Adulthood v. The People
Wassup Mi Gente!
How y’all feeling? How y’all living?
As I sat on the toilet this morning, with a fresh blunt I thought-
“This is how I know at least my body is lining up with adulthood, when you can't leave the house before your morning shit, it's like the whole day is off. Your whole equilibrium, off… Damn, now I know why people sit in here with cigarettes… feels so… adult-like.”
These days, meaning the last 7, I’ve been filled with anxiety about the way I'm living, or where I may be living soon, and rent…
BAM BAM BAM! It was 7:13am, on a Tuesday, in January. I thought someone finally stopped minding their business, and called in about the cyphers. I never answer my door. I have anxiety about it being someone I wasn't expecting. I guess I ain't living right... I did my best silent-bed roll, with all the crap on my bed, not to make a sound, and maybe whoever, obviously not the cops, will chill the fuck out. BAM BAM BAM! I quietly tripped over a pair of shoes that I wore around my house that one night I almost went somewhere. I looked in the peephole, and of course it was some fat white man with a NYCHA jacket on. The one time I see a white man in the projects and this nigha leaving a court notice on my door, ain't this about a bitch. I knew what it was... Every time I came in my building I made a wide right turn in case there was some paper hanging on my door; or a marshal's notice. I prayed my peripheral vision will catch it, so maybe the reaction won't be as, I don't know, direct; in my face. The last few months, I’ve even expected to see furniture resembling mine on the “bed-bugs corner;” the spot in the hood you know you gonna see someone’s old ass couch just chillin', and the trash. I guess I’ve been avoiding walking straight home, literally; what a metaphor... I haven't been paying the rent, and I’ve been conscious of that, and not so conscious at the same time, believe it or not. The first time I saw a similar letter back in September, or let's be real, the housing court notice, I wasn't expecting it; oddly enough. I was so manic, and feeling so up in the clouds, what fucks did I care? Until I came home after months of not knowing how to. I remember thinking, wow, how long was this on my door? So this is just ok, for people’s information to be plastered on their door like some public announcement? Now my neighbors know this young person out here being irresponsible. Thanks. I mean, someone can say, “Well, pay ya rent.” Valid point, whoever you are... I panicked that Tuesday morning. Not a Girl What Are You Gonna Do? Panic; more like a, Bitch, Why Do You Keep Playing Yourself? Kind of panic. The kind of panic you can't help but start tearing yourself apart with, and can't even stop to think, like girl, what'd you gonna do? Forreal. And I panicked in the way I thought I would. I shut down, and I applied for Food Stamps, and immediately psyched myself into this “you are a responsible, able, “functional”, educated adult,” because I am, aren’t I? How could I not be on my shit? What the hell are you thinking loka? Don’t start using that trauma bullshit again? This is you. All you. And I went down to 111 Centre St. Room 225, and got my January 26, court date. It's been 2 months since these moments in life.
I found myself last Wednesday morning dancing for Eleggua(an orisha; associated with opening the roads, and often depicted as the child/trickster) I put the music on, Juan Luis Guerra, “La Cosquillita.” I played the maraca I bought him in DR last year, and I danced for him. I sang with him. I even followed my intuition this time, took manteca de corojo(red palm oil) and lathered him in it. I’m about to go to the management office for the almost three thousand, if not more dollars in rent I owe, that I’ve been to housing court for in the last year. It's embarrassing to say, because it was the first thing I remember talking about when I got my place, about how paid my rent will ALWAYS be; until you're in the heart of it. Mismanaging funds, time; turn around your mental so shot you end up unemployed, and no real idea of how to navigate the system that's already looking for a reason to deny you something; that has an image of what struggle, poverty, and mental illness looks like; and then you realize you are still embodying your childhood trauma that can make your adulthood feel like a constant state of crisis. It’s scary, and it gives me anxiety. The moments I stood there and looked for my name on a wall, with everyone else, Housing v. Betsy Perez, but it reads more like Adulthood v. Betsy Perez. Adulthood v. The People. I sat there in a courtroom of mostly women of color, and we sat there, listening for our names to be called, by our housing assistant when they show up, or the judge who seems to always show up; it makes my stomach flip even as I write it. And you know? I’ve had this conversation with too many friends in one week about rent, about making adult decisions; what does it mean to be an adult, like what the fuck does that really mean? We think that we know what’s an “adult”, and we also know what an adult is “supposed“ to be, we are reminded everyday, and are expected to make “better” choices but how do we make choices we never made? Never taught? People see me and think I got it together because I speak the way I do, or find myself in spaces doing advocacy or work in the community; that I am able to do for myself. I feel sometimes so embarrassed to sit with the misconception of "being able” to keep a job, "being able" to eat at least 3 meals in the day, and of course "being able" to at least pay da goddamn rent, because don't you care? Don't I care?
