“This is Red, Nigga.”

cinnimonI was in the bathroom a couple hours ago with a box of L’Oreal Feria desperately attempting to reverse the Fire Engine Red I had dyed my hair weeks before with a Dark Chestnut Brown that resembled, or hopefully would again resemble, my original hair color.  I color my hair on a regular basis, partly for the surprise of the unknown, partly because I cannot afford to go to a salon, but mostly in an attempt to disguise my well earned gray hair.  It’s like opening up a gift at Christmas when I remove the towel from my head.  I feel 38 years of age is far too young to succumb to this unsightly nuisance.  Maybe when I am 60 years old, I will let nature take its course.  Maybe.   But until then, I choose to hold on to what youth I have left, especially considering the stress of the last few years.

Mind you, I see women and men, who at first glance, are obviously schooled in the harsh elements of street life. However, I have been through my share of unspeakable times (which I will disclose as they come to mind).  I think most people imagine women who have been through what I have, as missing teeth, parts of their flesh picked away, grossly skinny, wrinkled, bruised, exhausted, desperate, and appearing twice their age.   I escaped, for the most part, physically unscathed, however not psychologically or any of the other ‘ly’ conditions…emotionally, spiritually, sexually….  I guess what I am saying is, don’t judge a girl by her cover.

As I stood in the shower I had cleaned while waiting for my color to develop ( a habit I acquired over time because I hate cleaning the bathroom, so why not get it done while I am stuck in there already breathing fumes), I watched the bursts of reddish brown splash the tiled walls and the transparent shower curtain, then drop into the porcelain tub and drain down into the unknown, I thought of how blood flows from a murder victim.  That woman Norman Bates stabbed to death in the shower of his mother’s hotel, what was her name? Janet Leigh as Marion Crane, Jamie Lee Curtis’ mother. I rinsed away the illusive murder aftermath, and just like any other moment in the 18 hours of my painfully compulsive day, my thoughts wandered to a person in my past whom whenever surfaces, I cringe in remembering.  My thoughts didn’t so much wander, rather they hit me with an abruptness, as most of my memories do.

Her name is Christine.  Spelled with a ‘K’ or a ‘CH’, I don’t remember nor do I care.  She had bright, copper orange hair, like Annie’s, but it was older and looser, just like her. She took the award for being the first girl my boyfriend cheated on me with.  I never knew about it until months, maybe a year later.  All the while she fronted as my best friend.  I hated her from the beginning and he knew it.  Everyone last person we spent our time with knew it.  I saw through her fake sense of power immediately.  Worse a cluck than anyone in the room, she managed to pull off the personae of a dealer.  Hardly.  We were fortunate enough to have an awesome hook up who cooked and cut big chunks of dope.  He had been around a while.  A pimp from the late 80’s as he informed me one day when as we drove around alone. My controlling boyfriend was thankfully missing and so was she.  Probably together.

Warren didn’t smoke crack; he hadn’t in years.  It made him sick.  So he could afford to sell to us and we still made a profit.  Being used to police, while at the same time needing to use extra precaution because of his long time known presence,  he preferred a girl selling his dope for him.  That’s where Christine (Red) came in.

I remember the first time I met her.  Warren had been frequenting our apartment more often.  A place to cook, cut, hide, whatever.  I actually liked him.  He was nice.  He protected us in a way and watched out for us.  He taught us the art of cooking down cocaine into crack in a way I never witnessed before. He was good at it.  Warren was talking to my boyfriend, we’ll call him ‘D,’ about a hot girl he found at the DeJa Vu in Lake City.  I knew he slept with a lot of girls, being a pimp and all,  but it never really affected me as I was off limits, and he knew it.  He respected that, for a while anyway.  Christine was supposed to be coming over after her shift, and he was going to send us off to work.  Supposedly training me to do what she did.  Sell his dope.  Fine.  I have to admit jealousy rose up in me.  I was the girl in the room the guys wanted. Always.  The dealers knew I was off limits, but most of them din’t care and never failed to proposition me when D was out of the room.  I hated that Warren flaunted this whore and bragged about her in my apartment, in front of my boyfriend.   I was jealous of her being a stripper. D used to be married to one. I didn’t want D to like her. That’s exactly what happened, 10 fold.

When Christine arrived, I saw a scrawny girl wearing sweat pants, a jean jacket, a tee shirt, and sneakers.  Her hair up in a messy bun.  She wore no make up. She walked into my apartment like she owned the place and plopped down on the couch.   I instantly wondered what the hell Warren had been making such a big deal about.  I expected Miss America to waltz in the room. Warren and D went into the bedroom to chop dope, leaving us alone to acquaint ourselves.  The skinny vagabond began digging through her large and messy bag of cosmetics, clothes and paraphernalia. She asked if I smoked.  I replied yes, stupidly assuming she was referring to cigarettes.  She meant crack of course, and so I nodded.

After putting on some clothes, resembling something between the likes of a couch potato and a pole dancer, she applied some mascara in her tiny mirror as she had obviously done a thousand times before.  She let her bun out and red wavy hair flowed all the way down her back.  It was her best trait.  It amazes me how people who spend their time bouncing from place to place can plop down making themselves at home not giving the slightest shit you’re even in the room.  I am surprised she didn’t venture over to the refrigerator.  I don’t believe we had any food inside, but it would’ve been amusing to watch her careless effort.  She dug out her cell phone, of course asking if she could charge it.  She made a couple calls in preparation for our adventure, in hopes some of her regulars were home in need of a high. She was loud, which I hated.  I still don’t find that quality in a person appealing. Our apartment couldn’t have been more than 600 square feet. She dialed a memorized number.  “Hey it’s Christine.”  She said aloud like the whole fucking world would melt in admiration if she were to call them.  “Christine!”  She yelled this time.  “Red! This is Red Nigga!”  She hollered in irritation.  She desired to be known by that nick-name.  Why not just use ‘Cinnamon’, her dancing name?   Amused, my initial impression proved correct.  No one thought she was important except her, Warren and D.  However, I seemed to be the only one around who knew that.

