Just pick a user name and join. I will be in the chat room for most of the night as I browse the Internet. I would love speaking to some of you.
Friday, August 31, 2007
This morning found me and Rosa eating at the diner. The sound of dishes being washed and the smell of frying bacon permeated the air. I was in far left field as Rosa attempted a conversation with me.
"What did you think of what your father did last night?" she asked.
"Oh, he was just acting out," I replied, eating my omelet. "He was just pissed cause I told him the truth. My day did suck yesterday."
My father had gone storming out of my house when I lit up a cigarillo inside last night.
"I am not going to be around smoking with my heart!" he hollered.
I had to bite my tongue and not say that the 12 hour stressful days he works at his all consuming business were far more damaging to his heart than just one cigarillo smoked around him. He was being silly and just wanted to piss me off. I didn't bite.
"Are we going to go get you some new shoes, today?" Rosa then asked.
"Yeap," I replied. "And I need some new windshield wipers as well."
"When do you start your art classes?"
"I am going to call that woman today," I replied. "I wish I could start tomorrow."
As is customary for Rosa, we were having our usual one hundred questions session. She so reminds me of my mother in this regard.
We left the diner as the rain was softly falling. I couldn't see shit out of the windshield of my car. I was hunched over like some hunchback looking through a small window of opportunity. Rosa laughed.
"You look constipated hunched over like that," she said.
I burst out laughing enjoying some early morning bathroom humor. Hey, I am a guy. Luckily, the diner isn't far from my house and we made it home safely.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
The rain abated this morning just before moving into our county. I was talking to Clara about it.
"I would have hung out down at Krystal's," she told me. "I hate the fucking rain, though."
"I'm going to an AA meeting tonight. You want to go?" I then asked her.
She threw back her head and laughed.
"You trying to say I am an alcoholic?"
She caught me in an awkward moment. That's the trouble with mentioning AA.
"You do drink a lot," I replied.
Clara pulled out her bottle of wine to take a drink and to show it to me.
"See this?" she said pointing to the bottle. "This is how I deal with being homeless. It gets me through the day. I would be bored fucking crazy without it."
I actually understood. I don't begrudge her one joy in life. I drank extremely heavily when I was homeless. It does pass the time and makes what would normally be a long and listless day fly by.
"The offer stands if you want some coffee and want someone to talk to," I told her getting up to leave.
Clara didn't respond and sat drinking her wine. I think I made an impact though. I put my foot in the door. Hopefully, she will open it.
I am nervous as hell about going to AA tonight. I haven't been in so long and know everyone will think I have been out getting drunk. It will be good to see Wanda and William, though, my old friends of many AA meetings. I have just felt shaky and lonely and need the comfort of the group again. Wish me luck!
Rain is moving in from the west which is odd for a summer's night this early in the morning. My thoughts turn to Ferret in his tent by the river and Clara under her tarp behind the shopping center. Ferret will be dry, but Clara will surely get wet before finding shelter. Rain means boredom when your homeless. It upsets your usual routines. I can remember long stretches of rainy days when I was homeless. Even the most simple task of using the bathroom becomes an ordeal. Many books were read and lots of journal entries were written on those days. I would curl up in my sleeping bag and just lay there thinking for hours as the rain pattered endlessly upon the fabric of my tent. I would long for bright, sunny days and cloudless skies.
Rosa is feeling much better this morning. She just whisked by to use the bathroom and poked her head into this room.
"You haven't been to sleep all night," she said.
"Can't sleep," I replied. "I will sleep at dawn for a few hours."
I listen intently as she washes her face and flushes the toilet. Maggie sits outside the bathroom door waiting on her. She is soon back in the bed after taking her morning dose of cold medicine.
Mom still comes and sits with me for an hour everyday. She gets lonely. Maggie goes bananas when she realizes mom has pulled into my driveway putting on a glorious canine show of affection.
"I wish I wouldn't lay in the bed all the time," my mother told me yesterday.
"I wish I could," I replied. "It would pass the time and my days grow so long."
"Do you dread things?" mom asked.
"Everything," I replied. "Just taking a shower is tedious."
"You inherited that from me," she said. "Don't tell your father, but I even dread changing clothes. I wear the same clothes for a week and no one ever notices."
Mom wanted a soda so I drove us down to Fat Albert's. I also bought Rosa some scratch off lottery tickets as well which thrilled her. She loves to play the lottery.
I thought the rest of the day how tedious life can be when you have a mental illness. What normal people take for granted can be a great insurmountable odd to overcome for us. Taking a shower. Brushing your teeth. Preparing a meal. All these things can seem so hard and life stopping. It almost becomes hard just to live. I have joked with my father before about my mother and I needing a "life coach." Someone to guide us through life and to help us make the correct decisions during our days.
It is often customary to find me roaming around at night like some tomcat. I left Rosa sleeping in the bed happily drugged as I made my way downtown upon my bike after midnight. After watching a few trains, I visited my favorite convenience store clerk at the the little corner store near the old abandoned cotton mill.
"You won't believe my night," he told me, exasperated, as I walked in.
I grabbed a bottle of milk and a trail mix bar and took my place in line.
"There was a fight in the parking lot and I had to call the police. Some black woman's shirt got ripped off and she wasn't wearing a bra."
"Nice," I replied sarcastically.
The clerk made this little incidence into a long drawn out story and my patience was wearing thin. I quickly excused myself and escaped out the side door. The antics of humans were the last thing on my mind tonight.
I made my way up to the little bench in the park next to the monument to men long dead. The cities skyline stretched out before me like some landscape from a portrait. Colors seemed brighter and more vibrant than normal -- a side effect of my schizophrenia. The big oaks surrounded me in the park seemed like some stalwart sentinels guarding the park and me. They were my friends and I wanted to talk to them -- to let them know they were not alone as they stood the test of time. I didn't realize how much I had missed color the past few months. It was a beautiful, early fall night, and everything in the background was saturated with ambient light and color too: the bright red brick of the cotton mill across the highway glaring at me in the distance. Shadows were also out in play -- star shadow, full moon shadow, streetlight shadow -- all casting their marks upon the ground and I could almost see the moon shadows move with the revolving of that celestial body.
When I remember that I have a whole day to fill I feel nauseous trying to decide how to fill it it. I struggle for a minute to breathe and though there is no breeze, when I look up at the trees they look as if they are swaying and the dark night sky feels like it is swirling down like water down a drain pipe -- black as ink. What I really want to do is to take some magical sleeping pill, curl up in the bed with my one true love, and sleep the day away like nesting squirrels -- her head against my chest as the beat of her heart is felt by the closeness of our naked bodies. It is already 2 a.m. and the day feels entirely too young -- too much time ahead and too little behind. I feel shaky, completely exhausted just thinking about all the hours stretched ahead of me in the day. It is going to be a long day, indeed.
Last night ended with me and my father talking...
"I talked to a local artist that wants to give you lessons," he said. "They are renowned for their railroad scenes."
"Really?" I asked excited.
"I will call her tomorrow and set things set up. We will go next Wednesday and buy your painting supplies. Do you think you can stick with this?"
"Yes," I said elated. "I am so eager to learn from someone and it will give me something to look forward to."
"I really think you can be a great painter with some guidance," my father told me. "I am almost excited for you. You have a gift that I don't have."
My father left and I lay in the bed with Rosa next to my side.
"What are you thinking of?" she asked me, lying there.
"Painting," I said. "I have so many grand and exciting ideas. I am painting in my mind."
"What are you painting?" Rosa asked as she curled up next to me.
"Cabooses, locomotives, old depots and roundhouses," I said. "Glorious fall sunsets forever caught on canvas."
I looked over and Rosa had fallen asleep snoring softly. I kissed her on the forehead and eased out of the bed to start my "day."
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Clara is not an ugly woman. With some makeup and nice clothes she could look really presentable. She is in her late thirties and still has perky breasts and a shapely bum. "I couldn't have kids," she told me one day. "That's why no man wants me." I stifled back a remark about how she lives her life is why a man wouldn't want her, but who am I to judge?
She had gathered herself today and was doing better. "You hungry?" I asked her, wanting to buy her a meal. She flashed a wad of what looked like five dollar bills as she grinned furiously. "Been panhandling over by restaurant row," she replied. I sat with Ferret as we talked about our postponed camping trip -- our homeless homecoming.
"You know what I hate?" Clara said interrupting Ferret and me. "I hate when you ask for a few bucks and they give you their to-go box from the restaurant."
Ferret laughed. I chuckled.
"Do I look that homeless?" Clara asked.
Ferret didn't say a word because he always looks homeless. It would be akin to the pot calling the kettle black. Ferret hasn't had a shower in weeks.
"The torn t-shirts don't help," I replied, trying to be nice. "And you could comb your hair. It would make you look less homeless."
Ferret and me watched as Clara disappeared into the dollar store to buy a brush and a new t-shirt.
"What do you take for your schiz?" Ferret asked while Clara was away.
"A Risperdal Consta shot in the ass."
"That's what she needs," Ferret said. "She needs a healthy shot of something in the ass to calm her down and bring her to her senses."
I chuckled once again at Ferret's blunt words. Clara came walking back out brushing her tangled hair. She had put her new t-shirt on in the bathroom of the dollar store
"How do I look?" she asked. "Better?"
"You look much better," I replied, kindly.
She grinned and put her brush in her backpack and then threw her old and torn t-shirt into the trash can next to us. I watched as she trudged across the parking lot headed back to all the restaurants in the shopping center a half a mile from here.
"She's going to work," Ferret said as he laughed.
"Yeap," I said musingly as I smoked my cigarillo. "She probably makes more money than I do writing. Women panhandlers have it easy."
Lunchtime called and I also wanted to get back home to check on Rosa. I told Ferret good day and rode my bike home after assuring him we were going to have our "homeless homecoming" another day.
