Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Adjusting XIII

I like the quiet sleepy. The guilt free lie on the couch reading political feeds and smoke a bowl cause its raining. The home from my wars. The god bless the freaks. The rambling monologues on how to achieve the perfect balance between consistency and flavor to a butter cream ganoche filled chocolate. Then eating them. The do what you need to do, no judgment of family. The word smokerettes. The condoning to relax. I like that. Time moves slowly, with a favorite tv show humming in the back ground. The hours are interrupted by chocolate tastings and feminist debates. I begin to settle in, with the old gibson on my lap, sitting indian style on the couch. My note books are spread before me, my pick poised above the strings. It's that tender moment when your deciding what to play next from a list of new songs, after a long journey home. Then my phone rings. It's Kayli calling from the home phone in Braddock. They discharged her without telling me and from the tone of her voice, she's already off her meds. She's angry, alone in my house, with all my animals and there's nothing I can do. I lay the guitar down and bury my face in my hands. It's not fair.

"What if she hurts my animals...." I whisper absently, with a cloud of smoke.

"Don't think about that." Kat soothes.

"I was supposed to get a break..."

"Chicky, there's nothing you can do about it now, am I right?"


"Go see your Mets."

My Dad takes the Mega bus home with me, this was already planned. I'm scared to step inside the house with her, her voice is dark and growly, and despite what she's telling my father, I know she's off her meds. She told me awhile back that the plan was to lie to everyone and play along with "the system" until she could escape back to NYC. We solomly walk my guitar, my boombox, my cat and my guinea pig down the freight train tracks. I wish my phone was charged, this would make an instagram sight and a half. When we get to the Mill's house my neighbors kids are estatic and I let them play with Occupig for a bit. They've been waiting to see her. Besides, they always cheer me up and I can't say I mind being referred to as "Zoo Lady". Eventually my Dad calls me over and it's time to help the little fur balls begin their own adjusting. The house is big an empty, and me and my companions seem so small. Last week [LM] and [LT] broke up and I haven't seen [MW] in months. I'm pretty sure they all dropped the project, thought nobody has said it directly to me. It's just me and [C] now, launching this actvism center, or community resource, or whatever this masive chunk of property is going to be, something for the greater good atleast. Sabina and Brooklyn circle my legs purring and barking like little love sharks. I squeeze them both against my chest then settle in my hammock to read the afternoon away. I don't know which one of them starts it, but they begin ramming their bodies against the bulge of my butt beneath the hammock, rocking me back and forth. It's their new favorite game.

Morning comes and I try not to think about how life has changed the rules on me once again, but I;m not doing a very good job at it. I blame my father and sister for everything. For ripping me away from my home after I spent a life time searching for it and banishing me to take care of their properties and their pets in Braddock. For casting me out in a blazzard with no jacket on moving day because my sister "didn't like my vibes." For leaving me on the streets at 16 with $20 as a parting gift because they didn't like my suitcase in the living room when I came to visit and my father explanation, "Your tough Miranda, anyway." For letting me take the punches from my mother to avoid the expense of a court case. And now, after embracing the Braddock move, falling in love with it and forgiving them, casting me out one more time, with no more than $20 and a hug goodbye. I want to scream and cry, but I wont do that, not again. Instead I get up, take a picture, and begin ripping out the carpet in the living room. Here's to adjusting.

The day goes by slow and I take my anger out on the house, fixing this, trashing that, ripping up weeds in the yard. I take a few breaks to let my neighbor's kids play with Brooklyn and I hide in my room a few times to cuddle with Sabina on the bean bag chair I bought at K-Mart when we first got the house. After dark I play guitar till 2am and sip wine from the jug, I'm still not completely comfortable sleeping alone in the house. Eventually I retire and Brooklyn and Sabina join me, both curled up beneath my hammock so that I can feel two tiny snorring lumps against my butt while I drift into a fitfull sleep. The next day my Dad gets me up early and we bike to waterfront together to get Steak N' Shake for breakfast, its my favorite burger joint in Pittsburgh and, amazingly, has the same prices as McDonalds. When we're finished we go to lowes and he buys me the gear I will need to survive in a house without utilities. I can't help but feel deja'vu of the time he bought me new winter gloves, then gave me $20 and left me on the streets of New York City, but push the thought away. As parting gift this time, he leaves me with two bottles of flavored wine at least. When I return to the house Curtis is home. We kill the strawberry wine together and smoke a couple bowls, being goofy and day dreaming about the house. He leaves for Oakland around noon. Around 8pm I lock up and follow his path. On the bus I watch the sun sink below the hills, the steel mill rumbling in the distance. There's an earie calm inside me, like maybe this is the last sunset I'll ever watch. It's a quite observational state, I've locked all emotions away, and threw out the key with the ripped up carpet and weeds. Nothing can hurt me now. Its a defense mechanism I've adapted over the years. For awhile I nicknamed it "my wall" or "the light switch", I can turn my emotions on and off with a quick jump through a mental hoop. The doctors broke it down once, it was hard and took years, but they did. For awhile I was comfortable expressing how I felt, and crying when I needed too. I wouldnt even flinch when i was touched for a bit. But in a quick five minutes in California, somewhere behind a news stand in L.A. I built it back up again and that was the end of that. I was ashamed when I did that, and scared because my old wall had one rule, and that was [R] was allowed inside. I remember when I took the Mega bus to see him, chewing on my hands, nervously wondering if I had exiled the only one who's ever made the world not scary any more, but when he wrapped me up in a hug one more time in our roundabout lives, I knew I didn't fuck that up atleast. But he's not here, so I'm on the 61B headed towards Oakland, comfortable numb. The windows roll past [C] waiting by the bus stop at Frick park. I giggle at our paths crossing, and wave though I'm sure he can't see me. To my suprise he looks up and waves back while the bus continues on.