When the boys came out of the bedroom, we took off.  Us girls did.  They stayed behind.  I am sure Warren was getting D high, really high.  For free.  Lucky him as I drove this bitch around to sell Warren’s dope for him.  Warren and D were in awe of her.  Probably because she seemed fearless.  I just saw it as harshly loud. People often mix those qualities up.  We see what we want to see, right? That night, I watched a scandalous whore up close for the first time in my life. Each house we went into, she made herself at home on their couch, pulled out Warren’s dope from the cylinder Tylenol container he always put it in, and gave a hit to me, the customer, and of course, one for herself.  She smoked half of what he gave her.  She also stopped in dark alleys to take hits in between customers. She came back to the house with just enough money to where he didn’t say anything.  That didn’t last long.  He had just met her, and I couldn’t believe he was turning her loose every night with his dope.  I guess even a washed up pimp can get instantly pussy whipped over a worn out whore.

Days later, our phone rang.  Christine was crying and putting on quite the performance.  Oscar worthy.  “He raped me and took the dope.  All of it.” She wailed.   I called bullshit the second D hung up the phone.  Of course he believed her.  Warren did to.  I rolled my eyes. She smoked every last rock in that container.  I wondered what her next scheme would be.  That scandalous bitch nauseated me. However, Warren was no fool and it didn’t take long before his suspicions grew.  She looked him in the eyes and lied.  He cut the pieces smaller keeping track of exactly how much he gave her, sent her away to sell and she came back empty handed again.  He wanted me to go with her next time and keep an eye on her.  That wasn’t an easy task because when she handed me a rock, I was sure as hell going to smoke it.  But I still knew she was playing with fire.  You didn’t screw over a guy like Warren.  I knew that.  She had been around a lot longer than me, she just didn’t care who she walked over.

I hated being a snitch of any kind.  But I had to tell Warren why his dope had been disappearing like cookies from a cookie jar.  He trusted me.  When I told him, he had that look on his face like I was confirming what he already suspected, as well as a look of approval because I came clean about what I saw her doing.  I maybe went a little too far and told him how much I hated her, and what a nasty whore I thought she was.  He laughed.  D found out what I had said and became infuriated with me.  He thought, and I quote, that she was a “bad ass bitch.”  Yeah right.  Sorry to blow your delusional bubble.  I know it wasn’t as good of a blow as she gave him.  Over the next few months, I continually heard how amazing the sex was between her and Warren.  I listened painfully and rolled my eyes to myself.  Of course I was disappointed he still allowed her around, but at least he didn’t send her off with bottles of his dope anymore.  And trying to convince D she was anything less than amazing proved pointless.

Whenever she asked for a hit, she got it. She targeted D right in front of me in my own home.   I got so pissed.  I cornered her and told her she was taking dope out of my hands with her puppy dog eyes.  Soon, I wouldn’t allow her in my house anymore.  She would call in the middle of the night crying to D about she needed to get high.  He would leave the house and drive to wherever she was and save her pathetic ass.  When I would see her, she hugged me and told me I was the best friend she had.  In a way, we had become kind of stuck with each other.  I learned to deal with it, but I still resented her.  Whenever the opportunity would arise, I screamed at D for helping her so much. “If she is such a bad ass bitch, why can’t she get her own dope?”   He just didn’t see it.  He would drive her to nasty motels and wait in the car (so I thought) while she blew or fucked a guy, maybe two, and would come out to the car with either cash or dope.  That’s how she did it.  Later, I found out that D went in with her sometimes.  He went down on her while she lie on the motel bed smoking crack like she was some kind of queen.  She had him whipped.  I couldn’t believe it.  But it made sense.  She gave him dope when he ran out to get him to treat her like a sex goddess.  Fucking disgusting.

She denied it to the very death of our so called friendship.  So did D.  Until one day a year later.  I had so lavishly found myself sitting in the Snohomish County Jail, when who do I see walking around the yard for a little exercise during free time?  Christine!  I couldn’t believe my eyes.  She put on about 30 pounds from the carb-loaded jail food along with the abrupt vacation from cocaine.  The same girl who I saw crying like a baby for a hit in a room full of people.  When I needed a hit, I kept my composure.  No way was I letting one of those pussy hungry animals see me desperate.  The girl I saw turn from a bad ass bitch, crack selling, “This is Red, Nigga,” was now a chunky plain jane in dark blue jail uniform scarfing down a ding dong.

We made eye contact.  Later that night, she found me in my bunk.  She ran up to me like I was still her best friend.  She told me with much enthusiasm how she was engaged.  With her phony demeanor and loud mouth, I could just muster up a “mmm hmm.”  She went on to tell me with her new posse of friends standing behind her like an entourage, how this new guy was the only white guy she’s ever been with.  I wanted to jump up out of that bunk and smack her nasty, lying face. But I didn’t.  If I would have, I would have been just like her.  Honestly, with her million flaws that apparently only I could see, I was a little scared of her and her brainwashed friends standing behind her.  She was rough and tough skinned from the street.  I just let it go, relieved that she lived on the other side of the pod. I didn’t have to see her again.

When I was released from jail 9 days later, I told D I saw Christine.  I told him the bullshit story she told me about this new beau, she called him, being her first white guy.  I knew the truth, but I also didn’t.  So I had to hear it from the source.  I had to ask.  High on sobriety and honesty, he told me what happened.  In painful detail he told me how far back it started and the times it happened. It started almost at the time we met her.  She had an evil pull.  Sometimes I would sleep for 2 days, D and her would come home and wake me up with a huge hit. Their plan worked,  instantly high, I didn’t ask any questions. Now it made sense.

Siting in the passenger seat of the car in front of the Court House, it seemed fitting to tell D that I had in fact slept with Warren.  Not for money, not even for dope. Simply because I wanted to and I could.   It was my revenge against D and Red.

A fulfilling revenge that grew quite familiar.  The best revenge.


He Erased My Very Existence.

20131123_180450My father left my mom when I was a year old.  He was a career criminal on the run.  He was invariably caught and spent a lengthy five years in Prison.  Indeed easy time compared to what the hardened criminal was accustomed.  He begged my mother to bring me to visit him in prison.  She refused.  She wouldn’t subject me to that environment.  Whether or not the real reason, I believe she was punishing him for abandoning us.  I remember him sending drawings and letters. A nice gesture, but I always felt it was superficial. He sent a five dollar bill in a birthday card for my fifth birthday filled with his impeccable handwriting and intelligent discourse.  I kept it for years in a special box. I no longer have that box. I regret that day I threw all of those memories away, but most of its contents were of sorrow and heaviness. Here I sit, still melancholy in nature. The box of emotions would offer some assistance in understanding how I became such a complex spirit. Apparently I thought purging the gloomy items would somehow uplift me.  I was mistaken.