Last night, I sat up with Rosa. She wasn't feeling well. She had spent the day doing laundry and the mundane little things it takes to keep a house running. "What did you do today?" she asked me after I had listened to her talk awhile. "I hung out with the gang all day. I was lonely," I replied.
"You are so unlike them," Rosa told me. "You are kind, smart, so together."
"I teeter on the edge, though," I told her. "I teeter on the edge of not having it together. It is kind of like being a teenager and hanging out with the bad crowd. It feels dangerous and fun -- exciting."
"I know," Rosa said. "It feels comfortable to me as well. I am used to hanging out with people like that after my homeless days."
"You know what I like most about hanging out with the gang?" I replied.
"They accept me for who I am. They don't put on airs or try to make you something you are not. I grew up with my parents doing that - they and their friends -- always putting on airs. I can be the most desperate drunk and good for nothing and Big S, George, Ferret, and the gang would like me as a best friend. I can be myself, warts and all."
"Self esteem," Rosa then said bluntly. "You don't have any self esteem -- no self worth."
Rosa's biting words hurt, but she was right. I hang out with the gang because they are the only one who will accept me. I don't have any other friends and I get lonely. My social anxieties will not allow me to associate with the crowd my father hangs out with -- nor would I want them as friends.
"I struggle with self esteem as well," Rosa told me as she backpedaled and worried she had hurt my feelings. "I think of my past and it really brings me down. I was a prostitute and a crackhead -- not things to be proud of. It haunts me."
"Me and you are just so sensitive," I said, wrapping her in my arms as we sat on my couch. "So terribly sensitive and I would have never thought you would be that way. I always thought of you as being so tough and steely."
"It's a curse and I think that is what makes us want to use and for you to drink."
"True," I said as we both grew quiet just sitting there holding each other.
"At least I have you," I thought quietly.
I realized I have spent most of my life alone. All through childhood and adulthood, I wandered aimlessly without a friend or friends. It took me becoming homeless to finally find some friends. I had hit rock bottom and had nowhere to go but up. My friends -- the gang -- maybe misfits, but they are my friends. I don't have to be alone any longer. I only have one life to live and I want it filled with interesting and vibrant people full of life. Not the milquetoast circle of friends that hover around my father because of his money and social standing. Those people are not really friends in the truest sense of the word and would disappear if my father became penniless and destitute. George would give me ten bucks and buy me a beer if I fell on hard times. I call that a friend.
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
I thought I would go for a long bike ride today. Preparations were made. Bottles of water in my backpack. Snack bars in the side pockets. I was ready to go and set out in the abnormally cool morning air. I rode downtown and stopped at the tracks to watch a freight as I munched on a sweet and salty trail mix snack bar. My initial hopes were to get some of this wanderlust out of me. I grew tired though -- out of shape. I used to could ride for miles without tiring.
I moseyed on up to the shopping center and chained my bike to a post. Big S asked me where I had been. "Not far," I said as I laughed. "The tracks and back." George was also down there and we had a little talk about why he has been avoiding me.
"You've become militant about this whole not drinking thing," he told me.
"I just don't want to see you back in jail," I said. "You do remember who came and bailed you out the last time, don't you? Me!"
"I can't quit," George said in a rare moment where he let his guard down. "You, my doctor, momma all say I need to, but I can't."
I lit up a cigar and then handed one to George. He lit it up with his Zippo and took a puff.
"Just long as you are okay then I am okay," I told him. We shook hands and George gave me a hug. Soon, he was driving off with his next patron after they had finished their shopping.
Clara was no where to be seen today. I had hoped she was sleeping off yesterday's drunk. She was the proverbial wild woman yesterday flirting with disaster. I was amazed she didn't get arrested, but Big S said he had seen her earlier in the day looking worse for wear. The most desperate time you want a drink is the next day when the hangover hits. It is the only thing that will chase away what ails you and the hang over blues. I could imagine Clara sitting up against the back wall of some building nursing a bottle of wine to get through yesterday's ordeal and the next day's revenge a bender can bring.
Late in the evening found me at Ferret's campsite. He was cooking a strange concoction of canned beef stew and cream of mushroom soup over an open fire. "Come on and try some," Ferret urged me. "It tastes like beef stroganoff." My normally iron clad stomach just couldn't handle one of Ferret's homeless culinary masterpieces. "It smells like dog food!" I decreed, turning up my nose.
"Have just one beer," Ferret pleaded with me as we sat and the sun set to the west.
I cracked open one and drank it. I drink so little these days and that one ice beer went straight to my head.
"Feels good, doesn't it?" Ferret asked, grinning broadly.
"It feels wonderful," I replied, salivating like one of Pavlov's dogs.
I have always been terrible when dealing with peer pressure and succumbed. The next thing I knew, I had drank two more. I am a person riddled with anxiety both social and perceived and the anxiety melted away. Ferret and me both began to laugh and cajole each other about almost everything as we smoked one cigarette after the other.
"Camp out with me tomorrow night," Ferret said. "We will have a homeless homecoming."
It was tempting. I told him I would pack my big Kelty backpack and that I was going to do the cooking. Hoboes over a campfire sounded nice to me.
"Heineken?" I asked him as I got up to leave before it got too dark.
"Heineken, indeed," Ferret said as he grinned and then crawled into his tent to sleep off the twenty beers he had drank today.
As I arrived home, I thought about how insidious alcoholism can be. Cunning, baffling, powerful they always say of it in Alcoholics Anonymous. I toy with the idea that I can just drink a few beers and then quit. My bravado was bolstered by today's experience when I only drank three beers and stopped -- a wild and weird anomaly in my world. I am still debating on going camping with Ferret tomorrow night. It sure would be nice to let my hair down, though. Good night.
Monday, August 27, 2007
"She's crazy drunk," Ferret told me of Clara, the homeless woman, this morning. "You think I am crazy then you need to take another look at her."
Clara was sloppy this morning, looking disheveled. According to Big S she had sat up all night drinking wine and singing old songs drunkenly from memory
"It's pitiful," Big S told me and that is a lot coming from a guy who spends his days sitting down at a shopping center panhandling.
"She's gonna get arrested," I said, realizing her path to the dark side is almost complete.
We all watched as Clara accosted a shopper within earshot with drunken brazenness.
"My car is out of gas," she said, slurring her words and briskly following. "Can you spare a few dollars?"
The patron's step quickened as they escaped Clara's grasp. They ignored her.
"Fucker!" Clara hollered out in desperation, thwarted.
"Get a job and quit this stupid shit!" the young female patron hollered back, frustrated, as she glided into her safe car to drive away.
Ferret was drinking as well -- a forty ounce of beer in a brown paper bag chasing away last night's hang over.
"You don't get sloppy drunk like her," I told Ferret of his drinking.
"If I go to jail then it means I can't drink or smoke. Jail is for idiots," Ferret replied. "I pace myself."
I admired his honesty. He could have told me some bullshit about not being an alcoholic.
Loneliness overcame Clara and she sat down on the concrete beside us. Me, Big S, and Ferret were sitting on a bench next to the grocery store smoking and drinking coffee from the diner. We warily kept an eye on her as she sat talking to herself caught in the throes of drunken madness.
"I don't ask for much," she said to herself. "All I want is a few dollars."
She was mad at the way that young woman handled her. Her frustration could be heard in her voice.
"You need to go sleep it off," Ferret then said, surprising us. "You are going to ruin all our time down here when the police show up and they run everybody off."
"Fuck you, you damn nigger-ass motherfucker!" Clara said as she stood up and walked off huffily.
Me and Big S had to grab Ferret and keep him from getting up. He was fiery mad at her words.
"She's just drunk, man," I said. "She won't even remember saying it tomorrow."
"Don't let that stupid bitch get to you," Big S told Ferret, echoing me.
I ride down to the shopping center to get up material to write for my blog. I got more than I bargained for this morning. The drama was thick and palpable. It made me uncomfortable. It also reminds me why I try to stay away from drinking these days. It reminds me that I am one bad decision away from being in Clara's shoes. There is a tenuous line I walk everyday between drunken homelessness and homed bliss -- a line I no longer want to cross.
It's early morning and I am sitting down at the railroad tracks after a long bike ride. As I listen to Coast to Coast AM on the radio, I watch a policeman sitting in his patrol car across from me in the parking lot of the railroad museum. His arm is propped up upon his open window and he is talking to his cohort beside him as they drink coffee. Soon, an unsuspecting motorist comes flying by, speeding on the highway. The patrol car's lights turn on and shine brightly into the night and the police car tears off after them. "Got'cha," I think. "Most likely drunk." Nothing is more stupid than to go speeding through this small downtown on an early Monday morning when the police are bored and listless and the rest of the world is asleep. It's like smoking marijuana at the policeman's ball -- you're bound to get arrested.
My attention and focus turns back to my thoughts. These sleepless nights are a time for me to gather myself. I think of Rosa at home in her own bed. We spent the day apart yesterday after a small fight. I was already struggling with the alcoholic aspects of my life and our little spat didn't help. Wanda and many in Alcoholics Anonymous always told me to wait until a year of sobriety before starting an intimate relationship. I can see why they would say that now. Excessive drinking is the ultimate in self abuse, and I wanted to abuse myself yesterday for my quick temper and rash words during my and Rosa's silly argument -- a kind of poor man's atonement.
A glimmer of hope in yesterday's gloomy unveiling was the discussion I had with my father about painting. "I want to paint grand railroad scenes," I told him. My father grew excited and we both drove down to the railroad tracks late in the evening to look around and find possible scenes for my oil painting endeavors. "You can sell paintings of the old 1887 depot," he said excitedly. "People would love that stuff." We stood next to the old semaphore in front of the recently restored caboose as we talked.
"I want you to turn your attentions to something positive," he said. "You are brilliant in a way. You have a talent that none of the rest of us possess. You could always draw anything."
My father saying such things has always made me uncomfortable. I don't think of myself as brilliant at all. I think of myself as rather mundane. Actions speak louder than words.