The stop where I get off in Oakland is the same one I took to visit Kayli every day in the psych ward. My destination is the bar I used to go to after those nightmarish trips. Going everyday became a habit, and even though she's back home, I like the routine of it. The staff know me now and the Yuengling is cheap. I circle the blocks for a few minutes while I smoke a cigarette and then head in. My favorite bartender isn't around but everyone greets me with a smile. I settle into my regular corner and withdraw my notebook as I have for weeks now. First I jot down the happenings of the day, then I begin the final draft of the newest song I've wrote. After three beers, I pee and leave. This is my routine.

Robotically my legs drag me to the bus stop. Suddenly my haze is broken by two voices singing somewhere over the rainbow rather rambuntiously. I sit down next to them, not knowing where this new encounter will lead.

"Join us!" cries the girl nearest to me. She looks to be in her mid twenties and is decorated with colorful scarves.

"Oh yes, another friend!" says the woman beside her. Shes older and quite tall, with small diamond earings and a reserved accent. I'm wondering if they're both drunk when she adds, "Want some chocolates?"

"Sure." I mutter as graciously as I can. I'm reluctant to crawl out of the shell of mind, but their mood is jovial and I can't help but think this could be fun. "If I had my guitar we could make some money." I muse light heartedly.

"Oh, do you play?" Asks the older woman.

"A bit. Mostly stuff I write, but I've made good money on the streets in LA and New York. I haven't really tried around here much... yet."

"You must get your violin!" the woman sings to her younger companion, claping her on the shoulder, "we will be the famous trio of Forbes Avenue. Somewherrrrrreeeee over the rainbowwwwww....." The other girl and I join in until the next verse, where we forget all the words and start all over again. Some passerby laugh and wave.

"So you've been out to California?" The woman asks. "She lived in California, and these chocolates are from California."

"Its true." The younger girl confirms.

"So we were destined to meet!"

"Somewherrrreeee over the rainbowwwwww...." Again we sing until the next verse, then start all over again.

"She really is good." Muses the older woman.

"Mmhmm." The younger girl confirms again.

"I think you should sing us something. Lets make some money." She says.

"Oh no," I beg, embarrised. "I don't have my guitar."

"Well just sing then. We like the way you sing. Sing, please sing!"

"I can't think of anything."

"Sing us one of your own then."

"Well I guess there's Pretty Red Cars..."

"Oh yes!" The woman cries. "Pretty red cars! Lets hear it!" Then she turns her attention to a poor unsuspecting college student walking by. "Excuse me sir, you really should wait, she's going to sing her song, pretty red cars!" Im mortified but start anyway. I get up to the chorus before they interrupt me.

"That was lovely. Have some more chocolates." Fairly soon the bus arrives and it turns out the older woman lives in Braddock aswell. I'm suprised again, the driver of the bus is one of my favorites who I always seem to run into. Every time I'm on his bus I hang out up front and we chat. Immediately he greets me.

"How was the big apple!?"

"Good." I reply softly. This night is beginning to get unreal.

"No guitar tonight? I was hoping I'd finally get to hear some of your music."

"Nah, it's at home." I say, smiling at the thought that he remembered. Then the older woman boards behind me and joins our conversation.

"Non sense! She told us the same and she's been singing all night. Come now, lets sing for him." She says and grips my arm while beginning somewhere over the rainbow again. begrudgingly I join in.

"That was great!" The driver laughs.

"Now you just sing to us."

"No...." I moan.

"Oh come on!" The driver pushes.

"Yes, sing us something we all know." The older woman adds.

