(Previously unposted, from April 2005)
I'm in a total funk, and even on the nights when it goes well, doing the bead thing feels pretty hollow. Maybe it’s because of the relationship with Samantha – I see how much it takes to care for one of these girls, how too-little-too-late all my caring is. How unprepared I am to take any real responsibility for helping them overcome the life-or-death problems they're facing. Me and my cheap beads.
So I'm dragging my feet, I guess; I'm a little late getting there tonight. But right away I spot one of my favorite young accessories designers/meth aficionados, Carla, in the cafeteria – she's sulking by herself in a corner, and I impose upon her for the last few minutes of the meal.
"What's up?" I inquire.
She says she might get discharged because she won't go to rehab.
"But I have a job! And they haven't caught me with anything. I don't need rehab, I just want to…do what I want."
She pouts and folds her arms over her braless breasts, sliding around under a faded Revlon Run/Walk for Women t-shirt. I can smell her feet from here.
"So where would you go, if you got discharged? Would you take a referral to another shelter?"
No, she says. She doesn't say where she'd go, but I get the sense that she's done with New York, that if she can't hack it here anymore she'll go to another city, maybe Boston, like she mentioned last week.
So of course I'd like to talk to her some more, encourage her to just sit out the thirty days in rehab, then "do whatever she wants after that," to stick around New York, and maybe I could help her find some kind of liveable situation, but dinner's over and it's BEAD TIME, and when we get upstairs there are six million girls around, and I don't get to actually talk to any of them.
Pregnant, suicidal Lulu's still there this week, and she floats past, but it's not like we converse, it's not like she feels like she can come to me to discuss her problems, I'm just...there. I talk to a girl who's working at Burger King, and I tell her how about how I was watching The Apprentice, and the fancy corporate college grads were having trouble with the BK register. "It was too confusing for them," I report. She likes this story.
Brenda the butch is still there too, advising another girl who's making red and black beads that she should be careful where she wears them.
"Why you making black and red?"
"Black, white, and red," corrects the girl. "It's Trini. Rragh rragh rragh!" This is, apparently, some kind of Trinidadian national cheer – every time a new girl approaches the table, she holds the earrings to her lobes and says, "Trini – rragh rragh rragh!"
But she's drowned out by Rubiana, the foster care runaway who talks constantly and loudly, today on the subject of Clinton v. Bush. She says that unless GW is willing to personally go over to Iraq with a nuke on his back and detonate it, she doesn't think he should be leading us into war. Others jump in to express their disgust with the current administration, and to talk about how they miss Clinton, who, one girl informs me, "has a black kidney." "Yep," affirms another. "He's part black."
And I barely caught any of this, because there were twelve people coming and going from the table, and all I was doing was tying strings, hooking earrings, gluing finished projects -- I was on my feet the entire time, and didn't have a single real conversation besides, "Miss, could you tie this?" "Miss, hook this?" "Miss, you don't got no more S's? I need a S." Seriously, the only way I got through the night was by telling myself, "I'm taking a break from this next week. I'm not doing this next week." I can't.
I'm so sick of beads, of spending money every week on supplies so I can play Bead Attendant; sick of tying strings and hooking earrings; and what the fuck does that really do for a girl who's going to be hitchhiking to a new city next week to pursue her meth addiction? I'm sick of feeling like I'm not doing anything but punching a clock, putting in my time so I can feel all right about walking past the seventy five people I see on the sidewalk every day. Sick of it.
I really do need to take the next week off, since my deadlines are crazy, and then go back and see how I feel. Maybe bring a different craft project, maybe tell Nadine that the girls need to sign up to do beads, and I can only accommodate six at a time. I don't know. But I'm sad that it's been so lifeless lately, that I don't get to talk to the girls, that girls like Carla keep slipping away before I can tell them how special I think they are. I've been through phases where I love going to the shelter, and phases where I hate it, but now I'm just becoming burnt out and discouraged, and that sucks.