After Gold died I found KL in the county jail. I sent her a letter to let her know that Gold died and that I missed her and wanted on her visitors list. She called a few days later to let me know I had been approved for visits. I did my best after being approved to visit every weekend. I think the first visit was the hardest. I hadn't visited anyone in jail in a looong time and I didn't know really what to expect now. I was intimidated by the cold and harsh atmosphere in the jail and the cops. I still really, really hate cops. Seeing KL was surreal. Unable to touch her through the glass it was hard to believe it was really her.
After that first visit I became accustomed to it. All of our visits were like very little time had passed. We spent more time laughing about the dumb shit we did than anything else. Visiting KL brought my street life back to me and made it real, instead of just some silly story I wrote. It was bittersweet. It felt so good but painful at the same time. I don't think anyone laughed so much in that jail before though.
Something I never realized before visiting KL is on the building there is an Martin Luther King Jr. quote carved in the cement. It's one of my favorites and says, “An injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” It made me sick to my stomach to realize those words were etched into a building so filled with injustice.
Did you know it costs money to put funds on an inmate's books? I tried to put $10 on KL's books and it was going to charge $4. Then you can pay for longer visits that you can have on your computer at home and you can spend $15 for a ten minute phone call. Our “justice” system is so broken you have to buy time with your loved ones. If that's not the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of I don't know what is.
I didn't want to support this system so I refused to do any of those things but I was always torn. Do I cut out time with KL to prove a point? I was about to cave when I got the best wake up call of my life last night. KL had been early released into treatment.
She now gets to call me every day and we get to visit without glass between us (starting next weekend). In two weeks she'll get passes to go out with me. I get to bring her clothes and books and a copy of the blog. Most importantly she gets to get the help she needs so that in three months she can start a new life. I can't wait to show her how good life can be after.
When my best friend Nat came to visit for my birthday two weeks ago I spent the first day showing her downtown Portland. I pointed out other landmarks as well but I took her to all the places that meant so much to me as a street kid. I showed her the day programs and pointed out the building that the shelter is in. I took her to the library and told her about all the time spent there. I showed her the church where KL and I slept; Hell where I napped, everything. I even showed her the blue wheelchair we stole.
She said it'd all make a good movie, especially the connection between KL and I. Being able to share all the intimate details with her about all experiences was incredibly healing for me. They were no longer secrets. They weren't a burden I had to carry alone any longer.
Since Nat visited I have been thinking about the differences and similarities of those relationships. I call them both my sisters. Nat is my sister from before. KL is my street sister. I was saying while she was visiting, that without Nat the rest of my life doesn't feel real. Nat has been there to be a witness to most of it, and she keeps me grounded that way. We remember different things. She can remember who I had a crush on when I was eleven and me dragging her to the Pentecostal church whereas I remember the look on her face when she opened her Christmas present in 2009 and dragging her to Unitarian church.
KL makes my street life feel real. It's hard to keep everything that happened straight even with the blog. So much happened in such a short amount of time. In the aftermath of getting off the street I buried everything that happened. I had a lot of harsh reality checks. Having KL back has caused me to have to face these things. This is proving to be good though, I think I'm beginning to come to terms with things.
Outside of those who lived through it (ie: KL, Nat, anyone else around at that time period) I have two friends who know vaguely of my street life. They don't know a lot of the details, just that it happened, that KL was missing and now she's in treatment. They have been hugely supportive. I've been able to get a fresh start. I have been able to erase my past and start over. KL will get this too.
Sometimes I miss sleeping outside. I miss waking up with the sun on my face and the way Portland smells in the morning. I miss the lack of responsibilities and all the time I had to write. I miss the feeling of community there was between the street kids. I miss waking up to every day being an adventure.
Even so, the street life is not one I would willingly go back to. I don't miss the way my body ached, not knowing what to expect, living in fear that those I loved would vanish or get arrested or get killed. Life before the streets wasn't easy. Life on the streets was brutal. Life after the streets can be good. It's not easy but it can be.
I had to fight for the life I have now. The culture shock when I moved off the streets was jarring. I didn't know how to have regular relationships or how to act in normal social settings. I was still hyper vigilante and ready to attack and fight on a moment's notice. I was suicidal. I had survivor's guilt.
It took years to learn I don't have to fight everything. Shit, I'm still learning that to some extent. I am learning how to have healthy adult relationships. I'm learning how to let other people take care of me, instead of being the one constantly taking care of everyone else. It is the first time I've had the opportunity to allow that role reversal. I still have a hard time with certain relationships but I'm learning.
My life is good and happy. It's hard to believe it was only a few years ago that I was so close to giving it all up. It just goes to show it does get better.
Before the streets I was naïve (as hard as it is to believe), I was hard, I was unloving and untrusting. I was broken and angry. After the streets I'm probably still a bit naïve, a bit hard but I'm learning to love and trust. I get to be "Auntie" to baby (now toddler) Cire. I have a chosen family. I'm really, truly, happy for the first time in my life.
While Nat was in town I played this song for her and told her it summed up my experiences for the last two years or so since I got off the streets. It really captures everything I could say about my life the last few years much better and much more concise than I could.
Finally, I want to say that I feel I offered a rose tinted view of the homeless life. I had a lot of support that others didn't have. I had two years of college when most of those kids didn't even have their GED. I had the resources to escape on those occasions when I couldn't take any more. Those are things the average street kid does NOT have. So as difficult as my experience was it was a lot easier of a reality than what the average street kid is living in. I guess what I'm saying is I am not a spokesperson for street kids. These are my experiences and mine alone.
I'm not sure what else there will be for me to say on this blog. My life is very removed from my street life. I've come to acknowledge that the life I lived then is a past life. It was something I lived while I was a different person. I'm finding healing and closure now. I'm moving on, though these experiences and those kids will come with me.
I leave you with two quotes:
“Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It's an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way or she is right here and now.” --Mr. Rogers
“My responsibility in the past when I was sleeping outside every night was just to survive. My responsibility now is to stay real, stay grounded, and just tell the truth.” --Jimmy Wayne
**I actually got into two spats with the police officers. The first was when they tried to say I wasn't on KL's list because it wasn't under the name on my ID. This was resolved when I called the cops' boss and explained that the name on the list is short for my birth name. He told the idiot cops to let me in.
The second spat happened when I was told my shirt didn't fit their “dress code”. It's absolutely ridiculous that there is a dress code to visit inmates. It's as frivolous as saying your collar bones cannot show and you must be wearing underwear but that underwear cannot be visible. When they pitched a fit about seeing my collar bones I went and bought a new shirt but then I refused to wear underwear to every visit there after. I have to have my little rebellions somehow.