"Fine. Do you know Mercedes Benz?"

"No, but it sounds lovely. Who's it by?"

"Janis Joplin. It was the last song she recorded before she died. She just went into the studio, recorded it, and left. She's..." I'm about to add that Janis Joplin is my hero along with Joan Jett, but the woman cuts me off.

"Well lets not think about that and just sing it." I sing from start to finish, forgetting the words in the middle for a moment but recovering rather quickly. I only miss a few notes.

"Beautiful." The driver says smiling.

"Yes, that really was. Quite touching I must say" Says the woman. Before I know it we're singing somewhere over the rainbow again. "What's wrong my dear?"


"Yes, of course."

"I'm a little drunk and have to pee."

"I thought so! I'll tell you what, you can come see where I live and use my bathroom, but then you must go."

"It's ok." I stammer. "I don't live far and I can just go behind a tree in the UPMC lot. Really, I perfer it that way."

"No! Don't be so uncivilized!"

"Why?" I start to ask but it's already our stop and the woman is ushering me out the door.

"See you later!" Yells the driver. "Great to finally hear you sing." The doors fold shut and he's driving away. Then I'm alone on Braddock avenue with this strange woman I met, feeling obligated to see her home. Its been an odd night. Im tired and want nothing more than to curl up in my hammock with Brooklyn and Sabina at my sides, but I have an awful feeling like that moment is far away still. I've been drunk for nearly 12 hours now, and I lost count of the amount of diet pills that I've thrown down my throat. It's certainly not helping my tolerance levels.

"Come, sit down." says the woman, showing me to the benchs in front of the seniors home. She withdraws a pack of smokes and offers me one. I take it thankfully. "Dear, why are you drinking?"

"You don't want to know." I reply curtly without looking at her. I know where this is going and I don't like. People should mind their own buisness.

"Miranda... that is your name right?"


"Miranda, I am 70 years old. I have seen alot in my life time and known some pain. I have three children and they are awful to me, awful! But I don't regret a minute. Tell me, whats happened to you so horrible for you to be drinking like this at such a young age."

"I can't tell you."

"And why not?"

"Because then I'm just another sorry alcoholic feeling bad for myself and blabbing my life story to perfect strangers."

"Your not blabbing it, I asked you to tell me, and we're not strangers," she says with an amused smile, "I met you at the bus stop in Oakland and you live up the street from me. We are neighbors!" I exhale an annoyed puff of smoke but don't argue. I did warn her after all.

"Fine. I grew up with my dad trying to kill himself and my mother. They were both alcoholics and got super violent alot. After my dad finally left my mom started taking her anger out on me, she'd favor my little sister but the few times she tried to hit her I'd put myself in the way, so it was really just me being abused. My sister has been schitzophrenic her whole life too, so when ever my mom got real bad and beat me up she'd freak out and go catatonic, so I'd have to comfort her first, then sober up my mom, then finally I'd get to to bed hours later and tend to my own injuries, alone."

"So you were an abused child then?"

"Its not just that, it gets worse. I got seperated from my mom by child services at 16, but since I was the only one getting abused and only a year and a half out from being of age, CPS felt it was enough to make my entire family go through family court and have to pay all those expenses. They basically told me good luck kid. I tried staying with my dad for a bit but he drank too, and didn't have the money or time for both me and my sister, and as I told you, my sister needed more attention. Not to mention it was a 3 bedroom with 6 people living in it - we had roommates. It was crowded and stressful. My sister told my Dad I had to go, so he asked me to figure it out. I got sent to a holding bay kinda program in the woods for 9 weeks, it was really for teenage drug addicts but CPS uses it in a pinch, then they got me a scholarship to a boarding school where I could live. It was a rare case for them to have a private school like me, i went to The Dalton school on scholarship, so they didn't want to put me through foster where I had no chances at all."

"So you were only homeless for a bit, then went to boarding school and graduated? Thats not so bad. You must think about things in perspective...."

"NO, thats not just it. I was a liability for the school because technically nobody had custody over me, not my parents or the state, because nobody wanted to pay court fees over me. I was in a legal gray area. The admissions representative had to lie to the board to get me in, and for my entire stay there, I couldnt tell anyone I was living on the subways when we went home on the weekends or else I wouldn't be allowed to attend anymore and end up in foster, which would be much worse, so the day after I turned 18 I got myself kicked out on purpose, thinking CPS couldn't touch me anymore. I was an idiot in that sense but I got lucky, because my friends parents took me in and gave me a home in Connecticut."

"So they adopted you and are the ones who sent you here?"

