Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A 26th Summer



I worked hard in the spring, trying to save my money. When the summer hit, I was out of work. I had a little over a grand saved, but I knew that I would use most of it throughout the summer paying for rent, utilities, and gas. I had plans on getting on food stamps and unemployment, as well as paying off and taking care of an infraction charge from Alameda County of $174, or 17 hours of community service. During the early part of the summer, right when work had ended, I took a trip up to Point Reyes. There's this abandoned boat that's beached up on the shore that I like to walk around on. While up there, I noticed that there was lots of graffiti and stencils now up on the boat. Not to be out done, I left my own mark, and when finished turned around to leave the boat. I fell straight down into the hole, as my foot slipped through an opening. My hand reached out and I grabbed a bunk to my left. My left index finger broke, although I didn't know it at the time. The doctor I finally saw told me that it was the worst break that he had ever seen, as the bone in my knuckle that was broken when it healed, would attach itself to the other bones, making it impossible for me to move my finger more than 25 degrees.

Thus began a long oddessy in my summer, the search for health care. I had not gone to the doctor in over 10 years, never broken a bone, nothing. My SEIU won health care via my parents was up, now that I was 26, and I now had a plan that included a $4,000 depuctable. This simply meant that if I was to go the hospital for treatment, I would have to pay the first four grand of any operation, visit, or surgery. The cry of "health care for all" that Obama had rode in on, of course now has been dilluted and destroyed, buried under so much government red tape, that no poor or working person now has any hope of seeing their health care paid for by the state anytime soon. So, since my finger couldn't be fixed by "hope" and "change," instead I had to find another way of getting a doctor to look at it. I first check around at the local clinics. Just to see a doctor would cost me between $120 and $160. That's just to get in the door. I soon learned that what I needed was a complicated process. I needed first for a doctor to look at my finger and tell me if it was broken or not. Then, I need to get x-rays, which I could could only get with a doctor's note. Then, I had to find a doctor to look at the x-rays and tell me if I needed surgery, and finally, I had to get that surgery.

I lucked out one day while driving a friend in Stockton, as I found a small clinic with a nice enough doctor inside. She looked at my finger in the lobby and told me that it was probably broken. She also gave me a note for an x-ray, saving me of paying a bill for a simple clinic doctor's visit. I then manage to find a cheap x-ray place that would take the x-ray's for only $40 in Stockton. It had now been almost two weeks of me having a broken finger until I got to this point. During this whole time, I was also running around, dealing with getting on food stamps and unemployment. Food stamps was easy enough, however unemployment proved to be quite difficult. After my telephone interview, the unemployment department denied my claim, stating that I was on a "recess" as a substitute teacher, and thus was not able to receive benefits. Through a friend however, I learned that I knew someone who could help me legally. Thus, I went down to CRLA, or County Rural Legal Assistance, a non-profit that helps low-income people in legal trouble. They do a lot of cases dealing with evictions, benefits, or police brutality. My lawyer then helped me write out an appeal and I sent it in.

As I was dealing with this, my parents decided to bite the bullet, and pay for me just to see a doctor that they had had with my x-rays. The doctor walked in, looked at my x-rays and simply, "you need surgery." My father explained that this was all part of their game, which in the end was all about money. Don't trust them he told me, "fuck him, he drives a Porche." Just as quickly as he had come in, the doctor left. Almost a month had passed since breaking my finger at this point. Finally, after a week of waiting for the surgery doctor to see me, I finally got a call from another office and went into see the doctor who informed me that my finger would never be the same again. I would never get a full range of motion back from my finger. He encouraged me to get surgery though, because there was a chance that I could get some range of motion back from an operation. Several more weeks went by, as the hospital waited for any more to come in for the deductable, which had to be paid for by my mother's parents, as my own didn't think it was worth it (and it wouldn't be), and I had no way of paying that much. They had their own money problems to worry about; as state workers, the govenor was threatening to take their pay down to minimum wage in order to balance the budget.

I got my surgery finally. After a week, the cast pissed me off to the point where decided to take it off. Looking at the stich job on my finger, I almost vomited. It looked like a miniature shark bite. I also noticed that the stitching job left much to be desired, as the middle part of the finger had a portion of open exposed flesh that the stiching had not kept locked inside the skin. As I waited for my finger to heal, I found myself back in court. I was facing a misdeamor charge of vandalization of a public building steeming from a January 2010 incident, where I was detained for several other people after been caught wheatpasting anti-budget cut posters. Thus, I along with two others out of a group of 7 people to be caught up that night, became a target in the university's struggle against student organizers that were part of a growing swell against cuts to education and rising costs.

