Posts Tagged ‘crack’

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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Nina was most like me-I thought. She was young, well-spoken and educated. She moved in a month after I arrived and took the top bunk. When “Crazy Connie” wasn’t there, Nina and I would giggle over how off the wall Connie was. And we grossed out over her penchant to shave her crazy yellow tonails with a straight razor right there in room. (Excuse me while I gag)

She and I seemed to get along well-until she drank.

The difference between Nina and Patty was that Patty accepted she was an alcoholic, never denied her behavior and was actively seeking an inner spiritual revolution to motivate her to stop. Nina, meanwhile was a woman so deep in denial and afraid to be alone with her own thoughts that not only did she drown her thoughts with the radio as she fell asleep, she would drown her thoughts with a “sip” of Olde English, and a “shot” of B and J  “here and there” about  twelve times a day. Or she would deny completely that she’d had anything at all to drink.

When Nina drank, she wasn’t  agitated and high frequency  like Patty. Nina was stealthy. She would bumble down the hall towards the room after having sex with one (or two) of the  ex-convicts in the house next door and then she’d and enter our room at three, sometimes four in the morning with contempt for me. Her words were soft but passive-aggressive and antagonistic. It was like living with Martha from Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf? In the beginning she baited me easily because of my own insecurities. She always seemed to know which buttons to push; accusing me of acting as if I were “better than everyone else.” The way I felt about myself was complicated because my ego felt very much like I was better than everyone in the house, thank you.  But my inner spirit felt as if I deserved what I was getting. That I didn’t deserve better than this evil, uncomfortable house.

It turned out that Nina and I were nothing alike. She had lost custody of her two small kids who each living with their separate fathers. She had her tubes tied after three abortions and she had begun a relationship with an ex-con next door twice her age who sees roses when he looks at her. She has told me several times she’s just “waitin’ on that Nigga’s settlement check and SSI to kick in” so that they can “kick back.”

I learned to let Nina’s drunken jabs roll off me. I even tease her when she’s sober about how she tries to provoke me when she’s drunk. She never remembers it and shrugs “you know how I get when I have a little sip. My tolerance is so low.”  Yes, about as low as my tolerance for this house…which at first was pretty high or else I would have fled this house a lot sooner.

*names have been changed

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The Economy was kicking my ass. There were shoeprints where a job, love and self-respect should have been.  I was down to my last $10 and living in a strange new city that I’m convinced is actually Hell and my options were not attractive: live in my compact car, check into a homeless shelter, or take a bed at Safe Passage– a Los Angeles-based Christian-run halfway house for recovering addicts, abuse victims and parolees.

I was not a recovering addict, victim of abuse nor a parolee. I have a university degree in journalism. But when I lay in that $400 dollar a month over-priced bed in the room that I share with two other broken women listening to them  snore, fart and wrestle with the addiction demon in their nightmares, I had to face the fact that the busted economy hadn’t landed me here. My own reckless actions  due to an abysmal lack of self-worth had landed me here and I would have to accept that fact before I could change that fact. This blog is part of that process.

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