My co-worker and I are watching footage of a sociopathic six-year-old who's popped the necks of two pet birds, and she says, "Her therapist is terrible. If I had that kid, I'd be asking, 'Do you understand what death is? That you ain't coming back?'"
This question plays through my head for the rest of the day.
7:30am New client psychiatric intake. OCD plus years of booze, head injuries, PTSD, and no sleep means every answer is a slam poetry contest.
"I wasn't, wasn't trying to kill myself.
I got out of prison in New Jersey
Not in Arizona
If I said yes I meant no
Do you spell New Jersey with a Z?
Show me how to spell New Jersey
No Z. No Z.
I got out of prison and I took two bottles of pills
I sat on the curb by the fire station and said
I'm not trying to kill myself
Then the firemen took me to Saint Mary's
They gave me a shot of something to calm down
I don't remember anything after that."
When we finish, he taps five times on the door and leaves. I offer to buy him rosary beads, but he stopped believing in those things years ago.
9:30am: The formerly homeless mother of five I've been helping for two years has lost her housing voucher, and has seven days to cough up $1200 or risk eviction. Today is the last day of my online fundraiser and I've only gotten $165.
10:00am Staff meeting. The city allotted us $300 for giving homeless people birth certificates and $7,000 for chicken sandwiches, and now we're trying to reallocate funds.
I make the case that they should reimburse me for the 400 Kools I hand out each month, that Minty Asbestos is a far healthier option and builds rapport amongst crackheads. My office managers narrow their eyes until the numbers blur.
11:00am I convince three of my co-workers to join me at a homeless camp I'd heard about from a Franciscan priest. Beside the highway is a strip club, behind which is a trailer park, behind which is a tent city where housed hookers visited twice a week to bring blankets to the UN-housed hookers. There were a dozen people living there, but every job means triage so we split up between the highest risk clients, one pregnant hooker and one non-pregnant hooker.
The pregnant one had a better chance at success across the board. Once she realized she was pregnant, she went completely sober, walked miles each week to make her pre-natal appointments, and was shameless about asking neighbors/the church for food. Still depressed as fuck and camping in a tent with her loser baby daddy, but she was determined to not give birth in the woods.
My lady was harder. Daddy-raped from age 13-17, kept it quiet in order to keep the family together, ran away to hustle behind the slot machine in a grocery store. She wants help, but she'll need almost daily check-ins in case of overdose.
I walk back to the church van the long way and the whole place smells like dead things. More than the average tent city, like an animal left in a hot dumpster. I wonder if I'll find her alive next time.
1:00pm Downtown outreach. The city pressures us to "do something" about various tourist-rich spots, in this case a strip club made famous in numerous rap songs and the crackhead epicenter between the jail, the Greyhound station, the commuter train station, the BIG emergency shelter, and a transitional housing campus where somebody got shot two weeks ago and no one had bothered to pressure-wash the bloody footprints that ran along the sidewalk from the entrance all the way to the interstate ramp.
I walk into the woods with a bag of socks and wave. 10 guys, high as shit, thrilled to see me. I'm ostensibly there to find another client (an old dude with Ray-Bans and no feet), so while I'm asking around we try and get a couple into a family shelter.
Out of the 60 people we engage that afternoon, they are the only ones with an inkling of interest in our services. Everyone else is getting high. Some scatter and try to hide it, but others are numb from days without sleep and could care less.
I look up from two guys whose hands shake as they light a bespoke crack-pipe made from a ballpoint pen, and notice an intricate math formula spray-painted on the brick wall behind them. A Zeros of the Zeta function.
5:00pm I'm driving my kids to a Scouts meeting when my son witnesses a schoolmate flip over the curb on his bike and slam shoulder-first into concrete. We pull over, phone calls to parents and paramedics are made, the section-8 apartments disgorge several more children who bring bags of crushed ice and sage advice such as "Yo why you tryin' to be hard, get yo ass to the hospital".
His mother and younger siblings race down the street. One of the brothers is classmates with my son and says hi before climbing into the ambulance. I press two dollars into his hand and tell him to buy candy once he gets to the ER.
6:00pm My son bursts into tears at the scouts meeting. He will continue to have crying jags for the next 24 hours. Before bed, he points to a beaded necklace he'd made at summer camp and asks me to wear it for good luck.
12:30am I check the fundraiser. Some lady donated over a thousand dollars, enough to cover my lady's rent. I cashapp everything over so she can get a money order in the morning, and clock out.