As I said in my earlier post, the laundromat was empty. I had clothes in the dryer by the time another patron came in.
She was stunning.
She seemed lost.
She approached the detergent dispensary by my table and asked, “This doesn’t take change?”
“No”, I told her “You have to use your card.”
And she got the detergent and then took her meager load of laundry to a machine. I didn’t think much of it after that – I was writing my post.
She came back.
Hair in a disheveled pony tail – no make up, still drop dead gorgeous.
“If someone went between your legs and took everything, and they’re not your boyfriend, is that wrong?”
I glanced up, was momentarily confused and shocked at such an out of nowhere comment and then, “Um, yeah, that’s wrong.”
Not even sure what she was talking about. But it sounded wrong. And the childlike, confused look on HER face, immediately engaged me.
This woman obviously needed to chat. This woman was also either on something, or had a mental issue. This woman was so beautiful and SO lost.
“What if someone makes you sell everything? What if someone puts cameras in your car?”
“Um, yeah – that doesn’t sound good either.”
“Yes! OK, that’s wrong.”
(How does she not know this?)
Other comments she made:
“People tell me I’m beautiful, but I’ve been hit so many times, it’s amazing I can even smile anymore.”
“This is a small town right? A lot of gossip?”
“I’m so broke.”
“I think I’m going to go into prostitution, this (as she directed attention to her face and body) is all I have.”
“I spent $5,000 on a broken tooth, that’s wrong, right?”
“I have no one to hold me at night – I need someone to take care of me.”
“I have panic attacks, you know, in that show, Modern Family, there’s this guy who freaks out over birds, that’s me!”
“You know, at our age (after she confirmed she was Sophia Vegara’s age – who is in her latter 30’s, so you know I appreciated being included in ‘that age’ when I wasn’t lol) our menstrual cycles change!”
By this time, I’d already invited her to my table.
“You ARE beautiful.”
“No, don’t do that.”
“You need to work on yourself, stay away from toxic people.”
“You get to decide who you want to be, let the right ones in.”
“Yeah! Yeah!” She said. “That’s what a police officer said to me.
“Do you think people with money want to hurt you? I don’t want a mansion.”
“Nah, I said, you don’t. Too much to clean.”
That got a laugh.
After dozens of disconnected questions and back and forth, I was now folding.
“Come here.” I said.
And held her. Her small arms wrapped around me and we were alone in that laundromat and something strange and purposeful was happening.
“I’m here every Sunday.” I said.
I wanted to give her my card – but there was a part of me that didn’t feel like I had the right advice for her.
Who am I?
Who am I to give advice?
But I think I was in the right place at the right time.
“My name is Jenna … and you are?”
“Amanda …. thank you.”
And at that moment, I knew she would be in my head.
She’s staying at a hotel. She doesn’t have a job. She used to model.
“Jenna, sometimes the rich are more miserable than you can imagine – those that have ‘enough’ usually don’t have ulterior motives, they are giving what they can from their heart. ”
“I have no one to hold me at night. I have no one to take care of me.”
“You have to take care of yourself. Learn to be alone. Learn to love yourSELF. Then you’ll attract the right people.”
Her childlike responses – her manic bouncing just endeared her to me.
Then I remembered, I wouldn’t be at the laundromat next Sunday.
And all I can think about right now is Jenna.
And how I should have given her my card.
She needs a friend. A healthy friend.
I wonder right now, what is she doing?
I almost want to show up next Sunday, no matter what. Get out of SELF and be a friend to someone who needs one.
I will try.
Because I think I need her as much as she needs a friend.
Come on down folks!
You can carry concealed weapons with no license AND it’s a Minimal Parenting State!
My frustration level today was at a full Spinal Tap 11.
I had my annual property inspection this morning.
All went well. Considering I’m a goody two shoes and have been cleaning like an OCD queen for a year, there wasn’t really any doubt about that.
Feels intrusive though – taking photos of every room – my bedroom, all my precious things. (almost expected them to bring in a table with stirrups for a full examination) The bathrooms – our towels and toiletries. Even Butters!!!
Don’t get me wrong, the people who manage the property I live in are really nice. I also understand why the homeowner is well within his or her right to know what condition their investment is in.
I’m just saying the inspection itself feels like a cell check. A reminder that where you are is not yours – and someone else has a set of keys and a set of rules.
Speaking of rules.
This was also my time to mention anything that needed fixing etc.
Well, other than some minor items, an obvious thing that needs fixing is the behavior of ‘the neighbors’.
Both homes are owned by the same person and managed by the same company.
I brought up recent events (the dog’s appearance, the witnessed dog abuse, the traffic/drug-likelihood continuance, yelling at the children)
I bring it up because I can’t escape it!
I’m no Mrs. Kravitz!! I’m not a ‘Curtain Twitcher’ (as my Nannie would say)
Every room I spend a lot of time in (kitchen, living room, bedroom) have windows directly facing ‘them’.
