Sunday, March 30, 2014
I always was running some type of drag because I came to believe my own bullshit was real. I would overcharge or middleman or use the fuck out of my parents because I had the swagger. You owe me BECAUSE. Because my life was fucked. Because I was in pain. Because I had the best in my mind for the people directly around me. Because, Because, Because by this time, I did not know any different. In fact, selling drugs seemed to be a step up in the self esteem. At least I was working for my drugs and my money. I was no longer turning tricks or getting welfare or selling my food stamps (well unless my re-up money came up short). I liked to think of myself as an honest person and I had lost the ability to see what honest was unless it somehow benefitted me.
I learned to lie from my dad. He would lie his fucking ass off. No, I'm not drunk as he staggered into the house. It was his right to drink, you know BECAUSE but it was not something he felt like he could be honest about. Lying to your family. Not only did you drive home drunk but you spent up your money at the bar. He could not be himself. He was always someone and somewhere else. The lying starts to feel like a comfortable pair of shoes. Anything thing else becomes too constricting to have around you. The lies are old and tired and worn yet you become completely unsure how to get anywhere unless they are leading the way. The fear is that the truth is just too painful to accept so you just keep walking until your soles are worn out.
I believed that day I would return the money.
"you have to go to the hospital Daniel" I tell him gently.
He is searching through his bag and tells me "I am not going."
We had been sleeping in a parking garage because it was cold and raining last night. Homeless kids huddled together in piles around the beams that held up the roof to avoid both the rain drops and the cars. As I look at Daniel in the first light, I can see the yellow surrounding his eyes. He has a raging case of Hepatitis A and whatever else he may have contracted on the streets.
"Man I can't find a dry shirt Trace." He leans over and gives me a kiss "I have to piss"
I am freezing. I am well and I am freezing. I am making a few hundred dollars a day selling drugs in the early mornings and I am sleeping in a fucking parking garage. Because. Two habits.
I hear a moaning semi crying noise and I know it is Daniel. I had the Hep before, I knew what happened. I had been laid up in a hotel for almost a month with brown piss and white shit, yellow eyes, and a dope habit .His was much worse. His piss is either brown or full of blood. He might have an infection from holding it all day. Yet another fucking thing. And he won't go to the hospital because they will only give him 10 mg of methadone. I get up, grab his bag and walk over to the side of the garage were he has tears in his eyes from the pain.
"I'm going to do it babe " I tell him "I'm going to fucking do it."
And so a plan was formed. One of these dealers was going to give me a sack and I was going to walk off with it. I was not going to stand there. I was not going to serve people for three hours and get a spare bag or two for all my felonies. I was taking everything and we were going to the hospital. And that was what happened. He laid up in the hospital and shot up in his IVs while I slept in the bushes out somewhere far from the Tenderloin. He sold some of the dope to other patients and I got my mom to send me money to cover some of the costs. I would lay next to the side of a church fixing dope, hiding from everyone until I had the money to repay so someone did not kick my head in over a bag the dealer offered for anyone that would beat my ass. The hospital kicked me out every day. Not because I was a bad influence but because I was not his family. But we were. We were bound by blood and lies and pain. What else makes a family?
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
Friday, March 21, 2014
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Saturday, March 15, 2014
I must have been up for a few days or maybe it just felt like this to me. The days blending into night back into days. I was selling heroin at the time. It had seemed like a dream job minus people trying to cut my throat to get me drugs. The dealers used to send out four packages. The Mexican runners had one a piece. Then there was two dope fiends that would serve the others. The deals were made fast and furious. You only had three hours tops to make all your sales before these guys were packing it in to go home. The street dealers had girlfriends and families out in the East Bay.
Monday, March 10, 2014
Saturday, March 8, 2014
“It’ll change you forever,” they said. “This job makes you cynical.” Heard it often when I first started. Cops say the same thing.
It’s true, my job has changed me fundamentally and forever, only it hasn’t made me a cynic. I hope it never will. Sure, I’ve seen the ugly side of humanity. Daily. But that is why I signed up, to trudge along the darker streets of my city among those who find themselves hurt, sick, alone, afraid, beaten, shotdown… But humans aren’t irrevocably evil. I’d rather believe people, as a whole, are fundamentally good, and beautiful… sometimes tragically so. Yes, we have the ability to inflictastonishing pain unto others and, especially, ourselves. But this has only caused me to see how triumphant we can be at the end of it all.