"Not quite. My biological parents are responsible for me being here but I'll get to that. It gets worse again. I wasn't used to having parents, I'd never had anyone take care of me before so in the summer I ran away to New York again. My father and sister had moved out of that tiny apartment in Queens to a bigger one in Brooklyn. The plan was for me to move with them and for us to repair what happened in the past, but the week we moved in a friend from boarding school wanted to hang out. we got drunk on the roof, then he threw me to the ground and raped me. I was in the middle of an eating disorder relapse so my body couldn't withstain the injuries. My entire back from kneck to hips is still messed up from it."

"So you were raped? Dear I know, oh I know.... so many of us..."

"It gets worse." I interrupt her.

"Your were raped again?" I nod my head solomnly. There's an icy distance inside me. part of me honestly believes while I'm telling the story that none of this really happened to me, that I am a mere robotic observer, and alien species, retelling the legends of a human girl that never existed in the first place.

"It was my best friends since kindergarden. He was like a brother to me..." I recount.

"But you moved on after that? You had your adoptive parents, no?"

"No. Then I ran away again. With my adoptive Dad's best friend. He was 36."

"And how old were you?" She asks quietly.

"19." There's an awkward pause betweens us for moment while we drag on our cigarettes. I can hear the steel mill humming in the distance. Somewhere a car goes over a pothole, the soft tha-thump echoes through the empty streets. "I knew it was wrong, and I didn't like it either, but I had to do it. I was getting to comfortable there, to close, I needed to do something that would force me out or else I would never leave. I was stuck in a rut and it was time to move on. In hind sight, I would have been honest and left on my own, saved myself from that truama..."

"Of course dear, hindsight is everything. That's what being young is all about. What happened after that?"

"I lost my job because of it. We worked together and it was disturbing our coworkers. The only place I knew how to survive was New York City so I began communiting and found work as a professional activist for the ASPCA. It helped because I identified with stray animals after bouncing around and feeling like one for so long."

"And hence why you rescue so many of them still?"


"I told you about all the campaigns I ended up doing, didn't I?"


"Well I followed a crazy boy out to California eventually. I knew he was wrong deep down, I just needed to get out west some how, he was my only option. I spent a year there and for the first 6 months it was beautiful. I had a real great job out there. I was a manager and moving up to assistant director working on gay marriage campaign and legalizing cannabis for recreational use. Everything was perfect."

"And then?"

"I freaked out after me and that guy I followed out there broke up. I was all alone on the other side of the world. Went down to Mexico with my boss for Christmas, got a new tattoo on Christmas Eve, Christmas day we ended up in a bar room brawl over gay rights and got chased by federalis through the streets. My boss was in Mexican prison, I had to chase down his little sister and hitch us a ride home while she cried Miranda, you're a run away, you know how to sleep in the dirt, you know how to get hitch hike, right?! I didn't appreciate it. The next morning my boss got out of jail but I was on a roll, I needed to prove I was the bravest girl in the world so I free scaled a 1,500 ft mountain alone. I was warned about rattlers and scorpians, and told by a trailer park family I should tell someone what I was doing, but I didn't. I thought I could walk the ridge after the lowest peak, but it turns out I had to scale it, the only way down was the highest peak once I was up, I've never been so terrified in my whole life. I was sure I was going to die up there. The rocks were pitted so I couldnt see what was lurking behind where I put my hands, almost fell off a few times. When I finally got down a part of me snapped. My boss wanted me to go home to America with him right then and there, but I had fallen in love with a dieing puppy and got on a bus with it alone. They caught me in Mexicali and told me I had to come up with the bribery money if me and my puppy wanted to live. We made it back to America eventually, but the pup died on New Years eve. I threatened to bomb the vet hospital that put her down and an old lady had to escort me to her car, it was a mess. It was shortly after that when I met Dylan. He was bad news bear. I quit my job for him and lost respect from all my coworkers. everything went downhill from there."

"Until you came home?"

"Yeah. I'd been searching the entire time for home and when I got home sick I realized I must have had one all along, I mean, if you can get homesick you must have a home."

"That makes sense."

"I lost everything, even my childhood guitar. I had wrote every one of my songs up until then on that guitar. I still have dreams that I'm playing it sometimes, it was like losing a limb. But me and my cat made it back to New York City alive atleast. Of course, I was only there for 30 days exactly until this whole Braddock mess happened, I told you about that, right?"


"And when my sister finally showed face I had to have her committed. Until this weekend, when she got out and kicked me and all my animals out of the house."

"And she's off her meds?"

"I believe so, yes." I say quietly, then add, "Aside from all the little detail in between and side adventures, yes." The woman takes a deep breath. Then she tells me about her own nightmare. About starving herself as well, and being raped. About being a bastard child back in the day, and marrying the wrong man, though she loved another. When she is finished there is a heaviness in the air. I am somewhere far away, distantly observing the hours as I have been since I watched the sunset earlier. She is quite, she barely moves save to raise her cigarette to her lips. I dont know how long it is before she speaks again.