Real talk, I never knew how unprepared I was for adulthood. And crazy part is, nighas had the money for the rent no lie. Or at least have come up with cash to put towards a roof over our heads. Yet there we were having this conversation, about welfare, our welfare, and how discouraging the process of getting a One Shot Deal can be(a loan, or grant from the city to help pay an outstanding rent balance or, a motherfuckin' loophole depending on who you asking). There was a huge disconnect between visualizing myself making the payments and me actually doing so; it's become some fucked up theme, the disconnect. I just couldn't even conceive that here I was again...
So here I am, back to this… freaking out, yet oddly enough this time around, I feel supported in a weird way, as if I never had this support in the first place but I know that I always did, and maybe I’m just acknowledging it now. I don’t know. And um, it got fucked me up because I’m like damn, I could’ve not been in this situation but I didn’t know how not to be in this situation, buuut I did know, aaand I didn't in the same breath. And I still don’t… My mom and dad would be like-
"Pero Massiel, e que tu ta loqua muchacha del carrizo... Tu no tiene familia? Pa ta qui muriendose, viviendo como lo animales. Llamano mi’ja, tu sabe que cualquier cosa....nosotro somo tus padres. We are jore parents.... Ju call us. (My dad claps his hands. Adjust his waistline. Smiles.) So vamo a ve. Animo. Animo… Eh, tu… comissste hoy?"
Loose Translation-”But Betsy, are you are outta your right mind? Don't you have family? So you can be out here living to die, living like the animals… you can always call us… we are your parents… So come on. Energy. Energy. Eh, you… aTe(emphasis on the “t”) today?”
Ma and pa don't understand. Or shit, maybe I’m the only who doesn't. I think that they can't conceive that their daughter is struggling in this way, and is expressing herself about it. It's all taboo. My whole childhood is taboo for Dominican culture, or Afro- Caribbean culture in general, at least that's how I feel. And I get that my parents son de otra generacion, from another generation, so our values don't always align; and that they themselves may be internalizing some of my human experience too. My idea of "family" and "support" is warped. I'm realizing that I'm realizing, that I couldn't have gotten, and still, dot dot dot, can't get the support from my parents that I want, because what I want, is for them to acknowledge that maybe I'm not just being fucking dramatic, and yes you are part of this static. And what we really gets me is that, I just wanna hug, and embrace them but don't know how to do that so, yes they are family but it don't automatically mean support...
I danced for my Eleggua... just danced. I could see myself, you know? I danced for him. And as soon as the song stopped; I felt this wave of… tears come and I let them. I couldn’t hold myself up. Like my beautiful sistah artist, Zakiya wrote, “more heavy than an overfilled levee,” and shiloh(peace) felt like she was coming through, and I um, just felt this, I don’t know, this overwhelming pain, this this anger, this anguish, this confusion, and I slid down my frontdoor, back against it. I sat next to Eleggua who was covered in manteca de corojo and honey, sitting on toys and toasted corn, I held him with my left hand, and the maraca on my right… and I cried.
“Eleggua...Eleggua Papa. Please, I just want my mind back...How..."
I just cried and I cried… and I cried.
Even in the midst of all that my mind is thinking I may want a blunt after all this crying and then I thought-
“Girl you ain't got no money for no weed, what you thinkin’. Betta go put somethin’ on this rent.”
