A couple a weeks ago I was walking in China Town/Gallery Place in NW DC. I was on my way to a job interview that I did not want but would have taken it out of desperation if offered. Jut before I got off the train, I exchanged my flip flops for my black leather Calvin Klein sling back heels that I purchased pre-prison to go with my black Calvin Klein suit.
China Town is tricky in DC. Many of the sidewalks are brick and have traps for those of us strutting around in heels hoping for jobs we don’t want. I was trying so damn hard not to get stuck and trip (which has happened before). It was warm, I was deciding if I should take a Xanax because I was recently homeless and staying in a very crowded and hostile place. Thus, I was exhausted from having nightmares and my life felt like (feels like) one shit show after the other.
As I struggled to stay upright and look “normal” this man passed by me and said, “Oh yeah, you got that look?” He was short, dirty, and looked at me as if I was responsible for his height and hygiene issues. I responded, “Well I don’t know what ‘that look’ is and whatever it is I don’t want it.” This JackAss looked me up and down (obviously angry about his shortness and homelessness) and said, “When I knock yo’ ass down then you know what fuckin’ look I’m talkin’ bout.”
Fascinating. Here I was deciding if I needed to take a Xanax to keep my shit together and this asshole threatens me. I stopped in the middle of the crowded sidewalk, full of its traps, and said, as I pulled out my pink canister of mace, “Well you should know when you try and knock me down I’m going to mace your ass and then you can tell me if I got that look. Asshole!” Then magically my anxiety vanished. I straightened my suit and walked steady and strong.
At the same time I felt deep sadness that I pass without even trying. I have no shame about being a Returning Citizen. I suffer humiliation because the media decided mendacities sell better than honesty, but time will heal that wound and truth will out. I have no guilt about being queer, but I feel immense shame about my mental health struggles. My biggest hurtle is myself and believing that I need to “confess” my story, as my boss explains to me. I owe no one my story except for my son.
If people choose to appropriate me for their own purposes and refuse to see me, I cannot change their ideas and beliefs. But here is the truth: I am homeless; I have three weeks left in the hotel paid for by a government agency that helps victims of crime and then I don’t know what will happen if I cannot find an apartment; and each and every day I battle with anxiety and random triggers.
Here is the more important truth: If you knock me down I’m going to get back up and then you should run. I’m no longer waking up everyday planning my death or thinking, “If it gets too bad I can kill myself.” Instead, I wake up, pull myself together and do the work of surviving so that other women like me will live easier. As Miki Howard sings, “You can count me down, but you can’t count me out.”