"We are done smoking now. Come inside, I will show you the bathroom, give you a tour, and then you may leave." The tour she guides me through is thurough, with narratives of the inhabitant at every stop. She insists that each and everyone of them is negative, old and bitter. When we get to her room she gives me a bottle of vitamins and I help her flip her mattresses rightside up. They've been displaced from some sort of bug bombing the building owners did. When we're done she tells me that I must start taking care of myself because if I died, that would be one less good person in the world. Ignore the remark then wonder for a moment if fixing her bed was the only reason she invited me up, there's no way she could have managed it on her own. We had been chatting about my activism and rescued animals when we enter the lobby and it is time for me to leave.

"My dear...." she says sadly all of a sudden, staring into my eyes and making me feel uncomfortable. I almost cried tonight and I dont like that at all. There's an awful shifting feeling inside me, like sand crumbling through tiny cracks. I want to run and get away as fast as I can. I don't know why I told her so much. I'm drunk, but I didn't think I was that drunk. "You are trying to save the world," she says slowly, with moist eyes, "because you know deep down you couldnt save your parents, and never will. You can't do it, you know. Nobody can." I don't know whats happening, but suddenly that awful shifting feeling turns into a feeling of the floor falling out from beneath me. The world begins to spin, I feel sick. Her words repeat over and over again in my head at a deafening volume. Your trying to save the world because you couldn't save your parents your trying to save the world because you couldnt save your parents you couldnt save your parents you cant save your parents thats why your trying to save the world you cant save the world. My hands and feet begin to shake and my breathing gets suddenly shallow, I know I'm about to have a flashback and a half. From somewhere far away I hear the woman cry in the same happy tone she greeted me, "Oh Audrey! This is my friend Miranda, she is on her way out. Oh how are you darling!? It is quite late now, isn't it?"

"I need to go home now." I think I stammered.

"Yes now shoo, off with you, it is late we will see each other around. Audrey....." I stumble towards the door. I walk as fast as I can up the hill using all my will power to stop from breaking into a run. Im hyperventilating, wringing my hands. This is bad, very very bad. Maybe I should just cry, I think to myself. I take a deep breath and let go, braced for the flood, but all that comes out is a single tear. Just enough to blur my vision in one eye, then drain into a duct. I blink, shocked for a moment, then continue on my way home. By time I reached the porch, I'm sure that something is seriously wrong. I can no longer think, I can only do. I'm not moving through space anymore, it moves around me. I glide through the house, slam the sliding porch door, glide out with my knife. I rock back and forth on the chair for I dont know how long before shooting up with violent force and taking a swing at my leg. It's dark, and can't see if I damaged it at all, but it only hurts a little. I take another swing. I hold my calf up to my face with two hands, inspecting it with morbid curiosity. Then I take the knife and press it to my kneck. My arms are shaking, as if they are fighting an invisible attacker. I watch. Then the knife is flung to the ground. For moment there's clairty. Something's wrong, somethings very, very wrong. My brain screams.

"[C]." I gasp, but it comes out no more than a whisper. "[C]." I try again. I can't call for him, I can't move. Then an awful thought hits me. I start to gag violently like I'm choking. "Oh God," I gripe into the warm night air, the words coming up like puke, my shoulder blades and stomach following, helplessly, in a spasm behind them, "I'm going to die tonight." Without thinking I reach infront of me and grab the cork screw, then I slowly, maticulously open the last bottle of wine and begin to chug, hoping it will soothe the next attack. I begin to write a suicide note while I patiently wait. I am not myself anymore. It comes without warning like before, but this time I rise slowly, cautiously from the chair. Then I begin to walk towards the tracks. I make it to the middle of the yard then stop, looking back. Somewhere deep inside, something may have screamed no, but it's too weak and far away. A freight train whistles in the distance. Damn, I missed that one. is my only thought. I make it to the gate. Stop again. My feet frozen to where they are, but whatever makes me stop can't turn me back. I continue on. I'm about half way there when I realize I forgot the bottle of wine. I freeze again, but this time I have a thought, wine is a chance to get back to the porch, back to somewhat safety. If I can just keep myself there, once I get there. I stand in the middle of the road for a long time, in utter confusion, a part of me hopes a car runs me over right there so I don't have to make any more damn descisions. Then there's another gap of clarity, and I sieze with all the strength I have left. I run all the way back to the porch without stopping once.

I don't know what happened for sure after that, but somehow theres a massive pile of pills in my hand, and two empty bottles on the floor. I pick out the oxycodone first, knowing it will create a lethal mix with all the alcohol I've consumed. Then I open my mouth wide and kick the rest back with the last swallow of wine.

