I remember you. I took you in when you didn’t want me to. Shelter from the riders on the storm. But it seems now my tourniquets are deadly. Feel too much you don’t want to feel anything, staunch the wound and the poison too, keep all that sickness inside.
Have I neglected deepsicks? …Naw. I just don’t polish and publish it. Use words as the catalyst to understand the darkness, it’s become paralysis, self-sabotage and prophecy. Gut that snitch, gild that lily. Pull out all them teeth.
It’s Black Friday morning and I’m wrestling out words DOORBUSTER! on my heart and brain. It doesn’t come easily anymore—time plus getting past the antsy artsy part to unlock reflection, knowing its shape, its cracks and chasms, and feeling whole because of it. I know if I read the archives a bit I could beat this shame that I’m no longer a spiritual strandbeest self-regulating machine because I wasn’t. Ever. Nostalgia for an era that didn’t exist. I just wish oh whatever.
Deepsicks is still around, oh yes.
It was trekking in the early morning dark rain, scanning under bridges, abandoned overhangs, looking for kids I hoped I wouldn’t find in the point-in-time count for homeless youth because the survey they gave me to administer was shit.
Well hello there!
I’m a good person and I choose to be here!
Where’s your mom and dad?
Why aren’t you dead?
Do you give sex for money?
Or do you only get raped?
Anyway, here’s some socks.
I didn’t count anyone then, though I can count on them, every day.
Urban public librarians will all tell you the same. Nothing can prepare you for the day after day neurotics drunks maniacs end-of-the-month out of meds, sacked, cracked Medicare gapped, down and out forgotten unseen ornery but really, they’re just really fuckin hungry trying to manage diabetes with orange juice and Hershey’s and tired so goddamned tired of the criminalization of sleep.
Many of our street customers you could lift from the New Yorker, grizzled warrior poets with quiet dignity, pervasive but polite, never a peep. Others are straight out of TMZ, punching computers, punching one another, sabotaging the toilets and terrorizing anyone who wrongs them. This includes looking at them, looking at their stuff, randomly reserving their computer after them and coughing.
It’s about territory and saving face. It’s the PTSD of living on the street, of having no control and endless closed doors, denials of service for lack of ID or the right kind of history. It’s the insanity of the State of Texas’ mental health policies, informed by, get this, Scientology.
Hey Governor and all you fakes with the flag on your lapels—Jesus on your lips but not in your legislation. Get out the granite tower and come just up the street. Your local public library’s got all the proof you need.
I’m on the front line, heart on my sleeve,
head to toe in compassion fatigues,
ready for my next tour.
Last week a regular customer, friendly and young, asks as he often does the overnight low. We look on the monitor together. “Oo, 35 degrees….” He frowns, shrugs and thanks me and I wonder where he sleeps. I don’t ask. Personal questions aren’t professional. I doubt it’s in a shelter, though. They’re dangerous with too many drugs.
When it’s 32 or below, city emergency management and area congregations activate cold weather shelter—extra space in churches so people don’t freeze. Not that they would, necessarily. If you can handle winter homelessness in Minneapolis, you can do it in Austin, Texas. But the whole city kind of goes crazy when it’s cold. The radio tells us to open our cupboards and let our faucets leak, like Austin’s third world or in 1915.
A few hours later I take a reference call. “What’s the overnight low? Please check three different sources.” Weather.com, Weather Underground, AccuWeather, coming right up. 35, 35, 34. “But what’s the temperature hour by hour? Can you read me that, too?”
Um, sure, okay. 37, 37, 36, 35, 34, 35, 36.
“But what does that mean? Is it going to freeze?” I tell her not according to what I see but assure non-assurances and ad lib how forecasting works. Not making people feel foolish is part of my profession, along with mastering courteous methods of telling patrons I am not a wizard.
“But should I bring my plants inside?”
Lady, we’re not bringing in our humans.
Your plants will be fine.
In other news, I am letting the terrorists win. They got Paris and everything. Suspicion, derision, our own paranoid extremism frames every question on the campaign and I don’t even, what? a whole year to wait? to vote how ugly we are. How weak. How scared. How racist, classist, misogynist, duplicitous. When will we learn. We are what we earn.
We will get the country we deserve.
Knowing how angry, how anxious I’m getting, I try to dial back my media diet. I don’t need to know everything that happens, as it happens, as it’s redacted and retracted and contradicted. Was it 150 dead or only 130? Was it a Syrian passport or nefarious plant? What aggravating garbage came out of Texas this week? this day this hour this very minute how should I feel terrible, what should I apologize for, what is the cut of my shame.
My awareness changes nothing but myself, and I feel awful. I know it’s not the true awareness—the calm, the quiet, the mindfulness—I crave. Still, I fear I will miss something. An important discovery, clue, conspiracy, a dumb craft, a poll that abhors me, an internet cat, a dashcam crash, a cool lady cop whip nae nae dance-battling to counteract the kids they keep killing.
As though I’m not missing all kinds of things.
Holes in emotion and wounds in identity who do I think I am feeling anything.
I’ve always tried to be a good, informed American. Nuanced without being a pushover without being so damn sure I’m right. But lately nothing I learn, good or bad, is actionable, or changes me for more than five minutes, aside from the weight of Weltschmerz that makes me solid dark.
Not even out of bed I reach for my phone and the first thing I see is bullets in black bodies in North Minneapolis, shot by whites other whites will wonder what happened with. Maybe it’s mental illness—the real kind, not the too lazy to live in a house kind. And maybe they feared for their lives—not the refugee kind fleeing violence and death, but the whites-becoming-minorities feeling threatened and vexed, their own brand of world pain that the world is moving on. Wanting to get back to a thing that never was, our history a fractured fantasy.
Also, normalized hate.
Also, G U N S!
All of this. All of this, and yet, I don’t need to think hard to know what I am thankful for. Family, friends, health. I’m married, now—trying to nevermind I wrote all this junk instead of a two-months’-late lovey-dovey-kissyface wedding post of pure joy. Oh well. Everything in its right place, at its own pace. This took all day to right.
It’s nice to have a partner. A shoulder to lean and nibble on. Someone to know these places I go, because he’s right there with me.
We busted out the card table and covered it with a sheet. Put on fancy clothes, gave thanks and ate.