How do you write about real people in a truthful way, and not infringe upon their privacy?
One of the girls at the shelter told me tonight that, no offense, but sometimes the volunteers treat the residents like they're retarded, or small children. This was after I complimented her for being resourceful enough to suggest using a large cardboard packing box with a board over it as a table for bead-making, as the tables in the lounge had all been moved to a mystery location, leaving only chairs around an empty space on the floor.
"No," I said, "I'm seriously impressed that you thought of it, because I walked around the floor for fifteen minutes trying to figure something out, and I did not even consider this."
She is slight, this girl -- everyone has exclaimed over the size of her bracelets, which are smaller than office-sized rubber bands. Last week someone suggested that it must be easy for her to get out of handcuffs, and someone else said, "No, they don't use metal handcuffs anymore, hardly, they use the ties that work on every size hand."
Now she twists her mouth, looking at me, trying to decide how to take the compliment. "Well," she decides, "I have low self-esteem, so I don't mind too much if you do it anyhow."
The girl named Charity --
-- okay, her name isn't Charity, but her name is a virtue, and I once met a girl at the shelter named Charity, and she even remarked on the irony of her own name, so this girl could plausibly be named Charity, except she isn't, because I can't use her name --
-- anyway, she shows us the scars her mother gave her, deep purple and red furrows that look like leeches on her skin. Everybody has a mother story:
My mother did this to me...
The time my foster mother hit me with a pan of grease...
My mother left me in a hotel room in New Jersey when I told her I was gay...
I didn't even know my mother, I was raised by my grandma...
"Miss, what's the order of the rainbow colors again?"
"Miss, you gay?"
"You married now?"
"You was gay?"
"You smoke weed?"
"Miss, when you come back again?"
Note: Last week a bunch of counselors kept circling the table and nobody talked. This was a better week.
Note: Veronica is gone, but Jasmine, who I haven't seen in a year, is back. It's not especially good news for Jasmine that she's back, but I like seeing her anyway.
Note: If she's here, it means she's not someplace worse.