Flower Child, part 5

The Divorce

Less than a year passed from the New Year until the day my parents marriage ended. I know now that it had been ending for a long time, alcohol flowed like a river through their marriage until it was worn down, and one day it split as if an ax had come down on a dry piece of wood.

It was summer and my girlfriend and I were bored. Point Defiance was the popular hangout on the weekends, a large tip of land covered with acres of pine trees that looked out over cliffs onto sparkling expanses of Puget Sound. We needed a ride there. 

I found my dad in the front yard. The morning sunlight reflected of his bald head, making it shine like a sugar coated jawbreaker. When I called him, he startled.

“Dad, we want to go to the Point, can you drive us? I asked, flashing my most persuasive smile. If the smile didn’t work I would resort to pleading and cajoling. My Dad was a sucker for his youngest daughter, I was his only biological child. I knew by that age there was little I couldn’t get his to do for me. 

“Not today”, he mumbled, avoiding my gaze.

“But dad, we’re bored, and if you take me today I won’t ask you to take me for the rest of the week, and ….” I stopped short as he turned to face me. I squinted into the bright sun as I looked up, trying to get a glimpse of his face. I had learned to gauge his moods by then. If he had enough to drink he was a jovial man, not enough and the slightest provocation would throw him into a rage. His eyes, the same hazel green as my own, were usually a good indicator. 

As he looked down at me his eyes were clouded, watery. “I’m in trouble,” he said, nearly choking on his words. 

There was something beyond seeing my father cry for the first time that frightened me. Just beyond the tears threatening to well over his lower lids, I saw terror. He looked away quickly and retreated back into the darkness of the garage. 

I walked back into the house, slowly taking the steps up to the dining room, my feet feeling heavy as if coated with cement. My girlfriend left when I told her my dad wouldn’t drive us. I sat in the living room filled with my mother’s paintings, wondering when she would get home. My father remained in the garage.

I looked at the ceramic mortar and pestle that sat in the corner, holding a healthy green Pathos plant. It was white with the letters RX emblazoned across the front of it in Gold scroll. My mother loved the pathos plant because of its ability to thrive in spite of neglect. My dad had received the planter as a gift for his years of dedicated service to the drug company her worked for, where he labored for hours on end in huge rooms filled with monolithic computers. The turquoise clock above the kitchen sink ticked loudly, adding to the surreal quality the time I spent there waiting. 

Soon my mother trudged up the stairs as she returned home from art class. She wore her usual drab green and tan worsted wool coat over a white turtleneck. Her hair was brownish-blonde, no, “dishwater blond was what she called it. She hid her brilliant but icy blue eyes behind thick tortoise shell glasses. No one would have noticed that she was beautiful.

“Have you seen dad?” I asked. I searched her face to see if she understood that something was wrong. There was no indication. She wore her usual weary expression, lips turned down at the corners as she headed for the kitchen sink, lifting the bottle from beneath it in its brown paper wrapper. She muttered something under her breath as I heard Dad’s arduous footsteps coming up the stairs. The ice cracked as she poured the room temperature Rose over them.

“I was hoping we could all take a walk,” my dad said, looking plaintively at my mother. 

“What for? I’ve got a lot of things to do this afternoon—“ she began, not looking up, taking a long sip from her glass.

“It’s important” He said, “Please” he repeated his request. He was cracking now; I saw it start up near his forehead. He looked small to me, a boy of eight or ten, pleading for something needed desperately, unable to convey the urgency of his dilemma to my mother. 

“All right. Fine.” She shrugged back into her coat with great effort.

We walked down the stairs together, out the door, down the driveway. The sun was high in the sky by then but the shade of many evergreens kept the air cool. I could smell the forest, dust; I heard kid’s voices as they played carelessly in their backyards. I followed them as we walked silently to the trailhead in the woods near my house. My dad motioned for us to sit down. I shivered in the warm air as I sat on a tree stump. Its rough edges jutted into me.

His hands shook as he swung them, apparently not knowing where to start. He reminded me of the pictures I had seen of Nixon on TV right before he was implicated in the watergate scandal. A man who had been caught. Unlike Nixon, my dad made no attempts at a brave smile.

My mother sat rigid on her stump, her arms crossed. She looked at him with distaste, a look I had only seen washed away by several glasses of wine.Once he began, the words seemed to spill out of him. “I’ve been fired from my job. I was drinking cough syrup at work that had codeine in it and I was caught—caught stealing it.” He looked warily at us as he paused briefly. “I went to a clinic. They…they told me that I am not addicted”. He added the last part matter of factly; his tone implied that he was reassured by that news and that we should be too. He had taken a good news bad approach. The part about the clinic was the good news.

Confusion and fear spread through my young body, filling even the smallest spaces. 

What was my dad using codeine? He stole it? Did that make his a thief? What was going to happen to us? I looked over at my mother for clarification, I wanted someone to help me make sense of it, and I wanted reassurance.

But my mother was not looking at me. The furrows at the corners of her mouth deepened. “I want a divorce,” she spat between clenched teeth. She stood suddenly and started walking fast back to the house.

My father began sleeping in the basement, perhaps hoping my mother would change her mind, or maybe unsure of where he should go. Just a few days passed before my mother announced she was going out. She had given up her wool coat and thick glasses for a short flowing skirt and heels. The Eagles were big then. The song “Lying Eyes” was one of my favorites. It seemed clear my mom was going to see another man. I saw her as the betrayer. I felt bad for my Dad, who it seemed was hoping things would blow over. This arrangement went on for awhile until my Dad finally decided he was going to have to go live with his sister. So he left, and that left my Mom and I.

My mom asked me who I wanted to live with. I thought about it, but knew there was no choice except my Dad. But by then my Dad was unemployed, broke, not able to take me in. They had it written in the divorce that both parties agreed it would be in the best interest of the minor child to live with the father. So because of circumstances my mom kind of got stuck with me. 

My mom made it clear right away that the rules had changed. In so many words, and in so many less she made it clear she was done with the title and identity of “Mother”. All those years of holding herself back, suppressing her creativity, her sexuality, her self, had taken their toll. My mom was ready to cut loose.

My mother began dating frequently. I took advantage of her frequent absences by having friends over for parties. She often stayed out all night and then went straight to work, but one night she came home at the crack of dawn to change her clothes for work. She found the house strewn with beer bottles and assorted teenagers passed out, including me with a boy in her bed. I didn’t really understand why she was so angry. I was only living exactly as she was.

So I kept my boys out of her bed and after that I suppose there was a crazy rhythm that developed. She would party and have sex, I would party and have sex, and one time we even unknowingly had sex with the same man. One of my brothers friends, who was extremely attractive. It was a free for all. It was the 70’s, pre-AIDS, and drinking, drugging, and sex were on the table. That’s just the way it was.

My mom joined a group called Parents without Partners. I don’t know if there were any good or decent people in the group, I only met the ones that grant a lot and used the group as a singles dating service, trading partners at will. That’s what my mom did until she met Tom. Tom was 10 years younger than my mom and long brown sideburns down each side of his face that were reminiscent of the older Elvis. I could hear his tricked out Chevy van with its idyllic scene painted on the side chugging down our street when he would come to pick up my mother. The van was his only possession, that and a pair of worn western cowboy boots that sat in the dining room when he came over, their toes curled up like the shoes on the Wicked Witch in the Wizard of Oz.

I dreaded date night with Tom. When he and my mother would return from dinner and dancing they would repeat to what was once my parent’s bedroom, where the sounds of their frenzied passions went unrestrained. They never seemed concerned that my bedroom was right next door. Apparently Tom possessed talents that my father did not. My mother told me more than once about the visit her and father had made to a psychiatrist, apparently because my mother wanted sex and my father did not. “The Doctor told me I am not oversexed’”, she had informed me with a definitive tone. There is nothing wrong with me. 

My Mom and her boyfriend Tom would have sex raucously in the room next to mine. My mom would boast about her multiple orgasms the next day. She was making up for the dearth of sexuality that had been present in her marriage to my father, a man she had come to hate. 

So I lay there one night listening to my mom getting off in the bed she had shared with my father just a few months earlier. It was a cacophony. It was on one of those nights that I noticed the sound of my heart beating and became hyperaware of my breathing. I became terrified that if I were to go to sleep my heart would stop beating or my breath would cease. And that began the pattern, it seems, of the hyperanxiety, the terror, the obsessive compulsions.

Another passion that my mom and Tom shared was drinking. Tom liked Jack Daniels, he preferred to leave his sitting out on the kitchen counter as opposed to hiding it in a cabinet. And they both loved wine. They began making their own, something my mother and father had once done together. They turned one of the rooms in our house into a winery. The heat was always down in the rest of the house to conserve on finances but the wine room was warm and toasty. The small room was filled with the smell of yeast and the dripping sound of wine fermenting. Their wine was really strong, it could knock you on your ass with one glass. I know because my friends and I stole it when we didn’t have anything else to drink.

Tom was a parent in name only. He had two kids living somewhere, with one of his ex wives. “Mom and Tom”, as they so unaffectionately became known as, loved to talk about what a pain in the ass kids were. Ungrateful. Burdensome. When Tom moved in he wanted me out. And my mother made it clear to me that when he was move his needs were to come first. Only his music would be played on the stereo. BobWills and his country crooners. He would sit at the head of the table in what he claimed as his chair, chain smoking Pall Malls until thick tendrils of smoke filled the dining room. When we had family events, at Christmas or Thanksgiving, and my siblings would come to visit, everyone had to be sure not to sit in Tom’s chair, at the head of the dining table. If anyone did, he would pout and sulk, slam things about the kitchen and then give my mother the cold shoulder. 

In order to demonstrate his affectionate for my mother, Tom enjoyed putting on shows for her children. When any of us were present he would make out with my mom on the couch, where their loud smacking and cooing noises were over dramatized. Tom also enjoyed coming on to my girlfriends. My mom would just giggle and say, “Oh, Tom!” She thought he was so cute. Even though I hated his guts with every ounce of my adolescent body, one Christmas I went out of my way to get him a gift I thought he would enjoy, a Bob Wills album. He went to hug me after he opened it, and then he stuck his tongue down my throat. He tasted putrid like cigarettes butts that had marinated in stale beer. My mother simply looked the other way.

Tom seemed to make my mother happy. Her paintings went from dark and melodramatic to colorful and light. Their relationship lasted over a decade. I’m not one to begrudge my mothers happiness, or her seeming bad taste in partners after my father. I know now that she had unhappy in her marriage and that divorce set her free. But the timing was bad. Her need to relive her adolescence collided with my need for a mother, and I lost.