We are some tough motherfuckers. The resilience of the human spirit never ceases to amaze me. We can find ourselves at the very definition of slimy bottom, having nothing, feeling nothing, seemingly wanting nothing, and rise, slowly, steadily, out of the quagmire of hopelessness. It is at our worst that we show our best.
Losing hope is easy. I’m sure I could do it. Go about my day, doing what I can, detach, go home, come back to work 2 days later, rinse, repeat. I can look at the troupe of kids in the crumbling two flat amidst squalor and irrevocable poverty and whisper “you never had a chance.” I can look at that young lost girl form the suburbs, the scarred landscape of her forearms, and whisper “you chose to be like this.” I can look at that man under the Lake Street tracks, wet and frostbit and hungry and alone, and look away, maybe even get a little annoyed: “it’s nobody’s fault but yours.” I can ignore the person, I can ignore the story,I can ignore the truth. Fuck that. Not me.
Most of us will jump at the opportunity to tell people all the nasty grizzly bloody fiery “cool” stuff we see. Fine. You get used to it, and most simply wear it like another badge. You deal with it in whatever way you deem fit, you tell whomever will listen or you run 5 miles or you golf or you drink or whatever.
The look, however, I can’t seem to shake. That look. I’ve looked in the eyes of many people I’ve just Narcan’d back to life and the results are almost always the same: confusion, then effusive gratitude, then a timid request to turn up the heat, and then… something in their eyes I can’t quite describe. Fear? Shame? Hopelessness? Frustration? Pain? I don’t know. But that look cuts deep. It goes into you and through you. And I know, unlike other times when someone got beat up or can’t breathe or is having a heart attack or got shot or hit by a car – there’s nothing I can do. Turn up the heat, get them an extra blanket, wish them luck.
The war vet, riding the down-sloping funnel that PTSD can be, using his prescription meds to treat not so much his shattered knees and back, but his broken mind instead. He had the look. So did his frustrated but ever-caring mother. By the 4th time wemeet we’re on a first-name basis. The 6th time I finally don’t have enough time or enough Narcan or enough luck to make any difference, and the peace he so sought in this world I can onlyhope he finds in the next.
It’s not just ODs. Pinned eyes or not, that look is everywhere here.
The 16-yr old girl bouncing between mom and dad’s abusive homes, numbing her pain with anything she could get her hands on since the age of 13… definitely had the look. And, what canI do? To correct her tailspin she needs many things. Expensive things. She needs honest doctors. Sympathetic social workers. A treatment program designed to treat her very unique needs. A support network to at least mimic a parent’s warm embrace. But, in this moment, looking into her big, dark, lost, watery eyes… what can I do? Turn up the heat, get her an extra blanket, wish her luck, and hope we never get on a first-name basis.
I chose this. This is my city, my home. Not a lot of people I grew up with ever got out. Most of those that did get outSTAYED the fuck out. I jumped back in. I like the stink of it. But, if I’m to continue roaming these dark alleys and pretending like “that look” doesn’t haunt me, then I have to believe that some will beat it, that it can be conquered. I refuse to get cynical. That would mean giving up. I have to believe in the ultimate triumph of the human spirit, that those in seemingly inescapable pain will find salvation, not in a needle or in a church but within themselves. I have to believe in the fight.
Wednesday, March 5, 2014
She doesn't notice me. I am just an observer watching life go past me. I am headed in another direction. I am on my way home. But we were in the same place. I feel the anxiety creeping up on me. My feet start to sweat inside my shoes. As I brush against the turnstiles, I feel the heaviness in my chest. I feel the breaths becoming labored. My autonomic systems are no longer in alignment. I feel hot as the redness enters my cheeks. The panic sets in as I walk further to the escalator. Can I make it to my destination. I forget how to put one foot in front of the other. I am freezing in a public space. The tingling starts in my arms. The numbness reaches my face.
Can everyone see that I don't belong here. When I look into people's faces, they look so strange. They look like animals or characters from a horror film. Like demons with no faces sent to torment me. I just want the door to open. I walk by the yellow line. I imagine being hit by the train. My thoughts are no longer my own. I exhale. The sadness creeps into my consciousness. The door slowly opens. I made it on the train.
I have everything that should make me feel happy. Yet some days I just feel empty. Some days, I am just struggling to get through the day. These thoughts intrude upon my daily my life. The food become flavorless and my mouth has a bitter taste. Yet I manage. And so I continue on. I ride the train. I feel the hot tears suppressed for the words I never got to share with you. I feel the tightness in my throat as I choke on endless apologies.