Bye bye.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Adjusting XII


The bus ride back to the Tri-state area is long and uncomfortable. My back hurts, I'm a little drunk and having an aisle seat is not making it any better. I can't complain much about the aisle though. I got a shitty seat because I got into it with some other regulars at the bar about my need to push everyone away and had another beer instead of leaving early like I was supposed to. It is what it is, and hell, I am going home. Eight hours later, my Dad meets me with the sunrise in midtown. We grab breakfast and he take me straight to Grand Central to catch the train to my adoptive parents house in Connecticut. I want to tell him thank you for planning this trip for me the way he has, for not holding a grudge that I was taken in by a family soon after I turned 18, for not pretending like nothing happened, for supporting and taking interest in my pseudo family and not getting angry like my mother when I slip and say “adoptive parents” in her presence instead of “Kat and Ed.”, for even if it hurts him or makes a part of him feel guilty for the childhood I received that we both can't change, never showing it or taking it out on me. But it's all understood in the round trip tickets he puts in my hand with a hug.
“Tell them I say hi!” He reminds me cheerfully while I step towards the platform.
“I will, Dad, See ya Tuesday!”
“Gooooooo Mets!”
I pump my fist in the air twice while I'm walking away to show him I heard. Wednesday will mark the end of the seven years its been since we've seen a home game together, and it's been a very long seven years. I find a window seat quickly this time and settle into a nest of memories and country music the entire way, the rest of the way, home. I'm exhausted, its been over twelve hours of traveling. When I finally make it to Norwalk I do something I've only done once before and take a cab from the station to the house. I hadn't bothered to call home and let anyone know I was on my way and don't want to bother anyone before noon to come get me. The streets rush past the cabbie windows and a feeling of culture shock is slowly taking over me. Only now am I realizing just how long its been since I've been home. I keep expecting to see an abandoned house or freight tracks, a cobblestone alley way hidden and forgotten behind some brush. Everything looks so... civilized. I start to become uncomfortably aware of the new clothes pedestrians are wearing, and clean hair. I look down at myself and bad brains book bag on the backseat beside me, my boots my friends have nicknamed The Hillbilly Heels, and grass stained jeans. My hair is becoming dangerously close to dreads. I am definitely going to need a shower and change of clothes before venturing out to visit my friends in town. I wonder, if this is how strange home has become to me, does it mean I have indeed adjusted? Finally the cab pulls up front and I step into the morning air, the smell of fresh cut grass and ocean around me. I take a deep breath and grin. Ed is on the porch with his back turned to me, smoking a cigarette.
“Hey!” I yell from the drive, waving my arm violently.
“Hey,” He says looking up from a book. “didn't know you where coming home.”
“Yup!” I grin. “Took the 11oclock last night. My dad set it up so I could come straight here.” We talk for a minute, then he crushes out his cigarette and goes inside. I can hear Kat's voice from the kitchen and smile, content. Then I crush out my own cigarette and sit for a moment soaking it all in, the sunlight, and birds, the smell of the porch and Riley purring against my leg, the time that's past. When I'm ready I swing my bag over my shoulder for the last time this weekend and step inside.
“I'm home!” I sing into the living room.
“Coffee's in the kitchen.”

