It's not a hostel if you live here

A woman walking past a bone white door to smoke would generally have garnered little fanfare had she not been 13 weeks pregnant. It wasn't her first cigarette nor likely her last though I have learned that being is Ashland requires a bit of finesse and aloofness. This is not my problem and my opinion on the matter is irrelevant. There seems to be infinite problems but finite solutions at this hostel and its best to keep your head down. So when the manager-Jumping Jeffery-is wearing red and blue tights, looking like Superman's stoned brother with the worst documented case of mammal-toe; I laugh and try to not stare at the train wreck that is his crotch. Personal responsibility is a personal matter and we are the makers of our own destiny. Then came Zoe.

Zoe was not like the others, she had options. As I walked through the bone white door two days ago, Zoe was damp and covered in a scant white towel, having just locked herself out of her dorm. We met later that night and spoke about the paths one takes during life. Zoe had married an Argentinian man, had his child, is a ballet class away from a history degree and waits tables at night. Unlike those around her, she doesn't complain about her situation or of being powerless.

In a household where people don't spend $200 on food a month, Zoe spends that on jeans. "I won't buy a shirt for under $40," she says with cinnamon on her pink lips between slurps of cafe latte at downtown Ashland coffeehouse Mix. Glass windows magnifies the winter sun's rays and she wears oversized-sunglasses inside. Plastic discs colored like old time lollipops refracts light onto a brick wall while the scent of pastries hangs in the air. "You're wearing woman's sunglasses," she laughs. "They don't have a tampon holder," I respond. "Besides you're pissed mine are more fashionable than yours." I too am wearing glasses inside and somehow I feel at peace in this strange town.

Zoe thinks I am callous and indifferent to the plight of my fellow hostellers, which is a bit of a misnomer considering that they all live here permanently. Plights include the following: addiction to methamphetamine, violence, child rearing and other issues surrounding poverty. A strange dynamic is taking place around us and here I am trying to stay buoyant amongst the jetsam.

I judge them to harshly, Zoe says. She's right but I believe that every person is responsible for their own happiness. Zoe retorts that her and I have benefited from an upbringing and that has enabled us to become successful. How successful am I? How much different am I from those around me?

Hers is the kindness that restores my faith in humanity and I will attempt to be more caring for my fellow man. Smoking while a woman is pregnant is hard to swallow but I'm getting used to it.