The scream of five kids sounds like twenty as they play in the July heat. A drop of water, that can easily be mistaken as sweat, splashes my cheek as I pass by those five kids. Fire hydrants are only for emergencies not for children to be wasting the water on child’s play, I think to myself as I move my least piece of furniture into my new home. I was used to living in luxury, but I needed to do this volunteer work to seem as selfless as possible to my parents so they wouldn’t cut me off. And, it was only for a few months, right? No big deal. Counseling families for free, when I could be making a fortune. This is going to be hell, but I’ll be gone by January. The inside of the house was very humid, that was the first thing that irritated me. There were broken tiles in the bathroom and weird stains on them too. 

I received the first family two weeks after moving in. The Lopez family was made up of a husband and wife with three children of ages 17, 14, and 12. The youngest and oldest were boys, the middle child a girl. The mother and father had a history of severe arguments and domestic abuse, the children were rebellious and usually on their own. I didn’t bother learning their names, I was just eager to get out of this dirty place. I found more weird stains and was starting to get grossed out.  My job was to get them to come together, stop the arguing, make them one happy family, for free. 

I spent 4 months with this family. I counseled many more but this one seemed to never come to terms with their issues. They were the last ones on my list, I was eager to go vacation in the Bahamas but instead was stuck in the Bronx fall. I could see why the agency I applied through was so eager to have a family counselor, I don’t know how I haven’t become insane with all of their bickering and threats, for free. 

As January was rolling in, the family’s attitude suddenly changed. They started taking my advice and worked on the family exercises I assigned them. By the end of the month I was already packing, ready to let them go and to let this city go. They came in for one more meeting on the last Thursday of January. I greeted them at the entrance and escorted them to what had become my office in the past 6 months. The girl carried a bag with her but I paid no attention to it as I turned around and grabbed my notebook 

The father starts speaking in the Spanish accent I’ve learned to decipher. “This was our home before our family was broken up.” 

The family had a history of having their kids sent to foster homes but what did that have to do with my temporary home. “This isn’t my actual home Mr. Lopez, I’m actually leaving next week,” I explain to the family as I turn back around. Sweat starts dripping down my face as I face a knife, capable of taking out my left eye if I make the wrong move.

It is summer once more. The yelling of kids fills my ears as they play in the fire hydrant. This year there are new kids, but the screams all sound the same. There’s a new stain in my old office. I see the new family counselor volunteer inspect it as he moves in. Two weeks later he received his first family, the Lopez family. I watch, stuck in this place for eternity, as the cycle repeats

Chancie Velasquez