Walls are thin – I hear every car, every verbal barb from my couch – I assure you, I am not pressed against the wall with my ear to a cup.
I cannot enjoy the sanctuary that ‘home’ should be with the uncomfortable dysfunction constantly on display.
I told the inspector that I was done.
It doesn’t seem fair that I follow the rules, and can’t enjoy my home to the fullest.
I received an email at work from the landlord.
She was going to call CPS and if they did not renew the tenancy, would I consider staying?
Yeah – of course. (I actually wasn’t intending to leave.)
The yard is a great size for Butters – I don’t feel like her barking interferes with anyone (no direct neighbors that we’re butted up against) and I’ve been in the home for 4 years and am settled. The inspector today kept saying how cozy I’d made the place. And it’s true.
It is cozy.
If you can shut out the world and just be in the moment – it’s a hell of a homey, cozy place to be.
I received another email from the landlord.
Apparently, the State I live in is a ‘minimal parenting’ State.
What is this, and why didn’t I know about this when Nic was under 18?
You mean I didn’t have to supply love, entertainment, attention to his education etc??? What the hell?
I joke of course.
The landlady had an example for me, and I quote:
“Do you know that if someone is dealing drugs out of their home and they are not doing it in front of the children and the drugs are locked up so the kids cannot get to them that it is not a danger and therefore they cannot do anything!!”
There was another example:
“I was dumbfounded when I asked her what would constitute getting them involved and the responses made me so mad! She told me that if someone had dog feces all over there floor, with children in the house, that if the children were crawling through it or at an age to still not understand not to put it in their mouth that would be an issue.
If the same situation occurred and the child was 6 or 7 and knew not to put it in their mouth that would not be an issue. I don’t understand how that cannot be health and safety????!!!!!”
We went back and forth and exchanged exasperation and ideas. I finally mentioned that the dog’s waste is not picked up and is located amongst the childrens backyard toys.
Two are under 6.
Grasping at straws I know!
That failing, they could at least call ‘the neighbors’ out on the unofficial dog and we can get that innocent party out of the mix.
In order to keep Butters, I MUST have renters insurance and had to put a pet deposit down. They should have to do the same!
And I don’t say that in a ‘wah wah’ tantrum way … I say it because it is NOT fair that there are people who follow rules and people who don’t and the ones who don’t seem to get away with it.
I think (especially before Christmas) that might be something they won’t want to do and they’ll opt to relinquish the dog.
It should have no problem finding a home – it’s a sweetheart.
What keeps returning to my thoughts though is how on earth is anyone supposed to prevent a tragedy?
The minute a child is killed or found in a disgusting environment, strangers comment ‘why didn’t anyone DO anything about this?’ And they tut and sneer and judge. (I know I have.)
Well people, guess what? I bet someone TRIED to do something and there were no avenues for them to take.
I’ve called the Sheriff.
I’ve advised the landlord.
CPS has been spoken to.
And as I type, I’m still across from that family – and unless someone is seen walking out of their house holding a bag of drugs or they beat their children in the middle of the street – or they … gawd, what?
Unless they WHAT??
What IS it going to take to finally do them in?
I don’t know.
But I only want the best for those three children and for that pup.
And yeah – call me crazy – but I still only want the best for the flipping parents too. Because they were once children. Whatever makes them capable of being the way they are and lashing out the way they do – needs fixing.
I only want the best for EVERYONE!
It was windy today.
I leave the front door ajar for Butters so that she can exit and enter when she needs to. It opened and closed with each gust and outdoor furniture slapped and thudded against the porch.
Butters is not brave, but what she lacks in courage she makes up for with volume. Startled barks peppered the morning and when startled turned to alarmed, I would go to the door and check that it was in fact just the wind.
I don’t always assume she’s barking at nothing – and try not to get frustrated at the nine out of ten times that she is.
After all, she’s guarding her territory. And, in turn, us.
No one needs to know she’s all bark and no bite. It’s comforting that she is on duty, albeit, over zealously most of the time.
One such zealous bark had me looking out the front door and that’s when I noticed the man in the road.
He sat past the nearest cross street – his legs out in front of him, in the dirt.
I wasn’t sure what to make of this at first glance. A jogger resting? No.
He looked like he was injured – perhaps wincing. His hand on one leg, his head moving back and forth.
Then I noticed a pattern to his movements and the repetitive motions made it clear he was having some sort of a seizure.
I called out to Nic – to come with me to see what was the matter. Then decided the man needed help quickly – threw my flip-flops on and headed out the door.
I went through my gate, shut it and started toward the man.
As I passed by my neighbor’s house, I noticed that two men were outside working on their cars.
How are they not seeing this?
I continued past them and called out “Are you okay?”
