Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Journey of Old Journals: 1987


This year of journals begins with affirmations. "I am a wonderful person whose depth, warmth, and spirit cannot be truly perceived by all. I have radiant eyes that take in everything equally and without judgement. I seek out injustice and find new ways of coping with stress and pain. ...  The statements went on for pages. In hindsight, I recognize my voice from those days, when I was enthralled with free writing. I'd discovered Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (first published in 1986) and filled journal after journal with keeping the pen moving. 

I'd moved to Cambridge with a house share, living with a group of women and caretaking my former girlfriend's cat while she was in law school.  The cat was mysteriously  injured and required surgery, but I took care of it despite making $7.50 an hour in a middle management job. The promotion wasn't a good fit. The work continued to stretch me, "eyes falling out of my head with the stress and strain of being alive." I also noted that one of my supervisor colleagues commented that my appearance had changed. There might have been days when I forgot to comb my hair, or wore the same set of pants all week. During the early part of the year I had a a difficult report, "Andy" who caused a lot of consternation around leadership. He refused to sign probationary paperwork and was eventually let go by the Executive Director, a hard-ass nun.  I hosted Geraldo Rivera on the medical van, and I noticed that his shoes easily cost more than I made in a month. I got feedback from management that I worried too much, that I took too much responsibility, that I had to work on letting go. 

The streets continued in their low-level, survival drama. Sometime, the clients died. Young Darren from the Q, who drowned. I arrived a bit late to the funeral. He'd been on PCP on the boat and couldn't remember how to swim. The family could barely look at the team of punk rockers that represented his flirty street  nights. I found the crew congregated across the street from the church, collectively sobbing. I was so sad, too.  I wrote a note to his parents and reflected on my grief. He was a good kid that got on the wrong track.  

Evette, who thought she might have AIDS, who told me that if a john refused to use a condom, that he got what he deserved.  I wrote of the clients with Kaposi Sarcoma scars, of the news they got from the lab, and of their emaciated bodies still on the street. I thought a lot about clients dying and of the death of everyday. A near overdose on the medical van, observing the "drip drip" of destructive behaviors and the pure futility of these lives that were barely clinging on, yet so determined to do so.  I wrote, "one reason I care about the youth with AIDS is that I can say, 'I will miss you when you die'. Perhaps no one else will miss them." Then, one of their customers would appear, and it was time to go. Go on, live. 

The harassment continued, constant from clients who were quite clear in their messages. From the garbage men, one person grabbing my ass from the rear, from people patting me on the head, stroking my face, sometimes kissing me on the cheek in their gesture of good will. Someone called me love chunk.

Despite the drama, I still managed to have some relationships. I continued to surround myself with the core group of college friends. I met a couple of new girlfriends and experimented with building trust. I committed to writing in a combination of self-processing and respite from the pain of the streets.  There were some house conflicts emerging, a friend of one of our roommates had moved in and the couple that was the mainstay of the house were fighting. 

I went to the Harmonic Convergence celebration in Woodstock in August with my college friends. The leader chanted, we welcomed in a new age. There was a power point, and I felt uncomfortable with my old lover and her friends. So I left and leaded into town for a coffee, later feeling revved up about my the new used car, a Toyota wagon. 

The year ends with more of the same, internal musings and processing of everything around me. I started using a new journal with quotes from women. In it, a favorite from Willa Cather, "There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before."

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