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19 March 2011 @ 02:55 pm
sunny cool Seattle day  
I finally braved the shower at the shelter this morning. I've been squeaking by for a week on modified whore's baths and sink shampoos, more or less adequately I think, but there's a limit. The shower stalls are dungeon-like, but the water was hot, and with flip-flops on it wasn't the tragic experience I'd feared.

There's a protest in downtown Seattle today, something about Israeli apartheid. A block of cops have wedged themselves in between Pike and Pine, paying very little attention to the protestors, Hare Krishnas, Scientologists, Nation of Islam pamphleteers, pollsters, and street magicians. Here in one of the central Starbucks, a homeless woman cradling a tiny service chihuahua is being warned against sleeping.

My newest bunkmate, the one with anger issues, I'll call Toni. Toni has been puzzling me. You know how, since the advent of Bluetooth-y devices, it's sometimes hard to tell on the street whether someone is talking on the phone or to themselves? It's like that with Toni, except she's usually lying on her bunk, her head just out of direct view, murmuring in a chatty tone spiked by occasional laughter. I'm nearly sure she's not using a phone, but someone does seem to be filling in the blanks to her side of the conversation.

I've been worried about Beryl. The smell I thought came from her bunk actually turned out to be coming from under it. She's a hoarder, and the space between the bottom bunk and the floor (she's in the top bunk) was stuffed with papers, magazines, clothes, plastic cups, food stuffed in bags, loose fruit, unmatched shoes, and a hundred things she'd be better off without right now.

The staff had apparently also mentioned the smell to Beryl, which drove her into an obsessive search for it. This was Wednesday, the day before the big Spray Event and our enforced day-long evacuation. Posted signs warned us to store everything in our lockers--anything not put away would be thrown away. As of Wednesday morning, though, Beryl was sitting on the floor, surrounded by crumpled bags and her chaos of belongings. I watched with a vague sense of doom as she sorted items into categories without actually subtracting anything. She'd pick up a ragged mass of papers and get lost in reading ads or articles; pace slowing, she'd rip out selected pages and stack them to the side. The blast radius spread, spilling out from under the bed and across the floor of our small room. The entire lower bunk was also taken up with her stuff, along with a tall double-door locker, easily three times as big as the standard lockers we were assigned.

Wednesday afternoon, I returned from errands to find two of the case managers digging through the piles, making judgments on the fly about what to keep and what to toss. They wore gloves and held giant garbage bags, the kind you use for bagging raked leaves.

"Where's Beryl?" I asked uneasily, eyeing the scene.

"I don't know," one of the case managers said in a deterrent tone, avoiding my eyes.

"Are you putting stuff in storage?"

"We don't store things."

"Oh. Does she know…um?"

"I really can't discuss that."

Beryl came in about an hour after they'd finished. It was painful to watch her work through the shock. I talked to her for a long time but she couldn't completely grasp what had happened. I could only help up to a point, because I couldn't really grasp it either. She'd been trying so hard to get organized, to root out the smell, to prep for spray day. And of course she'd expected to have until Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m., deadline for leaving the dorms. There'd apparently been no warning of the official purge, no formal ultimatum from the staff, who made executive decisions about what items were trash and which weren't. It was hard to take, even to witness.

I say "apparently" though, because Beryl has a knack for diverting her train of thought to more interesting ideas if danger looms.

Later, I wondered aloud, tentatively, how she was going to fit her remaining bags into her already stuffed locker.

"Oh, they won't fit," she said, surprised at me. And I realized on a moment of brain-locked shock and dismay that she intended to take the two massive bags with her and babysit them from 8:00 to 4:00, somehow, somewhere.

I suspect that she accumulated most of her belongings while staying at the shelter. I worry about her getting kicked out of CRP into the main shelter; she's already stayed longer than the program guidelines recommend. She keeps getting lost in fuzzy mental loops, like a staticky record skipping on the same spot. I know that feeling, I've been in that place, where the effort of making a single phone call is an emotional wipe-out.


I have been receiving funds and am like a hamster twitching at input. Several directions at once, and I want to respond every which way, but find myself burrowing instead. I might also have beady eyes and a pink nose.

I'd like to say something deep and gracious, like, I express the universe's gratitude on a particle wave of endless thanks. Thank you for the strawberries I ate yesterday and the dollar Sue Grafton novel I'm reading today and the dominoes and card deck I bought for the CRP ward. Thank you for today.

a wave of particular hamsters
Cesperanzacesperanza on March 19th, 2011 10:46 pm (UTC)
Burrow if you need to burrow; take energy from us & don't expend any you can't spare! Or expend just enough to get it multiplied and sent back to you! Don't yell anywhere there isn't an echo! And if you can't do any of that--well, I hear it's good to wear sunscreen. <3
Alizarin_NYC: sherlock and john red and bluealizarin_nyc on March 19th, 2011 11:55 pm (UTC)
OH! Poor Beryl. I imagine that someday, when I lose my marbles, I will be exactly like that. I have nightmares about my STUFF. And my cats. I'm always scrambling to catch a plane or leave a foreign country and have to pack too much stuff into too small a place and round up my cats, which have all somehow traveled with me and are running around and how will I catch them?...

My heart goes out to her! Thank you for sharing her story. It's very grounding.

I'm happy to hear you have a shower and a novel!
Trepkos: Arthur and Kai smiletrepkos on March 20th, 2011 12:09 am (UTC)
I might also have beady eyes and a pink nose.

You are adorable.

The smell was probably the shoes.
tabaqui: timthedousebykatekat1010tabaqui on March 20th, 2011 12:46 am (UTC)
That sucks for Beryl. But for the staff, too, and for you. That kind of communal/community living isn't east at the best of times.

I'm glad you have some small comforts, and am glad, too, you are happy to have contributed to your living space.

*hamsters are nice - i'm picturing a rainbow wave*

Edited at 2011-03-20 12:46 am (UTC)
flaming museflaming_muse on March 20th, 2011 02:42 am (UTC)
I'm thinking of you.

Should you put hamster pellets on your list of things to buy?
Agnesbientot on March 20th, 2011 01:14 pm (UTC)
Even in the midst of adversity your creativity is a thing of wonder. Mi habitrail es su habitrail.
Lucy: bert and erniecereta on March 20th, 2011 03:57 pm (UTC)
I think I speak for everyone when I say, you have more important things to worry about than thanks. {{hugs}} Take care of yourself first.
laurashapiro on March 20th, 2011 04:27 pm (UTC)
Poor Beryl! I have a friend who hoards and I have helped him through some of his attempts to get a handle on it. The desperation is real, and so painful to see.

I am glad you can have strawberries and something to read. (:
all right, so you're nonchalantrunpunkrun on March 20th, 2011 08:11 pm (UTC)
I've been sick and am just now catching up on LJ, otherwise I would have commented sooner. It's good to see you posting to your journal again, even if it is under difficult circumstances. My thoughts are with you.
dovildovil on March 20th, 2011 08:32 pm (UTC)
Am hugging you with typed words!
MELODY GLOUCESTER PEGASUSjolielaide on March 21st, 2011 04:58 am (UTC)
Hi lovely. I've been away from LJ for a couple of weeks, and just catching up now. It's so good to see you writing again. Your voice always comes through so clearly in your words. Please keep posting, and let us know what's going on there. We send particle waves of love & rodents. (Witling in Jolie's account, due to extreme laziness & inability to sign out/sign in again.)
kassrachel on March 21st, 2011 12:50 pm (UTC)
Oh oh oh, Beryl. :-/

Thank you for opening up this window into this moment in your life.