Yesterday, I ran into someone I have known for years–or did know. “Jacob” was the director at a residential program my then-therapist recommended me to after my parents wanted rid of me–again. It was a residential treatment center for people with mental illness looking for a way to live independently. I saw him in the lobby yesterday after going down the stairs at the mental health center. He has hardly changed. He was still tall and slim and had long hair and a beard. True, his hair was white and he wore glasses, but you would know him anywhere. His clothes were a bit more “business” than when I knew him 30 years ago, but they were still trendy–“young”. I was shocked he still worked at the mental health center. After he left the directorship of the “house” in the 1990’s, he worked as a clinician (talk therapist) at the mental health center’s East office where I went to attend therapy after an ER visit due to an especially perpy day. I was there 7 years, left for 10 and am back now for over 2. Now he’s an Executive of the Mental Health Center. The Center has grown very large. They were pretty much a startup when I first went there in 1990. Since I have been a part of “mental health” services since the early 1980s I remember there were a few more private hospitals in town but I don’t know if there was a Center like the one I go to. I’m thinking Health and Hospitals took on outpatients as well as private therapists who took Medicare/Medicaid. The place where I have stayed twice was open in 1976 and there had to have been mental health services before then. The City still has a separate mental health program but its conducted in an old smelly building that used to be the main mental hospital. You can still see the bathtubs in the restrooms upstairs. You can feel the “ghosts” of patients past in there. “Jacob” is now a big shot, but still an “old hippie”. He sort of stood out in the preppy 1980s. After a short interview I was invited for “dinner at the house”. It was July 18, 1985. It was a warm, dry day. I had gotten there early. Dinner was at 6:30 back then. I thought it was sort of late because we ate at 6 every night at home. I remember sitting in the shade of a huge, old elm tree and listening to the cicadas sing and asking myself why my therapist of 3 years and my mother wanted me there. I was not dangerous or out of the hospital or did drugs. I was currently dropped out of college because of low grades and lack of interest. I had a job working the overnight shift at a gas station/convenience store. I was the one who sat in the little hut and collected the money. It was a busy street full of nightclubs and I’d get some rude and drunk customers. I drove myself to the huge red brick building that used to be a convent in my old Plymouth Fury III with the AM radio and no A/C. The transmission sucked, too. I was 19. I went inside just before dinner started and got the customary greeting: “why don’t you go into the kitchen and see if the cook needs help?” The cook didn’t. Dinner was announced with a huge chuck-wagon triangle. We sat down for dinner. The dinner was my community interview. People would ask you questions about yourself, your “illness”, what you intended to do when you were there, and your long term goals. You either had to work or go to school and had to see a therapist. I remember feeling scared of Jacob because he was so big. I felt judged and thought for sure I would not get in. End of story. II. I was called the next day. I had gotten in. I was to move into the house in 2 days. I would pay 63 bucks a week for rent and 6 dinners a week. (I told you I was old). You could also nab leftovers and government “commodities” for lunch if you were home at midday. Breakfast food was bought by residents and stored in cupboards. You would get a section of a cupboard for your cereal, etc… I was making 130 bucks a week after taxes so it would work. A “buffet” apartment where I lived in the 1990s now goes for 1050.00! I paid 265.00 when I lived there with utilities covered. The rent at the community is still pretty low considering the rents in the city since they have to cater to people on benefits, mostly. Toilet paper and linens were provided but not anything else like toothpaste, soap, cosmetics, etc….. I lived in a “shared” bedroom because it was cheaper. I think the singles were 80 a week or so or even a little more. I lived in room 3 I think. The rooms were nun’s cells before, so the singles were tiny, but the doubles were larger but without a sink. I remember there being some kind of destroyed nasty shag type carpetting and no screen on the window which was common in this area back then before climate change provided more summer bugs. My roommate didn’t seem to like me. She was up in her 30’s and had a good job. She was a substance abuser, so up on the house’s social scale. She was haughty