"Don't you think most schizophrenic people are creative?" he asked as we sat down on a bench.
"I think their extreme creativeness makes them crazy sometimes," I replied. "Us schizophrenics are so sensitive and aloof about life. A minor setback for a normal person sends us into a tailspin. Where one person will throw themselves into their families and work, we will throw ourselves into something where we can express ourselves abstractly like art, math, or music."
"Interesting," my father said with a thoughtful look upon his face.
"Of course," I furthered. "Most people can't make a living painting railroad scenes downtown."
"That is where you are lucky," My father said. "You have your blog money and your disability money. You have an income so you have the time to paint and be creative. It is all rather bohemian when you think about it."
I smiled. I loved my father's use of the word bohemian. I have always longed to be an artistic vagabond -- wandering from place to place, painting scenes of small town Southern life.
"You promise me you're going to start painting?" he asked as we got back in his car.
"I promise," I said. "I just need some help with the initial start up cost of paints and supplies."
"I am going to be your benefactor," my father said, driving us home. "Like the Church was for Michelangelo and all the other great artists and musicians."
I laughed and patted my father on his leg. He can be so grandiose at times. Like the time he gave me the book on how to be the next Einstein. He means well, but he can get a little carried away. I haven't painted in years and really don't know if I still can. My father thinks I will be the next Van Gogh. It is the stuff dreams are made of, and it is good to have a dream for a change.
Sunday, August 26, 2007
I've had a rough day and it has been nice to occasionally hear the sound over these speakers that I got a new comment on the blog as I busily worked around the house. Thank you to those of you that took time out of your day to drop me a line. It means the world to me and you are very appreciated. You made the difference in the life of a guy who struggles some days. Thank you once again!
Things I've done today...
- Mowed my lawn
- Trimmed my shrubbery and weeded my flower beds.
- Cleaned my bathroom and toilet.
- Washed a load of dishes and cleaned Maggie's water bowl (which was blooming with algae).
- Washed my sheets and a small load of clothes.
- Cooked a supper of vegetable soup and corn bread.
- Debated on going to Alcoholics Anonymous all damn day, but chickened out.
When I struggle, I try to clean and stay busy to keep my mind off my problems. My house is immaculate and I am tired. I am soon to go to bed once my father brings my nightly medications.
Last night was my choice. "You sure you don't want to go eat with us?" my father asked. "They have great seafood and steaks." I really tried to go. I did. I got a shower, shaved, put on some nice clothes. I even donned my uncomfortable, but nice looking pair of tennis shoes. The mirror stopped me though. I stood there looking at my face -- so full and puffy. I looked fat. I did so well on my diet for awhile, but gave up. I have gained so much weight lately. "You look like the Sta-Puff marshmallow man," I told myself in the mirror, disgusted. It was thoroughly depressing.
Supper was a microwave meal -- 490 calories. Chicken tenderloins with glazed carrots and garlic mashed potatoes. I thought of my father, mother, and my grandmother enjoying fried shrimp and baked potatoes. I was still so hungry. My medications make me ravenous. To hell with it, I thought as I called Rosa. "You hungry?" I asked. It was storming outside, but I still drove by the grocery store and to pick her up.
Beef lo mein was made on the stove. Ground beef with steamed cabbage cooked in soy sauce -- served on a bed of rice and chow mein noodles. It is the only Chinese food Rosa will eat and one of my childhood favorites. "Why do you look so sad?" Rosa asked me over our meal. "I can't quit eating," I replied between healthy mouthfuls of lo mein.
I heard Dr. Laura say the other night on the radio about losing weight that, "You're either lazy or you're not." To her, there was no middle ground -- no compromise. It is always black or white. "Put on some sweats and just walk," she said as if it were that simple. She is waif thin and looks almost unhealthy. It reminds me of the bulimics and anorexics I have read about over the years -- an eating disorder of another sort. Exercise obsessed. She is not taking over 2000 mg of various medications to control the various symptoms of a mental illness though -- many known to cause marked weight gain. I think I will now go have a cheese Danish and thoroughly shoot my diet to hell. At least, I will feel better for a few moments.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
These days, though mostly the nights, have become a blur. I hear the walls in my sleep, stirring beneath a tent of comfort, hoping they'll quiet. I rarely talk about my mental illness because I don't want this journal to become just another angst ridden diatribe on what ails me mentally. I realize people come here from schizophrenia.com wanting to read about my illness, though. Sorry to disappoint. I would rather tell stories of the people I encounter in my life on a daily basis. I want to write about the little joys I have despite the horror that can be my mind.
Common symptoms these days are extreme panic attacks where only the comfort and help of another can quell. These have become alarmingly frequent as of late. My heart races. The extremities go numb. My mouth becomes unquenchably dry. I start to see things in my peripheral vision. It is very scary. I want to run crazily into the night as if I am losing my mind. I am losing my mind. The difference between now and then is that I don't self medicate with alcohol and compound the problem. I do smoke excessively though. One cigarillo after another is smoked as I try to muddle through the symptoms of late -- the nicotine having calming effects upon my malfunctioning brain.
Other things bother me. Lactating breasts. Loss of drive and competitiveness. Lack of libido. A ravenous appetite and alarming weight gain. The constant feeling of being stir-crazy. All part of the experience of schizophrenia and the medications I must take to squash this beast within. And the medications aren't perfect -- sometimes causing as many problems as they cure. I often want to quit taking them -- wishing to flirt dangerously with my schizophrenia rather than having to live with the side effects. My support group of my family and Rosa would wail in protest if I were to do so.
I am listening to Joni Mitchell's Hejira as I sit listlessly down at the shopping center as people escape their cars to come and shop. That song Black Crow begins to play on my mp3 player and my foot taps contagiously to the beat.
There's a crow flying
Black and ragged
Tree to tree
He's black as the highway leading me
Now he's diving down
To pick up on something shiny
I feel like that black crow
In a blue sky
It reminds me of the first time I heard this album. I thought I had found heaven. Drunk songs. That's what they are. Songs listened to on long drunken drives out into the country -- to escape the people that so mystified me and scared me. Soundtracks of a life that once was. I shouldn't be listening. It makes me long for a beer.
Clara, the homeless woman, is mulling about down there today. She looks frustrated as she watches patrons bring out brimming carts full of groceries from the Piggly Wiggly and cheap Chinese-made products from Fred's Dollar Store. I notice her get up and walk towards me. I grow afraid we are going to have another confrontation about her begging for money. She passes by with nary a mention of my name. I sigh in relief. She has a conversation with Big S within earshot.
"I'll pay you back tomorrow," she tells him. "I only want five dollars."
Five dollars. Five dollars will buy you two bottles of Boone's Farm wine and a pack of twenty cheap Smoker's Choice cigarillos. A veritable panacea for what ails an alcohol addicted homeless woman. I notice Big S give in and hand her a ten dollar bill. My shoulders slump in defeat. Do it once, do it twice, I think.
I will admit I have a savoir complex. I want to save everyone from going through what I experienced. It happens with Ferret. I tried with George. Rosa saved herself and I found her that way. There have also been furtive tries with Clara without much success.
When I first started to go to AA, I felt so alone. Hands trembling. Social anxiety roaring in my head. I remember someone handing me a cup of coffee and welcoming me for coming. A room full of smiling faces greeted me. These are drunks? I thought. They seem far too happy to me. A handshake steadied my trembling hand and I sat for my first meeting. That hand reaching out meant so much to me. Maybe I just want to do the same; my savoir complex much like my father's. Just don't hang me on a cross for trying as some are apt to do.
The tracks stretched out before me this morning like an endless trail -- a trail of wanderlust, journey, adventure. I intently watched the signal down the tracks for change. Soon, it changed from green to yellow signifying a train was on the way. The distant wail of an air horn could be heard far down the tracks beyond the bend. I placed my ear upon the rails like I always did as a child in this very same fashion to listen for the characteristic clickety clack of steel wheels upon steel rails over expansion joints. I grew excited and walked over to sit upon the bench behind the bank to enjoy the passing of a freight.
Ferret told me the other day that he hates these trains. "They keep me up all damn night," he said. Ferret's campsite is only a few hundred yards from the rails. I, on the other hand, revel in these great mechanical beasts. Often, I will lay in bed with Rosa by my side as I listen to that mournful wail of a freight train passing far downtown on the tracks, sleepless. It evokes fond childhood memories of my love for trains. It also stirs within me a deep loneliness and an unsettling feeling -- an urge to strike out and explore the rickety, ramshackle backsides of small towns in the South. I once hiked these rails to God's country a few summers ago and it is in my blog archives somewhere. The was a grand, but uncomfortably hot adventure.
We go today to buy Rosa a bicycle and I am excited. Rosa has some misgivings about it, though. She thinks she is too old to be riding a bike and will feel uncomfortable doing so. "The only people that ride bikes around here are you, poor black people, kids, and those exercise obsessed yuppies with the expensive road bikes and back spandex shorts," she told me. I tried to encourage her to break from conventional thought and for us to enjoy some rides together. She would be able to ride over anytime she wanted to see me and I was unable to go pick her up.
"Just think of the good times we could share," I told her enthusiastically, trying to share my love of bike riding.
"I guess," Rosa said. "It is still going to make me feel weird. Besides, those bike seats hurt my butt something terrible."
"We will buy you a more comfortable seat."
I am so excited about today. Today I will enjoy the simple things. I will look up for the moon, stand in a spotlight of sun, and I will inhale with a purpose. I'll notice the breeze through my clothes, in my hair, through me. I will slow down and enjoy every pleasure today has. This day is going to be delicious.
Friday, August 24, 2007
"I wish I would have never taken that first drink of alcohol when I was fourteen," I told my mother during our planned hot dog supper tonight.
I had prepared delicious Hebrew National hot dogs with Sarah Lee buns, Bavarian style sauer kraut, potato salad, and baked beans. We were enjoying our meal as the subject turned to this. Me and my mother use each other as our psychotherapists. Rosa listened intently as we sat around my kitchen table, and it rained and thundered outside.