But if my mother was one thing, it was that she was consistent. She never apologized for her choices, and always considered herself as someone who gave the best years of her life to her children. For years I wanted my mother to acknowledge that she had made bad choices, but that day never came.

Several factors converged after that that made it easier for me to drink alcohol. My parents were largely absent, and not overly concerned with my drinking. The summer before my 10th grade year I spent almost every day at keg parties, coming home only to sleep, change, and eat. One day my mother asked, “What are you going to do when school starts and you have to sober up”? 

“Oh, I’ll manage”, I answered, my voice dripping with sarcasm. I basically did as I pleased. 

Flower Child, part 4

Lush

I remember distinct details from my childhood home. Shag carpet, green and white. Avocado kitchen appliances. burnt orange linoleum that had an octagon shape. I would put my foot singly in each one as I walked the dining room. There were fourteen stairs that I would take two at a time, counting as I climbed them. A turquoise clock above the kitchen sink. 

My mother was a painter. She was that before anything else. A talented and prolific painter, well known in her community, but not famous. The home I grew up in was filled with so many of her paintings that there was very little wall space. Landscapes of western Washington where we lived. Ocean scenes with sandpiper birds scattering at the edge of the water. Abstracts that looked like huge oyster shells. But mostly, portraits. Of us, her four children, my friends, the neighbor, or strangers she approached on the street; saying, “Can I take your picture? I’d love to paint you!”

By some quirk of genetic code, of my mother’s children, I turned out to be the one most like her. I have not always thought of that as fortunate. I was gifted with her artistic talent, which she nurtured in me by allowing me to attend her classes she taught in our basement. Nurtured is a strong word to use when describing my mother. Painting was one of the things she cultivated in me. I learned almost by osmosis the color wheel, and under her guidance how to mix colors. She taught that a face is equal to the length of a person’s hand, and how to suggest a line with the stroke of a brush. I loved the names of the paint colors; Alizarin Crimson, Yellow Ochre, and Burnt Sienna. They were part of my childhood as much as the alphabet, and learning to write. The smell of turpentine and linseed oil permeated the backdrop of my childhood. They were as familiar to me as the smell of alcohol on my parents breath.

I come from a long line of drinkers. My Dad’s father loved his whiskey, which he kept hidden in the garage among tools in his workbench. And my mom’s father was in and out of AA at least four times. As far back as I can remember I knew that my father’s drinking was not normal. On Sunday mornings before breakfast I would peer out from behind the comics when I heard the thin metal cap unscrewing from the glass bottle. I could see my Dad’s reflection the glass patio door as he stood in front of the liquor cabinet swigging directly from the bourbon bottle. My mother’s drinking was much less obvious. When we picked up milk from the store we would also pick up a bottle of Rose which she kept below the sink in a brown crinkled paper bag. She never drank before noon, and my father’s alcoholism was so blatant that it was easy to overlook to glass of wine she always kept within reach, the empty glasses in the sink stained with the deep red of her lipstick.

My parents were not the kind of alcoholics that I found lying about on the floor when I came home from school. My dad had a good job, my mom cooked dinner for us overnight. But alcoholism , ever insidious, seeped into every space of my childhood, leaving everything tinged a dark brownish gray, similar to the turbulent skies in one of my mother’s paintings.

The first time I drank hard liquor, it ran through the channels of my veins, igniting neurons and setting genetic markers spinning. It was 1974 and I was twelve. My brother and sister lived nearby in a communal house they shared with many of their friends. People were always coming and going and the air was thick with the smoke of marijuana and hashish. I thought it was the coolest place I had ever been.

It was New Years Eve and someone at their house needed a babysitter. What was left of the free love of the sixties ensured that their were always a few kids with dirty faces and low slung diapers running around. I brought Margaret and when we arrived the kids were already asleep. Somehow we had gotten our hands of a bottle of gin. We were going to start the New Year with slow gin fizzes, a syrupy sweet drink that slid down my throat as thick as jello. We drank several of them and when we ran out of gin and Seven-up we found a bottle of Whiskey and mixed it with milk.

I awoke the next morning when people began to move about the house. I was on the couch. My head felt like someone had laid it on an anvil and took a hammer to it. My mouth was dry like sandpaper. I hurt everywhere. My chin felt swollen and a muscle in it was twitching fervently. My sister was slouched in a tattered chair near the couch, staring at me with an unsure look upon her face. “I see you are finally coming to’” she said. 

“What happened?”, I groaned, squinting to shield my eyes from the bright sunlight coming into the room through a large window that was littered with plants in macrame hangers. 

“You got wasted,” she said plainly. “That’s what happened. The party moved here after midnight and when we got here you couldn’t even walk. Wait…. you don’t remember?”

I closed my eyes and tried to recall the night before. I remembered the nasty taste of whiskey mixed with milk. “I don’t remember anything after the whiskey,” I said, putting my hand up to feel the muscle or nerve in my chin that was still jumping to some maniacal beat. 

“I saw you go into the bathroom with some guy,” she said, her eyes widening. “You were almost passed out and he had your shirt half off. I tried to get you to drink some coffee, put you in the shower. You fell and slammed your chin against the bathtub.” She nodded her head back and forth in disbelief.

“Wow, I said. That explained my chin, now throbbing. “How could all of that have happened and I don’t remember?”

“You had too much, Tina, you’ve got to be careful.” She went into the kitchen to get some coffee, parting the brown beads that hung in the doorway. One of the kids ran by, his butt crack peeking out from the diaper. I cringed as he gleefully yelled something unintelligible.

Maybe some people who had a night like mine might consider it a warning sign. That was not the case with me. I wanted more of the delightful substance that altered everything about my experience. Alcohol made me happy, gleeful, and in my own mind, alluringly attractive. The blackout? I just figured I would never mix whiskey with milk again. 

Alcohol was always readily available, there were always older guys at the parties who could buy kegs for us. And finally, I loved alcohol. It’s scent hazardly rushing up my nose. The harshness of it as I sent it down my throat and the heat it sent through my body warming my parts that had ever felt cold and frozen. It seemed to be the missing piece in the composition of me.

All of my friends drank, although looking back I’m not sure that many of them were as enthusiastic as I was about it. I didn’t see much difference between the way I drank and the way my friends drank, except for that fact that they seemed to always remember what happened the night before, I often did not. I wasn’t one of those kids I’d see on the After School specials who carried alcohol to school in the thermos and hid it in their lockers. I only drank on the weekends for the most part, and I considered that normal.

I also started using drugs. It started with marijuana. I got it from my older brother, we were very close by then. I will never forget the time my brother cracked open a pound of weed on the breadboard in my mother’s kitchen. He sold weed because it was profitable and provided him with a steady supply. In junior high Margaret and I would deal his weed to our friends. Margaret showed me how to cut it with Oregano and then we could skim what we wanted off the top.

Flower Child, part 3

Margaret

She was my first introduction to the fact that there was life beyond my dull suburban 12-year-old existence. Margaret, also 12, marched undaunted that summer into our neighborhood cul-de-sac, named “Tara” by some optimistic land developer, and immediately garnered the attention of all who lived there. Bubbling over with effervescence, charm, and raw beauty, she epitomized everything I had ever dreamed of being. Stunningly beautiful and developed well beyond her age, she captivated me with her brilliance. Although only 12, she had left her first steady boyfriend behind in the move. She tantalized me with stories of french kissing, slow gin fizzes, and cigarettes. She wrote poetry on the walls of her tree house and taught me that Je’taime means “I love you” in French. I grasped onto Margaret as if she were my last dying breath. She was the first person to ever make me feel valuable.

The upstairs of Margaret’s house was filled with wall to wall glass cases containing delicate miniature sculptures of Asian architecture from Margaret’s mother’s native Korea. Margaret was an Army brat. Her American father had met her Korean mother in the service. Their house was like a museum. Her mother collected Hummel’s and had them in glass cases around the edges of the living room. I was afraid to touch anything, but I stared hard, at all the little German ceramics and the tiny carved sculptures Margaret’s mother had collected while in Korea. A wall clock ticked ominously in the corner, bellowing out hourly sing-song pronouncements of passing time. The room was crowded with elegant plump white furniture; I avoided it after my legs stuck to it in the heat of the summer. 

The dining room set was solid and formal, and only used for important company. Small bags of marinated meat hung from spider like nets in the corners of their house. The first time I tasted some of that meat (bulgogi), I understood Margaret’s mother had at least one redeemably quality other than her rare smile. Rice simmered continuously on a modern rice cooker near the table in the kitchen where their family ate. Margaret would sometimes offer me small bits of unidentifiable food items and laugh at the faces I would make, after the fact when she told me it was squid or some other kind of sea creature.

Margaret’s father was retired from the Army, but I’d often see him working in his yard in his camouflage fatigues, sweat glistening from the tips of his regulation crewcut. His small den in the basement of their home, kitty corner from the well stocked bar, was plastered with certificates and medals from his time in the service. He affectionately called Margaret “punkin”, with all the tenderness a former army man could muster. Margaret’s father had met her mother during the Korean war. All through my adolescence I would hear Margaret’s mother’s voice echoing through in her thick Korean accent.  “Margalet… come do some work!” Failure to properly remove all traces of the small bit of soapy gunk from around the kitchen faucets would result in a beating. Her mother would sometimes retreat to bed for days at a time, feigning illness of one sort or another. Margaret was required to wait on her during these episodes. Margaret’s father doted on his wife, who under the best of circumstances could be called a bit of a tyrant. When she smiled the whole room would light up. But it took a lot to make her smile.

Margaret was the kind of beautiful I had only seen in magazines. I always considered it sheer dumb luck that Margaret chose me for a friend. Standing next to her, in her shadow as I did, never gave me a chance to shine. Yet I’ll never be sure if I would have searched so hard to find out who I was if I had not had such a dramatic model of who I was not.

Margaret was everything I had ever dreamed of being. Her hair was shiny blue-black, the kind you only see on commercials for shampoo. My own hair was dark as well, but it lacked her luster. Margaret’s skin was tinted the color of iced mocha, a blessing from her mixed heritage parents. My skin was pale and freckled, and looked pasty next to Margaret’s warm tone. Her legs were muscular and virtually hairless, while my legs had grown a thick blanket of dark hair that my Dad had refused to let me shave off. The green of Margaret’s eyes was a color I had never seen before, her iris’ lined perfectly in ivory black. She was more than well developed for her age, and she knew how to display her assets aplomb. My breasts remained stubbornly flat, no matter how much I practiced the exercises in magazines promising to make them come to life.