I remember my mother being very beautiful. The stress of the previous years hadn’t revealed itself.  Her usual fair skin was always the perfect shade of tan in the summer due to endless hours of yard work and sun bathing. I would play on the swing set she sacrificed so hard to buy, and she would smoke cigarettes, sip on gin and tonics, and pretend to watch me. I remember the sound the ice cubes made when she would take a drink. I incessantly hollered “Look mom, look at me”! Even when she wasn’t looking she would muster up a sound to acknowledge my brave new skill. Her hair was a chestnut brown; naturally curly. The curls were perfect. Not too tight and not too loose, and always to my envy as my hair was stubbornly straight. She never lacked for attention from men. I went to my grandmother’s almost every Friday night as my mother would be escorted to dinner by a new gentleman caller. I was always her excuse, the card she would play, in case she wanted to end the night early, which was the case more often than not. They would pick me up from grama’s apartment and when we got home her date would unfailingly leave due to a curious little girl in the way. Some of the men would leave at the door as soon as they knew their fantasies would be confined to their imaginations; others would at least come inside and sit down for a drink, but I usually crept out of my room disregarding instruction to go to bed and wedged myself between them. This would often seal the deal and so it was so long to “mister get away from my mother.”

My mom was the ultimate conquest for men in her field.  She was virtually the only woman there, and she performed the same if not better. They were either intimidated or captivated. Either way, they wanted to say they had boarded that train. We were on welfare for the first two years of my life. Back then, it was acceptable and allowed to sit back and receive assistance without showing much effort. Not for my mother. She pulled herself up, dusted herself off, walked right into the Shipyards lacking the first clue of what the job entailed and demanded a chance. She was turned away more than once. Her perseverance paid off. She talked her way onto those vessels.  She watched, asked questions, most likely to the annoyance of the skilled men she accompanied. She didn’t care. My mother was now making more money than most men in business suits. She would come to pick me up from school wearing overalls and smelling of diesel fuel, while all the other moms looked, well, like moms. I was embarrassed. But despite the oily clothes, she was the prettiest.

My mother was determined to give me the best life possible. She would go to any lengths to make sure I had the same opportunities as any child had from a two parent household. I attended a Christian school. She bought and fixed up a house, made sure I had nice clothes, and that I was well fed. We ate steak for dinner at least once a week. She spared nothing when it came to me. Although I was an only child, I was mortified when anyone coined me as spoiled. When I heard that word, I felt a huge knot in my stomach immediately. My defenses rose faster than I could contain them.  My cousins often said this (probably hearing it from their parents) because out of 4 siblings, my mother had one child, the others had 2 or 3.  I never wanted people to think I received whatever I asked for, because that simply was not true.  I didn’t ask for much to begin with.  I despise the stigma that only children are spoiled. She was merely taking care of me, although overcompensating for the lack of my father. I see that in hind sight. I often wonder if she does. She absolutely coddled me with protection, not wanting to let me out of her sight. She smothered me with mere intentions of love. I appreciate the gesture, but resent the overall result.

Life looked great from the outside as my lonely mother tried to pick up the pieces of her shattered life. Divorcing my father while telling me what a wonderful and prodigious man he was only prompted me inward. I didn’t bother to disassemble the contradiction, rather I stayed quiet. I was shy and painfully introverted. I learned to second guess my feelings as a child. On many occasions my mother would unravel in front of me. Her open displays of hysteria startled me. As well they should a young girl. I absolutely did not deserve to be a grown woman’s shoulder to cry on. One night in particular, on my mother’s 30th birthday, we went to dinner just the two of us.  I loved the Chinese restaurant down the street from our house.  They always brought me a Shirley Temple.  My mom laughed because I refused to eat those little baby corn on the cob things. When we returned home, the gin and tonics she guzzled at the Chinese restaurant hit her as a reminder of her loneliness. She sobbed for hours placing her head on my lap. I was 5 years old and understandably unaware of her unhappiness, and ill equipped for how to respond.  I can picture exactly where we were.  In the dining room, next to the entry way on her hope chest.  Facing the table and thankfully a window.  I caressed her head, gently pulled her hair from her face, and stared out that window until she couldn’t muster another tear. From that moment my mother’s emotions were always in the forefront of my mind. I was acutely aware of them.  I see it now as an anxiety.  I was learning how to enable her, consequently excusing my own emotions, often misplacing them to be shelved somewhere within me, not knowing if I would need them later or how to recall them when I did. To this day, a sense of paralysis comes over me when I realize I am being cued to feel a certain emotion, and when I figure out what that feeling is, how do I respond? My heart shuts down when I should be crying.  (But I can cry at the TV drama, no problem.  What the hell is that about)?  Getting out of the situation is my only goal so I can return to own thoughts where no one can judge me.  

My only encounter with my father lasted just minutes. I wondered why my mom dressed me up nice and fixed me up for a special day. This was extremely irritating. I felt uncomfortable. This did not fit with the tomboy I saw in the mirror, but when she informed me that my dad was coming to see me, I quietly smiled on the inside with anticipation. I wouldn’t show my excitement because there was a possibility I would be disappointed. I learned from an early age that being optimistic was a set up for being let down.  Our house was small, just enough for the two of us. Built in 1914, it was old but strong with character. It contained two bedrooms, one little bathroom, a kitchen, and a living and dining room that made up one big front room. The ceilings were higher than most houses which made it feel huge. Our carpet was an ugly burnt-orange. I remember how excited mom was when she finally picked out new carpet. I tried to talk her out of beige because of how easily it would stain and reveal dirt, but beige it was.  There were two rooms, one for each of us.  In between, lay a huge closet connecting the rooms together. Not great for privacy but served well for playing and hiding. Our basement held the washer and dryer. It was mostly for storage, damp and dark, and of course housed many spiders. We had 3 buckets in the kitchen catching the water falling from the ceiling. I remember the work party my mom threw when all of her new friends from the shipyard came over to re-roof the house.  I wonder now how many men were thinking this was their chance to get into her pants.  At least the job got done. After that, my mom and I together took hammers and tore down the walls in the living room. We watched all of the old plaster fall to the floor in a cloud of dust, smiling in anticipation for our new sheet- rocked walls. We got rid of the pea green cupboards in the kitchen, along with a new stove and refrigerator. Even new tile on the kitchen floor that I helped pick out, unlike the beige carpet I had no say in. My mom was proud of what she had done. She was a single mom who got us off welfare and transformed an old dilapidated house.  I was proud, but when I became old enough to have friends from school, I was quickly humbled and embarrassed because my peers had two parents and lived in a bigger, nicer house.