"How did you get a drink at fourteen?" My mother asked, looking alarmed.
"You and dad had an old bottle of wine in the kitchen. I took it and drank it. You all never missed it."
"I'm so sorry," she said. "We shouldn't have had it in the house."
"It wasn't your fault," I replied. "But it did start a lifelong love affair with alcohol. That first drunk is always the best."
Mom enjoyed her supper and I was sad for her to leave. I walked her to her car and gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Rosa and I then got on the topic of our first experiences with our addictions as we sat in my den watching the Weather Channel.
"I knew I was in trouble when my morals went to hell," Rosa told me. "I would steal, lie, do anything for a fix."
"Well, I would drink mouthwash for a dollar a bottle when I was running low on money."
Rosa shuddered and said she felt like she was going to throw up just thinking about it. I feared I had said too much during our little confessional.
"I didn't mean to make you sick," I said, backpeddling and reaching for her hand.
"I just can't imagine you like that," she replied. "Drinking mouthwash!?!?"
"It's sad," I said. "I am ashamed to admit it, but I was so desperate. I couldn't live without being drunk."
Couldn't live without being drunk... Let's hope those aren't my famous last words. It has been a slow and painful process tackling each day without my old crutch, beer. From that pain, I have grown and matured. I still get the most terrible panic attacks, but you know what? They pass. I get through them. I used to think I would die and would get drunk to feel better. I now choose to live each day sober and the biggest benefit? I can actually live with myself without feeling like a scourge of society.
"You are so different from what you told me you once were. I am glad I didn't know you when you were a drunk," Rosa then said.
And, I too, am glad you didn't know me then dear Rosa. So glad indeed. We would have never probably met. I would have missed out on the best thing that has happened to me since I graduated from high school or had sex for the first time.
A whole passel of the gang is out today at the shopping center. It is scorching hot with a thirty percent chance of precipitation. I say a little prayer for rain. I am sitting on a bench by the dollar store as I watch clouds billow and build in the sky in the afternoon heat. Big S is sitting by the grocery store sweating profusely -- a handkerchief in his hand to wipe the sweat from his brow. I am also sweating something terrible and notice I smell.
Clara comes sashaying down the sidewalk -- a vibe in her steps. It is contagious. "You got five bucks?" she asks me as she stops. "I can't enable your drinking," I say honestly. We then get in an argument over the semantics of the word enable.
"I am going to drink no matter what you do," she says coarsely. "So why don't you give me five dollars."
At least she is honest today, I think.
"I'm selfish," I reply. "I don't want to feel guilt about it and I will."
"Puh-le-e-ease..." Clara pleads desperately.
"Why aren't you panhandling?"
"The management threatened to call the police. Said I was being a nuisance."
I chuckle. The reckless panhandling days at the Piggly Wiggly are over it seems. A new manager is in town.
"So, your not going to give me a few bucks?"
"Creepy son of a bitch," she hollers as she storms off.
I often hear the word "enable" thrown around loosely. I do know if I gave Clara five bucks she would have bought cheap wine and gotten drunk. After I left, I actually felt bad for not giving it to her. She put me in a bad situation. She is going to drink no matter what I do or give her. Maybe she was right and I was wrong. Far too often when dealing with the homeless inebriated we place our own social norms and desires for normalcy upon them. It usually has disastrous results. I should have just given her the five dollars and let her make her own choices about her life. It would be her choice after all and not mine. The money would just be a means to an end.
"It's simple," my favorite convenience store clerk tells me. "You have to make her love you. There has to be mystery and mystique. Keep her guessing."
I never thought I would be getting relationship advice from the third shift convenience store clerk down the road. We were talking about keeping a relationship fresh so it wouldn't lose that "new" feeling.
"Send her flowers," he says. "It makes a woman's heart melt."
Rosa is not a flowers type woman. They would most likely wilt in the vase neglected.
"Are you dating these days?" I ask him.
"Oh, no," he says, drinking his coffee as he looks at me through coke bottle bottom glasses. "I am in between relationships these days."
You should have sent her flowers, I thought as I chuckled and was what I wanted to tell my faux Don Juan friend.
"Women like the thrill of a chase," he continues after ringing up a midnight drunk. "You have to play hard to get."
I decided I had received enough relationship advice from my verbose friend and left the store to walk home. As I walked, I thought of what it would take to keep Rosa happy. Me and her have been through a lot over the years and simplicity thrills us. Rosa likes simple times of shared meals, curling up on the couch watching television, stability. Playing hard to get would go over like a lead balloon with her. Too many things in her life have been too hard to get. I decided the best I could do was to be her Rock of Gibraltar. Unflinching. Stalwart. As unchanging as the landscape.
The house is quiet as I arrive home and hang my backpack by the door. Maggie comes sheepishly walking into the den to greet me as if she knows Rosa is asleep. I change into my boxer shorts and favorite sleeping t-shirt. I smoke a cigarillo and come into my computer room to write this. I can hear Rosa softly snoring in the back room.
Unflinching, Stalwart. As unchanging as the landscape, I think again.
I realize the best thing I can do for Rosa is to give her a home. A place to hang her proverbial hat. Her dozen roses is having a man who is always going to be there sober and sane.
My hardwood floor then creaks as Rosa stirs and walks into the room.
"You coming to sleep soon?" she asks sleepily as she walks over.
"Let me finish writing this," I reply busily pecking away at this keyboard.
"I love you," she says as she wraps her arms around me and kisses me on the neck.
The sensation is invigorating. I, too, feel a stability I haven't felt in years.
"I love you, too," I say back and for the first time in my life I can actually feel it. It is not just idle and empty words.
The floor creaks again as she escapes back to the bedroom. I can hear her climb into the bed and pull the covers around her. The light is turned off with a click. It is little moments like this that make life worth living. Someone to come home to. Stability.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
It's a Thursday morning down at the shopping center. Big S is sitting by the Piggly Wiggly exit drinking a soda. Dexter is nervously fidgeting as he stands up against a wall. Clara is busily panhandling down near the dollar store. I awoke early for my morning walk and the end of my journey brings me by here.
"How's it hangin'?" Big S asks me as I sit down next to him for a break.
"Oh, about two feet," I replied, making a penis joke. Big S burst out laughing. Our discussion then migrated to George and what he has been doing these days. I have fallen out of favor with George.
"He's hangin' out with this scruffy lookin' fella named Dontelle," Big S told me.
"George can find the most interesting people," I reply. "They gravitate to him."
"He and Dontelle be playin' poker over at Pookie's house every night this week," Big S informed me.
"Pookie hasn't stolen George's wallet lately, has she?" I asked as I chuckled.
Big S got the biggest grin on his face as he said no, but that it was bound to happen again soon.
"I don't see why he wants to date a crackhead," Big S said.
"She must be one helluva good screw."
"She's too fat to fuck," Big S said snidely.
I thought of the old saying of the pot calling the kettle black as Big S is almost 300 pounds. Actually, when I think of it, Pookie and Big S would make a good couple. They both sit around and wait on their victims to come to them. I've been thinking of calling Pookie the "Black Widow."
"Clara taking your panhandling business?" I then asked Big S changing the subject.
"Nah, I ain't been panhandlin' lately," he replied. "They keep threatening to call the police on me."
"The manager of the Pig," Big S replied. "Said I am aggravating customers."
I laughed heartily. There is nothing more aggravating than when you have an arm full of groceries and one of these characters accosts you for spare change. Big S saying this made me turn my attention down to Clara as I watched her ask an older woman for a few dollars for "gas money." "Her car was out of gas over by the car wash," she said. It is the oldest line in the book. A few weeks ago, a little Mexican fellow was carrying around an old and rusty alternator that was supposedly from his car trying to get up funds to "go home." Can you say mucho cervezas? These folks will say anything for a few bucks and a forty ounce of beer.
My favorite panhandler down at the shopping center was HIV/AIDS Guy. He eventually disappeared -- I believe he is in jail for drug charges. He would tell his unsuspecting victims that he was dying of AIDS and needed money for his medications to prolong his life. He always had one of those hospital ID bands around his wrist that he would show you during his spiel. He used to rake in the money until they chased him off. He definitely was the most creative panhandler I have ever encountered. I used to tell him I was psychotic crazy and he would leave me alone. He would watch me with shifty eyes as I walked up. George used to get the biggest laugh out of that.
Rosa and me went out on a date last night. I took her to one of those firm bars and then we went to an art store for me to pick up some sketching and drawing supplies. Rosa drank a very healthy margarita and became giddy as we laughed and laughed. She can be so serious and it was pleasing to me for her to let her hair down. I drank sweet tea and had to experience her flush of inebriation vicariously. I would probably still be sitting at the bar early this morning if I had imbibed.
We then took a long drive out to God's country on our night ride home. Lynnard Skynnard was playing on the radio and I felt like a grand duo of rednecks exploring the backwoods. The only thing missing was cans of beer and country music. We spent the rest of the drive home talking about the beach and what we were going to do as I dodged deer in the car.
"We ought to do this more often," Rosa said as we traveled through the woods in a blur.
"I would like that," I replied optimistically, hoping my social anxieties would cooperate.
I am not much one for going out. It reminds me too much of my ex-wife and her insatiable urge to eat out every meal which exhausted me and forever spoiled the pleasure of dining out for me. I am finding dining out with Rosa to be a far different experience, though. She appreciates and savors the experience. I really should treat her more often.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Most of the morning was spent down at the shopping center. Lazy. Yawning. Smoking. Watching people come to and fro. I noticed Clara busily panhandling. People would escape the grocery store only to get caught in her web. I never could panhandle. My social anxieties would prevent me. It was too much like being a door to door salesperson except your customers come to you.
"Doesn't that embarrass you?" I asked her during a lull.
"I gotta do what I gotta do to eat," she said.