Margaret was not only beautiful, she was exotic. I never understood why Margaret took me under her wing. She told me I was pretty and when she befriended me I felt a strong need not to disappoint her. I knew that I was the lucky one, the one to receive her notes in her curious back-slanted hand writing, the notes she always signed, “I love you”. If someone like Margaret loved me, that meant that I was special in some way. I was convinced of it even if I didn’t understand it. The boys in the neighborhood began falling over themselves trying to get her attention. She was coy. She knew her worth. Or so it seemed.

Margaret turned me on to all sorts of new things, but the very first thing was cigarettes. From the first drag I was in love… with cigarettes and with Margaret. But I didn’t know that. I knew I loved cigarettes, yes. They made me feel so cool, so rebellious, so in control. All I knew about Margaret was that I wanted to be around her constantly, for any reason, at any time, at any season. Margaret became everything to me. 

We would go to the local convenience store (which we dubbed the “stop and steal” for obvious reasons). There was a vending machine in a restaurant nearby. Put in your money, out came cigarettes. Marlboro 100’s. No ID required. Then we wood go out in the woods and drink Boone’s Farm Strawberry Hill wine (just ask people in front of the Stop and Steal to buy the booze). And we would make Slow Gin Fizzes, whatever those were. 

The first time I smoked a cig it was with Margaret. I was nervous but so excited that I was doing this big adult rebellious thing. From the first inhale, I was hooked. That first puff, the rush, the feel of smoke in my lungs.

I was never very clever at hiding things and my first smoke would not prove to be the exception. We had gone to a gravel pit near my house, presumably hidden. But there is something about being that age and smoking that makes you want to go public with it. Like, look what a bad ass I am, smoking a cigarette.

Well it just so happened that my mom happened to be driving home from an art gig right by the gravel pit. She saw me and I saw her and I knew there was gonna be hell to pay. My mom waited til’ after dinner to spring the situation. She told my Dad, who I can’t recall his reaction. I only remember my Mom’s. She was furious, seething. 

“You’re a slut,” she said. 

I was surprised by that one. For one thing, I was still a virgin. But I was a smoker. That made me a slut, I guess, in my mom’s eyes. 

My father sternly said, “Barbara”.

She stormed off into her room. Well, their room. 

I modeled myself after Margaret. When school began, Margaret, with her beauty and fitness was immediately in with the “cool” kids. And that made me a “cool” kid by proxy. I constantly felt out of place, understanding that I was only with these kids because of Margaret. I abandoned all of my old friends for my new “cool” ones out of necessity. I was part of the elite. A person most unlikely.

Boys never seemed to be into me. Not in the way they were to Margaret. I was slow to develop. Standing next to Margaret I looked like an ugly duckling next to a swan. I was in that chubby awkward brace-face stage of adolescence and Margaret was lithe, magical and savvy.

Margaret turned me on to all sorts of things. Lots of the things she did didn’t make sense to me, but I did them, because well, Margaret.

One of the things we would do was go out in the middle of the night and vandalize people’s property. I didn’t understand the point of it, but I did it. We would switch garbage can lids up, smash mailboxes. It scared the crap out of me and made me feel bad about myself.

When school began (eighth grade) Margaret quickly rose to the top of the social echelon. And I was her hanger on. I knew I was in the most popular group of kids at school only by proxy.

I knew I didn’t have what these other girls had. The boobs, the cute little bodies, the eyelashes, the hair. The boys in this group were interested in the girls with the hair that looked like Farrah Fawcett. And I was more like the androgynous one. Except chubby and with braces. 

The boys that did express interest in me were awkward and clumsy. I wanted the boys with the hair. The long, rock star feathered hair. I really wanted Margaret, but I had no concept of that at the time.

One of Margaret’s highly developed skills were in shop lifting. She was small in stature, but she wore a long black trench coat that made her look about 6 feet tall. No one ever missed Margaret, not if they were anywhere within her vicinity.

I was an awkward shop lifter at best. I hated it. And my timing was horrible. We decided to shop lift on the military base. I got caught of course, because I am horrible at stealing. I was banned from the base for life, and Margaret’s mom didn’t think much of me after that. She was already tired of me hanging around all the time begging for some the meat hanging from the ceiling.

Many of our friends were running for cheerleader. That wasn’t my thing. Margaret decided to run for President of the Student Body. She convinced me to run for something. I wasn’t interested in the position, I only wanted it because it would make me more popular.

The people with clever speeches were the one’s who won. I had my mom make me a banana suit. I wrote my speech to the tune of the Chiquita banana song, and I won. Margaret did not win, but was very gracious about the fact that I did. My popularity increased tenfold when I was elected to be secretary of the Student Body. I felt like a celebrity. Everyone knew who I was, I was dubbed the “Chiquita girl”. 

I felt like a fraud. I stopped showing up for meetings and eventually got kicked out of the position because I got caught smoking in the girl’s bathroom, which oddly enough made me more popular because it made me somewhat notorious.

Margaret eventually became weary of my hanging on. I became jealous of her spending time with other girlfriends. I modeled my behavior after Margaret. Sometimes I would pretend I was her. She began to distance herself, probably understanding my attraction for her was more than just friendly.

Charlie’s Angels was that show that gave me the first idea that I might be a lesbian. I didn’t know lesbians actually existed. But I knew that I was fascinated by the Angels. Of course all of us were. But my feelings led me to confess to Margaret that I thought I might be a lesbian.

That pretty much killed our relationship. I took it all back later, of course, after her reaction.

Flower Child , chapter 2

Tara

Moving terrified me, but it proved to have some definite advantages. 

When I was 8 we moved to a new house in a new neighborhood. It was my mother’s dream home, with a painting studio in the basement where she could teach her art lessons. The house was surrounded by old growth forest…. and it was there that I found peace for the first time in my life. There was a path behind the house that went deep into the woods. The only sounds I would hear were the sounds of the forest and the birds. I discovered that if I walked it and went up and over a hill there was a pond. In the pond I found frogs and salamanders that I would take home with me. We grew tadpoles in the backyard swimming pool. In spite of the fact that my parents marriage was strained, my father was an alcoholic who beat my half-brother, and everything else…it was the happiest and safest time of my life. With my older half siblings gone, my mom started to actually mother me. She taught me how to cook, made me clothes, taught me to paint. She did everything mothers would do… for awhile. Except for the affection and closeness part that you might hope for. That was never there, and I came to understand that it never would be.

Although we stayed in the same small town in western WA, the new house was a dramatic upgrade. It had two stories, four bedrooms, a garage for my fathers tools and an unfinished basement that my father planned to turn into an art studio for my mother so that she could teach classes. But the best thing about the house was that it was in a neighborhood subdivision that had been carved out of old growth forest. Hence, the subdivision name: Tara. We lived at the end of the street so in the back and on the side of the house were miles and miles of untouched forest land.

My oldest sister was gone and married, my other sister was in the foster care system, and by now my brother was running away like my sister used to. He spent time in the local juvenile detention center for selling drugs at school. Eventually he was gone too, moving in with his girlfriend who was pregnant. By that time my oldest sister had also given birth to a son.

In first grade my mom decided that I was the spitting image of Eddie on “The courtship of Eddie’s Father”. She sent a letter to the television network telling them that I should be on the show and included a picture. I think they sent her back a nice “thanks but no thanks” letter. Maybe that’s one of the ways she showed her love for me, by attempting to pass her own dream to me. Maybe she saw me as her last shot at entering the entertainment industry.

My mother, father and I settled into what would be the most stable time of my life. With my older siblings gone, and my father working, my mom was free to pursue her passions of painting, teaching, entering art shows and other crafty things. My mother was a good cook and we had dinner every night when my Dad came home, albeit often a silent one. But there was a closeness of sorts that developed between the three of us. A closeness that had never been present prior to that time. And there was a comfort, in our new home, in the size of it. On weekends we would make popcorn, drink Cokes and watch Carol Burnett. It was the closest thing to normal I have ever known. 

Flower Child

I was going to continue writing about the present and my progress so far. But my writing seems rote and mechanical, where it used to feel lyrical. I’ve lost some of my motor coordination. So instead, I decided to publish the first chapter of my book, a memoir, which I started writing right before my father died in 2006.

Chapter One The house on Park Avenue 

Blessed is the child who does not know her worth, for she will spend the rest of her life searching for it 

I was born in a chocolate brown house with pink and white trim like Neapolitan ice cream. I was the fifth child my mother bore. The first three, Rachel, Leslie, and Ron, were adopted by my father Neil when he married my mother Barbara. The fourth child, John, my biological brother, died shortly after birth. If he had lived I wouldn’t be here today because my mom wanted to give my father a child, meaning one child only. It may have been the only act of kindness my mother did for my father; besides marrying him. 

My parents met in a bar. My father lived at that bar when he wasn’t working. My mom used to tell me she was happy that at least she got him out of the bar. I guess that makes three good things she did for him. Marrying him and then bearing two of his children. 

When my mom met my dad she was a single parent struggling to support her three children. Her first husband, a musician whom I suspect was my mother’s one true love, had abandoned her and my future siblings by the time the oldest was 5. Both my parents were born at the beginning of the great depression. This may have been one of the only things they had in common besides drinking and dancing. They both understood struggle and loss. 

After my mother’s death I saw some of her hand written journal entries from a time when she was attempting to write her own memoir. She described how much of a mistake it was to marry my dad, that people had warned her and she should have listened. My mother had found someone to adopt her children and support them. Being a single parent myself I can only imagine how hard it must have been. I don’t know if my mother ever loved my father. My father told me years later that she needed a meal ticket. She found one in my father whose work ethic was beyond reproach, in spite of his heavy drinking. 

There were already a lot going on in the family before I was born. My father was beating my 6-year-old brother Ron on a regular basis in an alcoholic rage. He also took out his anger out on 8-year-old Leslie. The oldest, Rachel, 12, escaped the beatings but was forced to witness them, as they often occurred around the family dinner table. To top it off, there was the loss of their first child a year prior. My mother carried the baby to term but was told he had a problem with his heart that would only allow him to live for a few days. 

My parents allowed him to die alone at the hospital. Not because they were hateful uncaring people, it was really quite the opposite. They were devastated by the situation and the emotions attached. My parents were both wounded people who had learned to turn away from their pain in order to survive. And if our family had a motto, it would have been to never speak of things that were emotionally difficult. A person can only tolerate so much loss. 

I was sexually violated by a family member prior to the age of 5. These incidents left me with an understanding of myself that would take years to uncover. I learned that in order to get my needs met I would have to use the only tool I had: my body, at whatever the cost. I learned to question my own reality. Someone I had been taught to trust was doing things to me that I knew were not right, but there wasn’t anyone to tell or to ask what to do. If I told anyone they would surely not believe me or find that I had enticed it. Maybe I did entice it? 

