bring him his meals, and sometimes no one shows up. He is so very proud of his cubicle that he lives in with his mom. For the night, I’m on his radar, telling him how much I love his cube and giving him an extra slice of french toast. And maybe someday, when he has a family of his own, he’ll tell his little kids who are so proud of their rooms or their outfits or their toys about the time he found joy in bragging about his cubicle. And maybe he’ll remember me– not my face or my voice or my name. But maybe he’ll remember me because for the first time he had something he could claim: a friend.

I want to be so much more than just the girl someone doesn’t know how to let go of.


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