Stopping by the Ward Street Dunkin’ Donuts on a Rainy Eve (during the COVID-19 pandemic)

By Rosalie Tirella

So many new CECELIAs to deliver …

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pics: R.T.🎻🎻🎻

… yet today – on this sunny spring day with all the old and young Worcester trees half in bloom and the daffodils outside Price Chopper their buttery-est yellow and the neon-vested construction workers on Millbury Street making THEIR BEAUTIFUL NOISE♥️ again – telling Worcester: WE CHOOSE LIFE! The FUTURE IS OURS! – I choose to stay in my apartment. Under the covers so to speak.

How strange! I’m still in my shorts and tee and old cozy sweater, unshowered – but eating fresh, feasting on the little tangerines I bought yesterday, heating up my leftover tomato-rice mix, topping my bowl off with more cherry tomatoes and the good cheddar cheese I bought yesterday …
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… giving myself some self-love.

BUT I AM AFRAID.

The coronavirus sneaked up on me yesterday! At the end of my work day, around 7 p.m., when I was tired from CECELIA delivery and my guard was down. It was raw and raining. I was outside the slumlord Bob Largesse’s crumby building, on Ward/Stone streets, on the right side of his inner-city liquor store, in front of the Dunkin Donuts.

I saw three homeless people – rough …
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Bob Largesse – Canal District “visionary” – owns this dump. Bob is all about money$$$$.

… dirty, covered in layers of bkack and gray rags. Standing in front of, blocking the front door of, the Dunkin Donuts. One guy, the older one, was missing his four front teeth – or they were pretty rotted. So when he basically told me to go Fu** myself, his thin lips curled up to show me his teeth. His lady friend, long-haired heavier looked annoyed – I was the interloper. The kid – in his 20s – held a dog leash … with no dog attached. That would be the beige pitbull hovering by their calves. He was wearing a red tee shirt meant for a human. Like his masters, he too was trying to seek shelter from the rain, dampness and cold. So they all huddled by the Dunkin’ Donuts front door, under that tinny brown piece of crap roof.

I was with my “pups,” Lilac napping in the corner of my car’s backseat …
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… my high energy Husky-mix Jett boppin’ ’round in back, as he always does (he’s only 12 years old!) But when my hound Lilac got the scent of the pitbull she perked right up and went crazy barking in the back seat.

I grabbed my Dollar Store scissors and a bundle of CECELIAs to make it fast – my delivery – 100 CECELIAs on the DD counter – 100 in their “wrapped” bundle. To deliver cuz the customers love them. I shouted to the little homeless “family”: “CAN YOU MOVE OVER TO THE LEFT? MY DOG IS GOING CRAZY – I DON’T NEED TROUBLE WITH YOUR DOG, AND I NEED TO GET IN TO DELIVER MY PAPERS!

No reaction.

I did not say: You are homeless, bereft, dirty and possibly carrying the novel coronavirus! You are wearing no facial masks! You scare me! And maybe I carry COVID-19 and my bandito mask is slipping off my face and I am too exhausted to readjust it. So I should scare you, too!

Instead I said, the cantankerous old broad I am: “I AM NOT GOING TO GIVE YOU ANY MONEY! LET ME IN!”

And I started the car again and backed up. The pitbull ran onto the highway off ramp, looking comical in his damp red tee shirt, like a pup outa a Charlue Chaplin film. A car whooshing by stopped short, the dog was still running … the older toothless guy grabbed the leash from the kid and went onto the street to get their dog. The man was scrawny and limped and used a gnarly cane that looked like some tree branch he had shorn of its smaller branches and wittled down to some smooth, tan, slippery snake stick.

The medicine show begins!

All the gods are watching us!

But we turn to deviltry!

We are at the end of our COVID 19 tethers – cruel to each other. There is NO VACCINE OR EVEN ANTI-VIRAL MEDS. The package of 30 disposable facial masks I saw at the store today cost $30, and I didn’t have enough money on me to buy them. They flashed before my eyes now, and I thought: I hate poverty. I have been poor all my life! The hard COVID-19 truth.

I said again, turning stubborn, shutting the car engine off: I NEED TO DELIVER MY PAPERS! SOCIAL DISTANCE! YOU ARE LOITERING!!!

And the homeless crew made faces and stood their ground – staked out their three square feet of DD territory.

I had forgotten how I had driven down this street just four months ago – in the dead of a Worcester winter – giving homeless people new warm knit winter hats, gloves and scarves! To help them! Chatting with them under the Green Street bridge, too – and they stuck their pale faces, pock-marked chins into my car, on the passenger side, and patted Lilac on the head and thanked me for my gifts and smiled their toothless smiles – even the beautiful young homeless women.

All that goodness washed away in the COVID 19 rain.

It has been two months and chaos is still here!

I drive by the DCU center, and it looks like a MASH unit with the big white tent, police cruisers, the ambulances, the sawhorses set up all over the place … lost souls with backpacks looking at me with scared eyes. No more bar life here or hockey fun or Woo memorabilia to be sold or jaunty college youth walking in freshly the painted crosswalks. Now sickness and death.

My crew before the Ward Street DD maybe decided to skip all this stuff, to omit the City’s new homeless shelters, the City of Worcester-sponsored coronavirus tests for at-risk populstions like the homeless, the National Guard on hand to guide and help during emergencies. Nope. Not for this round and hard as a chestnut crew huddled together before the front door of the Ward Street Dunkin’ Donuts. They would be free of the societal responsibilities, society in general.

But in my way. I am still trying to do my life’s work!

I should have driven home yesterday and tried again today. But I had dug in, too, like the homeless crew. This old lady who has been running her feisty little rag for almost 20 years. MY RIGHT to deliver my papers to the DD I have been delivering to for years. So I rolled up my car windows and sat in my jalopy, waiting. Waiting. Too tired to think.

Lucky for all of us, the kid behind the counter at the Dunkin Donuts came out in the rain and stood by my car window and grimaced. He was scrawny and pale – and wore his face mask, which he pulled down to talk to me. All the fast food kids make this mistake! All of a sudden my heart broke! He said: THEY CAN STAY HERE! THEY ARE PAYING CUSTOMERS! I showed him my car stuffed with my newspapers – my mask had slipped down too, so we were both talking to each other a foot apart, my car window down, no barriers between us. He said, annoyed at playing ump: DO YOU WANT ME TO BRING THEM IN?!

YES! I said.

I gave him my bundle of CECELIAs through my open car window, and then I drove home. At home I felt infected, guilty, lost, fearful, hating myself. Lost in the brutal America my country has become. Always was if you are poor. I felt covered in novel coronavirus microbes, their red and green coronas sparkly, rolling in the Worcester night, latching on to the starlight and my lungs. That Dunkin Dounts kid – I had forced him out of his work place … he pulled his face mask down in the sea of billions and billions of coronaviruses … and the scared little pitbull in floppy red tee shirt meant for a human. And the homeless “family” sheltering from it all, not believing in science or Worcester outreach workers, or physical distancing or face masks. Just believing in themselves.

The Dunkin Donuts on Ward/Stone streets …

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