The collision of the violation with learning to trust would leave me unsure who was safe and who wasn’t. If someone showed caring and interest in me, I would get confused and think I had to offer them my body. I learned that the most abnormal was normal. In doing so I had to explain away the misdeeds of a loved one, and make them OK in my small child’s brain. For years after I didn’t understand warning signals from people that I wanted to trust, and as I result I found myself in a variety of dangerous situations. 

Before the sexual abuse, I was a tap and ballet dancer. I loved the costumes, especially the sequins. After the incidents I developed a desire to hide my body shape. I thought that if I was un-noticeable then maybe I could avoid future incidents. I learned how to make myself invisible. 

In Kindergarten one day we were going to play dodgeball. I was terrified. The thought of having a ball thrown at me with no escape made me feel “the” feeling. The feeling of being out of control, immobilized and unable to escape. The feeling I would spend most of my life running from. 

The teacher sent me and another boy to the classroom to get more balls and I saw it as my escape. I convinced the boy that we should just leave and go home. We both lived about three blocks away. I knew we were going to get in trouble, but all I could see was an opportunity to avoid being pummeled by an inescapable rubber ball. Of course, there was trouble. I can recall the teacher saying, “Billy had to walk home across streets where there were no crossing guards.” I don’t recall anyone asking me why I might be afraid of a dodgeball, or anything else for that matter. Even if they did I don’t know what I would have said. I already felt that there were things about me that were abnormal, unlike other people. And now I had put some other kid in danger because of my unexplainable fears. I was the instigator, so I was at fault. This would not be the last time I would be given this title. 

My bedroom was at the very top of the peaked roof house on the second floor of the house on Park Avenue. A giant Oak tree was planted squarely in front of the two picture windows of my room. In the corner there was a cubby hole big enough for two people to lie down in. The cubby hole was my secret hiding place. 

When I was five my mother’s father died suddenly of a heart attack. He was a chef at a landmark restaurant near Seattle. He dropped dead while he was at work. I wanted to go to the funeral but my mom said I couldn’t. I sat on a bench in the gym and looked out the high windows, wondering if he might go floating by. 

My mother will always be an enigma to me. From all appearances, she seemed to lack one of the qualities we often think of as instinctual in mothers. She didn’t seem to know how to nurture and protect her children. 

My mom was not shy about discussing her feelings about parenting. She shoveled in the guilt and washed it down with baked goods. “Parenting,” she would often tell us, “stole the best years of my life”. My mom loved babies and was OK with them until they began to talk and move around. My mom was very sensitive to noise. Her dream had always been to be a famous singer and movie star. She declared children to be the antithesis of achieving her dream. If it wasn’t for us, she could have been a star. 

In my early childhood, my mom wanted me to be on television. When I was about 4, she got me on the Miss Margaret show to do a tap-dance to “I’m a little T-pot. I liked being the center of attention. I also loved Miss Margaret. 

My mom seemed to value my cuteness and my ability to entertain. But other aspects of my personality she deemed temperamental, moody and antisocial. I never got the sense that she was particularly fond of me. I had a vivid nightmare around this time that my mom let me go down the drain with the bathwater. My mom accused my Dad and everyone else, of spoiling me. To her I was a spoiled rotten brat. Maybe I was, I don’t know. 

Maybe I reminded her of my father. Maybe it was too hard to watch someone else get something that they wanted. Maybe I was a symbol of the mistake she had made by marrying my father and thus imprisoning herself for that many more years. 

There were quite a lot of things going on around that time. For one, the entire country was in turmoil as the 60’s began to set in. My siblings were hippies with love beads, bell bottoms, and long hair. I wanted to be a hippie more than anything else. My sister Leslie began running away from home repeatedly. She would run, they would go get her from where she had gotten to (sometimes a state away), and bring her home. Then it seemed like she would turn right around and run again. I’m not saying she didn’t have good reasons to run. Then she got pregnant and was sent to an unwed mother’s home to live in shame until she gave birth to the baby and released her to adoption. At some point in the process my mom decided to wash her hands of it by making my sister a “ward of the court”. That’s what they call it when a mother releases a child to the foster care system. 

That was the first time I realized my mom had more than a chill in her soul. 

When I was 6 my oldest sister Rachel moved to California to marry her high school boyfriend. Later she would tell me she would have done anything to get out. That left just my brother and I at home. We had a contrary relationship like many siblings, I guess. As my brother got older my father’s contempt for him only seemed to grow. Until the day came when my brother was finally old enough/big enough to stand up to my father. And when that day came the beatings stopped. 

My father was always on the verge of explosive rage. In response, I learned to always be on edge waiting for the explosion. After awhile it didn’t matter if there was an explosion coming or not, I was always cringing. I loved my Dad, and unlike my mom I knew that my Dad loved me. But I was terrified of the person he became so often without provocation, or rhyme or reason. 

The house we lived in had a kids playhouse in the backyard and a combination garage/art studio designed to allow my parents expressions of their passions. For my dad it was alcohol and sports, and building things. For my mom it was painting. I guess my mom didn’t know that he was stashing alcohol in the garage. When I was an adult my mom told me that once she had gone in my dad’s “man cave” looking for something and had found dozens and dozens of empty and full bottles of hard liquor. Probably bourbon, maybe vodka. 

My mom did her drinking out in the open so she was pretty upset by my dad’s hidden stash, as she told me. Maybe that was the first moment she realized just how serious my dad’s drinking problem was. Or maybe that’s when she began to hate him. Hell, if I had been her I would have hated him for it also. 

By the time I was 7 I had completely disengaged from my soul. I scrunched it into a tight little ball like the roly-poly bugs I loved to play with. I buried it deep down inside of myself in the chasm of darkness that lived there. 

One day I came home from school and saw a bright red for sale sign on the house on Park Avenue. My parents had told me before that we were moving, but the sign made it real to my 7-year-old mind. I ran into the house, fearful, crying, seeking solace that I knew would not be met. 

My mother marched me sternly upstairs to my bedroom. “I don’t want to hear another word out of you,” she hissed. I had learned two valuable lessons that had ensured my survival up to the seventh year of my life. One was to be cute and the other was to be funny. That day I learned the third. Be silent.

My Covid Meltdown, part 4

I left Tucson and headed back towards California. My belongings were still stored in Santa Rosa, and I still felt as though it might be possible to find an affordable living situation there.

I headed to Santa Rosa and got some of my belongings out of storage. It was good to have them. I enjoyed visiting my storage because it reminded me of when I had a home.

But the cost of hotels in Cali were high, and I was still drinking, unable to gather myself enough to find housing. I was in a downward spiral on falling behind financially, because the hotels were costing me $60-$80 dollars a night. The cost of housing in and around Santa Rosa also seemed too much for me to afford. I decided to drive North, thinking that the cost of housing would go lower, and I would still be in Cali, but nearer to my son. I was missing him tremendously by then. I always feel a horrible hole in my gut when I can’t see him on a regular basis.

I went to Fort Bragg and began staying in the Motel 6. It was really a wonderful place. I fell in love with it. At that time of year, the end of November, the costs were reasonable. I started meeting a lot of people who were in similar situations. Women in my age group who had once had careers, had lost them for one reason or another and had become homeless. They would tell me about how their search for affordable housing in that area had failed. It was very competitive, and there were very few places available. I was discouraged.

I met a lot of nice people at the beach there. I was inspired every morning to drive to the beach and watch the sunrise, and then again at night to watch the sunset. There were huge ravens at the beach that I would watch. They made all sorts of cool noises. I stayed for about a week, and then headed back to the Santa Rosa area again.

There were two nights during that period where I had to sleep in my car. I was lucky, because I was in a campground, but it was terrifying to find myself in that position. I had no camping gear, and it was extremely cold at night. I had no tent, and one dog and two cats with me. I tried to let the cats out but they would try to escape so I had to keep them in their kennels. I had a very small car. I would put the cat kennels in the back seat, and try to sleep cramped into the small space in the back seat with my dog.

I decided to try going North again looking for affordable housing. I went to Yreka and Weed. Both places had hotels that were about 50 bucks a night. But still, no affordable housing. One day I decided to try Reno. I drove there. I really liked it there, but I was too scared to look for housing and it was very cold there. By now it was December.

I always stayed in budget hotels. I got used to the sounds of sirens, people yelling, and people doing meth in the parking lot. One night at a hotel I was smoking in my car and a guy came up on me that was high. He stuck his head in the window of my car and was talking gibberish. I was terrified. Finally he left. I told the security guard about it, and he told me the people in that guy’s room were being watched by the police.

After that, I decided to stop talking to people at the hotels I stayed at. By then I could see I was placing myself in dangerous situations. I started to become afraid of all people.

My friend Margaret, who by the grace of God was still helping me financially, offered me housing in Albuquerque, where she lived. Her sister and brother in law’s house was empty and they were going to allow me to stay there for three months, rent free, just paying for utilities. I saw it as my only choice. I wanted to see Margaret, and I wanted housing, but I didn’t want to be in Albuquerque. I had lived there for 10 years. My son was born there and my father died there. I had a lot of traumatic memories from that time.

I spent Christmas in Yreka, CA at the Motel 6, waiting for my next check. I left Yreka on December 27th and headed for Albuquerque. The drive was excruciating. I was in a lot of pain. I was still drinking. It seemed to take forever. One day I stopped for gas, and I couldn’t find my wallet. I was in the middle of nowhere, in the middle of Orchards. I searched everywhere for my wallet in my car and couldn’t find it.

I called my friend Margaret and told her what happened. She couldn’t send me any money via western union because without my wallet I didn’t have the ID to pick it up. I was trapped and in a panic. I had no idea what I was going to do. I felt like I wanted to kill myself. I knew in that moment, that my drinking had led to me losing my wallet. I was confused and disorganized and I had been careless. Finally I pulled myself together enough to search further in my car for my wallet. I finally found it tucked behind one of the seats. It was a coming to Jesus kind of moment. I was so relieved. I felt horrible about what I was putting Margaret through, who was desperately trying to help me. I had been honest with her about my drinking and we both knew I needed to stop. It was that moment, on December 28 of 2020, that I dumped the alcohol I had left and stopped drinking.

Prior to that, I had stopped drinking hard liquor. Hard liquor is poison to me, I understand that now. I had been weaning myself off of the alcohol by drinking beer, wine, and hard seltzer. But I stopped all of it that day. I had terrible withdrawal symptoms. Shaking, anxiety, all of it.

Somehow I made it to Albuquerque. I was so looking forward to seeing Margaret and her family. Margaret and I met while our sons were infants in the Baby’s R Us breastfeeding room. We became fast friends instantly. But we had not seen each other in 10 years.