and cold and got really angry at me when I looked through her record collection. I should not have but didn’t have many social skills after my isolated childhood and wild adolescence. She was always laughing and flirty with everyone but me. I saw social disaster for me. Her eyes were always red but she swore she was sober. We lived next door to the tub bathroom and down the hall from the smoking room. When I was first there, there was a tornado warning and I remember sitting on my bed and looking out the window at the pouring rain and hearing the sirens. It was hot up there but summer was already almost over once I was settled so I didn’t suffer that much. There were no fans. I kept going to my gas station job from 10pm-6am across town then tried to sleep at the “house” during the day. It was very stressful. The “house” was noisy during the day and I only got a few hours of sleep. In September, I transferred to another location nearer the house and got to switch to day shift. I even got an engraved name tag instead of one put on with Avery sticky tape. At first I didn’t fit in, and and I did not think I would last very long. First of all, I was the youngest there, and my problems did not seem as severe as the other residents at the time. Turns out they probably would have seemed more normal if they weren’t on huge doses of “old generation” neuroleptics. Jacob, who seemed to take a liking to me, said I was “high functioning”. A high functioning WHAT? My dx has changed a million times, getting “worse” each time! I do not believe my dx. I think I am and always was Asperger’s, which is mild autism. I also grew up in a cold home and did not know how to give or receive love. Thank God for my Grandma who did show love! The people at the house that were at the top of the pecking order were the substance abusers and people with eating disorders. People with mental illness were underneath. The substance abusers tended to be younger and less drugged than than the mentally ill people as well. Later, two 18 years olds moved in after I turned 20, so my time as the “baby” was short. After a month or so, people started talking to me, and my “roomie” had left the house over some rule infraction. I almost always had the room to myself after that. I’d get roomies off and on but they’d spend the night away from the house, etc…it was sort of weird. I got sort of an extra large single room. Soon, I made a friend of a new arrival. She was the divorced wife of a local DJ and had depression. She was so depressed she was made to get ECT which fried her short term memory. She had also lost custody of her sons. She accepted me immediately. She was in her early 30s and was sort of a big sister to me. She went out and bought a little coffeepot and we’d have coffee in her room Number 2 every morning. We would go out with others to a local bar where I did a little underage drinking and later some legal drinking. I also made friends with a young man from England who was tall and dark with blue eyes and loved “new wave” music. (what’s that Grandma?) We went on trips to the ice cream parlor with staff. I made friends with the two staff members, also. The lady staffer, C, had ridden into this city on a HORSE when she came here to live! The male staffer was kind to me sort of like an older brother. I remember going to the movies with him and he may have been the one who let me ride with him on his motorcycle! Staffers were usually Divinity students getting internships working with us. There was one young man who was always “coming onto” me, and there was another guy who hated me but he seemed to be the only one. For the first time in my life I felt “accepted”. Between the social activities at the house, my then-“boyfriend”, my job, pen pals, and my family I really felt I had a life. I was always on the go. It was too bad Ms. Coffee turned into a perp later. I got 40 hours a week at work and regular days off at the new location. They even gave me hours for “watching the store” during remodeling. Strange, my boss gave me a copy of Animal Farm to read while I watched the store. Did he “know”? One of my little rituals was to eat the breakfast buffet at Big Boy on Saturday morning, one of my days off. I also remember putting 10 bucks of gas in the car on Friday night after I got off work. I think work even cashed our checks. I was so proud of myself–3 years before I was locked up in a psych ward and now I was living away from my parents, working, had my car with me, had some friends, and felt good for the first time in my life. I tried Clove cigarettes (terrible for your lungs) at the little coffeehouse, got high in the park with another resident and went back to the house and lay on my bed in fear that Jacob would come in and know I was high!!! There were mostly special and some not-so-special memories from the house. There was