Paranoia will destroy ya’

“Is everybody happy now?” The crying has stopped, the bottles have been drank. It’s Monday again. The yellow finches are back. Don’t forget to fill the bird feeder. Or deposit the check. Fiona’s busted lip looks better, her front tooth might be messed up by the way she’s eating pieces of toast and how she’s not eating her cheerios.”aaabagagaeeehhhaaggaga” Jack says. “O.K. are you ready to go play?” I ask. He swipes his hand across the high chair table knocking all the cheerios and toast pieces to the floor. Loud Screech. I put them in the living room. They’re free now.

“Did you hear that Richard pulled a knife out on the motel owners?” Say Christy. I was out early, real early for my morning stroll on the beach. News traveled down from the motel to the boardwalk. Richard was on his way. He was out of breath. I was scared, but I had an idea. We snuck around the allies until it was dark. The cops were looking for us. I felt a rush of excitement, I’m getting’ outta this town finally.” All our stuff was at the motel, including journals I had been keeping. Inside were writings about shadows that turned into people that turned into undercover cops. They were watching us. We were all paranoid. Before we got the job at the motel, we slept on the beach. Then we traded a quarter and a leather jacket for a tip about a boat we could stay on. The guy told us the owner was in jail. That night we slept on the swaying boat, I smelt the dampness and salt water and the stain on the mahogany cupboards. It was one of the best night sleeps I had in a long time. At first we swam back and forth from the shore. I felt healthy, the exercise, the salt water in my hair. Then we noticed a dingy no one had been using.  During the day we would stand outside Denny’s or 7-11 and ask for spare change. “Can you spare some change?” That’s all I would say. I didn’t have any sob story. Sometimes I would ask for a dime to make a phone call. Richard and I swept and washed dishes for a Mexican restaurant at the end of the boardwalk in exchange for burritos. I pawned my turquoise bracelet. We got canned food from the soup kitchen but we couldn’t eat it because we didn’t have a can opener.  We would spend the rest of our time walking up and down Mission BLVD looking for opportunities.

The babies just went down for their morning nap. I’ve got some free time, some alone time.  Maybe not yet. The babies are unsettled. I go make sure they still have Tiger and Blue Bear, then I bring them each a squeeze packet of Ella’s Baby Rice and banana. They sound happier now. O.K. maybe now. I started panicking when they wouldn’t fall asleep. My body got tense, what will I do with them? They are tired and cranky. They are picky eaters. Should I call Ramona and see if she can come now? Calm down. They are going to take a nap now. That’s my mind. Why I spent so much of my early years running. Hiding in the bushes. I still seek the solitude, the aloneness. “It’s too bad there’s a St.Vincent De Paul on B Street.” Alan says. He’s not the only one. I hear this sentiment from a lot of people in San Rafael. They don’t like the homeless. “San Rafael is a magnet for the homeless because we offer too many services.” They say. Or “They need to shut down Ritter House.” I don’t have any of those feelings. I was homeless. I was a drifter.

I tell Richard we should hitch to New York. My grandparents lived on Long Island. “I’m sure they’ll take us in.” That night we got our first ride to Santee. Our next ride was to Yuma. Penniless we sat under a tree being bitten by ants in 100 degrees, too hot to look for a ride or food. That night we scored our big ride all the way to Evansville, Indiana. I give Richard a kiss goodnight, he’s in the back on the cab on the bed. The truck driver says, “I told you no hanky panky.”  I say, “I’m just giving him a kiss goodnight and I’m movin’ up to the front.” He stops the semi on a dark piece of freeway, pulls out a gun from under his seat and tells us “Get the fuck outta my truck.” I cut my foot on the way out. Richard said there was wild marijuana growing on the side of freeways in Indiana. We looked at the silhouettes of all the bushes in the dark on the side of the freeway on our way to find civilization and another ride. We were hoping to find something to smoke. We sit outside a truck stop, the first and only thing we can find. In the morning a man comes out of the office, “You can’t hitch hike here, they don’t like hitchhikers around here.” We cross the street and stand at the freeway entrance. The whole day goes by. No one stops, hardly anyone drives through this on ramp all day. The motel manager felt sorry for us. He comes out and gives us a room for the night. He gives us a piece of cardboard and a marker. He says, “You gotta be outta here by tomorrow afternoon.” The next day we make a sign and use it to get a ride from a preacher and his wife. And that’s a story for another day.

The babies sound like they are finally going to take a nap. Fiona’s still making little noises but she always does that before she sleeps. I think I’ll listen to some good music and clean the kitchen.

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Thoughts on Motherhood Through the Eyes of an Artist