I arrived and met Margaret at what would be my next home. It was so good to see Margaret and the home was beautiful. It was huge, had several bedrooms and a nice backyard. I felt so blessed and fortunate for the opportunity. I unpacked my few belongings and attempted to settle in.

The house was very quiet. I enjoyed listening to the calls of mourning doves and watching roadrunners. But I was having full blown anxiety attacks all of the time. It was a big adjustment to go from the life I had been living out of my car, to have a home.

I had adapted a lot of habits from being homeless. I was used to having a checkout time of 11 am each day. I would get up early to prepare. I had to get the cats in their kennels and into the car, the dog walked, etc. I would start to panic about 3pm each day, knowing that it was going to get dark, and that I would need to find another hotel that I could afford. I didn’t want to sleep in my car again.

I discovered a lot of issues that confront people that are homeless. People who were truly homeless, who didn’t have a car, would remind me that I should be grateful that I had one. I learned that if the phone wasn’t charged, I was dead in the water. If I didn’t have a hotel, I couldn’t charge it. Due to Covid, I couldn’t plug my phone in or anything because there was no indoor seating. I would charge my phone in the car, but sometimes I would forget. I met a lot of homeless people who didn’t have anywhere to charge their phones. They would ask convenience store people if they could charge their phones there. Bathrooms were also a huge problem. Again because of Covid, most bathrooms were closed. I had to learn to go outside, no matter the circumstances. It was very humbling. Homeless people, in my opinion, need phone charging stations, and at the very least portapotty’s to use. This seems like an important public health issue to me.

Learning to live in a home, adjusting to it, seemed very strange. I knew it wasn’t my home, so I wanted to be very careful about respecting the property that these kind people were offering me.

I was having a lot of difficulty breathing, all the time. I also had lost all sense of taste and smell. Eating became a chore. All food tasted disgusting. My jaw seemed to be locked in a permanent position and I could only eat soft foods. My friend Margaret had stocked the house with food for me, and I could barely tolerate any of it. Margaret and her family had all had Covid. When I compared my symptoms with Margaret, it seemed likely that I had gotten it also. We both experienced difficult breathing, fatigue, and a strange thing called “Covid toe”. The little toe on my left food developed a thick scab on the bottom of it and was painful.

I would have panic attacks whenever I had to leave the house to go to the store. It seemed as if people around me were normal. Everyone else seemed to be adjusting with Covid and going on with their lives. I felt isolated, alone and severely abnormal. When I would wear my mask in the grocery store I would get light headed and almost fell a few times. This was the first time in my life that I had felt so isolated from other people, so outside of what was normal.

I was missing my son so much. I’d never been away from him for so long before. I made a decision to return to Corvallis, OR, where I had lived before, to be close to him. I left Albuquerque on February 16. I arrived in OR a few days later and felt dread in the pit of my stomach. I left Corvallis intentionally. It was another place that held very difficult memories for me. Illness, poverty, and the contentious custody battle with my Ex. During my drinking I had sent horrible texts to my son. I wanted to make amends with him.

It was pouring down rain when I arrived. I met my son at a Safeway parking lot and we sat and had a cigarette together. I felt so very nervous. But I was so grateful to see him. I could see that he was building a life for himself, and seemed to be doing well. He was also very understanding about my relapse.

I left Corvallis the next day, I was intending on looking for housing in a nearby town. But once again, I fled. I just felt compelled to get out of Oregon. I decided to go back to Albuquerque and try to get grounded there. I decided to go a different way this time, bypassing most of California. I went through Nevada and Utah. I saw many beautiful scenes there. And the hotels were very inexpensive. I would look for housing at each place I stopped, but they were small towns and availability was scarce.

One day Margaret called me and told me that the house I had been staying had developed a water leak and that the house had become uninhabitable. I was crushed. I didn’t know what to do. But I decided to keep going to Albuquerque anyway. I knew Margaret was there, and that she would help me in finding housing.

I got back to Albuquerque and stayed just a few days. I saw Margaret and that was good. But I was restless and feeling the need to flee again. I didn’t want to trap myself in Albuquerque. I left, heading again back to California. I went back to Weed, CA, which was near Oregon. I set myself up in the Motel 6 there.

I finally understood that I was not going to find housing in California. I once again set out for Corvallis. I arrived and set myself up in a budget hotel. One night I was staying there and someone was shot in the parking lot.

I started a diligent housing search. I found an apartment in Corvallis that I could afford, the rental process was easy, despite my fears. Dear Margaret again had to help me with the deposit and first and last months rent.

That was on May 3rd of this year. In my next post I will be writing about my progress thus far and my plans for the future.

My Covid Breakdown, extras

As I continue to write this, I realize that I have left some things out. One friend suggested I write more about what happened to me after my shamanic experiences. 

My soul retrievals seemed to bring parts of myself back that I had lost along the way. In my mediations, I started having physical body memories of events in my childhood. I felt like parts of me were dying, and other parts were being reborn. 

The first 8 years of my life are almost completely lost to me. I have shadowy memories of traumatic events, sexual abuse. During my meditations, my memories began to return. I remembered being cold and untouched when I was an infant. I relived traumatic events, memories of which seemed to stored in my body. It was terrifying, but also liberating. 

Another major event I left out is that after I had my shamanic experiences, I felt intuitively that I might have a parasite. My naturopath tested me, and I turned out to be infected with two parasites: Tapeworm and Entamoeba histolytica, a cell eating parasite. This parasite infects people when they eat undercooked fish. I’m not sure how I got it. My naturopath treated me for both. The pills made me deathly ill. I was sick for the entire week that I took them. And then one day something came out of me in the toilet that I had never seen before. Something smooth and icky and a green color I had never seen. It was so strange. 

After that the severe pain I had been experiencing for years began to dissipate. The best description I have is that it felt as though my brain was melting into my body. It was very strange, painful, and frightening. But eventually, this sensation led to such a decrease in my pain level that I no longer required pain meds. 

I also left out two characters from my time at the Extended Stay. One day I noticed a woman with suitcases by the dumpster. Her bag had spilled out in the street and she was clearly having a breakdown. I began talking to her. She used to be a business woman, and career woman. She was now homeless for the first time. She couldn’t find her thyroid medicine in her bag so I attempted to help her. Eventually she found it. I gave her some food, and allowed her to charge her phone in my room. She was very resistant to receiving help. By then it was November, and the nights were very cold. She refused to come to my room. She had a little dog with her. Eventually someone at the hotel paid for a room for her. 

Another person I met who was very beneficial to me was someone I met at the smoking area. Her name was “Miss D”. She was 92, homeless, and unsure of where she was going to go next. She was a woman of God, and encouraged me to read Psalm 91. A lot of the people at the extended stay had become homeless and were being funded by government programs that assist people. Miss D was one of them. She told me to drink milk everyday, and to eat fruit. She was one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She also told me I needed to stop drinking.

I’m sorry to be jumping around so much, but I’m processing what happened to me as I write this. 

Here is a major part of the story that happened to me in Palm Springs:

I was waiting for my apartment to be ready in Palm Springs. I was blindly looking for places to stay acutely aware that I must have air conditioning for the pets.

I go on Airbnb. An image of a sunset pops up. Lesbians in the desert. 420 friendly. Bring ya’ pets. I booked it. Its a short drive. Max spends the entire way yowling in protest and trying to dig out of his kennel. “I will not be caged!” He yelled.

We arrived and were greeted like long lost family. Immediately they begin fussing over me like I am royalty. One of them is a cook and tells me she will be making me dinner, and that she thinks I am beautiful.

The room is lovely. Before I know it the animals are settled and cool. My lesbian host points out a gift on the bedside table. A joint in a pop top.

I unpack and take my joint into the common space where she sits. We begin talking and it turns out there is a deep trauma tale unfolding here, not dissimilar to some of my own. There were tears, hugs, communion, and a walk through the memorial garden to see the chickens.

A short time later they bring me chips and home made guac and salsa. It is accompanied by a virgin mojito with shaved coconut and sprinkles around the rim.

There is more. It seemed quite surreal. One of the lesbians, my host tells me she is on a reality TV show. She is the daughter of Jenny from “90 days the other way”. She and her partner have been on the show as a result.

A short time later I go to my room and check out the TV. I find “90 days the other way” and begin watching it, while she sits out in the living room smoking a doob.

I notice that the tattoo on her arm on the tv is the same as the tattoo on her arm in the living room and that seems right but still very strange. *note to self: you’re a Californian now. these things happen. 

In the time I spent trying to escape Oregon, I discovered a portal of energy that came from the wetlands and ran through my apartment. When I felt it, it seemed like a giant wind that would blow through me.

That day as I walked out to get my guitar, I stood in the heat. I heard all silence except for the sounds of a million wind turbines churning. An occasional clang of something against something. Very Bagdad Cafe mixed with Milagro Beanfield Wars

And then there was the wind. Except this time I was right in the center of it.

It was hard to believe this was the same life of the same person who was using this same computer just a short time ago in a completely different reality. 

That night there was dinner. Pasta loaded with cilantro and basil and rich sweet home made sauce. An explosion of flavors before unmatched. We all seem to be having some kind of Indie movie love fest. 

The wind never died there. It creeped in through cracks in the walls, around the air conditioning. It’s force created all kinds of beautifully haunting sounds. There was a ghost in the swing by the memorial garden that moved to its own drum. If I sat in it and allowed it to rock me, the feeling was sheer divinity.

There was no doubt in my mind that I had arrived in Shangra La. And right at the point where I was convinced Shangra La did not exist. At least, not for me.

I started the day with a drive into town and I was getting my Cali vibe on. I found the flow of the traffic and weave with it. In, and out, round, and about.

I tell a new friend about my new digs with the lesbians who also happen to be on tv. I explain that I’m a small town girl and that the closest I’ve come to a celebrity was when I saw the Dad from Family Ties in a restaurant in Santa Fe. She confirmed that shit like that does happen here all the time. She meets people in the music industry and then she meets their friends and it just happens. 

Just go with it, she said.

Back home with the lesbians dinner awaits. Tonight it is Mole with rice. If this were Eat, Pray, Love the food would all be fitting in nicely. But this is again more like Milagros and Bhagdad Cafe. Maybe also some Spanglish and Like Water for Chocolate. And maybe a little Real L Word thrown in, minus all the fucking. Where is Whitney when I need her?

Dinner is tears and laughter. Much more laugher than tears.

The Milagro comes at dinner when one of my hosts asks me my son’s birthday and when I tell her she looks shocked and stunned. 

It is the same exact birthday as her son, who is at this precise moment in a very similar yet dissimilar situation as my son. She had lost custody of him through a very difficult custody battle. When I look at her I see my deepest pain personified and it heals me. And vice versa. We understand without question that we have been brought together for a purpose.

She says, “Merena, you came to show me how my life could be.” 

And I’m thinking vice versa.

Back in my room that night as I was writing, I could hear them nearby, their laugher tinkling into the windy night.

The next day I drove into town, to a cannabis lounge. I was so inspired by the beauty there, and the lounge was right next door to one of my favorite new stores, Shag. So I stopped to take some pics with my phone in the warm desert air, as the sun began to set. 

Suddenly a figure appeared before me. His skin was dark black as ebony. He wore sunglasses, and the rest of his face was covered in a mask, so I could not see any facial expression about him. He stood before me by about a foot. 

With Corona fear encroaching on Palm Springs again, the streets sere deserted. In either direction there were no business open (all closed early due to Corona). No people anywhere and no longer in view of the dispensary I just left. 

Just me and this figure, a foot away from me, and I could tell he was angry at me.

Fear rose in my throat like fire. He could snap me like a twig. Throw me into a doorway and rape and kill me. Throw me into anywhere and take me. He could have take my bag containing all of my worldly possessions. He could have done anything he wanted with me.

I could see his muscles moving under his skin. He started muttering something about disrespect. I was disrespecting him by taking pictures in the street. He started mocking me with his body, exaggerating his movements in some kind of maniac dance. I wondered if I looked like that when I took pictures.

I started apologizing. I just started hyperventilating and saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” I knew he was gonna kill me but I was sure he would rape me before he did. I could see his rage and I knew it was fueled by something else, not me, but that I had become his projection screen, like I do over and over again unconsciously for other people. I started to back away hoping he wouldn’t follow but knowing he would. I started digging in my huge bag for keys.

“Get in the car, it’s your only safety”, I thought.

I dug madly in the purse but there were no keys. I was afraid to look back because I knew he was coming for me. I started to get weak and I didn’t want to sit but was forced to by my body as I admonished myself to calm down, pull it together and find the keys.

I kept looking but they were no where. 

I realized I had probably left them in the dispensary and I was going have to go back for them, even though it seemed the least safe thing to do. 

I steeled myself and forced my body into a standing position. I was sobbing hysterically now, crumpled into a bent over ball. 

I looked up and saw that I had dropped my keys where I had been standing about 50 feet away. I forced myself to run to them, my heavy bag making my flight burdened in the heat and wind. I picked them up and flew back to my car. I opened the doors, got in and locked them. I was sobbing hysterically now, completely out of control.

I start screaming out loud “Help me” to no one. A suggestion from within tells me to call someone.

But I know there is no one to call.

No one who will understand.

No one will comfort.

There is only nothingness.

I tell myself to drive, turn on the music. I don’t want to drive but I have no choice.

I arrived back at the Airbnb. A triangular drama had begun to play itself out there. You see, the lesbians were renting from a woman who owned the property, they both lived on it. I made fast friends with the woman who owned the property, a beautiful Hispanic woman with three wonderful sons. I had begun to spend time with them, going out to dinners and such. One of the lesbians began to get jealous of my relationship with the family. One day when we were out eating she started sending texts to the woman saying things like, “Oh, I see you have a new best friend now”. Tension had begun to build and I was feeling very uncomfortable in the house. The lesbians became distant and removed. 

That night, as I drove back from the 420 lounge, the winds were blowing harder than they ever had. I went to my room. The air conditioner was working, but it was stuck in the window and was somewhat ajar. 

I went to bed and the winds were howling. I will never forget the sounds of that night. I awoke in the middle of the night to find that the things that held the AC in place had blown out the window. It was like I was in a hurricane. I tried to pick up the pieces and shove them back into place. It seemed to work. I went back to asleep. When I awoke a few hours later the air conditioner had completely blown out of the window. It was laying on the ground outside the window, on the ground, still running. 

I knew I had to leave the Airbnb. The tensions in the house were too much. I decided to leave, and to ask for a refund. The lesbians woke up, saw me packing and started yelling at me. They accused me of purposely kicking the air conditioner out of the window. I hastily got my belongings together and drove off. 

I continued to try to contact them for a refund. At first they ignored me. Then they sent me a text saying be here in 15 minutes or you will lose your refund. I was miles away when I got that text so I couldn’t go. Eventually they refunded me.

This is all I have to write today. To all who are reading, thank you so much for sharing my journey. Also, the grammar is mixed up in the writing, it’s very rough. Sorry for all of the tense changes, ie past vs present.

My Cataclysmic Covid Meltdown, part 3

As I mentioned before, the eviction notice shattered me. I’d never received one before. I didn’t know what to do, or what my legal rights were. I receive SS disability for my illness, and I felt certain it was illegal to evict a disabled person, especially during Covid.

I tried calling a few agencies for assistance. One woman said to me, “Well did he put a gun to your head to make you sign that affidavit?” I told her no, of course not. She couldn’t help me.

My neighbors, once friendly, began shunning me. They wouldn’t even look at me. I figured it was because of whatever the Landlord had told them.

I couldn’t tolerate the feeling of being shut out that. I made a decision I now regret. I decided to leave Palm Springs and go to Tucson as originally planned.

Knowing what I know now, in my unaltered state, I see that I should have stayed. They had no legal authority to evict me. If I would have stayed, it seems that things would have been better. But on the other hand, I might not have quit drinking, and the way it was escalating, I might be dead by now if I had stayed.

My drinking had increased to the point where I was taking in hard liquor daily. I had never felt more alone in this place I had once considered Paradise. I was afraid to leave my apartment during the day, avoiding the glares and strange looks I was now getting from the neighbors. 

The shock of the eviction notice and my declining health, made it impossible to function. My therapist ordered groceries for me and had them sent to my door. I couldn’t function well enough to go to the store, use the computer, or get my prescriptions. Finally, with my therapists strong encouragement, I was able to get my prescriptions filled. 

Finally, I packed what I could in my car, leaving behind the furniture I had gathered while there. 

The drive to Tucson, which was to take about 4 hours, took 10-12. The stick shift car was wearing on my muscles. 

When I finally got to Tucson I booked myself into a hotel I had stayed at in the past. The next day I drove out into the Saguaro National Monument, soaked up the sun, and felt like finally I was in a better place.

And then I seemed to completely lose track of where I was and why. My drinking increased to where I was buying big bottles of liquor, instead of the shot ones. My activities surrounded ensuring I had a supply. 

The hotel I had chosen was in some state of disrepair. As my drinking increased, so did my anger. One night the elevator broke and it infuriated me to have to trudge up and down the stairs in what felt like a very weakened state. The washing machines stopped working, and then there was a lock down because the police were looking for someone in the parking lot. I began to see the need to flee. 

My judgment was so impaired that I lost track of everything. I stopped looking for places to live and just kept booking hotels. I was so lost. 

I ended up in a cut rate hotel where there were broken crack pipes in the parking lot. Cockroaches in the bathroom. Being a smoker, I would go outside to smoke in the parking lot, and I began to meet people while doing so.

At the cutrate hotel I met a man in the parking lot who was a fugitive. He was wanted for killing a man years before in a fit of rage. He was one of the most gentle people I had ever met. He was living everyday with the knowledge that he would eventually be caught and sent back to Prison.

I left that hotel and found one of those Extended Stay places, thinking it would be suitable until I whatever… whatever it was I was doing. 

And that is when things got really dicey.

There was a man on the top floor. A Hispanic guy who was doing a moving gig in Tucson. Somehow we bumped into each other in the parking lot. He sniffed weed on me and wanted some and since I had it and wasn’t using it, I gave him some. 

There was a sexy cool kind of vibe to this dude from Florida. He was a little chubby, but cute. Long eyelashes. And he spoke Spanish. After that we started meeting up for his weed and my flirtation. That led to a FB message connection, which led to a rendevous in my hotel room.

This guy was talking all Spanish, and I found him enticing. But I hadn’t been with anyone in years. It was one of the most awkward nights of my life and clearly fueled by my excessive drinking. I had been used to being with women for so many years, and intimacy with a man is so different. I wanted gentle touch and romance.

I was so nervous that I keep getting up and running out of the room to smoke a cigarette and drink. I happened to have a condom, he wants me to put it on (of course), nothing seems to work right and I run out of the room again.

I come back and he is saying he needs to go, etc. And I’m trying to be cool with a very uncool situation. So he heads out and I am left to clean up the jiz he left on the bed. 

A few nights later I run into a man in the parking lot by the designated smoking area, It was late, I wasn’t sleeping then. The smoking area was an ashtray about waste height. I’d taken to talking to other smokers at the hotel… many of them in the same situation as myself. Homeless, out of money and terrified about what would happen next. 

He was impeccably dressed. A black wool coat, stylish dark round glasses hiding his piercing blue eyes. He wore a cap like a beret. His white button down was crisp. Leather shoes, jeans. He wore chains around his hips that clanked when he walked. 

He was bright, cheerful, charistmatic. I would never have pegged him as a homeless person. But as it turns out he was, the real deal, sleeping on bus stop benches. He would bus tables across the street for a share of the waitresses tips. The people at Ihop let him store his belongings there during the night. He almost never slept. He was an artist. He made these incredible paintings of everything, especially the moon. He has mountains of work and supplies that he would lug around with during the day. He made the money he had by hustling, as he called it. He would go and do art on the street and sell it. I’m not sure what else he did for money, but he needed a certain supply to support his vices: vodka and crack. 

He was so friendly, so enticing, so handsome. Tall, and physically fit. Before long I allowed him into my hotel room to get warm and to rest. There was clearly an energy between us. I was so lonely and such a distorted sense. I welcomed his company. Soon enough he was storing his art supplies in my room, by the chair he would sit in. 

I became used to him coming and going at all times of the night. We formed some kind of a relationship I can’t explain. He started smoking crack in my bathroom. I allowed it. We did some really fun things. He loved to get up at the crack of dawn, and go out in the desert to see the sun rise. I had a lot of fun with him. But his behavior was erratic, his mood swings were very difficult to tolerate.

One day we drove out into the desert at dawn. I saw a woman laying along the side of the street, bleeding. It looked to me as if she was dying. I made Aullie pull over.

The woman was dressed in a negligee and a purple satin robe. She had what seemed to be expensive jewelry on. She was covered in blood, and lying on her back. I tried to turn her onto her side, avoiding the blood, because I was afraid she was going to aspirate.

A few moments later her mother showed up. The woman was demanding her mother take her home. Other people had stopped as well, and one called an ambulance. She kept saying, “No police! I’ve got drugs at home!” She was demanding her mother take her away in her car. Her mother, clearly her enabler, was trying to drag her into her car.

Shortly later an ambulance arrived. I was relieved.

On the drive home I was very traumatized by what I had seen. Aullie got angry with me, saying I should not have gotten involved.