I asked Olofi not too long ago to please help me be more strategic about my weed smoking, to show me, tell me how to be a more productive pot-head, because real shit, it soothes me. Not to say I'm not also aware that I have to find other ways of soothing myself, of taking care of me when I’m overwhelmed by thoughts or emotions, preferably at little to no cost. I started realizing that buying weed was my way of paying rent for my sanity; so instead of keeping a roof over my head, only “roof” I was thinkin ‘bout was my mind, and how that shit’s bout to get evicted any thought now, and with mind about to get put out I needed to quickly pay some rent on that bitch. I wasn't worried about these four walls, I wasn’t worried about nothing. I was worried about keeping me together so there can be somebody to live in these concrete walls. In "reality". I mean, I was saving my life. I was... saving my life. I was paying rent somewhere you know? Not in the “real world” I guess. Not in the “world” of how adulthood is “suppose” to look. All of us are fucking sinking, and my friends are sinking, and we are sinking. Im sinking. Paying rent to the wrong owner, wrong world; paying rent to our sanity, we are paying rent to keep our minds, we are paying rent to keep our bodies, you know? To feel something, to I don’t know anymore, maybe I'm just projecting, and I'm the only one. Can’t sugarcoat it and…
And as I sat there I thought to myself, if I write about this moment, someone, maybe some cousin of mine, my mom, or a random individual will think-
“Yes! That is Jesus! Loosening the devil’s grip on your mind.”
Then I laughed, while I was crying… I was laughing, but I was crying, somewhere in between the breaths, but I definitely was doing both and didn’t really know when which started or ended; I wasn’t really sure if I was still doing either or, and I thought it was the most hilarious thing! I was contemplating smoking a blunt before paying my rent, once again. Like really? Then I thought, HOLY SHIT! You’re having a Jane Fonda moment! Now let's be clear, I know nothing about this woman except Lil’ Kim’s fitness reference in, Mary J.’s “I Can Love You.” So last month, I saw Miss Jane Fonda at Caroline’s Comedy Club and she talked about healing and the moment she “fell” into her body, which happened while she cried and laughed. And I was like dang, you hear about laughter and healing, and I understand it in theory, you know? “Laughter is the number one medicine”, just not for me I guess. Or maybe I wasn’t exactly honoring laughter as “medicinal” in the way I relate to the idea of meds. I have to maybe expand my view on “medicine.” Hmmm, that was a real time epiphany... I sat there, listening to Ms. Fonda and as she spoke, I thought,-
“Wow... that’s some kind of real-life moment... How does that happen? How can you laugh and cry and “fall” into your body?”
I mean it made perfect sense but I just couldn't envision such a transformative experience for myself... And then there I was sittin on the floor, my left hand covered in honey and manteca de corojo, and I think it was one of the only moments in life, to date, that I can say, I felt healing taking place.
I cried and laughed, then I cried and I laughed. I had cried and laughed so much that I physically needed to throw up. I crawled to the right where my bathroom was barely able to hold my body up, I was so exhausted, and held my head over this chair, with hole. I felt IT coming up, whatever IT was, and I felt crazy. I even thought,
“What will you throw up, you barely eat enough to have a decent pool of vomit.”
I picked myself up and I stood there, and cried again. I saw myself. Dancing… and smiling, and singing, while I was… I was genuinely letting go; I saw myself with Eleggua and the maraca. It was out of body experience. Singing “A que le yo-yo!”- Juan Luis Guerra in the background- you know? And he, Eleggua, he held me. I felt. I was free. I can't picture the last time I ever saw myself that way, or if I have ever seen myself. I cried. I cried because I’m thought,
“That’s you mamas… that’s you Bee.”
And that's the me, I’m hurting for. That person is inside of me, it's just about doing things to help her come out, and to live a little, and maybe to live, period, cus I’ve never lived. I don't think that little girl, that part of me ever lived. In many ways I feel the trauma I experienced as a child, stunted my development in ways that are manifesting in my adulthood, or whatever adulthood is. I was making decisions beyond my capacity as a child, and in many ways still feel as if I making decisions beyond my capacity, as a child, very similarly. It rarely ever makes much sense to me, or at least I have a hard time accepting why I am a child of Eleggua. Accepting that fact, is coming more to terms with my childhood. He allowed me, to give me some permission to have this moment, a moment to fall into my body, and heal the little girl inside me a bit. And all the while I thought I was asking him to keep a real roof over my head, I was without realizing asking him to keep my mind, to give me back my mind, to keep that roof over my head, so that I can worry about the actual four walls outside of me.
Thank you for letting me vent on ya screen, and being a part of my healing.
Thank you for letting me vent on ya screen, and being a part of my healing.
Stay building.Stay dope.