The girl that walked passed me at the train station. I saw myself and it made me panic. I should have recognized myself. I could be in the same place but I kept moving on.
Sunday, March 2, 2014
The door slams.
My friend bolts from the porch "Let's get the fuck out of here."
I can hear the dogs barking inside. All thirteen of them. In the driveway is a broken down Cadillac. This house is very similar to this car. You could tell at one time it was top of the line. Upstairs, there are bedrooms with crushed red velvet wallpaper. Inside the rooms there is a custom made two piece round bed. It was plush and fascinating to me. I could only imagine what it looked like in it's prime. Now it was covered in burn holes from someone sleeping in bed. There were awkward Louis the XVI looking furniture covered in dog hair. The dogs had to be released in shifts as some of them did not get along. There was a fat old cat with a ripped ear. He only came around occasionally. He gave you a sideways stare as if to say you know these people are crazy right?
My friend could not wait to get out of the house. The living room was populated with familial strife. The geriatric father had his position on one part of the couch. He still was half owner of the house despite the fact that he and the mother had long since separated. She was seated in her chair surrounded by her three dogs and empty 40s of Milwaukee's Best. She had kept up the trappings of a previous generation with her teased blonde hair and her cigarette case. She was thirty years his junior. He must have plucked her up as a wide eyed young girl and turned her into a bitter old maid. She held court from her chair at the bottom of the stairs. He sat next to her dutifully. She was completely dependant on his government checks. He was completely dependant on her hostile companionship.
She had a new man now- a young one. So young in fact, he used to date her daughter. The boyfriend was a young parolee full of rage. He was the type to wear tinted glasses so you could not see what he was really thinking in those darting eyes. He has a handful of large silver and turquoise rings, the type that cut a lady's face when he hit her in the mouth. The Cadillac was left immobile after his last domestic dispute with the mother. He had put his fist through the windshield to hit her in the face for daring to go to the store without his permission. The old car had once been a shiny gift from her husband. Now it was a relic of good love gone bad.
My friend never wanted me to go inside. This place was so different from my house. My house was filled with dysfunctional silence and suppressed emotions. In this place, everything was out in the open. We were going off to smoke weed. I am not sure why we bothered to go to the park across the street. We could have easily done the same thing in the house, although we might have had to share with the boyfriend.
We were both so young. I had just moved out of my parents house at 17. I had told my mother essentially if I did not get out of there, I could not be held responsible for what might happen. My anger towards my father was boiling over to the point I fantasized daily about causing his death. His drinking was unbearable to me. My years of embarrassment had turned to rage. My friend was 13 or 14 but he seemed like a grown up person to me. He seemed so sophisticated compared to me. I was a country bumpkin who had never been anywhere or done anything. Yet we had so many things in common, especially our utter inability to function in the world.
We sat in the park that day. We made promises to each other that we never kept. We met up many years later. I had become like his mother, in some ways like my own mother. I had just left my own abuser. My ex had told me I was fat. I was stupid. I was lazy. I was never going to do shit. I was never going to be shit without him. He got my name tattooed on his neck. He loved me and he left me. What does a person do when everyone they love betrays them? They no longer trust themselves or their decisions. I was about to make my own choices, they may be some poor ones but at least I knew they were my own
"Are you sure you want to do this?" my friend asked.
I was determined "of course I want to do it!"
No one was home except for the dogs. We sat in the kitchen and he prepped the shot. His using had advanced to the next level of using drugs I also needed to step up my game. I needed to catch up. It felt so strange to be back in the same place. I had tried to stop and be a good girl friend. I have even gone six months without drinking. But that got me nothing but alone.
He was putting together some pills. Vicodin? Percs? Yes. We were bored and stupid. We also shared the same needle which had been shared with at least five other people before us. And so I had him shoot me up in the kitchen with drugs I barely felt because I did not have the courage to do it myself. I wanted to feel something and nothing at the same time.
I was back in the same place yet something about me was different. Life had made me harder. But some things never changed like this place. The people had changed, a little. The boyfriend no longer walked the Earth. His obituary was right above the mother's head. As she sipped her beer she drowned the memory of the fact that her son had killed him in this very place. A lot of things went on while I was gone.
We were all searching for something in life. It would not be long until my childhood friend and I found it in the bottom of the spoon.