Archive for March, 2010

March 22, 2010

Nine days. There are nine uncrossed-out days left in March on my dry-erase calendar. My roomie Nona does not know that those nine days remaining this month are exactly the number of days left before I, as others who fantasize about leaving here would say; “get up out of here.”  In grammatically correct terms. I’m moving out April, 1.

The last few days have been invasive. About a week ago, someone went into my chest of drawers and stole my bikini. They didn’t touch my Ironman watch, my favorite brown rockstar studded leather belt which took a trip around the world without me last summer, nor did they touch my Michael Jackson collector’s pins. No. They stole my new bikini that made me look a cup size larger and a butt size smaller. Yesterday, someone stole Nona’s off-brand ghetto cigarettes from her drawer and she blamed me for not informing her that I was leaving for the day so that she could guard her “good shit.” She got so angry and loud about it that I thought her brain tumor would burst.  I kept trying to calm her down because quite frankly, there’s no contingency plan in place in case she makes good on her daily threat to die soon. But she was fully committed to her Coniption Fit and the best I could do was to let her vent. I’ve had the song stuck in my head that I used to drown out her voice-a random 80s tune by the Australian band Icehouse called Electric Blue. “What can I do…la la la,  Electric Blue.”

So, this  morning I  whistled that tune and marked off another day on my calendar  and left the house with the intention of spending as much time as possible away (as usual). If I’m not in class or at my job, then I’m floating around Santa Monica or the Valley  in my car looking for a comfortable place to write or prepare for auditions. The irony is that I moved to Safe Passage to avoid living in my car…but considering the amount of time that I spend avoiding the house….I essentially live in my car anyway. When I look back over my journal entries since moving to Safe Passage last July,  I see that I would have to be absent 24/7 to avoid the inevitable drama that erupts when you throw six addicts and a splash of “school girl” under one roof. This seems like as good a time as any to share those journal entries.


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If silence is Golden then Melisa is Fort Knox Bling. Melisa is short, compact and built like a square. No one knows her story because she won’t tell it. She won’t tell us anything. When I say anything…I mean, Nothing. No ‘good morning, good night’ or even a ‘go to hell.’ Melisa was mute 99 percent of the time. That one percent when words escaped from her mouth they were thoughtful and carefully measured. They were almost prophetic.

Once, when was particularly skeeved over one of my roommate’s lack of hygiene, I was blowing steam about how I was going to get the hell out.

Melisa, who just stared at me while I erupted in vile against the roommate says, quietly. “You will not escape. You will leave. For if you escape you are still a victim. If you leave you are empowered. If you walk out now, you are a victim. Nobody like the victim.”

That sums up Melisa. I don’t know what crime she committed or what drug she abused. Maybe, like me, there were no drugs or jail. Maybe just a chain of bad choices. For better or worse, we were all under the same roof. A social experiment that only a reality show would love. In this house there are no prodding producers, no omniscient cameras and no ‘confessionals’. This is just me…the  odd one who would have to love herself out.

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By the time Dianne moved into the house, I had become as comfortable as one can with the revolving door nature of the house. Aside from the core six, there were three other vacant beds that would be what we called ‘drifters.’ The women who would appear, then disappear without notice or fanfare. Usually they were homeless women who hadn’t relearned how to live indoors. Dianne started out that way. She was dropped off around 11 pm by the house manager in November shortly before Thanksgiving.  At first she acted ike a stray puppy,  looking for a corner in which to recoil until someone gave her directions or showed kindness instead of fangs. That person was always the house manager, Paty*. Then, she would just disappear, leaving behind her trinkets and garbage bags full of dirty clothes, shoes missing their mates, junk. Her disappearing act went on for a few weeks until she’d decided that at age 51, she was too  damned old to be on the streets. And she was tired.

Dianne looked frightening. She had very rough, wooly dingy gray hair that was matted to her head in a big, lopsided Fredrick Douglas-like ‘do. She was the color of dark chocolate, but had open sores all over her face and body that were even darker. She had some skin condition that I, in my lack of medical training, assumed was shingles or psoriasis. But Cancer Lady, a one-time RN blurted out that  it was “proably AIDS” for she had seen the disease present itself many times in African Americans in the very same manner.

Freaking Out. Dianne was like having an untrained dog in the house. She sometimes missed the toilet when she urinated, she would leave the restroom without washing her hands and she would take loooong baths with oatmeal to try to heal her  sores.

“That shit ain’t gone heal, bitch. You got AIDS” was what Cancer Roommate would tell  Dianne. Those two did not get along from the very beginning. Dianne is a recovering crack addict.  Cancer Roommate, who herself never used crack (she claims), spoke with indignation to Dianne about how she’s never been a ‘Crack Whore.’ I would buy hand sanitizer and fancy hand soaps to entice Dianne to use them. And she finally did get into the habit of handwashing. I also found myself keeping Clorox wipes handy to wipe down everything she had touched in the bathroom and the kitchen…for I am a bit of hypochondriac who recoils at swapping body fluids. My sex life sucks. No pun intended, there. I know how AIDS is spread and if Dianne does have it, I know the chances that I’ll catch it from touching the refrigerator handle is zero…unless of course I have an open wound on my palms and she’s bled all over the handle moments before. But that hasn’t happened, to my knowledge. But still, better safe than open sores, right? Right?

*Names have been changed

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Nona* has cancer.

Cancer; seizures. Cancer; voices. Cancer; angels. Cancer, cancer, cancer. Nona is the most recent resident to move into the house and she  has Cancer.She moved here from a homeless shelter and she has cancer. She used to be a registered nurse, she says, and started using and selling drugs to support her five kids and she has Cancer. She went to prison for two years for possession and she has Cancer.

Nona has all kinds of cancer that has matesticezed in her brain, uterus and  bones. Nona is the most frustrating roommate because she evokes sympathy, yet she is the least sympathetic person. Nona manipulates the entire house into feeling guilty about her cancer. Her anger provokes her to alternate fits of rage and passive aggressiveness. She speaks in tongues and sees “Death Angels” throughout the house. She laughs uncontrollably at times and talks in her sleep. Sometimes, she pretends to be engaged in a cell phone conversation. God forgive me, but I hate sharing a room with her because she bums me out. Not because she has cancer, but because she seems to hate that we don’t “get it.”  She makes cancer seem contagious. I feel a tinge of guilt for feeling this way…but “Cancer” is wielded as a weapon around here and it’s not the kind of fight in which I’m willing to engage.

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