[soundscape] on where you are now

sleeping bravely

photo: ‘sleeping, bravely.’

song: peter and the wolf – “safe travels”

i was 19. i had moved, recently, from los angeles, where i had been homeless [sleeping in my car, then sleeping in my office when my engine seized] for a month before moving to colorado. i went through bouts of almost- and near- and essentially-homelessness for a few months before finally getting approved for an apartment.

when i found out i had been approved, i was professional and courteous on the phone. i didn’t act surprised. i acted non-chalant. like getting approved for an apartment was normal and that i was like every other 19 year old girl. after walking the many miles to my new apartment and finally being able to pick up the keys, it was late at night.

i unlocked the door.

i walked into the bathroom and i realized that i could bathe whenever i wanted.

for the first time in months, i cried.

my new apartment cost $400 a month; though i was employed, i had lied on my rental application about my income by about $10,000 a year. $400 a month was an astronomical amount for me.

i had to pay the rent late every month.

6 months later, my financial situation hadn’t improved. i worked as many hours as i could, however i was low on the work totem pole and didn’t get great shifts. to make extra money, my boyfriend and i decided to go and sell plasma at a local blood bank.

if you’ve ever donated or sold plasma or blood, you know how this system works. you show up at 6:30 AM so you’re first in line when they open at 7, because they only buy a certain amount of plasma a day and they don’t set appointments. you fill out your paperwork, you sit for two hours watching cartoons on silent. the closed captioning is too small to read.

once you get called in for a preliminary interview, they ask about your sexual history and what drugs you do in an aggressive and violating way. weed is okay, meth is not. they ask this because everyone who sells plasma is addicted to something.

i was addicted to cigarettes. and bathing.

after your preliminary interview, you’re approved or denied. if the former, then you wait around for another hour [the TV has switched to Maury] before getting called up for a blood sample.

my number had been called.

they took my heart rate, they asked me to pump my arm, they pulled a sample. then i was taken to a room where they analyzed everything.

“i’m sorry,” they told me, “your blood pressure is too low. we can’t accept any samples from you.”

next up was my boyfriend, who was approved. the knot in my stomach relaxed as he was led to the back to donate.

while i sat in the front waiting for him, i planned how to spend the $70 we’d receive from his donation. i was going to buy a coffee and pack of cigarettes; i knew he’d want pizza.

i was peaceful.

but then a nurse came from behind the closed door and though she was still 20 feet away, i knew she was headed my direction. she pointed at me and motioned to come over. i followed her and found out that my boyfriend had vomited and passed out while they were pulling the plasma.

they couldn’t finish the donation. there wasn’t enough already donated for a full sample. we wouldn’t be paid.

i helped my boyfriend out to the car; it had gotten hot in the 5 hours we had been at the clinic and the air conditioning didn’t work. my boyfriend was groggy and had vomit all over himself. it smelled horrible.

as i drove home hungry and tired and hot, worried about my 72-hour eviction notice, desperately wanting a cigarette, i realized that this had been the worst day of my life. 6 years later and it still is.

which is an amazing thing, really.

that at 25 years, i’ve already gotten one of my really horrible experiences out of the way. like at the beginning of life, a predetermined number of spiders are released into the walls of your life’s apartment and i had already found and killed one of them. and undoubtedly, i’ll encounter the other spiders soon — spiders of death and illness and not being able to take care of my loved ones — but one spider is gone.

and where you are now, you’ve killed some, too. and since starting the journey, you’ve acquired a shoe, maybe, or a broom or a kleenex of wisdom and experience to help kill these spiders as they materialize. you’ll continue to be better adapted, and you’ll continue to become wiser.

and soon after encountering a spider, you’ll realize that you’re bigger — you’re almost six feet tall. and you’re stronger.

and you’ll be fine.

photo by bari sowa more

2 comments to [soundscape] on where you are now

  • Bigplatts

    I really liked this article, I’m still in school so I can’t relate to it all but I liked the whole spiders analogy, although don’t really think I’ve killed many of mine yet.

    Also, hate to be that guy but why no capital letters? Is it just your general style; I thought it actually worked pretty well.

    barisowa Reply:

    hi, bigplatts. thank you for the compliments. the funny thing about looking back on the life that you’ve lived is that everything looks different in retrospect. you might still be in school, but the small, silent decisions you make in the morning over coffee or while sitting in traffic are often the biggest ones you can make. and everything you experience — all of it — helps enable you to handle things better or differently in the future. i’m sure your experiences now are shaping the way you’ll be better and stronger tomorrow.

    and no initial caps :) the funny thing — or interesting, rather — is that i work as an editor in advertising, so i’m “that guy” every day from 9 to 5. it’s more ee cummings-type style than not knowing any better; when you know the rules, you know how to break them.