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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Who Can Fix Her? Flat On Her Back In The Freezing Rain

this is not her. It could be her.
So, last week, I was driving to pick up a kid from school. And from the corner of my eye, I saw a woman flat on her back in the freezing rain. 

My kid in the car said, "No." I backed up and turned onto the short side street. I rolled down my window. "Sweetie," I said. "Are you okay?" 

The woman was dark, her afro short. She struggled to half-sit up. She yelled at me, something "bitch," something "no", something "hit me," something "Go away." Her eyes were crazy, sad, furious, terrified. I thought, she once was somebody's baby. 

The back of her bright pink coat was wet. I couldn't leave her there. She didn't want us, though, so I stopped talking to her. 

I drove past her carefully and turned the car around so we faced her. I couldn't reach my phone so I used my kid's. (Kid has a phone because of a disability.) I called 911. We waited. 

A white guy, well-dressed, came close to her, talking. She tried to crab away from him, struggled to sit up, snarling. 

I thought, "He's scaring her." I got out. 

The man said, "She's on some trip. I know. I'm in recovery. I know those trips." I thought of a woman I know, from a well-to-do family, bipolar and an alcoholic, in recovery. I thought of another woman I know, raised in foster care, also bipolar and an alcoholic, falling through the cracks. 

I walked next to the woman. "Oh, Lord," she said. "Get away, bitch. Get away. I got to get up. I got to." She scrabbled again, trying to get up. There was a bottle next to her, cheap whisky, open. mostly drunk. 

"I'm a mama," I said. "You've got a mama here now." I wondered if her mama had been kind or brutal or in-between or both. "There's a mama here," I said. 

"He hit me. He hit me in the head." 
Her face screwed up in pain.

The white man walked off down the street. 
This not her. It could be her.

I said again, "There's a mama here." She was so broken. I wondered if anybody could ever fix her. She was a baby once. Somebody's baby. I called the school, where my baby was, and told the secretary we'd be late. "I have to stay until the ambulance comes," I said. 

A short, brown man walked up, coming from the direction of the half-way house, which I know is about five blocks north. He had a scraggly beard, but it didn't look hip. He didn't look hip. He looked nearly as badly off as the woman. He said, "Sandra." 

She crabbed her feet away from him, but she couldn't move. He backed away. 

I tried to think of a lullaby. I tried to think of a spiritual. I've done so much research on the Civil Rights Movement. I tried to remember a song from the many. All I could think of was Amazing Grace. I wondered if the lyrics would seem an attack on her, so I began to hum it. I didn't know if I was making things worse or better. Music reaches places that nothing else can reach. I just stood there and hummed. 

The police car pulled up. It was our neighbor, Officer White. He's brown, too. He's tall, handsome and very kind. We've met his children and his grandchildren. He grew up in the neighborhood. He asked the woman's name. She kept muttering.  The man who knew her said, "Hello, Brother White. She's Sandra Brown. She's about fifty. She's in a bad way." Then, he leaned over her. "Let me get rid of this." He picked up the half-empty bottle, picked up the lid, put it on, and stuck the bottle in the pocket of his coat. 

Officer White didn't say anything about the guy picking up the bottle. He spoke to the woman. "Miss Brown. Can you sit up?" 

"Oh, Lord. Got to sit up. Got to get out of here." Her face creased up the middle, the crease made by how tightly she was holding her mouth. "He hit me. He hit me." She put her hand up and touched her head in the same spot. 

Officer White didn't go near. He called for an ambulance. 

Another police car pulled up. The officer was Hmong, stocky, his face round. I thought I recognized him from when a car slid into mine two years ago. "We need backup on this one," said Officer White. 

"I'm staying," I said. "She needs to have a Mama here." Officer White nodded. We all waited. My child got out of the car and stood, at a distance, and called hello to Officer White. I kept on humming, just loudly enough for Sandra Brown to hear. 

An ambulance showed up. They unloaded a gurney with a hydraulic lift. Sandra Brown was tiny, but limp. I hoped they didn't hurt their backs. I said, "They will keep you safe." I hoped they could keep her safe. I hoped they could help her. The woman I know, the one in foster care, got some help after she was hospitalized, after she tried to kill herself, after she lost custody of her children, after she lost control of her drinking, after she lost her house, after her landlord lost his mortgage, after she lost her husband, after her mother lost her life, after her mother lost custody of her children. She got help, the woman I know. They got her medications stabilized--the one for the kidney disease she inherited from her mother, the one for the bipolarity, the one for the OCD. She got Dialectical behavioral therapy. She got a new vocabulary. She got a lot saner. She got pregnant. She got booted out of the housing for women and out of the DBT and out of the help. I fear for her and her children. We have lost touch. 

I hope this woman gets help. At least we got her out of the middle of the street in the freezing rain. 
And her name is not really Sandra Brown. 

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