You gotta do what you gotta do to drink, I thought flippantly. I would watch her garner about five dollars and go in and buy a bottle of Boone's Farm wine. The cheap stuff. $2 dollars a bottle.
Clara finally tired of panhandling when she had generated enough money. She came and sat beside me -- her wine hidden in a brown paper bag within her backpack as she would take drinks.
"Is that chick that is always with you your wife?" she asked.
"We look like we are married, don't we?" I said with a laugh. Flattered that someone would think such a thing.
"She's protective of you."
"Where not married," I replied. "But it feels like it some days."
"George says she was once homeless in Atlanta."
"Yep," I replied. "I would rather you talk to her about it though. She can tell you some interesting stories."
A quiet moment overcame us as Clara sat drinking that swill. She looked deep in thought. Her hair amiss like some wild child. I could see a thousand tales in her weathered face. I wondered what had happened in life to bring her to live like this.
"You're creepy like some child molester," Clara finally said brusquely as she got up to take another bench up by the grocery store. "You're too friendly." It caught me by surprise the way she turned on me. I realize that such a thing is normal for dealing with a homeless lady who spends her days panhandling and drunk. I wanted to tell her that she wasn't exactly out of the pages of Good Housekeeping either. Some friendships are just never meant to be. I left the shopping center with lunch and Clara on my mind as I walked to Rosa's house to get my car. Gotta do what you gotta do to survive, I thought of living on the streets. It would take more than casual conversation and the occasional breakfast to win over my new homeless friend.
We lay in the bed. You wanted to make love, but I couldn't perform. "Don't worry," you said. "Maybe tomorrow." I remember the twinkle in your eyes and the inflections in your voice. You were like a teenager -- full of lust and desire. I was pleased that you would want me so. I wanted so much to please you back, but my medications hindered me.
Quiet times are us sitting at my kitchen table eating a meal. We both love to eat. You brag on my meat loaf and mashed potatoes asking for the recipe. "It was my grandmother's," I say emphasizing how important that is. It is as if I am sharing a piece of her. You smile as you write it down. "I will make your Memaw proud," you say. Like some collector, you gather recipes to never cook them. You leave that up to me.
After supper, we lay on the floor in my den as the television drones with a deck of cards. I like card games; they remind me of summers at summer camp with us campers gathered around in a circle on a hard wooden floor playing poker. They make me remember the sound of a broom on wet pavement, the smell of the Appalachian forest, how hard it was to lift myself into the top bunk after a busy day. I used to sign the wooden walls with my signature with a thousand other campers, a mark of, "I was here in the summer of '84." I wonder what you would write if you were with me then.
I remember you most when you haven't been there. On my bike ride tonight through downtown that I knew you'd love. Wind blowing in your hair on the downhill stretch as you would laugh with glee. The stop in the park for a cigarette and a drink. I think of you at home sleeping in my bed curled up with my cherub, Maggie. You let me go even though you will worry and only sleep well when I get home. You understand that this is my favorite time of the day. You give me some space.
You speak of beaches lately. Bathtub warm waters. White sand. Reading books on hotel patios. I promise you I am going to take you soon. As soon as the weather cools and the crowds go home. Sand between your toes and revealing two pieces are in your future. There is a glimmer in your eyes as you talk about seafood platters and crabbing in the bay. You will call and talk about it for minutes on end as if to remind me to never forget. I promised and I will live up to that promise. Memories made together are the most lasting of all. I will take you to the beach soon. Maybe you can sign your name on the wooden boardwalk, "Rosa was here in '07." I will sign, "and her faithful companion," for generations to see.
It was well after midnight when I awoke, without sleep, and headed out for a night bike ride. Life's soundtrack was Joni Mitchell's Night Ride Home as I peddled the streets of this late night deserted town. These early mornings are when I feel most at peace -- the town's denizens fast asleep. I can put the previous day behind me and revel in the day ahead.
Yesterday was a busy day. I was thinking this night as I peddled through town how I like for my days to be filled with activity. The days my social anxiety overwhelms me and I stay sequestered in my home can make for some long days indeed. I try so hard not to be the hermit that is my natural inclination.
Yesterday evening ended with my mother staying over for about an hour just to spend time with me. It is so heartwarming for me that a family member enjoys my company so that they would drive over and spend such a length of time caught in my mundane small talk. Mom was shaky last night worried my father was upset with her, though. I realize I can play the role of her psychotherapist some days. Like upon Freud's couch, she sits telling me all her problems as I analyze them and give her a pep talk. It is glaring how much of a child she can still be at sixty years old.
That's my goal these days -- to grow up. Far too long I was held captive in the mind of a child. Adult emotions. Adult Feelings. These are all my grandest aspirations. It took me getting sober to realize this. I've heard the old expression of being an adult child of an alcoholic, but how about being an alcoholic adult child? With baby steps, I tackle this undiscovered country that is becoming a man. Rosa notes it best when she tells me, "You're someone I feel can protect me and make the best decisions for our future. You are an equal companion." My ex-wife would probably scoff in horror at Rosa saying that, marking the fact that I was like her child when we were married. Rachel, people change, learn, and grow up.
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
Word travels fast within the gang as I have often said. They are some of the most gossiping folks I know -- always meddling in each other's lives. Big S told me this afternoon that Ferret was in a bad way and not leaving his campsite. He has been paying Dexter to buy him beer at the convenience store and then bring it to him. I decided to get a to-go box of dinner at Sarah Jay's eatery and take it to him -- worried he was going to get malnourished.
The walk to Ferret's campsite is a pleasant experience. Across the tracks and beyond the depot, a tangle of woods skirts the river. A maze of trails intersperse these woods leading to different fishing holes used commonly by elder black men. Ferret's camp is where Moore's creek intersects the river and he has been known to fish for supper some days. I found Ferret sitting next to a dormant campfire drinking an ice beer. I startled him as I walked up.
"What's going on, man?" I asked shaking his hand.
"Not much, dawg,"
"Big S says you're having a hard time."
"I'm having the time of my life," Ferret replied as he laughed drunkenly and finished off a can of beer.
I handed Ferret the to-go box of dinner and he opened it to look at the contents.
"Thanks," he said of the burger and fries I had brought. "You want a beer?"
"I can't drink these days."
"Why?" Ferret asked.
"I've developed an allergy to alcohol."
I almost felt like I was lying, but I am allergic to alcohol in a certain sense.
"That's a shame," Ferret said eating the burger as he cracked open another beer.
We sat for awhile as I listened to Ferret talk. His mental illness was really manifesting itself in his outlook on life. Paranoia. Suspicion. Imagined drama. All things I have experienced when drinking and not taking my medications just like him. I long ago realized after all I've done for Ferret over the years that I couldn't change him. I could make his life easier, though, with food and the occasional pack of cigarettes. Most people can't understand why someone would want to live this way. I can. I did. And I sometimes want to go back.
"I'll bring you some supper tomorrow as well," I finally told Ferret as I got up off the ground to leave.
Ferret thanked me and I had a solemn walk back to my car to drive home. Ferret is living almost exactly like I did when I was homeless. It's uncanny, the resemblance. I won't lie and say I don't think about joining him some days. If I was still drinking, I probably would. Thank god for my sobriety and the medications that temper these urges. I don't want to go back to that pitiful existence that my sick and twisted mind can think of as a grand experience.
I've always been a morning person. I awake well before dawn and start my day. Rosa can sleep till lunchtime much to my chagrin. Of course, Rosa is not going to miss a beat and will soon stir when she hears me up and about. This morning was the same.
We drifted down to the shopping center this morning after our walk. The air was cool and pleasant -- hovering in the seventies. The parking lot was already brimming with the cars of early shoppers. I walked down to the diner to get us some bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits. I got one for Clara and Big S as well who were already panhandling in front of the Piggly Wiggly.
"Why are you being so nice to me?" Clara, the homeless woman, asked suspiciously as I handed her a biscuit. "I still say you want something."
"I just care. That's all," I replied with a heartfelt and unassuming smile remembering my own homeless days.
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth I wanted to tell her, but didn't. Big S then asked her where she slept. "That's none of your business!" she quipped. That was smart I thought. The first rule of being homeless is to never reveal your campsite or sleeping spot. It is the only privacy you have and the choice spots are always cherished. I couldn't find Ferret's new campsite until he showed me.
It wasn't long until George came roaring into the parking lot with a car load of patrons for their shopping. George was already busily nursing a bottle of cheap wine as he chomped on a cigar.
"Great!" Rosa said sarcastically at his arrival.
George acted like he didn't even know me as he talked to Big S and Clara. It kind of hurt my feelings. Rosa was glad and said I needed to stay away from him anyway. I don't know what was wrong with George, but I do think Rosa had a hand in it.
"What did you tell George?" I asked as we walked back to Rosa's house a while later so I could drive home.
"I didn't say a word," Rosa replied innocently as she shrugged her shoulders.
I still say she has said something to him and is hiding it from me. News travels fast within the gang and secrets are hard kept. I don't need my girlfriend babysitting me and my relationships. Time will tell just what transpired. I do know George treated me far differently than he ever has and it makes me suspicious.
Monday, August 20, 2007
Late evening found Rosa and me down at the shopping center. The heat of a summer's sun still emanated from the parking lot and sidewalks long after it had begun to set. Clara, the homeless woman, was down there. She looked chipper and upbeat today -- a spring in her step.
"How are ya'll?" she asked sounding so southern as she walked by.
"Fine," I said as I smiled. Rosa said the same.
"She sure is happy," Rosa told me after she had passed.
"You saw what she had in that bag, didn't you?"
"Yep," I replied. "A forty ounce of beer. She must have gotten some more money today."
I know that feeling all too well. I once lived for the day my disability check would be deposited into my checking account. That little debit card would be burning a hole in my wallet. I would climb aboard my motorcycle and rush to the convenience store for beer.
"I sure could use a beer right now as well, but it would be a bad influence on you," Rosa then told me.