The sound finally came. The knock on the door I had been waiting for. My father had just been released from Walla Walla State penitentiary. He drove four hours to visit the girl he had only seen in pictures. He was present for only the first nine months of my life. I remember being awkward and unsure, a disposition I have held close like a child’s worn blanket ever since. My mother prompted me to rise from our Texas Instrument Computer as she opened the door.  I was in the living room brushing up on my math skills.  There was a sun room like an enclosed porch hiding the door from my view as I waited in the living room.  I heard Lew’s voice. He had a deep yet gentle tone. The muffled conversation was brief. And then I was face to face with the mystery man who carried the burden of bringing me into the world. He seemed very tall to me. He was muscular and tattooed from all the years in prison. He had dark hair and blue eyes. Just like me. We walked over to the dining room table, a solid oak table my mother had spent an entire paycheck to purchase.  That table still sits in the same place. I remember sitting on his lap looking at him intently and with such curiosity as he exchanged words with my mother. I kept repeating in my head, ‘this is my dad.’ There was no close feeling, no excitement in the room whatsoever, just an uneasy tension mainly between Lew and my mother. I don’t remember what my appointed parents talked about. I am sure it all sounded a blur, as I sat memorizing his face. I sensed my mother’s irritation. I could not blame her considering my dad had a friend in the car (presumably a fellow inmate), and he wasn’t able to stay long. My insignificance was confirmed when I heard him say that.  Just released, he was on strict supervision, and was instructed to go straight to California. Veering in any way was a serious parole violation. So I guess the gesture to come to Seattle and meet me was a commendable risk he took. This was my special day. I had been waiting for this moment my entire childhood. And now he had to leave. He had just got here, and now he was leaving. Again. I heard the car pull away. The getaway car used to transport my father away from any responsibility or burden. I imagine them traveling the pacific coastal highway all the way down to my father’s home state of California, returning to Long Beach where his roots lie. He had brothers there and a place to live. I knew in my heart that was more important than his only daughter, at least I knew at that moment. 

For months after, my mother cried. She was alone and wondering if she had made the right choice when she filed for divorce. She often wanted to talk about my dad, and I refused. I became angry and screamed at her to stop. Any talk of him hurt too much. I was intent that she was never to see me hurt or crying over my father. I had to hold it together because a house filled with two people’s emotions was like a bomb waiting to explode. There just wasn’t enough room.  My mother’s emotions were always flowing, like an out of control river about to crest. My mother had no idea she had stunted my emotional growth. It was of no use telling her. In full denial, she insisted she did everything right when raising me. My mother expected full credit and gushing praise when talking of her great achievements as a single parent. Only once did she see me miserable over my father. I was sitting at the piano in our living room. I was supposed to be practicing my scales on that Sunday afternoon. Rather, I was in a trance like state, mindlessly pushing keys that formed in a sulky fashion. Tears were flowing as my mother’s attention turned toward me. With a mother’s instinct, she rushed to console me. I was too grieved to hide my feelings this time. I couldn’t control the tears. It felt like my heart had an anchor tied to it; it had sunk to the lowest place in the pit of my gut, and it just lie there like a heavy burden. As she realized the cause of my hurting, her expressions matched mine. This was the reason I never allowed my feelings through. It was too late to reel them in, so we were both broken with emotion, except my mom was getting angrier by the second. My mother reached for the phone and began making calls to California. She talked to a number of people, presumably my dad’s brothers or their wives, but she seemed dissatisfied with their responses and excuses. I sat in the other room listening to her desperate attempts to make some sense of this and grasp an answer for her daughter. I heard her say sternly, “Please tell Lew I need him to call his daughter.” My father’s family seemed to avoid contact with my mother. They were hiding something.

At the age of 14, I still longed for my father. But as life became busier with starting high school and making new friends, my attention shifted along with the painful longing. I buried the pain, but not too deep. It was just under the surface. It still lives there. I believe my depression is a result of repressed anger. The frustration of not being able to do anything about my situation, the helplessness of having no choice but to accept my life’s circumstances. I am still angry at my mother for marrying this man. I am still angry at her for defending him when there was nothing to defend. Those were her choices, not mine. Yes, we all have to live under the circumstances made by another in some way. Expected to play the hand we’ve been dealt, life is more fair to some than others. Everyone handles the good and the bad differently. That’s what makes us unique. What might drive one person into a suicidal frenzy might just be a tiny mole hill in the grass to another. We are all wired differently. How boring if we were all the same. Like robots. I guess the point being… how we respond to a problem in life is far more important than the problem itself. You may have been dealt a shitty hand, but you can still have a good outcome.  I am just unclear if that is a learned skill or just luck.

One day in that 14th year of my life, we received a phone call. I remember being in the kitchen with my mom. I know the back door was open so it must have been a pleasant time of year. My mom’s reaction to the unknown caller, however, resembled nothing pleasant. She asked a couple questions, her voice getting higher with each one. The shock on her face broadened with each response. Her shock turned into anger. She yelled into the receiver as I wondered how her voice traveled through the long spiral cord that led to the big pea green box with numbers that attached to the wall in the kitchen.  I hated seeing her upset. My insides immediately shook wondering how to calm her down, and what the hell could possibly be such bad news. She slammed the receiver into its cradle. Her Anger quickly turned into sadness. Crying, she explained that my father had died. Okay, I thought. Well, I haven’t seen him in 9 years and held no hope of seeing him again. So, time to console my mom.  Just like on her 30th birthday.  After all, he was her husband for 7 years. She refused to remarry because no one could replace him.

“No!” She exclaimed. “He died 3 years ago and those bastard brothers of his are just telling me now.” It made sense now. The phone call. It was Arden, my dad’s brother. From Long Beach, California. The place my dad drove after I met him, the place he grew up. He had worked in the Coal Mines when he was first incarcerated, which gave him Black Lung Disease. They can’t make prisoners work in places like that anymore. It’s inhumane. They also cannot conduct electroshock therapy anymore, like they did to my father. The psychiatrist couldn’t fathom how and why a man with an I.Q. so high, which it was exceptionally high, could and would become a career criminal. He re-offended so many times they gave him the ‘bitch’ (habitual offender sentence.)

He was institutionalized, however staying out of trouble long enough to court, marry and breed with my mother. And then leave. The psychiatrist labeled him a paranoid schizophrenic. I have all the documents from his many trips to the penitentiary. It’s fascinating to read things about such a mysterious man, facts and accusations all typed on an old fashioned typewriter, some of which the print is so faded I cannot discern the words.

