It has been almost a year since we moved into the little apartment in the Tenderloin. Almost a year since we left the shelter. In November it will be two years since I left the road with the Boy and ran down to San Francisco, trying to find a way to carry on despite the pandemic, various impossible situations and unsolvable things that needed a solution fast. It will be two years since I last bathed in a bucket of tepid water, or had a use a chemical toilet.
Two years since I last worried about being moved on from a parking lots and campgrounds, and spent way too much time trying to get a couple of bars on the phone so I could try and find a rest area or somewhere that we might be able to rest and sleep. It has been two years since I felt the sting of humiliation for not having anywhere for me and the Boy to sleep and be. Two years since I had to carry our world around with us in two backpacks and a duffle bag. Two years since I had to drink tea out of a travel mug as I watched America pass me by on the freeway. Two years of clean. Two years of sleeping in a bed not a sleeping bag. Two years of not waking up soaked from rain and dew, or boiling and sweating in a tent, or freezing as snow fell with no way to get warm.
There were nights I was scared we were going to die from the cold, but was too cold and tired to do anything else about it. There is a point past exhaustion where you simply can do no more. What will be will be. What is, simply is. Nothing can be done about it, all you can do is get as warm as possible, huddle up and hope to wake up.
After ten months in the shelter, with all the issues and indignities (not to mention lack of sleep and safety due to other residents behavior), we finally got this apartment. The subsidy was for a year. My year is almost up and I have not managed to fix things to a satisfactory degree. I only have a three month extension. Thanks to a kind friend, I should be able to stay beyond that point, at least for a year, but it is fair to say that I am absolutely terrified.
I am terrified of losing my family. My home. I am scared of losing my liberty. I am scared of the future. These last almost-two years have been a dream. I have been free, no one has been hurting me (apart from one instance in the street where a man pushed me over, probably trying to mug me, smashing my glasses and concussing and bruising me), and my son and I have had time to just be a normal little family. I have never treasured normality and peace as much as I should have. I did not welcome chaos, but I tried to survive within the eye of the storm and protect that child as much as I possibly could.
So it is time to really make an effort to make it as a writer. There is nothing else for it. I have to do poetry readings, and pitch bigger publications. I have to at least show the kid I tried, even if I fail. I need to pick myself up and dust myself off. I need to put myself out there a little more. As an undocumented survivor of extreme violence and the Hague Conventional on Parental Child Abduction, I have survived by being quiet and under the radar, but I don’t think I can continue that way, it is simply not viable.
I am sitting here on my bed, with my little lap desk and a cup of tea. I have a fan blowing onto my face, and the curtains shut, to keep out the Californian sunshine. I am wearing clean clothes, and have had enough food for longer than I can remember. When I was living outside I would get to eat perhaps 3 or four meals a week. Never breakfast or lunch, there was no money for that, and no one will help an undocumented person, but perhaps 3 or 4 suppers a week. I was used to not having food. It was normal to be hungry. I am still not used to having enough to eat whenever I want to, let alone the ability to cook food and store it safely. We used to fill a cooler with ice and keep some things cold, but it is impossible to live in a civilized way whilst living outside without a home or place to stop.
I have got soft. I have flowers and houseplants round my bedroom. My feet are clean and my hands sparkle. I have clean hair and nails. I am no longer scrabbling around trying to find a buck to feed the kid, or for somewhere that was safe to sleep. I am no longer desperate to find even camping for a night just to give us a break and access to bathrooms. There were days of great beauty. We spent months by lakes and looking out into forests, deserts and prairies. I know the 101 like the back of my hand. I travelled route 66. I get it now. I understand what it is to hear a soaring guitar play loud and strong while the window leaks cold air onto my face and we drive down yet another highway towards something ….else. We never had a destination. We were just travelling because moving was safer than not moving. We were running, not visiting. We were surviving not living.
I fear the fact that I have been living. It scares me too. It scares me because I am scared of going back to running and moving and having no where to go. I am scared because next time I have to say goodbye to the Boy. I am scared because the end is always frightening. I have been a woman of beginnings. Forever starting over, but I am too tired, too old and lost too much. I need to be able to just stop. Or perhaps not. Perhaps I am meant to be out there, a thought on the trail, forever going, never arriving, just moving on.
If you want to help me be able to stay still for a while longer, my patreon is at….
Well, I suppose we shall see what the next three months of the subsidy extension bring. They could have given me a year, but chose not to. People who should be helping me and my child decided we were not worthy of continued assistance, but you know what, that is ok. I am used to not mattering, and I never ever felt like I mattered to the people at the DV charity who should have been helping me and the child. They didn’t even get him into SF schools (he goes to private online school thanks to a kind kind friend), or have my ID renewed, or even get the kid ID. They did nothing to help us. It is heartbreaking really. Someone not as strong as me never would have made it even this far, but the fact remains, I should never have been forced to be this strong for so long after I managed to escape the man who was trying to kill me.