a woman I met who had anorexia and we found a sick bird. She knew a woman who did bird rehab and we sent the bird to her across town. The bird woman had a huge Checker car called the Bird Ambulance. I got to go to a fancy dress dinner in Spring ’86 in a borrowed dress. I bought fancy stockings, shoes, and earrings. The female staffer made me up. The featured celebrity there complimented my looks! Another time, I went in Ms. Coffee’s car into the hills to a remote bar. We were coming home and Ms. Coffee was drunk? and the man who always wanted to get it on with me had to drive. It was 2 or 3 am when we got back to town. He was a smartass and would try and go thru the synchronized lights just as they turned green. At one intersection, another car was running a red and smashed into us. A window blew out and the car was totalled but no one was really hurt, just bruises. I remember the day Challenger blew up–I was trying to get food stamps. It was in February ’86. In December ’85 a bunch of us went into the hills and cut down a Christmas tree. I remember being so happy helping to decorate it! I went crazy with my new independence! I dyed my hair blue!! It lasted a week. The customers at work were angry with it. Now, it’s common. I did it when it was risque. Ms. Coffee and a group of us went to Easter Sunrise Services outside–I had always wanted to do it and I did! I also went camping with a few other residents and went on a rafting trip (my only one) in 1987. Cooking dinner, especially on Sunday, was an adventure. You had to be “cook” once every two weeks. You had to plan your meal, keep it within the draconian budget, cook it, set the table, serve it, then CLEAN UP. It was here I discovered I liked to cook. Cooking on Sunday could go for hours, especially if you had to finish cleaning up after Sunday Meeting. Jacob seemed to take an interest in me. There was a diner a block away and we’d go for a One Dollar Breakfast (2 eggs, toast, home fries), fifty cent coffee (take that, Starbucks!) and sometimes a Dollar slice of Baklava. He acted like he wanted me to succeed in life. I felt like I was sort of in his “inner circle” of residents and ex-residents that he liked. Another resident that Jacob liked was a serious young man who had had to drop out of Oral Roberts University. This guy asked me out but he was too sick at the time and when I met him later he was better and he wasn’t interested in me anymore. I was attracted to the cute dark English guy with the blue eyes and freckles anyway. He would share his Walkman and we would go on walks. I think they had Walkman players with plugs for 2 sets of earplugs then. He would tease and tickle me. He even tried to kiss me. I would’ve gone with him but he was bi and AIDS was a big threat then. He had a tragic end about a year after I left the house. I used to visit his memorial when I lived closer to it and talk to him. There was the fun day when the volunteers arrived and we all helped to paint the house! I kept my old U2 t-shirt with peach colored paint on it for years since it became a memory of better times in my increasingly dark life. I spent a lot of time in Jacob’s office. We “just talked” and he did not mind. He almost felt like an uncle to me or a much older brother. On Sunday night we had a “spiritual” group that was very faintly Christian and Jacob would wear jeans and my feelings (and other girls) were far from filial then. He was married though and I met his pretty wife at the Christmas Party. My best memory was when the staff and residents surprised me with cake and ice cream on my 20th birthday! I had not had a Birthday Party since age 10 and that is when all the other girls turned on me at my own party–how sweet! so this little party was great. People seemed genuinely happy I would celebrate my milestone birthday there. Finally out of my teens! I have not had a birthday party since. Soon I will be 50 and since I am targeted I’m sure there will be NO PARTY. I did not know that in 1985-1986 I was living in paradise and the hell of targeting would soon steal all my joy bit by agonizing bit. II Like all good things, my house stay came to an end. I had quit my gas station job in March ’86 then I got an on-call job at a shoe store stocking shoes that didn’t pay enough to stay at the house. I had to leave without my dream of moving into one of the transitional “satellite” apartments nearby. They rented for about 300. I moved “home” in June, 1986. I went to Florida to become a professional groupie but came back in only 5 weeks since I was only getting paid what I was getting back home but my room was 88.00 a week without food. I went back to school in early 1987, graduated in late 1988 and did not find permanent work. By 1989 it was bad at home. I still hadn’t found work beyond “temping” and my mother and I were at each others throats. My sister