I had just started my freshman year. My mom had to beg the all-girls catholic high school I insisted on attending to accept me with financial aid. She couldn’t afford it, but there was no way in hell I would stay in public school after those 2 nightmarish years in middle school. I was petrified of boys. They groped me in the halls. Mean girls tormented me in P.E.  I sat in the corner of a stair well to eat my lunch every day. My mom with tear stained cheeks came out of the office of the school. I had waited staring up and down the hardwood floors and in awe of the high ceilings wondering if this is where I would be spending my next 4 years. She motioned that we were leaving. “Yes, she said. They said Yes.”

After my mother made some arrangements with her ex brother-in-law, we came to realize we would be receiving a measly $100 a month. My mom put that toward my tuition every month. It wasn’t a lot but it helped. My father rarely worked. When the ‘heat’ would get to be too much in one place (apparently even though he wasn’t actively committing crimes, he was always actively being pursued), he and my mom would pick up and move. It took him less than a day to find a job as an electrician. It was a trade he knew, however with his I.Q. he could learn anything. But after adding the years together, the time he spent actually collecting a pay check failed to add up to much. My father never once paid child support. I didn’t resent him. I guess I just understood things well beyond my years.  He sent me drawings and cards.  That was enough.

It turns out my dad’s brothers didn’t inform my mom about his death for 3 years because of an ongoing battle over the estate. Their motive was to make sure I was excluded from receiving anything. I was a minor, his dependent, and by law, entitled to something upon his death. My mom was furious at their selfish behavior. The deceit. I didn’t know what he had, nor did I care. I still don’t care because I can’t imaging it was much. I was a burden to his brothers. And to him. All those years in Long Beach, not incarcerated.  No phone call.  Maybe my mom to stop calling.  His death sat in my mind simply as a fact. I couldn’t feel it. I wouldn’t let myself. I didn’t know how. I still don’t.  Some horrible things went on to happen in my life, starting not long after this, and I know this helped aid in my ability to shut off my feelings. My mom, once again a hysterical mess, needed my consoling. She knew I was the victim here, but the burden fell on me to hold her together. She drank herself to sleep every night. A ritual she maintained since I was four. I don’t blame her I guess. To this day, when I approach her door, when I talk to her on the phone, if I hear Elvis Presley playing in the background, I slowly back away or I slowly hang up. I know she’s mourning him. I let it be. I absorbed enough of her emotion my entire life and I will no longer hold her up. I have to hold myself up.

About a month after the devastating phone call, his death certificate arrived in the mail. So many small spaces and lines for the medical examiner to fill in, so much information on one piece of paper. The lifespan of this man summed up in my hands. Probably the most information I had ever seen regarding my father.

Date of Death: December 25th, 1986

Cause of Death: Arterial Cardiovascular Disease

Number of Dependents:  0

I am not sure I saw that when I first looked at his death certificate. I don’t know how long it took me to notice. I just remember standing there in my room unsure if the moment was real. Did it really say that? Was it a mistake? I didn’t exist. This meant I wasn’t even alive, I had never been born. When his brothers were asked if he had any dependents, they replied no.  I imagined them at the coroner’s office at the hospital.  Lying. I felt sick. Empty. Betrayed I guess. I didn’t know his brothers, I didn’t even know him. But dammit they knew he had a daughter in Seattle. They knew my mother. How dare they. At the time, I couldn’t wrap my head around all this. His brothers were not a part of the equation. It had nothing to do with them.

 Inside the deepest part of me, my dad let me down.

To my dad, I didn’t exist.

He gave me life and he took it away.

He checked that box.

Is it the TV or is it me? No one else is crying.

scan001720130512_173032 I almost always cry when I watch television and movies.  Could it possibly be the swelling music at just the precise moment?  And I fall for it?  These shows have a climax for a reason to which I over react.  But I AM FEELING.  That’s what matters.  I have come to realize that my family, although rich in number, but poor in substance, fall extremely short of my new family,  who may not be as large in number, but make up for it in substance.  They are close not only geographically, but in heart. They come together both in celebration and in tragedy. I am in awe for I know this is rare, like a sparkling diamond in dull dirt.

I have realized that my uncontrollable emotion comes from a place of emptiness and loss that became a void, unknown to me, which needed a remedy. I feel uncomfortable much of the time because I have grown so accustom to my family’s deceit and detachment. It is, however, soothing to have this support which just appeared before me like a red carpet being rolled out much to my surprise.  This acceptance is simply there.  I need not ask for it.  I didn’t do anything to earn it.  It’s hard for someone like me to accept it without doubt.  I rarely think I am worthy of much.   This amazingly warm family needed only to see one thing.  Her and I genuinely happy. We feel as though we were made for each other, something we say all the time.  I am sure it helps that I am not a sneaky sociopath, rude, or indifferent.  Aside from my obvious issues, I am a nice person.  It’s the presumed normal girlfriends we need to look out for, right?  So, when I see families on TV, fictitious or not,  I am so filled with longing for that togetherness that my tears flow like a broken water main.

I am an only child raised by one parent.  Maybe that is the key component of my psychological thread.

Why are the Mothers on TV so great?  It kills me. Okay, I see the histrionic, difficult mothers as well.  The networks need to ”reach out’ to us all, of course.  It’s easy with me.  I fall into most categories in their targeted demographics.  From time to time I hear my girlfriend on the phone with her mother and I could swear it’s her best friend.  I came out of the grocery store to the car, her on the phone with her mom, and I needed to check the phone screen twice as my jaw dropped and my throat choked up because the way she talked sounded more like how you talk to the bakery manager when you really need that birthday cake tomorrow and not the next day, when you originally ordered it.   I have never heard a mother and daughter speak in this considerate manner.  And it’s not just those two, it’s the rest of the family as well.  All of them.  It amazes me.  My heart can barely contain the emotion.  It’s like a platter of joy and happiness with a little self pity on the side.