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Interjection III


“Where are you now?” My dad asks. We've been talking every day since [K] went to the hospital and its something I'm still getting used to.
“At the bar, debating if I should have another drink or go home.”
“Have three.”
It's been another one of those weeks, but I say that every day, looking for some sort of excuse for my behavior, or maybe just trying to convince myself that this is a fluke, and not my usual life. But tonight I don't want to act out and punch metaphorical walls, I don't feel like ghost hunting in the abandoned buildings, or getting rowdy by the freight train tracks. I don't even want to sing. I put my sister in the hospital and I feel sick. I'm eying the bartender. He's nice to me and smiles, passes me free drinks and listens to my stories, though I'm pretty sure he thinks I'm lying, most normal people do. His features make my spinster brain implode a little bit. I want to relax and enjoy this evening, but I can't stop thinking about [K]. I try to think about the good parts of today's visit, not when she got up and disappeared inside her room without a good bye and I had to leave. There's a bunch of characters on her floor and I'm starting to get to know all of them. There's Billy Idol, or at least that's what I call him. He's this big guy that doesn't really verbalize much beyond grunts but I asked him where he was from once and it kinda sounded like Monroeville. [K] said he farted on a nurse one morning too, I wish I coulda seen that. Then there's a boy we'll call [Anthony] for privacy's sake. He's teaching me sign language. So far all I can do is finger spell and mimic what the nurse translates for me, but I'm learning. He told me he met me and [K] about 5 years ago at a party and I believe it, though I barely recognize him, it wouldn't be the first time I ran into someone I've met before in the psych ward. Funny how the universe works like that, I'm not sure if its saying something about me or the people I meet, but it's definitely saying something. The only other talkative one so far is Big [Carl]. He's only 21 years old. First thing [Carl] ever told me is all he wants is to have a family and be normal some day, but that he'll be stuck in that hospital for the next two years. The next day he asked me out, and I was polite as I could be, but he's a sweet a kid overall. I drew his picture last time I was there. I reiterate the tales to my dad one by one and we try to laugh. I brag that I'm drinking a sangria that beats his and try to explain to him how to say “Trainwreck” in sign language, the nickname my friends have recently adopted for me. He doesn't understand but it's okay because I'll be visiting New York next Friday and can show him then. He asks if I've told [K] that yet and there's a long awkward silence on my end of the line. Suddenly I feel like crying again.
“It's okay Randa, your being such a trooper.”
“I know... I guess. I have to tell her though.”
“Yeah.” He sighs. “How do you think she's gonna react?
“Bad.” I laugh morbidly.
“I'm bringing you down, aren't I? So many people have been calling me asking if I'm okay and I know they're being nice but I don't want to talk to them because it brings me down making me think about it, and I hate it! Now I'm doing the same thing to you.”
“No.” I say softly, “I'm already at the bar anyway.” but he ignores me and continues on.
“God what am I talking about. Your the only one there. You've actually been dealing with everyone calling you and I'm just making it worse.”
“It's okay Dad,” I try to soothe, but emotion is getting the best of me. I don't want to believe him but he's right, it is making me think about it. “I don't care about the phone calls.” I say unconvincingly, “I'm just upset this fucking disease took Mom away and now it's taking [K] too. Its not fair and I'm the only on in fucking Pittsburgh, I never even wanted to move here.” Now it's his turn to be awkward and silent on the other side of the phone.
“I should let you go.”
“No, it's okay.” I stammer, embarrassed. “I'm just stressed out, I really do like Pittsburgh, and especially Braddock.”
“Relax Randa,” he says, “enjoy your evening and have another beer in my honor. We'll talk tomorrow”
I glance around the bar nervously for a moment, wondering if anyone over heard my conversation, but everyone has there heads down in a glass or are absorbed in conversation. I breathe a sigh of relief and grab for my sangria but it's empty. For awhile I just stare down at my hands, wallowing in self pity and defeat.
“Another one?” asks a voice in front of me. It's the bartender. He looks straight in my eyes and I don't look away like I normally do. Something about him reminds me of [R], I think. But I know better than to pursue feelings anymore, it never ends well for me.
“I really shouldn't.” I mutter quietly, staring down at my hands again. “I have to watch my money.”
“Probably shouldn't, but that's no fun.”
I don't know what to say or do. I'm exhausted in more ways than one and just want to disappear, so I shake my head and keep staring at my hands. When I look up there's another sangria in front of me.
“Hey, in my house...” he smiles, then walks over to the next customer.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Interjection II

Me and [K] are sitting out front of the crisis center, smoking a cigarette, when a guy walks up to us, starts screaming, pees himself then storms away.
“What was that....” she turns and asks me, not expecting an answer.
“ I don't know, but he peed himself.”
“Yeah.” A minute later two guys sitting on the opposite bench come over and confirm my story. They're laughing and rowdy and get us watching the man stumble the rest of the way down the street.
“He gonna get it, go past that bridge, them youngins gone get him.”
“Mmmhmmm.” His friend agrees.
“Gonna pull his pants off and kick 'em while he's dow.”
“Mmmhmmm, They like them drunks.” His friend interjects.
“Gonna kick 'em and pull his pants off too.”
Me and [K] are intrigued for a minute but as the sun continues to set and nothing happens we resume our quiet cigarette talk. I'm desperately trying to connect with her, trying to find a part of her that's from the way it used to be, in the good times at least.
“There's a man in the car,” she says all of a sudden, in a soft monotone voice, “but he's not really there.”
“Yeah?” I ask and start to laugh nervously. “What's he look like?”
“Bald, pale.”
“He look fat too?” I ask.
“No,” she says. “he looks dead.”

Friday, May 4, 2012

Interjection I


My little sister lost her mind. She started seeing a little dead girl and cats in every corner. She stops mid sentence and twitches, staring at the wall, for hours on end. She says there's lice crawling all over her, and we just can't see them. I am afraid. I walk along the freight train tracks, alone, to the Occupy house, hoping this will all go away. [C] is there, he's an EMT, and one of his friends soon joins us in the house. I hear him introduce me as Trainwreck while I'm pacing the floor in the other room. Eventually I've made a decision, I ignore his companion and spill my guts, tears rolling down my face.