was still in college and I was on the outs with my Grandma by late 1989 since she started taking my parents side on everything instead of being my advocate. My father had had bypass in the Spring, my Aunt had been incapacitated by an ill-advised surgery, and I had become a TARGET and did not know it. I lost both my Grandma and Aunt the next year. My mother booted me out of the house just before Christmas in 1989, giving me some money my Grandma had gifted me with at birth. It wasn’t much, but at least she didn’t just boot me onto the street. Since I had never looked for an apartment before, I ended up back at the HOUSE again. This second time it was not as pleasant, however. Jacob was still there then, and I was welcomed back, but it was DIFFERENT now. First of all, I was not the “youngest” anymore. I was not a cute little teen all bubbly with youth and energy. Also, Jacob seemed different. He said to me, “boy, have you grown up,” like it was disappointing. Was I to remain a child forever like Peter Pan? Life had gotten rough and so had I. I had a single room this time and it was 465.00 a month. I paid monthly this time since I had money starting out, plus my “graduation gift” was a 1st month’s rent at my 1st apartment, so this was “it”. The first room, Number 15, was tiny and right off the library smoking room. Later, I moved to room “1” across a men’s double that was very noisy since they played fantasy baseball and their printer was always running. It was also over the steep kitchen stairs that a lot of old homes have: sort of like servant stairs, so I’d get foot traffic going up the stairs. “2” was the room where Ms. Coffee had stayed. The second friend I made at the “house” I met the day I came to dinner. She was in a crisis over dinner being done on time and here I was to save the day. And so it went. We were friends for years. The “house” was different, somehow. The atmosphere was more hostile. There were a group of residents and a few hangers on that “ruled” the house” and they held court in the “library”. They were like the adult version of the Mean Girls or something. They harassed a man out of the house when I was there and probably were relishing the thought of his destruction but he just moved on and was fine. I tried to ingratiate myself with these bullies but they hated my new friend so I ended up loathing them. By that time in history, society was becoming more cruel and perpy. A man that came to dinner said he had a breakdown after seeing the movie “Heathers” which I thought was so weak of him since I only thought the movie was about bullying…I looked it up last night and the movie has murder and violence in it…and kind of “predicts” as The Powers That Be often do the school shootings that would start 10 years later. There was a victim of SRA that had become a Christian but still had MPD. She could switch to one of her child personalities on a dime. That was almost a deal breaker for me. The worst people from before were schizophrenics. Two of the men were Vietnam Vets, one of them physically disabled. The other was married to one of my old counselors from the hospital where I stayed at 16. They had a suicide plot and one bailed and the other survived but their friendship was OVER. Another man would DIE during his stay there because he had a heart attack and could not get treatment without insurance. I’m surprised he wasn’t taken to the city hospital where they treated indigents. Instead, the hospital down the street sent him home and he died. He was 55. He started a “baking club” at the house where residents would get together and bake one night a week or so. There was always junk to eat in the house after that. I met a woman with horrible SI scars and horrific art that she drew depicting a rape. A man jumped out of a second story window and broke his ankles. The house was a dark place now. I only had a PT temp job this time. Because I had that extra money I went out and splurged on highlights for my hair for a then absurd 80 bucks. I went to Wal Mart and got some sheets for my bed instead of using the old sheets the house provided. I noticed people were acting oddly to me sometimes…inside and outside the house. The targeting had started in late 87 but it seemed to get worse overnight when I moved out. Weird old women laughed at me when I walked down the street. There was this woman I hated there who only stayed a short while but kept on popping back up in my life. A person called me at the house but when I got to the phone no one was there. I had to go to the mental health center because I no longer saw my private therapist. They put me on drugs that had side effects. I lost my temp job and tried to stay on at the house doing janitorial but could not keep up with the rent after my Grandma’s money ran out. Sunday meetings were a hoot when it was decided that there would be a “chore committee” that would “grade” people’s chores. The people on the committee were of course the house bullies. They would give themselves 10 on their chores and give others 4, 5, or 6. It was like the bullshit orchestra tryouts in high school when the conductor let the kids determine section seating. I was at the house all day in the basement since a heat wave hit. Nasty talk shows played all day that showed audience members ganging up on guests they didn’t like. Proto-stalkers??? Sally Jesse Raphael, Gerado Rivera, Cathy Jones???, etc….that and all the “judge” shows. The heat was horrible upstairs. We were getting a 100 degree spell which used to be very rare. I had a west facing window. The June sun set late and the city heat island kept things hot all night. The temp in my room was about 95-100 at night and down to about 86 in the morning. They provided no fans. A woman resident with a fan was able to reduce her room temp. I can reduce the inside temp to about 76 in the morning with a huge fan during a heat wave but it will go up during the day–but not to 100!!! I felt ill with the drug side effects and the heat. Another woman resident got smart and set up a hammock in the back yard. I decided to go downstairs to sleep in the cooler “chapel” but someone was already there and he made me leave. The room was huge. He yelled at me and said I reminded him of his MOTHER. OOOOOH. What a perpy insulting thing to say. I had to go back upstairs and burn. I started feeling ill. I finally just gave up and moved home, owing the “house” money for rent. I wonder really what the “house” had to do with my life. Were they setting me up for stigmatization as a “nut” later? My 2 stays propelled me towards independence since we had to learn to cook fast, do chores, pay rent, shop, etc…, yet, somehow, I was being funneled into the trash can of society. Were they setting me up for stigmatization as a “chronic nut” for life? Was I to live in the wasteland of the Severely Mentally Ill with the loss of dreams and the acceptance of “lower expectations”? I found out later at a “clubhouse” for mental “consumers” that the staff at the clubhouse was not using it as a place for people on benefits to get away from home and isolation, but, as a job factory to funnel people on benefits into low paying jobs which got people off benefits and steered them to dead end jobs that are self defeating since you lose medical benefits and end up losing the job and going on the street and applying for benes all over again…but now, you are worn out and ill and willing to be more COMPLIANT to overdrugging or whatever they have on the agenda for you. There were a few favorites that got good jobs at the clubhouse that seemed to function normally but that was tokenism. I think the clubhouse was destructive. I had a degree and at least wanted a job that had some responsibility: I did not want to be a file clerk or work for Burger King. This job scam is a subject for another post! I think people who are on benefits should be able to work but should be able to keep benefits unless they are truly better and can continue on their own. A LOT OF PEOPLE TOOK JOBS AND ABANDONED THE BENEFITS BECAUSE THEY WERE ASSIGNED PAYEES THAT DID NOT LET THEM HAVE ANY MONEY–EVEN FOR GROCERIES. They gave these poor souls “gift cards” for the store. One such person left benes and went to work and then lost her job and came back a year later, looking 10 years older and dragging an oxygen tank. I could go on about forced drugging but I covered it on my old blog that cannot be resurrected. Sometimes it’s needed, but not at the extent they do it. Forced drugging with neuroleptics (antipsychotics) is legally sanctioned torture due to the akesthesia symptoms that are a side effect. I have tried 6 different ones and they all had the same depression/anxiety effect on me. My Dr. wants to try me on a seventh. Essentially, I was able to live w/o “meds” for over a decade, but, targeting, witchcraft aimed at me, and God knows what else drove me back to the Docs. Targeting took away my dreams of overcoming my bad childhood and adolescence. I stayed poor year after year after year until I just wore out and went on benes–then I had no life at all! I thought God had a plan for my life but satan and his helpers stole it, for the devil comes to kill, steal and destroy. Again, I wonder if my first stay at the “house” in 1985 was a setup.. I was sort of “lovebombed” there as a youth and it was a way for them to make me think I was on of the Seriously Mentally Ill. I sort of started to think of myself in those terms–someone who is “chronic”, E.G., SOMEONE WHO WILL NOT BE “BETTER” WITHOUT DRUGS. A career nut. I even “tried” for benes as early as 1986 but got turned down because the doc who saw me thought I “just had to get away from my parents.” He was partially right. I would have made it if not for targeting. I was jealous of another young woman who did not have to earn her bread since she had benes, yet, she was not on psych drugs, or seeing a therapist, or going to a clubhouse or anything. She was free as a bird. She got around her town on a bike. She lived in squalor, though. I was suffering at the time working a nasty temp job and only having about 30 bucks over my rent for food a week and maybe 10 for anything else. That was a 40 hour job with a long bus ride and the bus was a dollar each way and took that 10 a week. I struggled to work until mid 1999. I was 33. I did a variety of temp jobs, food service jobs, day labor, and one “real” office job that lasted only 2 years. My last job was Mickey D’s, which is in another post. I finally threw in the towel and took the “checks”. I’m not a bad worker. I’m not fast, but I work consistently and like to be accurate in the office and produce good food in the kitchen. I also was accurate at the “till” usually being within a dollar. I rarely called in sick, and only when I was really ill. I was getting “fired” so much that I had NOTHING to show on a resume. What I got “paid” for these often physically exhausting jobs, was no more than benefits. NO health insurance. One job kept me on a yearly average just ONE HOUR UNDER what I would need to qualify for the HMO. Shysters. At the end of my working life, I felt often ill, colds dragging on for months, always scared about being fired every day I came in, and even scared about my next meal at times when my tiny check ran out a week before the next payday. I lost my apartment in 1999 and I found myself living in “community” again–at a shelter. Oh well, at least I had experience. PS Just saw some fundraising videos about my old community. They did a major remodel a few years back. The place was really dirty and run-down and trashy when I was there. It’s now Posh Palace. The resident testimonials were sooo great. It cannot be that great, but, that is what keeps money coming. The community DID have its success stories–people who returned to full work in “society”, but for the most part people moved into apts, but on benefits. There were a lot more people who used the place as a revolving door back in my time, but now there are time requirements. It seems more structured with more groups now. Back then, we were pretty much on our own. We were expected to attend a few dinners a week, Sunday Meetings, and “cook planning” meetings. You could also go to a meeting on basic money management and have a “one-on-one” with an under-staffer, or Resident Coordinator. Overall, the “house” was good and bad. I had some of the best times of my life there, but I came to see myself as “ill”. I still see Ms. Coffee on the bus every once in awhile. She just perps me. I’ve seen a few others from the “house” off an on over the years but not many. I saw a “success story” that had an apt and a job that I knew from the second time give me a dirty look on the bus years ago. Ahhhh, targeting…. I guess the “house” was the best it was ever gonna be.
Till the Bitter End
I don’t know how it happened by It got ahold of me again. Here I am in a dirty house-dress shuffling along on raggedy slippers in a haze. I must have drunk myself to sleep again. Been too good for too long. I went to four fuckin AA meetings a week, and, if that wasn’t enough I volunteered at the lousy gift shop at the Hospital and then got hired after Tom retired with almost no pension. I was so so goody goody. I was the Earth Mother Old lady around here baking cookies driving brats around, doing anything to regain my “good name” Ha ha.
Old man Goldberg let me go after 5 good years working at his shop. Never took a drop. Had not had a drop since 1950. Some young floozy probably in his pants and I know who…that was the beginning of the end along with all the crap at church.
Who is knocking? It’s only 8:00 in the morning. Didn’t I get rid of the Jehovah’s Witnesses last time and made it stick? No one has been by here for months. I have to go over this obstacle course to get to the door. I don’t know what happened to the cleaning…I kept a good house for Tom.
OOOh lookee now! It’s that sleazy bum, the landlord after the rent. I TOLD him he would get it when I sold my old jewelry…I can’t seem to get around to it. The store and liquor store are the only places I go. He’s with the Sheriff! Oh shit I’m a bag lady. His pop was nicer and patient with us cause we were good folks but this guy is a snake in a suit. I even did not like him as a kid. There was bad in his eyes.
The light in here is hazy and I hear nothing but machines and clicking heels on the floor. I am dying. I am here in the State Home for the Elderly. I think I just had a dream. My God, that was only a few months ago! June??? What month is it now? What can you do to get a drink around here?