As I got closer – a voice from behind me “Be careful.”
I turned to see one of the men looking toward me.
“He needs help …” I kept moving forward.
“That’s his brother.” The speaker thumbed in the direction of the other man.
Why are they not helping him??
I came closer to the man in the road. Noticed the spittle and drool on his chin, his denim shorts caked in dust, a sheen of sweat on his contorted face.
“Are you alright?”
I saw his eyes – wild and unfocused.
“He’s got mental issues.” A different voice.
“Well, he seems to be having medical ones right now – is he having a seizure? What can I do??”
The first speaker suggested ice water, and both men now had phones in their hands.
I assumed one of the men was my neighbor, but didn’t know which. I really only hear him, when he’s yelling at the children.
I don’t see much of the people living next to me.
Regardless of who was who, it appeared they were calling for help, so I turned to head back to my house for ice water.
I found a cup I didn’t mind not getting back, filled Nic in on what was happening and headed back out the door.
I saw now that the man was no longer in the road and felt a little better.
Until I reached my neighbor’s house and saw what must have been the brother (my neighbor – the puzzle pieces were fitting now) yelling at him.
The man who was no longer in the road, still looked awful. Shaky on his feet and eyes still wild.
I didn’t understand why this was a good time to yell at him.
I held out the water and it was taken. I can’t recall who reached for it, but it ended up in the right hands.
“He needs help, not reprimanding!”
“He has mental problems.”
Again with this!
“Regardless of any mental problems, he clearly needs help!”
“Go back inside your house lady.”
It wasn’t said with any room for debate. My racing heart and hot body suddenly felt chilled. I had been dismissed and I was not to continue questioning or inserting my opinion.
Having had a past with these particular neighbors, and knowing what they’re capable of, I once more headed back to my house.
As I walked away, the man who was in the road said to me “I’m sorry … I’m sorry.”
The walk back was uncomfortable, surreal and daunting.
I felt like a child who had awoken to fighting in the house – seen someone they cared for being hurt, only to be commanded back to bed by the aggressor.
Some time later, Butters started barking again. This time at my back door.
I peered out to see only a hand and the cup I had taken over earlier.
I told Nic to hold Butters and slipped outside.
It was the woman who lives in the house.
The one who yells at her children almost every night:
“GO TO FUCKING SLEEP!!”
The lullaby of dysfunction.
The one who told her children that daddy was trying to kill mommy – and then brought them back in the house.
The one who said she was leaving when she could, and never did.
As time has passed, I notice that she is an instigator in the chaos.
I am not saying she’s ‘asking’ for any of it – I just notice (from my couch, yes, she’s that loud) that she does the majority of the screaming and yelling.
So she’s standing on my back porch with the cup and for some insane reason, explains to me what had happened.
The man in the road had been staying with them for four months while he sobered up.
She explained with feigned ignorance of the topic “He does those rocks, you know, the ones you crush and smoke?”
Just say CRACK woman! I see your teeth, I know you know what it is!
He relapsed apparently and what I thought was a seizure was – but of a drug induced kind.
“We were trying to get him sober.”
“You know you can’t get someone sober? He’s going to have to want that for himself.”
I suggested a local mental health location in our town as a possible resource for her.
The whole time I stood there – holding my cup that now had crack saliva on it – and hating her. Hating her for having that man in an already horrible environment around her children.
“You should be careful – having him around your children.”
Oh God. I said that out loud.
She nodded at me – much like she did when I offered my home as refuge in the past. But I knew she wasn’t really listening to me.
I said I hoped things would be okay – and I meant it. She went down the steps and disappeared.
I tell you this knowing my house is made of glass. I share my anger because I can, I have already been in their shoes.
My past is not perfect.
The difference is, I made a choice to change.
Even after I learned that the man in the road was there due to drugs, I hoped he would find help.
Even after I hear the woman screaming at her children, I tell myself “She’s lashing out at them because she is unhappy and feels powerless.”
Even when I hear her partner being violent in the house, I think “What horror must he have come from to end up so angry?”
Nic and I had to leave the house to visit my parents shortly after the woman left.
I was uncomfortable leaving as there were repercussions the last time I spoke to her.
I decided they wouldn’t try anything in daylight and Butters could be trusted to deter anyone from entering the yard.
(I’ll admit, I fear for her too though. Who knows what they are capable of.)
In the car, we spoke of what happened.
“People like that should be wiped off the planet.”
“Nic, people can change … there’s a reason for their behavior. They were once children perhaps in that same environment. Besides, I’ve done drugs. I drank. And I changed. I chose good. “
I love that he knows this. I love that we can talk about anything. No skeletons in our closets.
“But you always had that in you.”
“Are you saying you think they’re inherently bad? Do you believe there are some people just born evil?”
I hope not.
But I just don’t know.
My favorite quote by W.H. Auden comes to mind once again: