23 September 2009

Mr. Wu and the Aura of Peace

I met Mr. Wu one month ago, and noticed first his hair. It was short, except for a long, more than a foot long, section in the middle of his back--the kind of section that most elderly asian men would braid, but Mr. Wu left it loose. When I met him, he bowed (lowering his stature from five feet to four), and smiled, and in a thick accent said, "Hello! You are Anna?"

Mr. Wu makes a phone call once a week to a bank somewhere that he believes has cheated him and refused to give him money that he has earned. I don't know the details, but I do know that Mr. Wu treats this banker (and each one that answers when he calls) with the utmost respect and courtesy. He sits at the phone, frustrated out of his socks, and utters "please"s and "thank you"s with his perfectly and calmly cadenced speech. Every time he gets off the phone, I ask him what happened. Each time he says "Not yet, Anna. Thank you Anna. Thank you very kindly, Anna."

I have seen him in the dining room every morning I have come in this month, and he greets me as if he has invited me over for dinner at his house. Everything within a foot radius of this man moves more slowly, sits contentedly, relaxes, at peace. Including me.

Two days ago, Mr. Wu walked softly up to me and asked to speak to me in my office. "Call to the bank?" I asked.

"No, Anna. I recieved a... you call it 'odd-job' today. And I wanted to donate this to you, to Degage, for the loving kindness I have been shown. For the time you allow me on the phone. Thank you. Thank you very kindly."

I know that they say you can buy abstract nouns... you know, happiness, courage, organizational skills... but my hope is that Mr. Wu's $20 bill will somehow bring someone peace.

15 September 2009

Un-Popped Collars

I saw them again this morning on my way to work--we high-fived, actually.

Two guys, dressed as if they were on their way to a Hollywood movie premier: ironed black pants, button-up shirts, shined shoes, slick haircuts, complete with laptop-computer leather briefcases. They're all business. What business? It's none of mine... (they tell me).

I don't know where they get their clothes, but Darrell and Mr. Wilkerson are the best dressed men in town. Seeing them walk through the parkinglot across from Van Andel, the could have been en route from their Lexus to the Bridgewater building.

Darrell: Killer smile. New collared shirt every day--deep blue, crimson, gold. Walks like he has a million dollars in his pocket--not like he's weighed down by it or anything, but just that he knows it's there. He swaggers, he winks, and if he applied for a 9-5 minimum wage job, someone would probably think he'd be too overqualified (though I'm not sure he's applying).

Mr. Wilkerson: Looks like a 70's basketball player at a press conference. He's go the tamed 'fro, the over 6' stature, and a stride that lets him cover the basketball court in 10 steps. Skinny, healthy, and always matching--his pants, his shirt, his socks and shoes, and his swaggering partner.

I can't figure out what they do all day, but I have a feeling that after they take a shower and press their clothes outside my office, they just walk around town looking good. And why not? When you're used to being condescended, pitied, 'served', and sometimes avoided, it'd be nice to draw an attracted eye--to have someone look you up and down and say to themselves, those guys have it all together.

Whether or not they do is their business.

11 September 2009

What Allison's Doing

Allison and Nathaniel have been together for a while now. She's told me a lot of funny stories about them getting caught making out in public--only one charge with indecent exposure, but you know when you're drinking, those are pretty good stats. All in good fun, all in good fun.

But Nathaniel drank so much last week, that when he tried to stand up, he stumbled onto some rocks and fell straight into the Grand River. Yes, kind of funny, would have been funny, but he had to go to the Emergency Room, and they ended up putting a plate in his ankle. They told him that if he tries to stand or walk on his ankle with this plate in it, he will sever vital nerves and muscle tissue, and his leg will have to be amputated. But when you have straight Medicaid and that's it, they don't give you much choice but to walk--they also sometimes forget to serve your meals or ask you if you're in pain. They pretend like you're not going through alcohol withdrawls, and when the DT's get really bad, they don't come around very much.

Allison goes to be with him everyday, and though it bothers her to see him going through the withdrawls, but she understands, because she's 2 1/3 days sober, too. Allison found out she was pregnant two and 1/3 days ago at the pregnancy resource center. She'd 45, but she's going to make sure this baby is okay, even if she doesn't know where it will live when it's born. Nathaniel says he'll marry her, that he'd do anything for her, but there's a lot that he can't do. She has the list--where you start calling when you're homeless expecting a child. It's a thick and tangled system, but after a good cry in the office, she feels more ready for it (If she drinks in the company of her old friends, she know they'll just offer her a drink, and she'll take it. She doesn't want to drink.)

And then, everything was okay, even though Nathaniel was still in the hospital and Allison was coming to terms with her pregnancy, but then someone stole her backpack (translation: someone stole her ID, all the clothing she owned, her shoes, the few letters and scripture passages she had collected).

That was too much.
But that was something I could change.

This morning, Allison took a shower, and armed with a new backpack, pair of shoes, pair of socks, t-shirts and personal hygiene products, walked back to Nathaniel's room to tell him that she was okay.

02 September 2009


Latisha is finally clean.
She has been clean from crack for 6 months;
clean from lying for at least 2.

"When you's addicated, you don't care about nothin but that crack. It's all your damn brain can think about. You's going to say anything, do anything to get more. You even surprise yourself sometimes. You look at yourself, what you're doing, what all's comin out of your mouth, and you do you best to pretend it's not even you, because if if is, you's in big trouble. 'Cause to get crack, you'll say the craziest things, you don't even know how you came up with it.

You'd say you had a newborn baby and no diapers jus' so you could get some cash from some lovin' person who thinks babies is important and special.

You'd say you had no food or water or anything, and you probably don't, and then when you get a dolla or two, you still don't have no food, but you don't care--you know that dolla ain't goin to buy no sandwich and chips.

You'd say you's stranded and you're whole family's dyin of some aweful disease over in Georgia and you really just want to make it back for their funeral--and you hope maybe they'll give you even part of the money for the ticket so you can be high for a night.

You'd even say that your six kids all have this vision problem where they can't see shit, but they all's want to go to school and make somethin of the world, and won't you support our country's suffering youth so they can get some education? Won't you jus' give some money to get them some glasses?

Sometimes, I'd walk around with that cash in my pocket, and get halfway to an eyeglass place, lookin' for my six kids before I realized I made it all up. Crack makes you crazy, Anna. It makes you downright nuts, and if anyone deserves a crazy check* the most but needs one the least its people like me.

I'm tellin you this so you can see how good'a lies are out there. Somehow, Anna, you gotta see the lies and love the person anyway. But that don't mean you give them no money. That means you love them best by givin them a firm smack in the face.

Anna, maybe you shouldn't smack em in the face after all. I don't want you to get hurt or nothin. But I'm just sayin. I know what I'm talkin about. I tol' ya, I havn't lied for two months."