I’m dying, only 70 years old, and nothing to show for myself. Tom could never make a buck. He kept a roof over our head and kept my 6 kids fed but not much more. Tom kept promising he was going to buy a house. Never happened. The same stuff is in the house that was there back in the mid ’20s when we moved in “for just a little while”. Fifty years later and I’m kicked out like a bum…what happened to all those phoney little Christians I used to hang around with so much after I started AA? I was always at the Church, on committees, baking stuff, taking phone calls from distraught members. I had almost a full time job on top of the Gift Shop there. No one wanted me. It always ends this way. Since I was born…….
No one will listen to me now. I have a tube down my throat. Who will ever know my story? Tom is gone, my kids and grand-kids estranged from me, my friends gone, even my AA Sponsor gave up on me. Even those neighbors that felt sorry for me on the way down are gone. The goody goods 3 houses down left me here what? 2 months ago? More?
Will you listen to me?
I was born in a nasty tiny apartment in Detroit in 1907. I can’t believe it’s 1977. I was born at home, tended by a woman in our building who was sort of an unofficial midwife. Guess I was OK or I would have died. My dad drank until he died when I was 12 then Mother’s condition forced me to work. She was pretty much useless at that time anyway. It was 1919. I ended up taking in laundry and washing it in the apartments basement where there was a tub and washing board. I would also heat up a huge kettle outside to do the bleaching. There was a huge clothesline in the yard where I hung ’em and then took ’em in to iron. I was paid almost nothing. It lasted 3 years. Then I got a real job.
Mom was useless lying in bed most days only getting up every week or so when whatever lived in her head let her. I worked in a department store in the young miss department stocking the racks, doing inventory and price tagging new items. I also packaged items for gifts and comforted little skinny bitches who were “too fat” for the dressing room mirrors. After I came home I had to cook and clean up a bit. Mother would call from her room to bring her things late into the night. Then I crashed into bed to do it all over again.
The door knocks again. There he is, Baxter Pappas the worst landlord in the world. His mouth is twisted into a sneer as he waits for me to open the door. I look out the window beside the door and see the sheriff waiting. They are coming to make me a bag lady.
“Can I help you?”
“Mrs. Pauley, either you pay up now, 600.00 or you will have to leave.
“I don’t have it. My whole check is 500.00 dollas.”
“I am getting your filthy ass out of here and am going to rent this place for 300.00 when it’s cleaned up.”
“I won’t leave. I have nowhere to go.” my voice rising.
“If you don’t leave, you will go to jail, you ugly pig.”
I start crying. I want to hit him but I’m sure the little piece of shit would enjoy the show and put extra charges on me.”
“My cat needs me here.”
“Your fuckin’ cat can go get toasted at the pound!”
“You are the spawn of the devil, Pappas!” I start to cry.
The neighbors down the street and other neighbors are watching. Mr. Smith seems to be coming over. I”m looking a wreck. I have not had a shower for a week or changed clothes. Been using the drive thru liquor store. Mr. Smith is calling my name:
“Trina Trina, you can come to our house while this blows over.”
“No!” I’m too proud to leave my home of 50 years. No good lazy Tom always needed to work harder…
“I will call Lance, he has loaned me for rent once this year. Let me call Lance.”
“Now old woman Pauley,” Pappas taunted, reeking of cheap aftershave.
“Please come with us, we can help you while this blows over,” said Mr. Smith.
I start to sob and sob. I feel a strong arm around me leading me down the block. My skinny feet in slippers feeling every step. I can’t stop crying. Is this all I get after working since I was 12? To be kicked out like some bum? I feel myself go up some steps and sat at a kitchen table. I can’t stop crying even though Mrs. Smith is looking at me and their youngest son, Mark, is there.
My back aches. Why don’t the fuckin’ nurses move me? I hear one of them talking far away. I try to move but I cannot. The voice sounds like it’s at the end of tunnel. Sounds like she is calling the Smiths. Curtains for me. Is Lance gonna throw me in the river? Will my other kids at least see to get me a stone near Tom?