"Yeah, I've had a really rough day and probably couldn't resist joining you," I replied, smiling. "I wish I was like you and could just have a few and quit."
"I love the smell of beer," Rosa said wistfully. "Especially when the can is almost empty. It smells so... hoppy and barley-ish."
I laughed. I don't ever remember smelling my beer. I was too interested in downing as many as I could in as short a time. I never had a good sense of smell, anyway, due to my schizophrenia.
"I'm proud of you," Rosa then said. "I'm proud of you for being a man about it."
Little did she know how I struggled earlier in the day. It was some tough times to say the least.
"Dad told me the same thing on the phone when I called him," I replied.
"Well, it is true," she said. "You don't see it, but you have changed so much these past few months."
I needed to hear that. Sometimes, I still feel like a small child. Scared, hopeless, and lost. It helps to hear someone saying that I am different. That I am more of a man. I felt happy as we drove home with the thought that something good did come out of this day. "This too shall pass," is what I always try to tell myself when I get the doldrums and the crazies. I will sleep well tonight.
I realize my journal can be dramatic at times. That's just par for the course when dealing with someone saddled with mental illness. One day the weather is sunny with clear skies. The next day it is addled with rain and overcast. I am much like the weather and can turn on a whim. They (my doctor and father) say the lithium I take is supposed to help with this, but I don't know. I still have crazy off days like today.
An hour ago, I took three Librium and it immediately calmed me down. Then I just called my father to tell him of my plans. "You've been doing so well lately and I have bragged to everyone about you," he said. "Your brother and sister are so proud." I couldn't go through with leaving Maggie and Rosa and living down on the river. It took some pills and a pep talk to make me change my mind. It's sad really and I know it is frustrating to read. I am so embarrassed by my last post, but will let it stand. I am off to take a long nap and hope that the gods that be allow me to wake up in a different frame of mind. I hope you all have a good day.
I was sitting down at the post office when my mother saw my car and pulled into the parking lot.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Just sitting here and listening to the radio," I said. "I had to get out of the house and knew no one would bother me here."
"Aren't you hot?"
"It is very hot," I replied.
"Come on and get in the car," she said. "Let's go get you something to drink."
We drove down the road to the convenience store. I tried to explain to my mother, my cabin fever. It is a symptom of my urge to be homeless.
"I used to couldn't stay in the house without your father there so I understand," she told me which made me feel better.
Deep tears then started to roll down my cheeks. My mother looked alarmed.
"Mom, I can't keep living the way I am living," I said in between sobs.
"What are you going to do?" she asked.
"I am going to go live down on the river for awhile before winter hits."
"Your father is going to have a fit," she said.
"I don't care what he thinks," I replied.
Mom took me back to the car with several bottles of cold water.
I feel crazy today. Turbulent thoughts amidst a turbulent mind. My only peace is the solitude of the great outdoors where I don't feel four walls closing in on me. When I get crazy, I don't care what other people think. I just want to live by the river and have the simplicity of it all. I can deal with the heat. The mosquitoes. And the animals. I can't deal with feeling tied down and caged like something in a zoo. Bah, I am going to quit writing this blog because I will hear nothing but negativity for writing my honest emotions.
I gave up on my faux rainy day. Rosa wanted to go home to do some things around her house. I am having a terrible morning. The cabin fever is unbearable. I think I am going to drive down and sit next to the post office all day listening to the radio. I have to get out of this house. I will write again this afternoon.
On rainy days I watch overcast movies like Star Wars. It's the ultimate rainy day trilogy; the way grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup are the rainy day meal. Full of conflict that ends with a triumphant overcoming of evil. Another good rainy day movie is the Goonies. That is just the way it is. I love the smell of the rain and how dark it gets in the middle of the day. I will find myself turning on lamps like it is late evening. I love when thunder puts Maggie on full alert. She will sit on the back of the couch guarding the windows, her ears erect as if she had seen someone walking by.
We haven't had much rain lately and I am missing those rainy days. My father will always call me to talk about the weather as he makes breakfast for supper. "You must be in your element," he will say as I hear eggs frying over the the phone. The pop and crackle of frying bacon will evoke a thousand rainy day memories of him doing this always when I was a child. Everyone who really knows me, knows I am happiest on rainy days. They are an excuse to be lazy and indulgent -- full of sex and sloth.
The forecast looks bleak for the days ahead. Not one chance of rain for the foreseeable future. The weather guessers say we are in a drought. I've heard it before. Just like most things in life, you can't always have what you want. Me and Rosa will just have to make our own faux rainy day. Joni Mitchell on repeat playing Two Gray Rooms. Breakfast for supper after curling up on the couch and watching movies all day. Writhing in the sheets as we make love with abandon. I think it is going to be a good day. Now, if I can just get Rosa to cooperate.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
We shared the same parents. How had I managed to become a lost man? Homeless. Addicted. Living in the woods. We come from a nice family, well respected in this small town. Wealthy, and with means. My brother would go on to be a doctor. Married. One child and another on the way. An officer and gentleman in the Navy. He followed my father's directions for his life to a T. I took a left turn at Albuquerque. I'd try so hard only to fail and to complicate things. I wanted so much to please my father -- to make him proud. I ended up alone, mentally ill, and bereft of friends and family.
I remember when my niece was born. I was an Uncle. I heard through the grapevine about it. Not from my family. I cried. I sobbed. I was jealous. The evening would find me in my tent drinking beer and feeling intense emotions. Why did my brother get all the lucky breaks? He had the perfect life of a loving wife and a prestigious job. I was left with nothing. "I didn't ask to be mentally ill," I would cry out in anger as I got drunker. That was when the thoughts of suicide would sneak into my mind. Maybe I could drink myself to death, I would think. I would eventually pass out to wake up freezing cold and still alive. It was terrible times -- like some horrible rendition of Groundhog Day. Times I want to forget, but temper the man I am these days.
That is what I just wrote in my memoirs and deleted. I am shying away from all things analytical. I felt uneasy about it as if I shared too much emotion. I talked about the dreaded suicide that so escaped me during those days. I think I have run talking about homelessness into the ground as well. Like some apparition from a dark past, it haunts me. Calls me. Come back to your old ways it seems to say. I am drawn to it like a moth to a flame. It inhabits my every waking thought like some penance I am doomed to pay.
The hardest part of writing a memoir? The past. It hurts to relive those memories. I want to go on with my life with some pollyannaish mentality -- forgetting where I've come from. For me to write these memoirs, I am going to have drudge up old, tired emotions and family dirt. The mental illness that all effected our lives for years. It is scary, but something I feel I must do to put the past behind me. Here's to hoping I would learn and grow, and not become some bitter soul living in the past.
Things happen in threes. My MP3 player stopped working this morning. I had a long essay written and lost it due to a power outage. My computer keeps doing strange things like the display driver not responding. It is ominous. What have I done to upset the technology gods? I woke up after a short nap, rubbing my eyes, wondering what is going to happen next. It makes me superstitious.
I complained to Rosa, exasperated. "Baby, it's time for you to go analog. I know you're mister Internet and all, but you need to take a break. You are too tied to all that technology. You do your best writing in a pen and paper journal."
I felt a tinge of despair over losing that essay as if I had lost a dear friend. Rosa's words echoed in my mind as I nervously curled up on the couch eating nacho cheese Doritos and then licking the cheese off my fingertips. Then I wandered into the kitchen to make a grilled cheese sandwich and a cold glass of milk -- the sandwich filled with gooey cheddar and lots of Blue Plate mayonnaise. I eat when I am nervous. I crawled into my most comfortable clothes, into my sheets, as Maggie joined me. I felt better then. My burning the midnight oil last night is coming back to haunt me today.
I do my best writing late at night and early in the morning. That purgatory of the day when most others are sound asleep, curled up with their loved ones. I'm pecking away upon this keyboard burning the midnight oil. Coast to Coast AM is on the radio and Maggie is preening upon the floor. I lift a cup of hot, milky sweet coffee to my lips in between paragraphs and savor the taste and aroma. Lit cigars and wafting blue smoke complete the ambiance -- the air in my computer room a foggy haze. I feel like some strange Steven King laboring upon his next bestseller. The words just seem to come at an ease unbeknownst during the day.
My best friend in high school wrote beautiful poetry. She would sit in our English class writing and would hand me what she wrote. Her way with words always made me jealous. She would go on to forego a career as a writer to join the Army out of high school. I thought that was such a waste. She taught me how to put emotion and feeling into my writings. It seems we are taught to disguise our emotions as if we are imposing on others. Her poems were filled with angst, joy, love lost, and love lorn. Her writings were an experience and not just mere words on a page. I often think of her when I write. Anybody can write down what they did today, but it takes a writer to make you feel it.
My mother called me last night just to talk. The conversation was heartwarming...
"Julia asked what you do these days," she said.
"What did you tell her?"
"I told her you're a writer and actually make money at it."
"Tell her I want her to come smoke on my porch and read some of my writings."
"I will tell her Monday night," mom said. "She is so proud of you."
For the longest time, I never thought of myself as a writer. I thought of myself as a "blogger." Hearing mom say it last night was so exciting. To think my parents are telling people such things.
"What should I tell them when they ask what you write?"
"Non-fiction," I replied. "I have found that is more understandable than just saying I am a blogger."
A moment ago I looked at the top 100 most popular blogs on Technorati. None of them were written by writers in my opinion. They were all pop culture, regurgitated news, technology gossip, politics, or other subjects I would consider mind numbingly boring. I realized then that I would never have a popular blog because I don't write about such nonsense. My writings are going to appeal to a very small cross section of blog readers. Those with mental illness or addiction struggles will be drawn. Still, it will be interesting to see where this will take me. Could it open doors? Could my prolific eagerness in which I write pay off? I certainly do try to hone my skills as a writer on a daily basis. Only time will tell as the old saying goes. Only time will tell...