If only my mom could touch me without me jerking away.  If I could only lean into hug her and not wish I was somewhere else.  Something is missing.  I’ve seen the pictures in the photo albums. I remember stories she has told.  I have pictures in my mind I carry with me still.  I know we were close.  Too close. Enmeshed.  Without boundaries.  Like two different sauces on one plate oozing into each other that aren’t supposed to mix or it’ll ruin the whole dish.  I wish I could crawl into bed with her or snuggle up with her on the couch when my heart is hurting or when I am scared from a thunder storm…. Ya, I would like that, but I cant even imagine it ever becoming a reality.  We just don’t work that way any longer.  It will never be that way again.  I miss her.  Not the present her; I can barely stand to hear her inebriated voice on the phone.  But the old her?  I miss that strong woman. The woman who raised me all by herself, who fended off men while she muscled her way through the shipyards, who bought a home in 1979 and got us off of welfare when I was 4 years old.  That strong woman. Where is she?  I can’t stand how distanced we have become.  Reverting to enmeshed again might be better than estranged.  Especially when that’s my only option with her.

She told me the story of when I was so sick I was throwing up on her in bed. I was probably my daughter’s age. I couldn’t lean over the bed in time to hit the bowl beside the bed.  It sounds gross.  But I know that when it is someone you love, you are happy to let them puke all over you. Her comfort came first. My wellness meant more than her soiled pajamas and sheets.  She ran her fingers through my sweaty hair, pulling it off my forehead until my fever broke.

That was over 20 years ago.  Before we became like a life threatening disease to each other.  Estranged is what keeps me healthy.  If this is healthy, I am confused.  Our relationship has been deemed toxic.  But feel toxic.  Maybe I do need my mom.   No, those are just words I am not going to delete.  I can’t go running back into my mom’s tangled web.  It’s a really dark and crazy place.  I am trying to get healthy again.  I have been trying a long time.  In time, my new life will nullify my old life.  Right?

What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day


I find it nearly impossible to live in my own head for too long.  If I am not actively doing something, reading, looking at my phone or the computer, my brain races. I drown in memories, and cannot escape the pictures in my head.  I cannot lie in bed too long in the morning for fear of my own thoughts.  If I am not tired enough when I go to bed, I cannot lie there because my thinking overcomes and defeats me.  I try to block the images, but to no avail.

During the last couple days, I began reading a book I read years ago.  “What Looks Like Crazy On An Ordinary Day,” by Pearl Cleage.  Great book.  I often reread books I once enjoyed because it ignites my writing.  The book describes a woman who, in finding out she is HIV positive, returns to the small town she grew up to find a run-down mess of a neighborhood.  Houses filled with young men and women and their crack addicted, screaming babies.   The oddly sweet, peppermint smell of crack she described brought back vivid memories for me. Euphoric recall us addicts say.  Waking up to realize I had my 2nd consecutive night of using dreams, I knew I needed to re-shelf that book.  I also woke up last night after having night mares separate from the using dreams.  They felt so real when I was disrupted by them, but I can no longer remember their contents.  My tossing and turning woke up my girlfriend;  she had to escort me to the bathroom.  I was too afflicted to walk across the hall alone.

Nor can I get the images from Breaking Bad out of my head.  I only made it through the 2nd episode of season two and I am not sure I can continue.  The scenes where Jesse is smoking meth haunt me.  I can see it and feel it as though it is real.  The powder, the pipes, the inhaling and exhaling of white smoke.  I remember how paranoid he was peering out that deceitful window.  I have been in that place of darkness and I hate thinking about it.  I wish I could erase the images from my tarnished head.   They will never leave.  I know this because I have withstood traumatic experiences since I was a teenager.  “Just give it time,” people say.  When I believed in the power of prayer a long time ago, I used to pray for the images to abandon me.  Others would pray over me, lay hands on me, commanding the flashbacks to leave, that Satan himself pull his talons out of me. Is that like “praying the gay away?”  Is that like Michele Bachmann saying natural disasters are God’s way of getting the attention of sinners such as myself?  Maybe she and her cuckoo companions should pray harder the next time a tsunami nears.

When I sat down to write this, I had no idea I would take this direction.  But while I am on the subject, let me elaborate on my seeming resentment of the so-called power of prayer.  I went to church for seven years with my ex before the massive and unforgettable relapse of 2007.   You know how they say ‘you pick up where you left off’ when you abuse drugs or alcohol?  That cannot be more true.   The intention was to get high and stop before the end of the 3 day weekend.  Memorial Day weekend.  It stretched into an ongoing nightmare that continued 4 years. With each short stint of sobriety he managed to piece together, the church replaced the crack pipe.  He exchanged one addiction for the other.  He continues to go from one extreme to the next even as I write this.  He is currently addicted to Jesus.  I am strangely happy about that.  Whatever it takes to keep him clean.   Myself, however, after years of trying to comply to that lifestyle, grew tired of giving myself to hope and ending up in a place of hopelessness.

Once, during a law enforced attempt to stay clean, he had an appointment downtown to meet with his probation officer. I was working at the dry cleaners, where I spent most of my time to compensate for his unemployed idleness and depression.  Beyond the point of anxious, why not pray?  It can’t hurt.  I had a gut feeling he would take a detour.  Stumbling into the Central or International Districts of Seattle never ended well for him.  Meanwhile, at work, I hadn’t seen a customer in hours.  I was alone and worried.  I began to pray out loud, as fierce and desperate as I could.  I gave it all I had.  I pleaded with God to please keep him on the right path.  A few hours later, he called from home.  He informed me that everything had gone well and as planned.  I really believed God heard my cries.  Unlike the other times when I cried out to him while I was being raped in my own bedroom by this same man, struggling and begging him to get off of me.  I swore he was the devil.  When he was high, and especially coming down from a high, he may as well have been Satan himself.  He looked evil. He terrorized me. I know there were demons in that room.  I felt them.   So when he called that day after his appointment, I felt relieved.  Finally, everything was going to be better.

He showed up at 7:00 PM, closing time at the Dry Cleaners.  His pupils were huge black saucers, covering every piece of Sinatra blue that I knew.  He lied to me.  Usually, I could hear the drugs in his voice immediately.  I missed it by letting my guard down.  By believing God had come through.  Shocked, disappointed and scared of how the night would unfold, I refused to give him the money he came to ask for.  He wasn’t out of money.   He just wanted to taunt me.  He actually thought I would be excited to come home and use with him.  How fucking delusional can one become?  The last place I wanted to be was up in that hell hole of an apartment watching porn and smoking crack.  But I didn’t have anywhere else to go.  Defeated and hopeless, I went with him.  I wanted to run and flag down a car. I wanted desperately for that last customer to see the look in my eye, to see the cry for help in my face as my husband stood there waiting for me. Why couldn’t I say something?  Why didn’t I?  I guess I needed to maintain my invisible cloak of dignity.  This cycle had become the collapse of our families.  It became absolutely necessary to hide this torment we were living. It was that or raw fear that he had implanted in me years ago.

My life is better now.  I no longer live in fear.  The memories, however, are worsening.  I believe this is a result of my writing.  If that is the case, then I will write until I die.  I need to purge all of this, so I can be free.  Praying obviously isn’t going to have any effect, so I’ll share my journey with the world in hopes that someone who needs to hear it does.  Some would say this is God’s will.  That he allowed me to endure hell on earth.  He doesn’t give you what you can’t handle, right?  Fine.  Call it what you will.  After being so tremendously disappointed by a God (Abba father) who is supposed to protect you from harm, I just can’t believe anymore.   He is supposed to be my father?  After my real father left when I was barely a year old?  After my husband, the man next in line to protect me, sold me, beat me, and almost killed me?  I will never put my life in the hands of another “Father” again.  My christian friends can and will pray for me all they like.  That’s their choice.  Just as choosing not to pray is mine.

I know the scars will get better, though they may never go away.  I am thankful now for my afflictions.  They made me stronger.  I am thankful for those close to me who support me and love me regardless of how wrecked I feel, or am, not sure which.  I do not doubt that I will have more nightmares and more using dreams.  But I feel confident that I will be okay, because I sleep next to someone who makes me feel safe and walks me to the bathroom in the middle of the night.  I knowbad memoriesnightmare as I process and transfer these pictures into words, they are not written in vain.  And I thank you for that.

Bad Day at The ATM

bad day at ATM atmSomething happened today that pissed me off.  I often find myself making excuses for my ex.  And then an occurrence such as this reminds me of why I have a protection order and a divorce.

Should I hate him or hate the drugs? Blame him or blame the drugs? I made some foolish decisions and committed some horrible crimes during my years as a drug user. When that shit gets a hold of you, you might as well be shackled to a concrete wall.  It is nearly impossible to get away from the lifestyle.  So laborious, it remains easier to stay where you are rather than change.  Breaking loose from those shackles is like being stuck in a well or a man hole, you cannot reach the top no matter how high you jump or far you reach, and there is no one at the top reaching down. It’s daunting. It’s just too hard.

So I understand why he did what he did.  Every addict has a maxing out point, or a wall they hit when they say “Okay. That’s enough.”  Sometimes that realization is forced by outside circumstances and sometimes it’s the weighing down of your conscience and soul that you finally surrender.  More often, I believe, it’s the former which leads to the latter. The outside circumstances, for example, could be something as obvious as running out of money. For me, in the beginning, when the money was gone, I was done.  Just sleep it off.  It was fun, but it’s over. Just plain and simple acceptance. For him, when the money dissipated, the game had just begun.  As you might imagine, cohabiting with this person spawned a disastrous lifestyle.

We were two people who reacted to our own drug addictions in contrasting ways.

Firstly, I dreaded pay day.  He lived for it.  As I have mentioned in earlier posts, I lived in fear of what I would come home to find.  I didn’t want to get high because it never failed to become a nightmare.

Secondly, if I caved into using, I never wanted to use until the money was depleted.  My giving in, without fail, accompanied a stern assertion that we needed to stop after a certain amount.  My agreeing to $100.00 turned into him spending $1,000.00.  I now recognize that he never intended to stop, that was just his way of getting me to stop fighting so he could use, and have an accomplice to be miserable with when the dope was gone.  And of course someone to blame.

Lastly, the actions he resorted to when we were out of money reached beyond what I could have ever imagined.  More than bullying me out of hidden money, even worse than selling our cars for a handful of dope.

I will get into the grittier stuff in future posts. As for today, I went to the ATM to activate my new debit card.  It was declined.  The card arrived in the mail 2 days ago.  I have been trying to establish a bank account for the last 2 years.  I hoped enough time had passed since the divorce that I might be approved this time. Wrong.  Over 2 years ago, I tried closing our accounts while he was scanning checks and withdrawing not yet cleared funds.  He had this shit down to a science.  He should work for the fraud department at a bank, something like Leonardo DiCaprio in “Catch Me if You Can.”  As soon as I found out about the last relapse and ran out of the house (another story I need to share)  with everything I could grab of value that he couldn’t sell, I went to the ATM and withdrew all the money we had.  Transaction after transaction in the middle of the night.  You know the bank won’t let you withdraw more than $200.00 at a time. Just enough to pay rent is what was left.  I don’t know how long he had been using, but the money I had been putting in my savings was gone. Being that he opened the account and then added me after, the bank wouldn’t let me close the account.  Even after the bank manager himself printed out 2 pages of fraudulent activity.  I pleaded with him.  His hands were tied because there were still outstanding transactions.  In other words, we kept missing each other at the bank.  He would go in and withdraw money from one of his bullshit scanned check deposits, and I would go in to close the account, but was told no because his fraud needed to simmer down before they could close the account. Unbelievable.   One would think the bank would want to stop giving out free money.  I guess it wasn’t free, because I am still paying for it.  Is he? Nope! He doesn’t need to think about about any of this now, living his new life, getting a do-over.  A treatment center with a big screen TV, air conditioning while I sweat my ass off in my apartment all summer,  three meals a day while I struggle to feed his kids.  Now he has a place to live and a job. Under the table, of course. God forbid he should pay child support.  That would be too classy.  I don’t want his money anyway.  I am more stable now unemployed than I ever was living with him.

That was quite the rant, yes I am pissed.  I have every right to be.  And yes, I absolutely take responsibility for my part in our past.  But the fact that I still have his last name and am tied to him by some computer system infuriates me.  I can’t get a bank account because of him.  His crack addiction is going to follow me around forever in one way or another.  After I walked away from the ATM leaving what little hope I had at that machine,  I came home to 3 letters from that institution which all informed me of the same disappointment.  What a waste of paper.   Why can’t they figure this out while I am sitting there for an hour giving them money to open the account?

I walked to my car (the one thing I still have because his name wasn’t attached to it)  and with each passing minute became more and more angry.  Every memory and emotion screamed in my head.  I hate what he did to me.  Not only did he destroy any chance of me ever having a bank account again, he took dozens of credit cards out in my name.  Then he was gone.  In a good way.  But I am left here to clean up his wreckage.  Moral of the story? When someone knows your social security number by heart, your mother’s maiden name, your date of birth, and calls up credit card companies, applies and receives cards in your name with ease and no remorse… run like hell!

Running out of meds and scared.