Coming back from the court house that day, I stopped and talked with a homeless friend of mine about squatting and went to the unemployment department to make sure of where to mail my unemployment appeal. On my way back, I got a call from a friend of mine, saying that she was coming by with her sister and her kids. She had dated a good friend of mine several years back, but had recently come back around to hang out because her piece of shit ex-boyfriend.

I remember dumbly wondering to myself as I walked to my house if my friends sister was going to be attractive. I looked nice in my court clothes, but being a 250 pound dude walking around in rolled up sleeves in over 100 degree weather generally makes me sweat so hard that I get shapes of purseperation in the back of my shirt that look like the Wu-Tang symbol. My friend held the gate to my house open and the first thing that I noticed about her was her eyes, and how intense they were. She looked me in the eyes the entire time that I walked up to my house and smiled at me. I kept looking at her throughout the entire hour that she and her sister were at my house with her sister's three children. Her hair was done back, and she had a very athletic body. I hardly spoke to her that day, but was extreamly attracted to her. She didn't seem weird out at all by the fact that I was in court, which I liked. I made a lunch of grilled cheese sandwhiches for everyone; laying them out like a white trash Martha Stewart, as I supplied drinks and watered the swamp cooler. They left my house, and I said good bye, already trying to come up with senarios in my head in which I could see her again.

Luckily, we were throwing a benefit dinner at my house for a friend who would use the money to get on a work release program and avoid jail time for vandalism charges. I figured if I could compose myself well enough, I could invite her to my house again to hang out. But, before I could text my friend and get her sis's number, she texted me on my way home with my roommate. Feeling quite the cassanova, I texted back and forth with her, something that I rarely since it annoys the shit out of me. She asked me to join her and her sis for coffee the day of the dinner, made akward by me, because a person I had dated was working at the cafe, but luckily we took our drinks outside and soon we were enjoying things. We left the cafe and went to my house, where we made breakfast with my roommate, who as always, made quite the impressive dishes. Then, we took a drive to Antioch to pick my friend who needed to work on his car which he had left at my house. I enjoyed the car ride because her and I talked about a lot of things. She talked a lot about her ex-husband, her ex-boyfriend, her kids, and the things that interested her. Pool, horses, music, her friends.

She and I spend the next week and a half together, To me, it seemed that what she wanted most of all, was to find her own way, independent of any man. She loved her children. They were beautiful, and loved her back. Kissing her often and hugging her with much affection. When I first met them, I went to Wal-Greens after buying corn dogs and watermelons at Grocery Outlet, and bought them a $30 kids pool. The signs dotted across our street that we had put up for a neighbor down the street that read "Slow Down! Kids at Play!" took on new meaning, as the combined five kids enjoyed themselves in the pool.

The next morning, I went into the hospital tired, but thinking back fondly of the intimacies and kept that happiness with me as the doctors put me under. I woke up with a cast and then quickly got the fuck out of the hospital. She was over at my house often in the coming days. She loved my eyes. She didn't judge me for doing what I had to do. She was great at pool. She was one of those people who grew up in poverty and was stronger for it. I always wanted to tell her that I loved her, but at first I was afraid that it was too soon. One night she asked me if would ever fall in love with her. I wanted to tell her that I already had, but I told her instead, "of course." She asked me why, and I replied because she was artistic. Because she was a strong person. She loved her children and they loved her back. She was beautiful. But most of all, because so much bad had happened to her, and in the end, she was still excited and happy about life, and was an incredibly good person. That last night together was amazing; and she painted a huge painting in the garage that is still there.

I was out of town when her sister called me. She said that she couldn't even say the words; but I knew she was dead. People wonder if they will find the guy that hit her in his truck and drove off, but it won't bring her back. They say that she placed herself in front of her neice who was jogging with her, in order to keep her from getting hit.

They told me that while I was gone, the police came by from a noise complaint. "We're sorry. We know that you're grieving," they said. Perhaps a shimmering of humanity through the physiological warfare? As if to say, "We're sorry about today, but tomorrow the war goes on." It does, and so will I. After my 26th summer.