I decided to try a different hotel, across town that was offering really good rates. I arrived to find it a very nice place. I met a woman in the parking lot one morning, while I was smoking a cigarette and having a tiny red plastic cup filled with Brandy. Her name was Brandy, and liked that as it had become my favorite drink.

There was something mysterious about her. She told me she was an Oracle. She did some healing work on my body. She encouraged me to stop drinking. A very strange thing happened that morning. She and I began to speak tongue’s together. Not tongues like in your mouth, but some kind of different language. It just came out of me. I can still speak it easily. I have no idea what it is I’m saying, but when I speak it it comforts me. It sounds old, as in ancient, with syllables I had never heard. But still it felt familiar. I had never experienced anything like that before.

I returned to the Extended Stay because I wanted to see Aullie again. He began to stay with me again. One day we went to the grocery store. I was feeding him. I went in the store and got what we needed. I came out and he started yelling at me in the parking lot at full boar. He was angry because I had taken so long. It was horrific, embarrassing. I had experienced things like this before when I was in abusive relationships. I told him he had to leave.

He was angry, enraged. He was taking his stuff out of the hotel room. He went to the front desk and told them that I had two cats in the room. I had declared my dog but not my cats because I was afraid they would turn me away. The hotel clerk came to my door demanding to search it.

I was terrified, again. Aullie was clearly vengeful. The hotel demanded that I take the cats out of the room, or I would face eviction. I told them what happened with Aullie, and that I was afraid of him. Clearly my decisions had led me to this position, I accept full responsibility. I couldn’t sleep that night, afraid he would come back.

The next day I knew I had to leave, because I didn’t feel safe. I had blown through my finances again. I didn’t know what to do or where to go. I went to the CVS to pick up a few things and Aullie was there in the store, glaring at me. It scared me, I felt stalked. I had clearly placed myself in a very dangerous situation.

I called my friend Margaret. She lives in New Mexico and is one the most generous and good hearted people I have ever met. I told her my situation and asked for help. She wired me money through Western Union so I could leave that hotel. I had no idea what I was going to do or where I was going to go. But after all I had experienced in Tucson, I again felt the need to flee.

to be continued

My Cataclysmic Covid Breakdown, part 2

The chain of events after that become very blurry. I began having delusions. I was afraid of electricity in particular. I began moving my refrigerator around the apartment, trying to stop it from buzzing.

Light and sound became overstimulating to me, and the mask restrictions in Palm Springs became policed. I was escorted from a Starbucks by a very large security guard for not having my mask properly asphyxiating me. 

I started frequenting small stores for the things I needed. Liquor stores became my go to. They have almost everything you need there. Cat food, cat litter, etc. I wasn’t eating or drinking water, it never occurred to me. And one day at the liquor store I thought, “Why can’t I have wine?” Sure, I am an alcoholic. But wine was never my thing, and other people seemed to drink all the time. Why not me?

So I bought some, and it helped me relax. So I bought more. And after that things became more and more blurry. I had lost all sense of taste and smell and eating had become intolerable. When I drank, I could eat.

Wine bottles led to little bottles of alcohol. I would drink a little as soon as I got up, telling myself it was good for me. It warmed me in ways nothing else could.

I started smoking cigarettes also, a habit I’d given up some 4 decades earlier. The habit returned with a vengeance. 

One day I overheard the news anchor talking about heat stroke. She said the problem with heat stroke is that the person stops eating and drinking and loses the ability to understand that they need to. 

And I thought, Hmmm…. I’m not eating. I’m not drinking, and I can’t breathe, even with a mask off. 

Even though my distrust was at an all time high, after a discussion with my therapist on the phone, I agreed to go to the hospital. I was too weak to drive, so I called the only person I knew in Palm Springs and luckily he agreed to take me.

When I arrived at the Urgent care, the receptionist sat glaring at me from a distance. My chest was heaving as I gasped for breath. They kept asking me what was wrong with me. I didn’t know. 

Finally they took me back to a room. They took my vitals, and EKG and left me there for what seemed like an eternity. While I lay there behind the curtain I could hear the receptionist and the nurse talking right outside my room.

“Oh she definitely has Covid”, said the receptionist. They sat there discussing my symptoms and how they were all Covid signs. I was furious. I couldn’t believe their lack of discretion and ethics. But then I started having more anxiety, suddenly thinking perhaps I did have Covid. Who knew what was wrong with me?

“I can hear you talking about me,” I said, loud enough for them to hear. They shut up.

Finally a doctor showed up. I explained to her my thyroid situation and I lucked out because she understood TSH and Myxedema Coma, which is one of the things I was experiencing, a medical psychosis brought about by severe hypothyroidism.

I begged for saline, knowing I needed it, and she ordered it for me as well as a slew of lab tests. The nurse who had been discussing me outside my room came in with his needles. I figured he was gonna jab me hard for calling me out. He said nothing, just came in, shoved a needle in my arm and left.

Later they released me. No further instructions except to get a primary care doctor. A short time later they called me with a name of a nurse practitioner and I made the appointment knowing I was in desperate need of medical care. My condition, whatever it was, was deteriorating. I was unable to feed myself. I was unable to do laundry. All of my clothes were dirty and the ones I did have were looking ragged. I was unable to shower. The water hurt my skin too much. Everything hurt. I was having difficulty speaking, forming words. 

My therapist, my friends, and my own sense of reason, as damaged as it was, convinced me that I needed to force myself to eat and drink water. I tried to do the things I used to, like go to a nearby coffee shop to order a breakfast sandwich. 

It was early one morning that I set out, presumably before the heat would set in. I was driving directly into the sun. Suddenly the sun hit me in the center of the forehead with a force unimaginable. I started screaming in agony it hurt so bad. If anyone could have heard me it would have sounded like I was dying. I had no idea what was wrong with me, what was happening, or why the sun had hit me like that. I drove back home, terrified, without any food.

I began to have a lot of mystical experiences after that. I felt very close to God. But my mental health was still deteriorating. I would stay up all night for days, going outside to commune with the moon.

After that I was afraid of the sun. Any light at all, especially with a yellow tone, caused me excruciating pain. By now I was afraid to leave my apartment. All watering stopped, I had no meds for my thyroid or my heart, and no way to be able to get them. I couldn’t even manage a routine grocery trip. My laundry was piled in my bedroom, I was unable to do it in the heat in my weakened state. My motor skills and cognitive skills became disrupted. I was shaking all the time and couldn’t even manage something as simple as using a roll of tape to seal an envelope. I lost control of my finances. I was making enough money at the time to meet my needs but for some reason I just kept running out of money.

I became depersonalized, dissociated. I couldn’t look at myself in the mirror. I couldn’t stand the feel of clothes on my body. The few yoga pants I could tolerate to wear were tattered and torn and constantly falling off my thin frame. I couldn’t tolerate being cold. I stopped showering, because after I would shake so badly.

A week or so later I went to my appointment. I was terrified, weak, exhausted. The MA took my vitals. My heart was in A-fib again. I was used to this and it had become routine but the MA seemed very concerned and told me they were probably not going to be able to see me because of it.

She left and a while later the nurse practitioner came in. She ordered an EKG and told me I was going to have to go to the hospital by ambulance. Then she began to ask her questions from behind the computer.

I was wearing a pair of yoga pants I had cut into shorts. The edges were uneven and ragged. I hadn’t bathed in some time. I smelled of tobacco, she informed me.

I began to try and tell her about the thyroid situation, about my TSH, my symptoms. I told her about my last TSH level. My words came out pressured and jumbled. 

She told me it was impossible to have a TSH of 147 and that I must be mistaken. She noticed my pants, and said, “ I’m looking at your clothing, torn, and I’m wondering, are you homeless?”  Her tone was not one of concern. It was more like a statement of fact that she was surmising from my appearance. Again, I was horrified by what seemed like a total lack of ethical integrity. I didn’t understand why she was asking me that question at that moment. I told her no.

She had me get on the table and the EKG person came in and hooked me up. Then the paramedics, four of them or so. IV pumping saline. Wires everywhere, and on the gurney. A roll outside, and a ride in the ambulance, very fast, over very bumpy roads.

By this time it was clear to me in my semi-conscious state that I had no control over anything after that. 

I was transferred into another bed at the ER. I was hooked up to an EKG. All of the saline was having an effect and I asked to pee. One nurse said, yes, the other said no, I wasn’t allowed out of bed, I would have to use a bedpan. 

The last time I saw a bedpan was a few decades ago. They have changed. Now they are grey plastic dustpans. He slid one under me and I knew there was no way I could pee in it without hitting the bed. He said there were no commodes available. So he put a plastic thing on a chair, sat the dustpan on it, and said I could pee in that. So I did. The nurses left. 

Several times I got up to pee on the dustpan, which was almost overflowing. I pushed the call button once, it didn’t seem to have any effect. 

Eventually a doctor wandered in. He asked me questions and seemed puzzled as to why I couldn’t answer. He ordered tests. He left.

Eventually, what seemed like hours later, he came back.

“You fixed yourself,” he said. “You can go home now”. I was given no meds for my atrial fib or my thyroid, nor was I given any info about the blood tests.

I was relieved to be released but explained I had come by ambulance and didn’t even know where my car was at that point. He said I should call an Uber. I told him I didn’t know how. He told me a nurse would show me, and left. The nurse came in awhile later with a packet of discharge instructions. I explained my dilemma and she told me to go out to the lobby and ask them to call me a cab. 

I wandered out to the lobby and found the front desk. The receptionist told me she called me a cab and to wait in the parking lot. I walked out the front doors into the 110 degree heat and found a cement block to sit on. I waited with the half dozen or so other patients in the parking lot, most of them in wheelchairs.

The taxi arrived and drove me back to the doctors office. I wondered how I would drive myself home. I had regrettably purchased a manual car that was low to the ground, and the weakness was making it incredibly difficult for me to drive. I managed, somehow, to get back home. 

I met an elderly woman who lived two doors down. We had become friends and shared conversation. She was a delight. I imagined a burgeoning friendship. I shared my laundry dilemma with her, that it had piled up and I didn’t have to strength to drag it to the machines. The laundry room was not air conditioned, and going in there made me feel faint.

She suggested we do our laundry together, and drive it in the car, to avoid the heat. I was excited at the possibility of having clean clothes, clothes that fit properly and didn’t cause people to assume I was a vagrant.

We set out at what proved to be an arduous task in the growing heat of the day. In my excitement I accidentally locked myself out of the apartment. I couldn’t believe it. What was I going to do now?

I thought about trying to scale the cement block fence in the back. I knew that attempting that could likely kill me. My friend told me the resident manager had arrived, I should just let him know what happened.

I walked to his apartment and knocked. I was thrilled that he answered. He was an older guy, described himself as sort of an old hippy, said he was a marijuana smoker right out the gate. I’m thinking, “Oh good, he is gonna be cool.”

He tells me that in the transfer the keys have been all messed up, but says he will go to the office and look for the master. I wait patiently while he digs through rings of keys. He informs me that unfortunately, the prior manager did not leave a master key for my apartment, probably because I rented it right before the sale took place.

I’m baffled but not surprised. He tells me that if I want to get into the apartment, I can either scale the fence or call a locksmith. I tell him I just got out of the hospital. He tells me I’m the one who locked myself out. 

I go back to my friend’s apartment, despondent. I tell her what happened. She was in her 90’s and a fireball. She said, “You go tell him to call a locksmith. I’ll go with you.”

We walked back towards his unit. I tell him to call a locksmith. He reluctantly agrees, calls one, gets off the phone and tells me that the locksmith will be there shortly and its going to cost me $100 bucks.

By then I was furious. Steam was pouring out of my ears like a freight train.

“Fine.” I said. Call the locksmith, I’ll pay for it, and we will dispute it later.

My friend was standing in the sideline and told the landlord he needed to pay for it. I think it was only her pressure that led him to concede. The locksmith arrived, the manager paid for it, and I thought we were done.

By then it seemed the manager and I had come to an agreement of sorts. I felt like I could call on him if needed.

So the next day I went to his door to ask him to fix my air conditioning. The casing on the thermostat had fallen off. He agreed to come over, and while there, I asked him to also look at the toilet seat, as it had fallen off the hinges.

He went into the bathroom and complained about the water on the floor. The floor was tile, like a shower. It had a shower in it, that leaked, consequently the bathroom floor was always damp. 

He told me my behavior was out of the ordinary. He said I needed to shape up. He said, “Your behavior indicates to me that you are a “tweaker”. 

I was aghast, but also aware I was in an apartment with a strange man and I had very little clothing on. I just gave him a shocked look, because I was honestly shocked. He said, “I’m just trying to protect a 3 million dollar property.”

He left and came back a few minutes later. He brought me three rolls of toilet paper. He said he had a change of heart, and saw I needed TP, and brought me some. He said he just needed me to sign this paper saying I received the TP. I thought it was strange, everything seemed strange, so I signed it, thinking he was just trying to be nice. I had no idea what I was signing, or why.

Continuing in my semi-delirious state, fueled by alcohol, I began to find great comfort in singing. The wine seemed to give me courage enough that I began singing in my backyard. During the day or early evening. It probably happened three or four times. I had heard of people singing outside during Covid and I honestly thought someone might enjoy my songs. 

Two days later the apartment manager knocked loudly on my door. He handed me an eviction notice. “Your going to have to be out by the end of the month”, he said plainly.

I stood there in the doorway, in the dark, staring at the eviction notice. I was stunned. I had tried to be a good neighbor. I had paid my rent regularly.

“I don’t know what to say”, I said, “except that I am heartbroken.”

“Nobody wants you here, he said, “Believe me. I’ve talked to the neighbors”. His voice was raised.

“What did I do?” I asked.

“Oh, it will all be in the affidavits”, he said.

I shut the door and walked back inside. I had never been evicted before. I had always been a responsible tenant.

I was not wanted there. I was not wanted anywhere. 

My Cataclysmic Covid Meltdown

What happened? I don’t have any explanations for what has happened to me in the last year. I can only describe it.

It began in August of 2019. I had been fighting a mysterious illness for 7 years that had left me unable to work. I had been to zillions of doctors, going bankrupt in the process. I was eventually diagnosed with two auto immune disorders: Hashimoto’s and Sjogren’s. I was having trouble with my son, who had been using drugs. I was in the middle of a contentious custody battle with my Ex. She lost in court, but won overall, because my son went to live with her. I was alone and dealing with the loss of being a mother full time much sooner than I had anticipated.

I had been trying alternative methods to healing, which eventually led me to a group of Shamans in Eugene, Oregon. I had several soul retrievals and extractions and learned to do soul retrievals myself. It had opened a new spiritual dimension for me. I was meditating regularly. I began to feel more mentally well than I had in years. 

On a physical level, I continued to have multiple symptoms. I had been so sick for so long that new symptoms appearing each day had become normal for me. I began to experience intense migraines again, leading to projectile vomiting. I was having Botox injections in my neck, back and scalp that were making me very sick. Looking back, I would not recommend those to anyone. I was having difficult walking. I went to the neurologist, and told her about my symptoms. She said my options were to continue the Botox, or to come back in 6 months for followup.

In spite of my physical decline, I began to make plans to return to California, to rebuild my life there as a social worker. I made my plans to leave, and set a date when my lease was up, in June of 2020.

But then Covid hit.

I had been dealing with the medical profession for years and had developed a severe mistrust for Western medicine because it had failed me over and over. Suddenly, the entire world around me began to look like the medical profession. The cashier at the grocery store was fully geared up in surgical protective gear. I was having difficult breathing, and the mask made it impossible for me breathe. I would get faint in the grocery store. 

I started to become very angry. All the pent up rage inside me began to come to the surface. Even my closest friends wouldn’t allow me to come around due to Covid. I began to develop a severe mistrust and anger towards everyone around me. 

I would say that I became fragmented. 

One day I went to the local Fred Meyer. They were having a huge clothes sale and I used to love shopping. I piled some clothes in my cart as possible items. Huge deals. Then I was standing in the clothes aisle, and suddenly I became incontinent. It just spilled out of me right there in the store. I was near a dressing room so I pushed the button for assistance. The woman arrived and told me that the dressing rooms were closed due to Covid. The restrooms were also closed. 

I grabbed a pair of overalls I had spotted out of my cart. I slipped off my pants and put them on trying to hide among the aisles of clothing. I was able to accomplish it, and went through the checkout line with them on, paying for them of course. I was very ashamed and confused by my symptoms. At the same time I started developing severe diarrhea. Right in the middle of the Covid scare. I had no toilet paper and no way to get any. 

That is where my fear of going to the bathroom began. After that whenever I would feel the slightest urge to go I would run to the bathroom fearing another incident. 

Life continued and so did my plans. 

My son offered to come with me to help move me. He wanted to bring his best friend. They were both 16. I said yes, welcoming the help. 

We took off in a moving van towing my car. At first things seemed to go OK. The boys were blasting their music and it was annoying me but I was trying to tolerate it. I was planning to go to Tucson for a few months first before landing in Cali. 

We got to Santa Rosa, and I started to think, “Why am I taking my stuff to Tucson when I know I want to be in Cali?” So I decided to drop my stuff in storage in Cali, in Santa Rosa. I arranged it and we dropped my stuff in storage. 

That night we were going to stay in a hotel. The boys started to give me trouble. They were complaining about the hotel we were going to stay in. We had a huge fight. They refused to get in the car after a stop at a gas station, and so I left them there for a few moments to go book the hotel. It was probably a wrong decision, but I was exhausted and at my breaking point.

I went back to pick them up and they started yelling at me in the hotel, telling me what a piece of shit I was. I couldn’t control them, so I called the police for help. They came, and it stopped the boys from yelling at me. I called my son’s other mother and asked her to come and get them. There was no way we could continue together. The fight there took a huge toll on me. 

I continued my journey the next day, planning on heading to Tucson. But on the way I saw a sign for Palm Springs. I had always wanted to visit there, so I decided to make a pit stop. I drove through the town and it was beautiful. There were rainbow flags flying everywhere. I was smitten. I decided to stay for awhile, and that is when the magic began to happen.

I was staying in a hotel that used to be frequented by Frank Sinatra and the Rat Pack. It was a magical place. It was very hot there and I began to feel very comfortable in very little clothing. It seemed to be the first time in my life that I did not feel shame about my body. It was a glorious thing. I started to meet people there and to make friends from all over. 

I noticed there was an apartment complex across the street with a for rent sign. I inquired, and rented the apartment. It was in an old complex, one floor. It had a huge patio surrounded by trees and Bamboo. I loved it. 

I moved in and began to feel really good. I was so comfortable in my body. I was dancing in my apartment, and I began working on my book. I bought a book, “Avoiding Energy Vampires” by Christianne Northrup. It was helping me very much. I felt as if my life was beginning again.

I struck up a friendship with a flamboyant fabulous gay man I met at the hotel. We became fast friends. He had a glamorous life and had just broken up with his boyfriend. I was fascinated with him. He had a crack problem and was trying to get into treatment. Eventually he began staying with me. He was so funny, so charming. We had wonderful adventures together. He was a writer also and we would bounce ideas off each other. 

One day we walked to the liquor store. It was about 120 degrees. I was huffing and puffing, trying to keep up with my much younger friend. He was frustrated with me, told me to stop complaining. He was drinking, but I was not. I remember that day clearly because I felt as though I was going to die in the heat. It didn’t help that my friend was growing frustrated with my health and inability to keep up. 

Soon after we had a serious falling out. He left in a huff one night and I never saw him again. The loss of him in my life seemed to create a cavernous space. I was alone again, felt abandoned, and crushed. 

My mental health began to take a turn for the worst. I had lost touch with my regular doctors and had taken my health into my own hands. I was only taking my thyroid meds sporadically, which worsened the problems. 

And then something very strange happened that set off a change of events that I could never have imagined. 

There were lovely tropical bushes in front of my apartment and I enjoyed watering them. I would go out in the heat of the day and just spray the heck out of them. Many of them were dead and dying. I wanted them to flourish. 

One day the apartment manager came by. He was from New York and didn’t mince words. He told me to leave the bushes alone, that I was making a mess. 

In my slowing declining mindset, I was very hurt and offended. But I blew it off. I stopped trimming them, at his wish, but I continued to water them. 

The hose was in front of an apartment two doors down from me. It was long, heavy, and hard to manage. I’ve never been very good at rolling up hoses. I would use it, with their permission, return it coiled, but not rolled up properly. 

One day I went out to water and there was a yellow post it note on the faucet. It said something like, “if you are going to use the hose, roll it up neatly or don’t use it. The note said I was being disrespectful and rude. It said, “Be Neat!!”

I was so filled with shame. In my normal state of mind it would not have been a big deal. But I took it very personally. I care about relationships with my neighbors, and I had already made friends with the owners of the apartment. The note threw me into a tailspin. I began to have rage and to mistrust my neighbors. I became paranoid. One day in a fit of rage, I posted my own note on the faucet that said, “Please Fuck off”.

A few moments after posting the note, I returned to find it stuck to my front door. I continued to be enraged by what now seems to a very small problem. In retrospect, I was becoming manic.

to be continued