“Woa,” he says, exhaling a cloud of smoke. “How long has this been going on?”
“A few years, but not like this. This started three days ago.”
“You need to call 911”
“No.” I whip out my phone, dialing the family instead, they are all far from here, far from this farfetched dream my father, sister and I hatched in Braddock. I call my mom, though I know she should be the last I make aware of this situation. My sister and her haven't talked since she abused us and her personality disorders coupled with alcoholism make most communication between her and I near to impossible. But I don't care, I need our insurance information and I will do anything at this point to make my little sister okay again. I fail. Mom begins the cycle of a psychotic break while I tell her the news, I've had the warning signs memorized since I was 15 years old.
“On crazy person at a time!” I scream, than hang up the phone, even though I know it wasn't right. [C] rubs my back and holds a note before me, written in sharpie on a used receipt. “You need to call in a 302, that's a forced committal. [K] needs you to do it.” I turn my head and light a cigarette instead. My older sister is the next on my list.

“You told Mom?!”
“I needed the insurance info, I don't know what to do, I'm freaking out, I'm freaking out dude!”
“Calm down. You need to call 911 now, where are you? Did you leave her alone?”
“NO!” I hang up. [C] is holding another note in front of me, about my options to commit her, about the hospitals in Pittsburgh I can choose from, about 201's and 302's and other numbers I've now become so familiar with by now but had yet to fully understand then. I get up with a sudden force, throwing my jacket around me.
“I need to go.”
“Okay....” [C] begins, his friend stares at me looking confused. “You okay?”
“Yes.. no. I don't fucking know. My sisters sick dude, my little sister's sick. I.... um,”
“NO! I'm fine! Just, I'll be back to pick up Brooklyn okay?”

I hurry down the tracks and call the crisis center with a shaking hand. They talk to me for a minute then take down my address.
“Wait... are you guys really coming? It's not that bad, is it?”
“Your sister is very sick ma'am. You should just get home as quick as you can.”
“Oh....” I say, then hang up.

I'm home sooner than I'd like to be, and I'm scared to go inside, not knowing which version of [K] I'm going to find. I suck down more cigarettes and stare up at her window, quietly, looking for movement. I know she's in there, it's near to impossible to get her to step foot out of the house these days, and same goes for her room, but still I'm worried. Eventually I open the door and walk up stairs. Shes in her room playing guitar, and I wait until the end of the song to knock.

“Hey [K]” I start. She snaps her head to the side, her eyes are glazed over.
“DON'T, talk to me like that.”
“I wasn't, I'm just trying to be calm...” I say unsteadily, hoping she wont notice I've been crying.
“Well don't.”
“I called a doctor, there's some people coming to see you.”
“What, you mean like to take me away?”
“No.... just to talk to you. They're gonna do a field evaluation. It's up to you if you go with them.”
“Oh, good, cause I'm going to New York.”
“I know.” I say quietly.
“Well I am. I'm....” She stops and begins to twitch, holding both her hands in front of her chest, hunched over the guitar on her lap. “I'm going to New York.” Shes says after coming to again.
“I know.” I say again, not knowing what to do, awkwardly standing in her doorway while she begins to play guitar until she reaches out, without looking at me, and shuts the door.

The people came and took her away that night, and the rest is a blur of hospital visits and waiting rooms. I've been seeing her everyday religiously, the rest of my day is consumed by doctors calls and worried family begging me for news. This is my first tale of the looney bin from the outside. This is an interjection.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Adusting XI


It's been cold the past few days and with no heat, plumbing or electric, the cold seeps up through the bottom of my hammock. I line the sides with blankets and sleeping bags but my efforts are in vain. I know I should probably just shut the storm windows in my Harry Potter reminiscent room, but I keep forgetting when I should. The new house is big and empty, and I'm pretty sure the first floor is haunted but I don't mind. It's beautiful, and everyone in Braddock says when I show it to them “Oh wow, you got that one?” The Occupiers and I agree, Steinbeck would be proud.

I roll around in my hammock thinking on the adventure that my move here has been. I've already made a Facebook post stating that I like it here and have decided to stay. In September I had crash landed from California, spectacularly traumatized and an aspiring alcoholic (not to say that the latter fact has changed), grieving the loss of my childhood guitar, among other things. Since then I have become the joint owner of 3 houses and sole owner of numerous plots of land, and have acquired a small town reputation as “the zoo lady”. I have to watch my mouth these days because the kids in town flock around me when I'm walking Brooklyn, asking if they can come see my pets. Its a strange kind of life, built around simple, rustic acquisitions. I guess I am adjusting, after all.