Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Memories of Crack-Heads, Queens, Dead Prostitutes, Friendship and Survival


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I came home last night from a long day (LONG week), sat down at the table alone to eat the dinner my kids had excitedly told me they had saved for me. I finally pulled out my phone to see what goings on in the social media world I had missed. Little did I know that a FaceBook post my friend Angie had tagged me in was going to bring me to my knees.




It's funny the things you think about when you can't get to sleep at night...I thought about my old apartment on West Alexandrine in Detroit. This was my 3rd apartment since being emancipated by my mother, I was on the 3rd floor, it was a 2 bedroom Massive apartment on the third floor with a balcony outside my kitchen as well as a huge balcony just outside my apartment. The rent was $250 with all... utilities included, roaches not extra, this was 1988. I was remembering Marilyn who lived down the hall, an alcoholic and heroin addict who was frequently sporting a black eye given to her by her boyfriend who was at least 15yrs her jr. Marilyn showed me how to make my first Thanksgiving turkey. Then there was Smitty, it wasn't uncommon to come through the apartment building and find Smitty drunk and naked in the hallways screaming that he was not black he was colored and didn't appreciate being called black. I as well as my friend Sunday Koffron Taylor were very good about getting Smitty back to his apartment, dressed and calmed down. After awhile the landlord (Lou?) would come get us to do just that because he couldn't convince him to get out of the hallway naked. I remembered Jimmy, he lived down the hall from Sunday who lived on the 2nd floor. Jimmy was an older gay black man who lived immaculately. Jimmy was also very lonely and would sometimes get visits from Sunday and later myself to keep him company. He would give us his returnable bottles to take his garbage out for him which was just out the door and down the stairs, I think he just did it because he liked us. That stopped when the police found a headless prostitute in our dumpster. I remember the day/night Jimmy died, the EMS made us get into Sundays Apt while they took his body out of the building. Sunday was hysterically upset and rightly so, she was Jimmy's friend longer than I was and he was gone. She kept looking out the peephole and then we heard a thump, they dropped Jimmy's body right up against her door, it was horrific. My friendship with Sunday started and disconnected in that building. Ironically after moving out of that building, I ended back there when Femm Noir and I crashed at Lacy's apt for a short time (probably felt like forever to him) This building holds a lot of memories, it was my and Dennis' first WWAnthrax smashdown, Julie and many others would come over and we would blast music while each friend balanced someone on their shoulders until CRASH! I met Stefanie while living in this apartment building as her boyfriend at the time was my roommate. It's funny the things you think about when you can't get to sleep at night...

Memories are a strange thing…for me time and the ability to dissociate tends to soften them around the edges. Usually when I remember moments of that life, they have a certain distance about them as if they were something I once saw in a movie…I was there but not really…and not as the me I am today.

But there are times like last night when the past crashes into the present and I can HEAR the thud of Jimmy’s body hitting the floor outside of my door. I can FEEL the knot in my chest. I can SMELL that hallway…and I KNOW I was really there. My life isn’t just some bizarre movie that once played out before me…I LIVED it.

And I grieve for my dear friend Jimmy, and for the girl who in the end wasn’t there for him when he needed her. For the girl I once was. For the girl who had parents. For the girl who had a home. For the girl who felt loved. For the girl who was abandoned and alone.

And there is that flash of anger that I ended up a teenager on my own in the Cass Corridor in the 80’s in the first place. That parents abandon their children. That parents throw their children away. At the secrets kept, lies told and justifications made by parents to free themselves from the responsibilities of raising inconvenient children. At the judges, social workers and attorneys who cannot force adults to act like grown-ups. At a foster care system that turns it’s back the very children they are supposed to protect at eighteen with no place to call home.

And then there is so much gratitude for those crack heads, junkies, alcoholics, prostitutes and old queens, who in the best way they could looked out for two thrown-away teens in way over their heads. Grateful that in a time and place where dying alone on your kitchen floor or ending up headless in a dumpster were, if not expected, were not surprising, those who found the corridor the end of their road took pity on us and pushed us to find our ways out. I am grateful that I had a great friend during some of my most difficult trials and that we both lived to tell our stories.

Tonight as I sit at my dining room table in my solidly middleclass neighborhood with my husband of nineteen years and our three miracles I remember that life and how this life began in the very kind of place that is the end of the road for so many. I feel blessed to possess the secret knowledge that when we need it most the universe can send us angels in the form of crack heads, junkies, alcoholics, prostitutes and old queens. 

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