January 30, 2012 Weekly photo challenge: Hope

We rolled in around midnight like thick fog.  Heavy, tired, confused.  There were five other people from the church who were waiting for us.  All gay and except for me and one other 40 something who was manager of a KFC, all unemployed.  At least two were on disability, glorified welfare at least for the one, Jackson.  The other may have been unstable.  Seemed a little nervous and was thin as a rail.  Two were black, strike that, one claimed to be biracial and was a little slow.

We had signed up for the midnight to 4am shift.  Not long after getting there Cathy pulled me aside and said we should leave, it doesn’t take seven churchies to watch over one sleeping homeless woman.  I agreed but we were staying.

I never saw any more of the woman than a lump in the sleeping bag.  I know her name was Tina.  Not sure of her age or race or circumstance except that today they would be bringing her to the resource center and then “home.”  Home was the gazebo in Lewes.

We all sat around and kibitzed and proselytized about everything from West Rehoboth to the presidential race.  And how cold it was in the church.  Outside it was about 16 degrees when you factored in the wind chill.

What we didn’t talk about was Tina.  How awful it must be to sleep alone on a church floor and have nowhere to go, no one looking out for you.  It was the elephant in the room.  Secretly I imagine we were all thinking the same thing:  thank God that isn’t me.  That maybe if we sat here at church God wouldn’t let that happen to us.

I think about how selfish I am.  How is it that when you hear how people didn’t take in Mary and Joseph you think how cold the people were.  For us not to take in people like that we are considered cautious.  Maybe we are just like them.

When we came home, I asked Cathy, “Do you think we should take her in?”

“NO.”

I said no more but was somewhat relieved.  What if we took her in and she had mental issues or substance abuse problems?  We aren’t equipped to deal with that.  How would we ever get rid of her?  What about when mom comes on Thursday?  Would I have my mom sharing a bathroom with a homeless stranger?  What if she killed us all in our sleep?  What if that were me?

They may call and ask us to sit vigil again tonight.  It will be harder since I have to work tomorrow but not impossible.  In your mind you tell yourself that at least you are doing something.

January 28, 2012 – Forgiveness

In searching for the answers I go to my mother.  I saw Julie last week.  We hadn’t spoken or seen each other since Cathy lost her job.  We will probably never know the extent of the part she played in that.

I deliberately go to a meeting so I can look her in the face.  She asks to speak to me after the meeting.  After waiting until everyone leaves, she says, “I don’t even know what to say.”  I wait because I definitely don’t know what to say.  “Why didn’t Cathy reach out?”  My face changes.

“What?”  I say.  “To you?  She called and left a message on your home phone and sent you a text to call her on my phone the night she got fired.  We heard nothing.”

“She reached out to everybody but us,” she continues without missing a beat.  “Faith said she’d talked to her.   I got the text but thought that was you.  I never got the phone message.  We waited and we waited and Ted would ask if I’d heard from you and the longer it went on the more I thought you must somehow be mad at me, thought that maybe I did something….” She trailed off and looked at me with a question in her face.  Well when you didn’t call back on top of the cagey way you behaved on the phone when I first called you, we knew you must have had a hand in this.

 But I dodge the look, “We know two things for sure:  Cathy lost her job and you removed yourself from our lives.”

“Yeah, that was exactly how we felt.  That was exactly how Ted and I felt.”

“Jules,” I counter because we are Jules and Kar now, embracing the familiar terms of 3 months before, back when we would have done anything for each other.  When we celebrated Christmas eve together 3 years straight, gone to her wedding as two of 15 guests in the Bahamas.  Back when Cathy was her first call when Teddy had an infection in his blood and we might lose him.  Back when she wanted us to have our commitment ceremony and reception in her yard. Back when she took a day off to drive for 3 hours to be there when we buried my father.  Back then.

“We are the victims here.  Cathy lost her job.  If she had worked anywhere else, if she hadn’t worked at the same company as you, you would have been at our door with a bottle of wine saying, “This sucks, fuck them.   Your attitude towards the company was always fuck them before Cathy lost her job and now…..”

“-and a check book.”  She adds.  I would bring a check book.  Do you guys need anything?”

A fucking checkbook.  Yeah, we need a friend that doesn’t bounce due to insufficient loyalty, I want to say.

“No, we are fine.  We have savings and I have tons of toilet money.”

“I know you do.  I know you do.”   She says quickly seeming almost grateful.  “I saw Cathy the other day and she looked away.  I just wanted to punch her.  And then hug her but punch her first.”  I don’t say anything to this.  God help her if she punches Cathy.

She brings up other things, contradicts herself several times within the conversation.  She navigates clumsily through the slalom she has created for herself from, “I don’t know anything.  Nobody will tell me anything,” to “They say there is an investigation….”

“Oh, there’s an investigation,” I say, never revealing the extent of it.

“Why?” she fishes.

“It’s the weapons of mass destruction.”  I say.  “They have to justify what they have done.  They can’t admit that they over reacted.  That they could have handled things differently and avoided all this.  I want them to toss the house. They are wild because they can’t find anything and they won’t because there is nothing to find.”

One thing I will say is this – if you’re going to lie, at least be good at it.  Have a plan for God’s sake. You knew I would be at that meeting all week.  You’ve had 3 months to think about your story.  This is the best you can do, really?

Before I leave she is crying and hugging me and saying she loves me, how she misses us, how they both miss us.  “I love you too,” which is not really a lie.  I pray for them still daily and when I pray for faith, love and health I always wish it not just for us and our loved ones but “even those we deem to be our enemies.”  and I think of her.  I do still love her as a human being but don’t think I can ever trust her again.  “The worst part wasn’t just the injustice of Cathy losing her job despite how good she was at it.  Nor the worry about money.  The worst part was losing a friend.  That’s what we cried about.”

“We cried too.  Teddy and I have cried too. We’ve been sleepless some nights and all.”

“This is really a conversation you should be having with Cathy.”  I say to her at least 3 times before I leave. “Fight it out, talk it out, whatever, but talk to Cathy.”

Eight days later and still nothing.

I ask my mom how to handle this, in terms of forgiveness and what would Jesus do and turn the other cheek and seven times seventy and all that.  “I would never trust her again,” my mother says emphatically.  She loves this “wise sage on a hill” gig but I really do need guidance with situations like this.

“I don’t plan on trusting her but do we socialize with her again?  I mean when all the legal issues and lawsuits are done?”

“I wouldn’t,” my mother shakes her head, “but do what you want.  I’d be very careful though.”

My mom has insight into people.  I like to think that I have it too but I can’t have it both ways: being insightful yet non-judgmental.  “I never saw it coming I say.  There is nothing that ever lead me to suspect that she wasn’t trustworthy.  It was funny she never had any friends, though.  Not from high school or college or work or the neighborhood. And she didn’t believe in God. But plenty of people don’t believe in God and that doesn’t make them bad people.”

“Like who?”  my mother challenges.

“Like Erica.  And Lea.  They don’t believe in God and they’re good people.”

“That depends on what you mean by ‘good people.'”

I am reminded about how when we owned the video store, the employees would always think I was the nice one and Cathy was the tyrant but when someone crossed us, especially stole from us, I was the one who couldn’t get past it.  One of the  employees actually shared this with Cathy one time about how when something goes down, I am the scary one.

This needs to be continued.  Forgiveness is too complicated to figure out in one blog.

January 27, 2012 – Winter

The smell is all wrong.  As I step outside on a January morning I don’t even need a coat.  Balmy breezes blow gently across the parking lot.  The song of the birds indicates there must be something wrong.   The thick, salty, hopeful scent of mud warming is what I’m getting.  Much more March than January.  Where is the iciness, the blast of frozen gusts chilling your outside yet somehow warming that within?

Within.  Winter allows me to go within.  I use this time to reflect, think my deep thoughts. My mind ruminates over everything from forgiveness to why the trees and grass catch that red brown light as the sun goes down but that’s not the color above the long shadows in the summer.  I have taken to using the voice memo function on my phone to capture all of these musings.

While driving I imagine the life within illuminated homes.  Within my own home, how safe I feel.  It’s okay to hide inside during this time.  With the exception of Christmas, there is little to celebrate.  We nest.  I clean out closets and drawers and discover things I forgot I have that bring me joy.  Sandalwood incense that my sister always described as smelling like city hall.  A knit hat.  Honey suckle-scented candles.

Without. I still like being outside.  I am lost yet connected.  Empty but contented.  I’m not ready to be hopeful.  Where is the snow?

Powerball

I don’t know about hitting the powerball.  It’s up to 120 million which means the winner gets 30 m in her hot little hand.  They say it wrecks your life and maybe it does.  Dad always said you should have enough, just enough.  He sent me a poem once titled I Wish You Enough.  As much as I’d love to have that house on the canal – 6 bedrooms, 3 fireplaces, temperature-controlled wine room, 1.6 million dollars, I think about the beauty of simplicity.   Sometimes I think I was a monk in my last life.  Fellow teachers have often referred to me as a minimalist.  It’s true, I don’t like a lot of stuff on my desk and I despise clutter in any realm of my life.  Even the way I think is simple.  What’s the big picture, what’s the bottom line?

Each morning I drive by this little house on the way to school.  It sits peeking out from behind a thin thatch of trees and in its quiet and unassuming way whispers, What else could you need?  Its soul companion is a charcoal grill who stands guard on the narrow porch.  I have observed that the cottage does enjoy the company of a moped in the dirt driveway after working hours.

I wonder about the occupant.  Is it the grown son of the people in the rancher on the adjacent property? Is he deranged or a pariah?  Is he a pedophile or someone who should be living in his parents’ basement playing video games at 40 because there was always something different about him?  Is he a Buddhist who has figured it all out or is he an unfulfilled hater who drives by my community and thinks I am the 1%?  Maybe he works at Walmart as a greeter and resents anyone who has more because his dreams were dashed.

They say the more you own the more that owns you and I believe it.  I’m buying the Buddhist idea, that’s easiest.  Hopefully my sister will buy the powerball ticket.

 

 

January 24, 2012 – Oh the places …. Part 1

Things I used to see on the way to work in West Philly:

 

Graffiti

Prostitutes –some hitching and I gave one a ride but did not realize the deal – no deal

Crack vials

Tiny drug bags

Crack heads

Litter – especially chip bags

Used condoms

Fire hydrants busted open

Kids in uniform

Kids hanging

Kids harassing other kids

Motorcycle accidents

Nuns

Old black ladies in dresses and hats