Last week was so quiet at the Day Center all I had to write about were the dogs, so I took a break.
Today was so crazy I don't know where to start.
It's Ash Wednesday and, from all available evidence at the Day Center, National Spill Your Coffee Day.
JE, who I've known for years, usually comes in, pulls a book out of his pocket, reads for an hour over coffee and then takes off. This morning he came in (still?) drunk, talked loud and barely managed to stay out of trouble. He left late, then returned for the gloves he'd forgotten.
JC, usually talkative and good for plenty to write about, said not a word to me today.
Vin, an African-American drinker who is not popular with the staff (he does have a chip on his shoulder) never causes me trouble. Apparently, though, he failed one of the attitude checks in the back and was shown the door. He tried to provoke the staffer who kicked him out, to no avail.
A new guy, call him Joe, showed up and blocked the entrance for about twenty minutes unloading his suitcase to display various shirts he had for sale. Joe and another guest negotiated at length, discussing color coordination, ironing, how much money Joe owed the buyer already. (The shirts were good quality, and he seemed to know the retail prices.) A deal was finally struck for five dollars, then eased up to seven.
Joe eventually signed in and brought in his suitcase and duffle. He is new here, not long out of prison, and recently from Denver. Before the morning was over it was apparent he didn't have to pay for his bus ticket here.
Joe was wound up. It was difficult to tell which substances might be providing the extra twist. He's long-haired, Hispanic, gay, addicted and flamboyant. Not the greatest combo for the room. Blue collar males who live in close quarters with strangers do not tend to have the most enlightened attitudes toward homosexuality.
He went around propositioning guests who did not want to play. Finally, one flared up, called him an effing faggot, and a circle of staff formed. Joe protested that he didn't do anything (and he didn't, if you consider soliciting drugs and unwilling boyfriends protected speech).
He said he was calling the cops but called a cab instead. The director asked him to wait for it outside and for his trouble was berated by Joe for wearing ugly pants and shoes.
There was multilayered drama among the women, too, with two sides forming around a feud that involved a woman who wasn't there, which led to a bus assault on her daughter the day before. The antagonists avoided each other while their seconds talked behind backs. Third parties expressed willingness to help—either to fan the flames or put them out.
It was hard to tell.
A woman said she had been robbed last night. Everything had been taken out of her tent, which was new last week, and was left in the snow. The only thing missing was the tent.
Shawn comes in early, sleeps in a chair by me all morning and is the last to leave. He waits and uses the rest room after it's been cleaned.
Getting ready to leave, I said, "Office hours are about over, Shawn."
He said, "Elroy."
I had trouble processing.
"Nobody calls me Shawn except my mother."
I've hardly ever seen anyone talk to him.
"Today's her birthday."