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I must not fear.
Fear is the mind-killer.
Fear is the little death that brings total obliteration.
I will face my fear.
I will permit it to pass over me and through me.
And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.
Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.
Only I will remain.
Bene Gesserit Litany Against Fear
Frank Herbert’s Dune
Two weeks ago I met someone for the first time I’ve known for two years.
As the billions of my slavish readers are aware, my youngest daughter, just-turned-13, is on the autism spectrum, which explains many things: her refusal to allow me to sleep for any regular or reasonable period of time – or to sleep regularly in my own bed –
- And why, two weeks ago, when an unlikely knock at the door around midday, I was sound asleep on the living room sofa.
Aforementioned five-foot-nine-inch, willowy daughter bent over me, her vast mane of blue hair a bleary blur in my blinking eyes. As always, her soft child’s voice floated towards me from the deceptively mature body in which she bounces around.
“Mommy? There’s some lady at the door.”
I’d say this was odd, but odd, for my life, is pretty much par for the course. Alice, of Wonderland fame, talked about six impossible things before breakfast. My family and I, upon hearing that for the first time, basically looked at each other, and said: “Just six?”
You’d think I’d check out whether or not I was fully dressed, or whether my recent botch-job of a haircut had my hair sticking straight up toward the ceiling (it does that now).
I tossed aside the quilt, squinted at the blob at the door, concluded the shape was too unfamiliar to recognize without my eyeglasses, and resigned myself to the idea I’d actually have to lift myself into a vertical position and come within at least twelve inches of the human being to bring the face into anything resembling focus.
(The fact my youngest did not recognize the human being did not rule out the possibility of our knowing her; for all I knew, she might be my own mother. Welcome to autism.)
I’m not often shocked; not only have I traveled extensively, but for some reason, I seem to draw around me a cast of characters who have somehow managed to grope and bumble their way through life without the encumbrance of something most of us call “boundaries.”
This has led my daughters and me on more than quite a few … er… adventures, and has led more than a few scoundrels to mistake our kindnesses for dumbassery.
Fortunately for us?
Kindness beats dumbassery.
Also fortunately for the woman, now standing in my doorway, unbeknownst to me, now living in her car, having been shredded like mozzarella by aforementioned scoundrels.
++++ BEGIN DIGRESSION++++
Perhaps some of you will recall an earlier post, where you were regaled to the delightful stories of how my mother once was convinced (falsely) that I was addicted to crack cocaine.
She was convinced because I was thin, and because I was involved with my local police, as well as with their D.A.R.E program, in helping people recover from crack addiction, and I therefore knew an awful lot about it.
For instance, I learned folks on crack can get “stuck” – that is, they resemble folks deep in OCD… (or “CDO” – in alphabetical order, like it OUGHT to be) … and will obsessively, and repetitively, perform the same useless task.
Crack addicts will also steal your kid’s birthday money, then attempt to lie to you about it later, then break down, and sobbing, apologize profusely.
Stoners: i.e., folks who smoke weed pretty much all the time? You can count on them to accept your invitation to do something fun, then when you get to their house, they won’t feel like going out anymore, but instead will ask you if you’ve played the latest version of Halo yet, if you want to try a bowl of some complicated and pompous sounding sativa or indica weed they just purchased “that will blow your mind, man” (while you think to yourself, looking back and forth at the game console, and the resin-crusted pipe, indeed, there is at least one mind, blown, here…)
Alcoholics? If you like surprise parties, then this will be your favorite, because this version of substance abuse is the most unpredictable of all: a drunk can go from happy, loving, carefree and devoted to absolutely black-hearted and murderous in sixty seconds or less.
One Day At A Time.
Since coming to California? I’ve learned a whole new breed of substance abusers, and unlike all of the above, “tweakers” – or methamphetamine addicts – have very few redeeming qualities, except sometimes they can be funny, because based just upon our observation of tweaker behavior, one might assume every dose subtracts IQ points.
