Paulie got so drunk last week, he blacked out in his apartment and had to get staples in his head. He also evidently fell asleep in the sun with his sunglasses on, because when he came to talk to me, his face was impressively tan with the exception of white circles around his eyes.
"It's not all fun and games anymore, Anna. This is for real now, I guess."
Most people wouldn't describe a life of homelessness as "fun and games" at any point, especially not at the beginning. But Paulie is 19, and spent the first year after being kicked out of his parent's house in Holland volunteering to take out the trash at Tini Bikini's so he could hang out with some of the girls. That was fun.
Then he got bored, so he got a job. He got a job by smiling. He's cute.
He worked at the Bistro and got to eat the "best food ever. All the time. You would like it." That was fun.
Then he decided to go back to school, so he applied and recieved a Pell grant. He registered for four classes at Community College, dropped three, and barely attended one. Not as fun.
Then he got sick of sleeping by other dudes--older dudes who weren't as good at gelling their hair as he was. So he applied for an apartment at Verne Barry Place, subsidized government housing reserved for those with physical and mental disabilities. Paulie turned in his ADD diagnosis, and got a nice, newly furnished, studio apartment for free. The girls from Tini Bikini's weren't allowed to come up and visit, though, so he got bored.
So he started drinking again (he never stopped drinking, but at least he got distracted during the daytime). There's a rule downtown that any sort of voucher (bus tickets, Degage Dollars, food stamps) were worth half their price in cash. Instead of $150 in shrimp and potato chips (Paulie's favorite foodstamp expenditures), he could get at least $70 in alcohol. Sounds like fun.
But last week, sporting staples in his head, Paulie smiles less. Time to do something about it, he guesses. Time to look into detox, rehab, maybe a more supportive group of friends.
But this week, he forgot the fear he felt when he woke up on the floor of his apartment, his head bleeding. This week, he's back to his MP3 player, asking me to look up the dates of the concerts at Van Andel.
This week, I hope that the love I show Paulie (I love Paulie) is not as helpless as it feels.