So, here’s how it happened. A little background would probably be in order. See, the place I’m from, which is called Hampton Roads by the good folks who live there and still called Tidewater by everybody else, is not the best place to live if you need things such as assistance from the local social services. Some places are like that. No matter how large the metropolitan area, the social services assistance is always a crap shoot. And in the summer of 2005, I needed help. My landlord was a bully who thought my sister was attractive (she is) and that he should have a date with her. When I asked her if she would be interested in him, she, as expected, said no. My landlord, who had entitlement issues the size of a planet, decided that I didn’t try hard enough to persuade her and proceeded to make my life a living hell. In addition, although I’d had great success as a substitute teacher, I’d had difficulty finding summer work. So, after trying every possible thing I could think of to get help, and even had a good friend who had a gift for practical problem solving try to help me out, I ran away from home at age 46. I’d done this before. When I was 27, a betrayal by a family member left me high and dry and without means to pay my bills. My landlord, who was the best friend of this family member, was the one who told me about this betrayal and she also said, quite graciously, that if I left she would understand. Bless her.
So, here I was, leaving my hometown for the second time, at age 46 for the Big Apple in hopes of making a better, more creative life for myself. Before I did anything, when I arrived in NYC, I stopped by the World Trade Center. I think this shows my priorities were in order. Then, being a Unitarian, I went to the All Soul’s Church on Lexington at 80th Street. I didn’t know that it was a referral center. So when I went up to the window, the woman asked me what I needed before I went into my whole long story. Taken aback, I replied,”Shelter. ” She gave me a referral form for a drop-in center nearby. I stayed there for over a year, being shuttled to Friends shelter on 15th and Rutherford or St. Bart’s. When it came clear that this routine was taking a toll on my physical health, I was moved to a supportive housing facility, also on the Upper East Side. I was placed in a quad with three other women, who weren’t the healthiest of people. After I struggled for years to find a job, I finally struck gold; I landed a job at one of the best performing arts organizations ever. At the same time, I was also seeing someone who, although I didn’t know it at the time, one of my quad mates had expressed an interest in, and whose overtures had been rejected . This had all happened before I moved in. She basically began to make my life a living hell in very passive aggressive ways that I could do nothing about. Finally, I had been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, specifically the episode “Who Are You? “I was listening to the commentary where writer Douglas Petrie explains that Faith is allowing herself to get beaten to the point of near death because she knew she was going to trade bodies with Buffy. I had enough of my quad mate’s harassment, so when she called me a name under her breath and I turned around and asked her what her problem was, I was invoking Faith’s courage, in a way. My quad mate was weilding a small but heavy sauce pan and told me to get out of her face. I didn’t. I just kept asking in the most non-confrontational way possible what her problem was. I was tired of the harassment and I wanted to end this one way or another. Now, because this was a facility for mentally ill homeless people, the local police station was very familiar with the residents in my building and especially in my quad. One of the officers told me that in order for me to have some one arrested for harassment there would have to be a physical mark. So she hit me with her pan on my chin. I knew it wouldn’t leave a mark and I also knew that if she wasn’t arrested this time she would continue to harass me physically as much as as she thought she would be able to get away with. So, I told her to hit me again. And she did. On my forehead near my right eye. That was the strike that got her arrested. But even after she got out of jail the harassment continued. And then Wall Street crumbled and I knew it would be just a matter of time before I lost my job. Continuous harassment from your roommates does not bode well as far as job productivity is concerned. In October of 2008, it happened. I have to say I’ve been fired before but I have never had a boss hug me after he told me. That was when I dropped my basket. I spent two weeks in Beth Israel hospital because the counselor provided by the city was afraid that I would hurt myself. I got better, but there was no chance of returning to the place I loved. Two years later I moved into my own apartment and I’m volunteering at a local equine therapy center and I’m applying for part time work. I’m on disability now, and so I truly can only work part time. But things are getting better. I still have a basket of dreams that I’m beginning to pick up, one at a time. My disability judge said that I have agoraphobia and he’s right. I may never be able to work full time but I can have a full life.