Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Riverbank Rooms


Caveat: I hesitate to write about people someone might recognize later. Just trust me that the only reason I don't crucify everyone I come into contact with is because I am being polite. If you consider yourself above my new housemates then take a good look in the mirror. If you want your nose to stay in the same location you will not peak ill of my friends. With that in mind, enjoy!

Within the first five minutes of signing my rental agreement at Riverside Rooms I was reading a book called “Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul”. Really, I was just looking at it to distract me from the conversation going on in front of me,

Nancy: They called Missy the crack whore of Laconia. She was out on the street swinging a baseball bat.
Missy: I only beat that man because he choked me.
Nancy: Haw!
Missy: In court he accused me of fucking his parole officer, stealing from him, smoking crack. None of that was true.
Nancy: Haw!
Missy: On the way out of court I looked at his parole officer and said ‘I wouldn’t mind fucking you, precious.’
Nancy: Haw!

I couldn’t pay attention to the book I was looking at but the very fact there is a chicken soup edition targeting prison inmates, and that edition was in the give-and-take library at Riverside Rooms, disturbed me. This wasn’t prison but I suspected most of the residents would know the difference. A woman, Alice, walked in. She had a dozen impressive tattoos on her arms and a “Laconia Bike Week” t shirt.

Alice: I don’t mind sharing my shit. Just put it back. And I don’t mind sharing my food.
Oggy: That’s awful considerate of you.
Alice: I work the 3am shift, so don’t party all night.
Oggy: Where? I’m looking for work.
Alice: McDonalds. You get free food but I get sick when I eat there. I like to cook. I can ask my manager if they got an opening.

I said nothing as Alice tossed a flank steak into a bed of onions.

Alice: Who stole my measuring cup? Nancy, did you pawn that off for crack?
Nancy: Haw!
Missy: I got it.
Alice: Oggy, you in 26?
Oggy: Yes.
Alice: That was Doug’s room. He’s in jail now.
Missy: Doug’s an idiot. I told him to stay clean.
Nancy: Haw!
Alice: They got him. That’s it. You like steak, Oggy?
Oggy: Yeah. I eat anything.

When Missy’s back is turned (she’s the house manager) Alice smokes a ghost joint with her fingers to her lips and raises her eyebrows. I shrug and make a non-committal expression. Alice nods and flips the steak. I turn to go. I almost get out the door when Missy says something about her peptic ulcer. I feel obliged to show some sympathy but the truth is that I’m not feeling too good myself. As I nod slowly I examine the door keys Missy has just given me in exchange for $167. The keychain has a blue plastic tag attached. At first I thought it was a bank gift or an airline souvenir. Upon closer examination I read “Clean & Serene For Six Months” The other side says “NA”.
Now, this is the first time I have really been in the house and this is my first introduction to the residents and it seems completely custoMissy to hand out front door keys attached to a Narcotics Anonymous keychain. You don’t get one of those keychains because you smoked a little pot back in high school. No, you’ve got to get married to crack or cocaine or heroin or meth and then petition for a divorce. But crystal meth doesn’t recognize divorce petitions like the Vatican doesn’t recognize gay marriages. So you go to NA, a counselor between you and the meth.
You say to the meth, “I really don’t think this is working out.”
And the meth says, “That’s because you’re trying to break us up. You’re nothing without me.”
And you believe the meth because abstaining is actually causing more problems than using.
The meth continues, “Now go back home and do a line. You’ll feel so much better.” And the meth is telling the truth and is, honestly, an authority on feeling better, so why shouldn’t you do as you’re told? Furthermore, the meth is the only one who seems to care how you feel while everyone else just wants you to do things that are so boring. Although, there is that court ordered drug counseling to consider…
“Fuck the court!” Says the meth. “Where were they when you needed them? They aren’t your friend. I’m your friend.”
Again, the meth is right. The court wasn’t there when you needed them but was like Batman and Robin when you just wanted to be left alone. Why should you listen to them?
That’s where NA comes in and tells you that you are powerless over meth, which is true, and that by surrendering yourself to your higher power you stand a chance of getting the divorce you want. After a six month separation you receive this keychain as a statement of your accomplishment and also as a reminder that meth is waiting for you a few blocks away and would be happy to reunite. Every time you enter Riverside Rooms you see that keychain and remember that the divorce is final.

This keychain speaks volumes about my new home because first, it belonged to someone who lived here and second because they didn’t take it off. There is no room for pleasantries. The world ain’t perfect. We are all in survival mode now and the days of matching sheets are over. Everyone is in agreement: this is the house where you come to terms with your limitations.

As Missy said to me moments earlier,

Missy: My biological mother is dying. Know what I told her?
Oggy: What?
Missy: I hope you get to heaven. That’s it. 18 foster homes in 16 years and she wants me to care? No.

This is the house where you finally write off your estranged son, your ex wife or your biological mother. If you haven’t quit smoking by the time you get here then you ain’t ever going to quit smoking. End of story. You’ll die a smoking fool. Whatever loose ends you drag into this house are going to stay loose ends and it is just better to let them go. You want to get back the figure you had in 1998? You won’t. Fuck it. Smoke some pot. Work at a valve factory. Sleep when you can. The dream is over. Eat a cold tv dinner. Living is for the young and you, my friend, are not young. The only thing you can do is stay warm until your peptic ulcer ruptures. You’ve been miserable, no doubt, for years before you end up here. But opening your crooked door and sitting down on your sagging mattress finally allows you to be ok with your misery. Now it is justified. Look around you; you should be miserable. There will be no prince with your slipper, no high school sweetheart with a promise ring, no returning soldier to take you away. What is gone is lost forever and what you have is right in front of your eyes. There will be no estate sales when you die. Your personal effects will go straight to the Goodwill donation bin in trash bags.

Before you arrived you would look in the mirror and do a dozen things to fix your sad reflection. But you don’t do that at Riverside Rooms. You just look in the mirror to make sure you don’t have any blood on your chin.

Oggy: I gotta get some boxes.
Missy: Ok, babe. You let me know if you need anything.
Alice: And don’t piss on the toilet seat.
Nancy: Haw!

Creative Commons License
Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.