“People whom fate and their sin-mistakes have placed in a certain position, however false that position may be, form a view of life in general which makes their position seem good and admissible. . . . This surprises us when the persons concerned are thieves bragging about their dexterity, prostitutes vaunting their depravity, or murders boasting of their cruelty. But it surprises us only because the circle, the atmosphere, in which these people live, is limited, and chiefly because we are outside it. Can we not observe the same phenomenon when the rich boast of their wealth-robbery, when commanders of armies pride themselves on their victories-murder, and when those in high places vaunt their power-violence? That we do not see the perversion in the views of life held by these people, is only because the circle formed by them is larger and we ourselves belong to it.” (Resurrection, Leo Tolstoy, trans. Louise Maude)

New Readers:

Please start reading with my first post "A Cup of Coffee". Originally posted on March 19, the archival date changed when I made corrections on May 13, which is the date under which you can find it now.

I'll learn to manage this all more smoothly someday, but at present I have at most only an hour online each day (that thanks to the San Francisco Public Library system, without which I would be lost).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Difficult Day or Two

Yesterday, hunger made me by turns restless and tired all day.
I awoke at 7:27 yesterday morning, just three minutes before my daily “Wake Up!” alarm would sound on my phone. I waited for it, stopped it, and stayed in bed, dozing as much as I could, until late morning. I had that first feeling hunger brings: enervation, a lack of energy profound enough to make you feel that if you got to your feet you might totter and even fall down before you could walk anywhere.

I had three possible sources of hope to look forward to. At 1:30 this afternoon, I would be able to pick up seven frozen dinners, my weekly allotment from Project Open Hand. Sometime around 3:00, the mail would arrive, and it might include a check for $25, payment for a piece of writing I sold, or a check for $400, payment for working as an Event Coordinator for a company that holds seminars at the Grand Hyatt once a month.

I stayed in bed to conserve energy until it was time to walk the four blocks to Open Hand. While waiting, my hunger progressed to the stage of nervous energy, a restlessness bordering on anxiety that prevents sleep but does not provide resources for much physical activity. I used that time to text my supervisor at the seminar company to ask whether this week’s seminar was still scheduled and to ask when I would get my check for last month. I then learned that I was supposed to have sent an invoice for the seminar three weeks ago. So I had to give up hope for the $400 check, but the meals and the possibility of $25 still lay ahead of me.

I brought the meals home shortly after 1:30. Back in my room I heated one in the microwave, ate it, and then heated and ate another. I knew that I would be doing yard work and getting paid for it tomorrow, so I didn’t have to worry that a second meal now would leave me short at the end of the week.

Reinvigorated at last, I went down to the community room and used the computer there to send the required invoice by email. Then I walked to Walgreen’s to pick up my HIV meds. (I had missed taking them for two days because when I got there Saturday evening, the pharmacy window was already closed, and yesterday I had no time even to try to get there.) Walking there, I phone my sister PD and told her about this blog and the two writing jobs it has brought me. On the walk home, I had a conversation with a stranger that led to a blessing.

When I got home, I discovered that the mail had arrived with nothing for me. I counted the pennies in the little bowl where I let change collect, and found that, with the few quarters, dimes, and nickels also in the bowl, I had a total of $2.07. I checked my bank balance by phone: $2.84. Since it costs $.50 to use a debit card for less than $5.00, I would have to make do with the $2.07 in cash. I wanted something filling and something sweet, the latter to comfort me before bed. I settled on a large baguette, which cost $1.50. I ate about half of it with some cheese I had in the fridge. Later I will finished it with sugar and cinnamon for my treat before bed.

But let me return to the conversation and blessing I mentioned above.

I stopped to look at the menu in the window of a sandwich shop on market at Ninth Streets. I had noticed the place before but had never looked to see their prices. The first number I saw was $7. I didn’t even bother to see what it was that cost that much. I already knew it was out of my league.

I heard a voice asking directions and thought it might be directed at me, so I remained engrossed in the menu. Then I heard the voice being answered by another voice, and they conversed. I turned and glanced at the two women, one in white, with dark glasses and a deep tan, and the other in blue, fair, with hair mussed by the wind. The fair one directed the other to me for directions, and I pointed her in the most direct way to her destination. As we two who remained began to walk down Market, we began to talk.

For some reason we talked about the birth years of the people who raised us, my parents and her grandparents, who were contemporaries. I said how glad I was to have been raised by people who lived through the Depression and who knew how to make things, how to repair and restore things, and how to keep things and keep them up. She agreed with me, and as we came to part at the dentist’s door (she was going for an extraction, on which topic I commiserated with her), she was saying that she had considered giving classes on basic survival, or rather self-dependence, skills. We said goodbye, and she said, “Bless you.”

“Bless you,” I said.

That was yesterday. Today I awoke at 7:30 hungry. I had an appointment with my therapist at AHP at 9:00. I struggled, not wanting to get out of bed to go. I decided to call and leave a message explaining that I needed to find food instead of keeping our appointment. I had just $2.84 available on my debit card, and if I spent $2.00 on a MUNI ride to therapy, I would have to walk to work later. I would arrive to do strenuous yard work already tired.

As I lay there my hunger moved into yet another mode, the one of physical pain in the mid- abdomen. I let myself sleep again.

When the time for work came, I made three cups of coffee, loaded each with sugar, and drank them in the half-hour before I left. I had plenty of energy to work 4 hours and left with cash to buy food on the way home.

It had been a difficult but brief period.