I couldn't sleep. I left Rosa snoring in the bed and rode my bike downtown. The cool night air belied the scorching hot day previously and the day ahead. I felt strange riding my bike so late as if the police were watching me upon those deserted streets. The prying eyes of this small town are always on the lookout and forever vigilant.
When we are missing, people look for us. There was a time in my life that I could have gone missing for weeks and no one would care or come looking. When someone is gone, we imagine the best for them and the worst for us. Oftentimes, our imagination is crueler than reality. We’ll whine to our friends, using words like “depressed” and “miss” interchanged with “so much!” That was the kind of greeting Rosa gave me when I walked in the door a moment ago and I encouraged her to go back to sleep. "I was so worried about you," she said. "You just disappeared." "I had to get out and clear my head," I replied sleepily.
It's funny how life works out sometimes -- the little support groups we build around us. Much like this blog and it's readers, I have a support group in real life. Rosa. My father. The little my mother can do. It is hard to think that three years ago they weren't in my life and I was sitting in some tent in the wild woods of Alabama. Homeless. Cold, shivering, and all alone. I still have so many questions about how I let life get that way. You have to live life with unanswered questions though; there isn't always a why. People paint rectangular sentences, rounding them off with, "there is a reason for everything." Doors shut and windows open suddenly, and "meant to be" sticks in your craw like thick marmalade. Counselors and life coaches speak of it flippantly, as if speaking of a divorce or an act of God. "It was meant to be," they say. They don't attempt these clichés when faced with something as horrible as a child dying of cancer. It certainly wasn't "meant to be" then. Do you honestly believe that child died to teach you a lesson?
Such is how I feel about my homeless days and my alcoholism. It just was. There was no grand plan by some higher being to teach me a lesson. I made terrible choices and it took me down an errant path. I am still making choices every day. Some good. Some bad. You learn through this process which choices bring the best results. I call it growing up. Most people take becoming an adult for granted, but those of us stunted by our addictions and mental illnesses never do until very late in life. There are some that will never grow up -- forever caught in the mentality of a child and drifting through life like a lost puppy.
Growing up is no small task for me. It's is much easier to be stagnant, alone, drunk, homeless, and isolated. The fear and anxiety of tackling that undiscovered country of adulthood is almost overwhelming. So I'll continue facing that fear and anxiety, but I will try to face it without acting on impulse. You see what impulse got me last night. Instead, I'll know that this change -- this adulthood -- I'm trying to own is "meant to be." I’m open, full of hope, taking in a deep breath, and exhaling slowly, letting the worry melt off my back. It’s more than a beginning. It’s an answer.
News traveled fast of my little foray into the land of the inebriated. George called me late this night as Rosa stood impatiently and listened. I let the answering machine pickup.
"Hey white boy. This is your ole pal George. Wanted to be knowin' if you wanted to go riding around and drinking beer. Ferret be sayin' you have joined us drunks again."
"Don't you even think about it," Rosa said during the message with a fierce determination. I smiled as George went on to talk about his usual Saturday night poker game at Pookie's house.
"Got my clock cleaned in poker, but I still have enough to drink. Call me when you be gettin' this."
George was supposed to have quit drinking months ago. His doctor said he was on the verge of cirrhosis. His blood tests came back showing a decreased liver function. I worry about my friend and wish he could sober up. I worry about others as well the way he drinks and drives. Rosa promised me the next time she caught George drinking and driving she was going to use her cell phone to call the police. Rosa hates George and thinks he is a terrible influence upon me. I have always chalked it up to a tad bit of jealously.
Rosa is sleeping now. Restful. Snoring. Content that I am okay. Maggie, my cherub, is curled up at my feet snoring as well. I am sitting up listening to Mick Williams' Cyber Line as I can't sleep. All is right in my world and just the way I want it to be. Pleasant dreams blog world. I am fixing to curl up on the bed in this room as I drift to sleep to the sound of the radio playing. Good night.
Saturday, August 18, 2007
I had a friend named Dean. We haven't spoken in years so I guess I should no longer call him a friend. I am sure if I were to call we could pick things up were we left off. Dean had a fiery temper and a suspicious mind. He always thought his wife, Karen, was cheating on him. No doubt he is probably checking his wife's cell phone for made calls as I write this.
Now we have a Dean in the tropics and just as fiery. He is bearing down on Jamaica and possibly the Cayman's. My only memory of visiting Jamaica was when our cab driver tried to sell my father marijuana. Now I call that branching out in the business world. I remember my father being surprised, but strangely interested. "What does it look like?" he asked the cab driver. The cab driver pulled out a little bag that seemed filled with a dried herb. My mother didn't find it interesting at all. "Johnny, quit carrying on. You're just making things worse," I can remember her saying.
Hurricane season gets me excited. Not for the loss of property, life, or limb, but for the interesting weather it brings. It excites my father as well and we have already talked twice tonight about the weather. It bores Rosa to death. "Please," she pleaded a moment ago. "Not the weather channel again!" We usually watch the British comedies on PBS. Not tonight. Tonight is wall to wall coverage of the hurricane as I and my father place bets on whether the pressure will drop more or not, and if Dean will turn category five. Dean, don't come knocking on our door, but it will be fun to watch you dance across the gulf for a few days. Hopefully, there will only be minor damage and no loss of life. Now, where are those thunderstorms we are supposed to have tonight?
Monday's were a long day for my mother. She would teach all day and then she would pile all us kids into the car to drive to Columbus, Georgia and the chiropractor. "He's cute," my father would say of my mother's crush upon her doctor when we would complain of the long drive when a doctor was available in our hometown. Mom would urge all us children to do our homework in the car as she drove and listened to country music. Do you realize how futile that was? We were more interested in fighting and picking on my little sister in the backseat.
My back is hurting me this afternoon and it reminded me of those trips to the chiropractor. My back never hurt until mom started to force me into seeing that quack for years. I think it is my kidneys and I tend to be a hypochondriac these days. No more drinking for me I decided this afternoon sobering up. I just had to step back out one more time to see if it was still the same. The hangovers. The paranoia. The elation and no-care-in-the-world attitude drinking brings for me. I can be rash and quick with words and even quicker with a temper. You know what I hate the most? The guilt. Guilt for letting down Rosa and guilt for letting down my readers. Excuse me while I go slink off and pour out half a case of beer. I just can't have it in the house as I come down from this drunk. It was fun while it lasted, but I just enjoy it too much and will abuse it.
Violent storms rolled through last night keeping me awake until well after midnight. The wind blew the rain up against my storm windows making me feel as if I were caught in a hurricane. I finally went to sleep to thunderous booms of thunder. I awoke early this morning and decided to catch Ferret down at his campsite before he would get out and about. I walked into Ferret's camp just as he was cooking something over an open fire like some hobo from the long forgotten past.
"You hungry?" he asked.
I looked in the pot to smell a mix of cream of mushroom and chicken soup according to Ferret. It looked vile to me.
"No thanks," I said. "I cooked a big breakfast at home."
Ferret then asked me to walk across the road and buy us some beer as long as I wouldn't disappear again. I assured him his money was in capable hands. I visited the little convenience store run by the Middle Eastern men who speak broken English. I bought a twelve pack of Milwaukee's Best Ice and carried it back to Ferret's campsite. We both sat drinking until the beer was gone with Ferret drinking far more than me.
"I envy you," I told him.
"Why?" Ferret asked with a confused look upon his face.
The alcohol was coursing through my blood stream coloring my thoughts. I was still kind of drunk from the night before.
"You don't have a care in the world other than what you will eat or when to buy your next beer," I replied.
A big grin formed on Ferret's face at my bragging on him. Ferret is a simple soul.
"It sure is damn hot, though," he finally said, eating his soup from a plastic bowl.
It was such a picturesque setting us sitting there by the river. The morning cicadas were calling. The sun shone through the trees at a morning angle. The only mar was the harsh smell of the river that reminded me of rotting fish. I wanted to spend the rest of my life caught in this moment. My anxiety of many weeks has melted away.
"What are you doing today?" I then asked him.
"Hanging out at the shopping center," Ferret replied. "George is bringing a couple of bottles of Wild Irish Rose."
That sounded so tempting. It had been so long since I've had a listless day of hanging out down there.
"Okay if I tag along?"
"Meet us after lunch," Ferret said.
The plans for the day are set. I am going to grab a shower, play some Warcraft and then pack a lunch for me and Rosa as we go sit over at the shopping center for a few hours. It is going to be a grand day.
Friday, August 17, 2007
A few nights ago I suggested to Rosa that we play a game. She loves to ask me questions and I begrudgingly answer. Rosa is like my brother in that she can ask a dizzying array of inquires in a short amount of time. It was my turn to ask her questions in sweet revenge. We did this in the effort to make us a better couple. Not long into my barrage she complained, "I'm tired of all these questions." "Now you know how I feel," was my reply. She agreed to ask me only pertinent questions pertaining to our days from now on. This pact or covenant didn't last for long, though.
The phone rang a moment ago. It was Rosa. "Is your dad coming tonight?" "Is Maggie okay?" "What did you have for supper?" And it went on and on. "You are one damn little inquisitive vixen," I said, my tongue loosened after a few beers. "I just worry about you," was her reply. I realized our lives have become so entangled as to never untwine the cords and ties shared between us. I was feeling cooperative and answered each question with eagerness. What would usually aggravate me brought me joy. It is a novel experience facing a relationship as an adult for a change. Only recently have I begun to grow up. I still falter from time to time, but as past history has shown I eventually arrive on top.
I started to get down tonight for having a slip, but decided much worse could happen. I am safe. At home. And carefully sequestered in my humble abode. I will wake tomorrow morning no doubt feeling like the bottom of the toilet bowl I will be hugging. A small price to pay for one night of debauchery. I raise my can of beer to all you out there reading and here's to tomorrow that I hope will come. I am off to get lost in a land of inebriation and to forget about my troubles and past for one night. Au revoir.