20131027_145643The stories in the news lately about mentally ill people who don’t get medical attention and start shooting people are starting to affect me.  I don’t believe I could potentially do anything such as that, but I feel like I am on the verge of a breakdown again.  I recognize the signs because it’s happened to me before.  I get suicidal and can’t function in society, or in my own house for that matter. The ups and downs are starting to get closer together and more severe.  Many years have passed since my last major episode as I really try to keep myself together for my children.  They’ve seen enough.  Now that I have escaped their father, they deserve freedom from chaos.  I don’t have a job right now, (which is my own fault because I quit)  and my medical insurance has expired.  I am running out of meds and I am scared.  I knew this was approaching, but I just couldn’t do it anymore.  I worked in the customer service industry for over 20 years.  I couldn’t serve one more ungrateful, entitled prick a cup of coffee.  I tried.  I really stuck it out as long as possible.  When my company got the new POS systems (2 in a matter of 6 months) that was the final straw.  With nearly no training, after using the same program for 3 years, I ran to the back office crying at least once a week.   I was a manager, and I couldn’t dig myself out a technological hole in front of my employees or a line of customers.  I felt so stupid.  Like a useless waste of space.  I still do.

I just want to feel normal.  Whatever normal is, I am not sure.  But not crying all the time would be a great place to start.  I want to stop hating myself.  My daughter said to me yesterday, “You know mom, you’re not going to get fat if you skip one day of working out.”  How can she read me like that?  I try so hard not to let her know what goes on in this defeated head of mine.  I don’t want her to end up like me.  I want her to know she is beautiful no matter what.  She’s had a different start.   As I’ve mentioned before… my first boyfriend made fun of my 16 year old not yet developed breasts.  My second boyfriend told me I was fat, and my third boyfriend held me over a 3rd story balcony by my shirt.  It’s no surprise I am a mess.  My daughter is only 11, but I am still scared…because I am scarred.

Some would say just snap out of it.  Well, It’s not that easy.  Just like people who roll their eyes and judge women who don’t leave abusive situations.  You don’t know unless you’ve been there.  When I try and cut back on my medications, I want to crawl into a hole and stay there.  When I became this depressed before, I ended up drinking myself into a treatment center because I couldn’t cope with the pain of being alive.  My mother supplied me with pain pills and valium.  I had to work and take care of my kids.  I couldn’t get out of bed without medicating myself.

I was diagnosed clinically depressed with a severe anxiety disorder when I was 22 years old.  I am 38 and have tried my hardest to reverse this diagnosis with exercise, food, natural drugs, and writing.  Nothing works.  I still exercise and eat healthy, but that is mainly motivated by a fear of getting fat.  I already can’t stand looking at myself in the mirror.  I can barely stand the silence in the room right this very second because it’s filled with me. At the same time, I hate being around people.  I have not worked out in 4 days.  I never go that long.  I know that is part of what is contributing to this sadness I am feeling.  But because of this sadness, I don’t have the energy to go outside.  I can barely force a smile.  This is hard when I live with four other people, 2 of which are my own children.  I want to smile.  I want them to know I love them, although my face isn’t showing it.  It isn’t showing anything.  Just indifference.

I would find a way to leave this world if it weren’t for my kids.  It feels like my only accomplishment in life is having my kids.  They are great.  Considering what we’ve been through, they are better than great.  They have seen me with my eyes blue and purple, a fat lip from my face being stepped on by their father.   They have been backed up against a wall, watching him scream at me and threaten me.  All three of us were chased down the stairs by him, trying to steal my car keys as I scrambled to called the police. We barely made it in the car before he banged on the windows screaming at me as I screeched away.  Father of the year, I know.   I will never know how much they remember, or where they have buried it if they do, but so far an angel has been with them through it all.

I need to be well for them.  I need to be happy for them.  They deserve it.  But when my brain chemistry says otherwise, I find myself in this agonizing pain.  It feels like I am being pulled in a million different directions.  I feel as though I am actually lower than the ground.  Physically.  I want to give up, but I know that is not an option.  If something were to happen to me, they would go back to their father.  Although he is a drug addict with no job, no place to live, and we are divorced, the state would rather give them to him than my significant other.  I am in a lesbian relationship, and even if we were to get married, the sperm donor has more rights.  Ridiculous!  I am trying to get through to DSHS to get mental health assistance.  I can’t function this way.  I wanted so badly to get off of them and feel okay.  It didn’t happen.  I am still only taking half off my prescribed dosage of antidepressants, because I am afraid I’ll run out.  I have 2 refills left on my anti anxiety medication.  I need to get help before the end of the next 2 months.  We are hosting Thanksgiving and most likely Christmas.  My significant other’s family is going to know I am sick.   I am embarrassed and ashamed.  I want to get a job again, but what is stopping me is fear of people.  I can’t serve people anymore.  I will snap.

I feel so bad for those people who are mentally ill and go off the deep end.  I understand.  The pain is too much.  I had a friend in college who, from what I could see, was successful and managing his depression.  He had two little boys.  He was in a lot of pain and committed suicide a couple months ago.  Many would say how selfish that is to take your own life, especially when you have children.  I have attempted suicide many times, the first time at the age of 14.  I have been hospitalized 3 times because of it.  It wasn’t a cry for help.  When you want to die, you really want to die.  And you don’t tell anyone, you just do it. So if someone judges another for taking their life, I think that person is shallow and ignorant.  I learned in church many years ago that it is considered a sin to kill yourself, and you go straight to hell.  Well, that’s encouraging.  I don’t go to church anymore.  For more reasons than that, but that ludicrous thinking is just an example.

I hope no one is going to take this post the wrong way.  I am not going to go crazy on the general public, and I am not going to commit suicide.  If I was, you wouldn’t be reading about it.  I am just expressing my understanding of other’s pain.  I am expressing my own pain.  Trying to make some sense of it.  I am realizing how difficult it is to get help when you don’t have money.  It is a sad, frustrating, downward spiral.  It is a cycle.  People need to be aware of it.  Last month was Domestic Violence Awareness month.  I heard it mentioned maybe twice.  I take a short trip to the grocery store and everything is covered in PINK.  Breast cancer is serious. However, there are other tragedies happening right in front of our eyes.  Mental health (and lack of help for it) being one of them.  Especially in light of the recent tragedies at the hands of mentally ill individuals.  It is not their fault.  Most of them reached out for help.  They were ignored.  People are now dead.  To be depressed, in pain, and have no one understand is a serious affliction.  It hurts my heart, and I hope it does yours.  I am going to try and get through to DSHS again before my kids gets home.  Thanks for listening.