Please Know...

As I come to know the men and women of Kensington, specifically the homeless and addicted, their stories become increasingly sensitive and personal. Their collective story is what I am trying to share with you as my way of breaking the stereotypical beliefs that exist in regard to these fine people. Names are rarely their actual names and wherever I can do so, I might use the opposite pronoun (his/her, etc.) just to help increase their privacy.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Before The demon Came Calling...

The following is written more like a novel.  Events have happened at some point in the recent past.  I am not an actual father but felt led to write this from that perspective...

I had recently learned that my daughter was living under one of two bridges in Kensington.  She's been dealing with addiction for years.  She's the apple of my eye, the young love of my life.  I've visited those bridges a few times in hopes of finding her.  Tonight, I did.

She was off by herself, having a hard time standing.  She was within eyesight of the rest of the bridge community and yet in a location where the driver of any passing car could easily stop and scoop her up for their own illicit plans.  I walked over to her.

"Hi, Melanie."  With a slobbery lean, she looked at me and smiled a bewildered and slightly embarrassed smile.  "Hi, Dad.  Why are you here?"  "You're my daughter and I love you."

For the next hour, I stayed with Melanie as she alternated from standing more or less straight up to sinking lower and lower until those moments when her head rested on the urine fragranced sidewalk on the opposite side of the road from the tented men and women of this particular bridge community.  There was a definite cycle to the process.  In her alert moments, she looked at me, smiled as her nose ran and drool found her t-shirt.  "You're still here?"  "Of course I am. You're my daughter and I love you."

In one of those coherent moments in this ongoing cycle, I said to Melanie that I wish we could go to McDonald's as we did when she was a child.  "Can I get a chocolate milkshake?" she asked in the midst of her high.  "Of course you can."  That was always her favorite.

For the next hour or so, my adorable weeble wobbled and never fell down.

Without any hint of this moment coming, Melanie stood up, looked at me and repeated, "Dad?"  You're still here?"  "Of course I am Melanie.  You're my daughter and I love you."

"Can we go to McDonald's?"

"Yes.  Let's go."

"I have to change my shirt first."

"That's fine.  I'll wait."

Maybe twenty minutes later, my princess reappeared, cleaned up, wearing a beautiful long flowing bright pastel colored summer dress.  Her makeup was perfect.  Memories of days long since past flooded my mind as she walked toward me.  How can such a beautiful woman call this underside of a Conrail overpass 'home'?

Dinner by way of the McDonalds drive through was exquisite.  We had decided to drive through and park along Lehigh Avenue so as to be able to chat privately.  She and I ordered the same things, breakfast foods and chocolate shakes, just as we had done in younger days before the demon came knocking on our family door.

After dinner, as we drove, Melanie asked me to pull over on a side street.  She opened the door, begged me not to leave and quickly explained that she needed to do a quick date so as to raise funds for her medicine.  My heart began to explode.  And that's when God stepped very noticeably into this night.

"BE CALM.  I GOT THIS.  ALL WILL BE WELL.  I WANT YOU TO SEE WHAT MY LADY CHILDREN ON THE STREET ENCOUNTER EVERY DAY AND  EVERY NIGHT.  ALL WILL BE WELL.  JUST OBSERVE.  YOU WILL KNOW WHAT TO DO NEXT."

For maybe the next half hour, my daughter love paced around the intersection a hundred feet behind my car.  I watched in my rearview mirror as she watched for cars slowing down to look at her.  Her pastel colors stood out in the street light darkness of the night.

On three occasions, 'men' pulled over on the opposite side of the same street where I was parked.  My precious daughter cautiously walked up to their passenger window and engaged in whatever conversation happens in that moment.  The third 'man' had parked exactly across from my car.  Melanie slowly walked up to his passenger window.  I could see her face as she realized that this third attempt was not interested in her either.  With each 'rejection' I could see her countenance of joy from the evening deteriorate.  I couldn't take it anymore.  I couldn't take realizing that I may witness my flesh and blood possibly 'going down' on some guy who doesn't care about her in any way shape or form.

As that third car sped away, my angel looked broken.  I motioned to Melanie to come over.  She got back in my car. 

"How much money do you need for your medicine to get you through the night?"

She paused and thought and said with no sence of pride...

"Forty dollars would keep me reasonably comfortable through the next eight hours."

Maybe I'm wrong but I think this is what a Dad would do in such a situation…

I gave her the money and drove her to a location where she suggested I pull over.  She walked around a corner, her pastels disappearing and came back within five minutes with her medicine for the night.  She prepared her first dose and stuck her previously used needle into her human form I had helped create only a very a few decades ago five times before finding a vein that would accept the injection. 

As her 'medicine' began to take effect, Melanie mellowed and settled into a position of her head on my lap as she had done so often in her childhood, long before the demon came calling.

My heart ached for the return of the peace and pleasure of those days.  For now, I needed to know that this fine daughter of my making was, at least for this night, back with me and content to be so. 

In those days of Melanie's childhood, I would often brush her hair as we would watch the Saturday morning lineup of cartoons.  Tonight, as I looked down at my beautiful gift from God, I noticed how knots had found their way into her curly locks.  I found a travel kit that was within reach and pulled out a hairbrush.  For the next hour or so, Melanie laid there semi-conscious and fully aware that I was brushing her hair.  Addiction and homelessness, streetwalking and dating, and maybe even the demon itself seemed to take the night off. 

The best of nights come to a close at some point…

I took God's gift to me back to where we had started hours before.  Out of respect for her adulthood and in spite of my heartache, we said goodnight with a hug and a kiss…   Oh, and that silly little nose rub that we did from time to time… before the demon came calling.


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