Took Maggie to the Veterinarian late this afternoon for her annual checkup and shots. She did pretty well except for the shots when she urinated all over the examining table and herself. She was shaking like a leaf. Rosa elected to stay home as she didn't want to see Maggie getting pricked with those needles. The damage? $80 dollars, but I don't begrudge Maggie for the money spent. I would rather her be healthy and happy.
Had a slip up after the vet visit. I took Rosa home and swung by the convenience store. I bought a case of beer and brought it home. I am slowly nursing some beers until my father arrives and then I can unleash the hounds. I just want a release and I have been dealing with the most terrible anxiety. It's the perfect night to imbibe with lightning flashing out my windows and a stiff breeze rattling my storm windows as well. The sad thing is that once I get started, I can't quit. This will mean that I will be up all night long. Most likely on this computer playing World of Warcraft and writing. I might just have my own private Blog-A-Thon.
Daring. Full of Bravado. Like some Don Quixote attacking a windmill. I trudged downtown after parking at the post office a moment ago. I was determined to find Ferret. Not long into my walk, I ran into Dexter, George's mentally retarded, but oh so funny and kind cohort.
"Seen Ferret?" I asked.
Dexter turned towards the river and pointed. "That way," he said after asking me for a few dollars. I continued on with my march after putting my wallet back into my back pocket now less five dollars. Into the woods I went behind the railroad tracks searching for Ferret's campsite. I finally gave up after looking for thirty minutes, scratched by underbrush and weary from the heat.
"Damn you Ferret," I said. "Where in the hell are you camped?"
Sitting in front of the old depot eating sardines and crackers, I finally saw Ferret come walking down the railroad tracks. It didn't take him long to notice me. He was drunk and reeked of alcohol. In his hand was a sack of old clothes.
"What's up?" Ferret asked, his eyes red from a hangover, as he approached me.
"Got worried about you," I replied. "Wanted to see if you are okay."
Ferret sat down on the bench next to me.
"I'm just glad I don't have to work anymore," Ferret said. "Work is for idiots."
The irony of Ferret's predicament didn't escape me. Not working and not taking his medications has forced him to live outside near the river like some wild animal. I almost envied Ferret as it would be one hell of an adventure and camping experience.
"You getting enough to eat?" I asked.
Ferret patted his belly assuring me that he was well fed.
"You haven't talked to Monte lately about moving back in?" I then asked.
"That son of a bitch can kiss my ass," Ferret said angrily. "He threw me out of the house."
I initially helped Ferret find this living arrangement. Monte is George's cousin and agreed to board Ferret in a spare room for rent money as long as Ferret stayed sober and worked. Ferret couldn't live up to his end of the bargain and got thrown out.
"Let's go get drunk," Ferret then said. "It would be like old times."
"You are already drunk," I replied. "You reek of it."
"Well then," Ferret said. "Let's get even drunker. I'm paying."
I won't lie and say the offer wasn't tempting. I would love nothing more than to meet up with George and have a listless day of drinking beer and cavorting with my old shopping center Piggly Wiggly friends.
"Come on," Ferret said as he stood up. "The convenience store is across the street with ice cold beer."
I sighed and wanted to run. I realized then that I shouldn't have found Ferret. It brought back too many old urges and longings. My homeless life of being a drunkard will forever haunt me in the wanton abandon and the lack of responsibility in which I lived my life then.
"Go get us some beer and I will wait here," I finally replied.
Ferret disappeared around the corner of the depot to cross the highway. I quickly grabbed my backpack and disappeared myself beyond the bank and made a beeline to my car. It was all too much to handle. And to think that I have been thinking that I am over my drinking urges and could handle them. My past came back to haunt me in a gloriously negative fashion today. My randy insolence with regards to my alcoholism hit hard and I went slinking home -- slouching towards Bethlehem as the Yeats' poem would say.
I sat up in the bed this morning watching her sleep. She looked so peaceful. Like a child. I have been thinking of asking her for some space as she sleeps over here every night these days. My heart melted seeing that person in the bed beside me. I decided to save that conversation for another day.
"Outside?" I said as Maggie's ears perked up.
I walked into the kitchen to open the backdoor. Maggie went bounding out and barking. Soon, the smell of percolating coffee was wafting throughout the house. I was standing at the stove cooking breakfast when I felt two arms wrap around me.
"Good morning," I said as I held her arms.
"Can I interest you in going back to sleep?" she asked.
"I'm starving," I said in reply. "You want your usual?"
Rosa has to have her eggs very well done, almost desiccated. I proceeded to crack three eggs into a frying pan and stirred them with a wooden spoon. We then sat quietly eating as we were both waking up.
I never had these moments when I was married. Rachel would curl up on the couch with an open box of dry cereal, munching. That was her breakfast. Soon, she would leave for work and I would spend the day alone. She would arrive home late at night only to just watch television and go to bed. I realize now we were married on paper only. We were two strangers living under the same roof with vastly different lives.
Rosa and I are different. We share the same rituals and routines. Each meal is a blessing after our shared homeless experiences when times could be lean. Warm, inviting beds are something not to be taken for granted when park benches were once the norm. The ritual of smoking our cigarillos on my porch becomes a moment of conversation and bonding. It is all very scary to me, but elating at the same time.
This morning started out with thoughts of, maybe we need to spend some time apart, and ended with a, "I love you," after breakfast on the porch. Here's to relationships and that convoluted emotion and feeling called love.
Thursday, August 16, 2007
Me and my mother sat quietly in my den late this afternoon. You could hear the gulps as mom took swallow after swallow of her diet Dr. Pepper.
"Television?" I asked.
"I am enjoying the quiet," mom said.
Maggie was overjoyed at the company and jumped into my mother's lap to sit.
"What did you do today?" my mother asked deviating from her usual, "What did you eat?"
"I tried to help a homeless woman," I replied.
"That's nice," my mother said, completely oblivious to what I replied.
"And I saw green aliens in my closet," I then said trying to stifle back a hearty laugh.
"You're not even listening to me!"
"I'm sorry," she said. "I was enjoying the peace and quiet."
I just shrugged my shoulders as I smiled and laughed. Mom soon left to go home and lie in the bed till my father arrives. Strange lives and even stranger days accompany my mother and I through our travels. We've seen just about everything. Love you, mom.
I noticed that homeless woman once again today. Hair amiss. Fingernails like tiger's claws. Shirt torn in the back exposing her bra strap. She looked like some wild child out of Kipling's Jungle Book. I gathered up the courage to do something small for her. I bought a small insulated, collapsible cooler at the dollar store and bought some ice cold bottled water. It would fit easily within her backpack.
"Here," I said. "A gift from the heavens."
She smiled broadly as she looked in the cooler to find the cold water.
"No beer?" she asked.
"If I still drank, I would buy us both a beer and we would get a buzz."
The bringing of the cooler completely broke the proverbial ice.
"Clara," she said, shaking my hand. "My name is Clara."
"Nice to meet you, Clara," I replied, noticing the weathered lines on her face. She is about in her thirties, but looked older than that.
"What do you want?"
"Most men want something from a woman when they do something like that," Clara said. "You want me to suck your dick behind the store?"
This caught me completely by surprise and I stammered upon my words.
"A thank you and a possible friendship is all I want."
She eyed me suspiciously. I am forgetting the unwritten laws of the streets after being homed for so long. It is tit for tat at this level of existence. Her dog eat dog mentality brought back a wave of memories of my homeless days filled with drunken bliss. I would have done anything for a beer and a pack of cigarettes. And I got taken advantage of several times after being homed by some of George's homeless cohorts as well. HIV/AIDS Guy comes to mind.
I walked over to my car parked next to the convenience store and she followed me. Rosa was sitting inside the running car as I sat down to write down my phone number to hand to Clara.
"Call me if things get too tough," I told her through my open window as I handed her my number.
Rosa watched on intently as I left to drive off.
"That was stupid," Rosa said of me giving her my number.
"Why?" I asked.
"Cause she is going to call us at three AM in the morning, drunk, and wanting you to rescue her."
"Sweetheart, you forget where you have been," I said. "You were once in her shoes."
"Yeah, that's true," Rosa said with a smirk. "That is why I know she is going to call your ass tonight, drunk as hell."
It takes one to know one as the old saying goes and Rosa is probably right. I will jump that hurdle when the time arrives. I was just glad I could do something to help another human being in a situation I once found myself in. Rosa is just the more reasoned angel of my existence and was being bluntly honest as she usually is. Where fools rush in was the old quote that came to mind of my actions today.
A cool morning greeted us in contrast to the heat a southern summer's day would soon bring. I ended up having a lot of company last night. It was if my family could sense something was amiss. Dad showed up at nine with my medications. It was his birthday and I greeted him with a card and Red Lobster gift certificate. Mom soon showed up later just to sit with me and Rosa for a few hours. Rosa fell asleep on my shoulder as mom watched Murder She Wrote on the television. I thought she would never leave as I was miserably sleepy. I was glad she came, though.
Midnight found me and Rosa in the bed. Rosa kept complaining about my radio being on. It is an old habit that will die hard. I can't sleep without some noise in the background. I lay in the bed as the radio softly droned and Rosa and Maggie snored. It was rather comforting to hear them all curled up with me making such noise. They are my family and I cherish them.
I found another blog yesterday surfing Blog Explosion and it was about anxiety and panic attacks. The symptoms described were uncannily like my own I have been experiencing every night this week. These symptoms have been urging me to flee thus my fixation on homelessness. Maybe it hasn't been my schizophrenia after all, and just simple anxiety. It certainly would explain how I have been feeling. Diagnosing mental illness is such a frustrating bout of trial and error.
My blogging friend, Lisa, is experiencing a blogging malaise lately. I can understand her frustration with blogging at times. I had over 5000 visitors yesterday with only a small handful of comments. If you get a chance, stop by Ladybug Hill and give her a word of support. She would appreciate it and she shares her world with a wonderful alacrity of words.