Well, whoever you are, I better tell the rest of this. I never had many friends. No one liked me in school and I was only to happy to leave at 12. The other women in the neighborhood taunted me back when I started taking in laundry. They’d hang around with each other smokin’ and drinkin’ coffee and eatin’ cake and I never ever got invited. I would cry myself to sleep. The ladies were too old for me anyway. Sometimes I would not sleep. Too tired, too anxious, I guess.
One night late my mother of all people knocks on the door of my tiny bedroom. In a rare show of “Mom” she asks me what’s wrong. I just want to push the lazy pig outta my room but I would talk to anyone. Even her. I told her my problems. She seemed to listen for once. She told me those old whores did not like her either and never invited her either.
“So you put it on me??” I wailed.
“Your Fatha did, you know that,”
“Guess so,” the police had been here many times when Dad hit Mom and the wagon had picked him up to take him the drunk tank when he went on a bender.
“We are different,”
“We are just trash to them,”
“My hands ache from all the detergent and my back aches and my feet aches and all the girls I went to school with are going to parties and dating,”
“Maybe you could try for a nicer job and maybe meet a boyfriend,”
“Yeah sure, Mom, people take a look at me and wanna throw up.”
“You are beautiful Trina!” Mother said sounding hurt.
I looked in the old mirror on my drawers and saw a thin tired 14 year old with bright red hair, freckles and a pout. My nose wasn’t so bad but boys don’t go out with noses. I was flat as a pancake and hadn’t had my cycle. I was a freak.
“I can’t sleep,”
“Why don’t you come to bed with me?’
It sounded so nice but her room smelled of sweat, medicine and cheap perfume.
“No, it’s OK, Mom”
“Well let me bring you something.” She was gone for a few minutes.
She came back with a bottle of sweet wine and a glass.
“No no no!” I screamed.
“Just this time? You will collapse and get ill if you don’t get sleep.”
“I will just leave it here,” she said and padded out the room.
I lay back down and tossed and turned. Looked at the clock. 3:30am. I got up at 6:00 everyday except Sunday to start. I had nothing to read since I didn’t go to school no more and had very little time for the library which was a long walk away. Just this once. I took the bottle and opened it and uncorked it (Dad made me do it all the time) and put some wine in the glass. I gulped it down. A warm cozy feeling came over me like I was at grandma’s house again a long time ago before she died. I took another and hugged the pillow and slept.
I smell all kinds of things here and I can’t complain. They tranquilized me and tied me up like a vicious animal since I came here. No one cared about me. No one even tried to talk to me but the phoney Christian roommate I had at first. I never said a word. I knew the gig was up when the Smiths caught me drunk in their backyard. The End. Finis. Now I’m tied to tubes like a science experiment.
I overslept the first day but I was forgiven by my mother and the customers. It seemed I broke the ice somehow. I was occasionally invited to afternoon “coffee” after my laundry was done and hanging. The “coffees” were usually gossip-fests that featured coffee laced with whiskey, some kind of sweet and cigarettes. I started smoking too, at that time. We laughed and joked and gossiped and even went shopping at times although most of us were housewives or like me the poor orphan laundress. My new “friends” were 2 to 3 times or more older than me but they were all I had. For the first and almost the last time in my life I felt I belonged.
Once, when we were shopping we decided to go “uptown” to the department store to see what the “other half” got to wear when I noticed there was a sign “Now Hiring” no experience needed. Will train. See Mrs. Simmons upstairs. I decided what the hell, it was worth a try. When I was hired a week later I had to give my laundry business to one of our “crowd” who was having ends meet with a large family and useless husband. That is typical on this side of town. I kept only a few customers of my own “just in case” I got fired. I was making more money and was able to afford a few things for Mom and I. She seemed a bit less depressed and would even go out with me on Friday Night for a meal after the workweek was done and I wasn’t scheduled for Saturday. Old friends would come up to her that hadn’t seen her in ages and we got invited to dinner here and there and even got invites for holidays. All of a sudden I was seventeen, getting pretty, making OK money and having a relationship with my mother. Those were the good times. The best ever. Nothing good lasts in my life though.
To be continued….