Basically, a tweaker will steal your shit and help you look for it, and our family had the piss-poor bad luck to encounter a stalker female of the species – a rather comical one at that, actually, because she rather fancied herself a genius – the Wile E. Coyote “super-genius,” as in all of her schemes failed, which brings us to the woman at my door.
+++ END DIGRESSION+++
When you’re Overseer of the Imbeciles, you can easily begin to see yourself as a super-genius – it’s sort of a “big fish in a little pond” syndrome, except the fish is on meth, both its eyeballs are going in different directions, it can’t stop trying to unhinge its jaw, and it wants very much to turn $40 into $400 at the nearest casino. Also? The fish has just finished helping you look for your own last $40.
In the particular case of this particular self-dubbed super-genius, whom we shall, for the sake of compassion (an emotion aforementioned super-genius has yet to exhibit), call: “Maleficentish.”*
As in, you know: would-be villainess, but didn’t quite have the chops for it.
Maleficentish – or, The Not-So-Divine-Miss M – spent nearly two years pinching shit from my house, tormenting souls (mostly men), and other sundry (largely drug-related) acts of mischief, mayhem and madness in an erratic and bizarre dance around my family and me, but fortunately, since she is an amateur in the art of, well…
… and I am a professional, she was unable to do us any real harm, and she ended up basically in fear of me, which I occasionally hear through the grapevine manifests itself via lame mockery of me.
(Poor thing is just nowhere near as funny as she thinks she is; which breaks my heart. There really are few things as pathetic as a joke landing on a tough room. Except, as Miss M may someday learn: being a joke yourself.)
NOT so pathetic, however, is what the troubled Miss M did to the woman standing in my doorway, who trusted Miss M, and because of that, ended up losing her home, her children, her husband, and – she supposed – me.
It took a hell of a lot of bravery to show up at my door that day and ask if she could borrow my phone. She was living in her car with her dogs, and had nowhere else to turn (or so she thought, having just had a blowout with her mom.)
The thing was: the woman, (let’s call her “K”) now standing in front of me, on the verge of tears, asking for nothing except to use my phone, did not tell me until after coffee, hugs, and conversation that her home was now her van.
She asked me for nothing.
Therefore, I offered her everything.
A year and a half ago, the girls and I were as broke as a two-legged table, and we hadn’t eaten for two days.
Haunted by the many times I’d been told I could never take care of my kids myself, my spirit was close to broken, when someone – I wish I could remember who – told me there was a kind woman next door who might give us something.
That was K.
I came unannounced. All I told her was that my children were hungry; she did not know me at all. Rarely do I feel humiliated, but I was now – until K’s warm kindness, which was palpable throughout her home – put me at my ease.
She filled my arms with food – her best things, and I was not allowed to refuse it – then sent more over, later, to spare me a trip.
K restored my spirit, and my resolve, in a way she never fully realized, and perhaps never will. I say with certainty it is because of K’s kindness that one single day I was able to make it here by myself in California.
Despite, later, being under attack by tweakers; despite unstable landlords describing their shotguns at length; despite rats in my building – and my bedroom – that made me wonder if the Pied Piper advertised in the Yellow Pages; despite Miss M’s multiple attempts to break into my home; and Miss M’s attempt to take me to court (which she later dropped, particularly after the justice scolded her for making shit up)…
… K was always – even when she thought it was a terrible idea to talk to me – always kind. And because everyone, no matter how out of their mind with the substance of their choice they were, respected the hell out of K, she shielded my family more than she ever knew.
K has been with us now for going on three weeks.
Both of us feel like we’ve discovered a sister.
K says she feels like the past two years was wasted time – like we could have been friends.
We might have, but I don’t believe in waste. Not when it comes to experiences.
While some people say there’s a reason for everything, I’m not sure myself. I do know this: we water the blooms of our joys with the tears of our sorrows – and this particular friendship, I feel certain, would not be quite so precious had we not undergone the betrayals we had first.
* Okay, maybe not the most compassionate nickname, but at least it’s obviously not her real name.