Sunday the sun was going down, and I was lifting my granny cart out over the threshold to go to Smart and Final and get coffee and spaghetti. D walked up the driveway and I changed my plans. “Can I sleep here?” She’s thin, sunburned, her cheeks a bronzy pink that superficially looks healthy. She still has her teeth, and her hair is permed and pink on the ends. She’s wearing two shirts, new pants wildly patterned with black and white, new black shoes. Our stray cat-children have no problem finding clothes. I’m glad to see her; but now, what will happen?
She brings a can of grape soda and a packaged cupcake. She talks about men, women, a problem, some “fuckers,” an issue. She talks so soft and fast I can’t hear her, let alone understand her. I give her a tiny rainbow bouncy ball I found when I was cleaning; she accepts it and puts it in her pocket. I ask her what county she has been spending time in and whether she has a social worker. But she is listening to something imaginary below her and to her left, and can’t hear or understand what I am staying.
I tell her, “I was hoping you had a social worker in the City, because there they can sometimes find you a bed to sleep in, even if you are using. Do you have a social worker?” She doesn’t seem to understand. “I told them to watch out for you.” She is listening hard to something else. “I told them at Homeless Outreach. Have you been to Homeless Outreach?” She jerks as if batting away a fly and shakes her head.
She sits on the edge of the bed and drinks her soda. Once it’s empty she takes her shoes off and sets them on the floor perpendicular to the bed.
“How are your feet?”
“Stinky.” No sores on her feet, good. She is wearing hospital-style non-skid socks. Has she been in John George? I check her wrist but see no wristband. Our cat-children wear hospital wristbands for days on the street, they are not ashamed of them.
She lies down and covers herself. I drop an extra blanket on her. I set the laptop to play 1950s YouTube cartoons in her language and set it on the table near her. She sleeps. I feel joy and energy; I sweep the floor, I start dinner, I throw out old bills, I find last year’s tax forms. C is in another city, so D can sleep all night.
Why doesn’t C understand that D as well as C is my child? I chose to be C’s mother, and I chose to be D’s mother. One doesn’t quit being a mother just because one’s child does not hear what you say, or say anything that makes sense, or keep from killing herself slowly.
After a couple hours, though, D awakes and looks through the closet and her suitcase for pants. She mutters softly again, “I have to be, I have to do, there’s something going on…” Again, I can’t hear enough to make sense of it, even if it does makes sense. I figure she has to go out and find drugs. After a few weeks on meth, once her breasts and the fat on her arms are gone, she can’t seem to sleep for more than an hour or two at a time.