Sal

She came over last night. Texted first.

Hey you gonna be home 2night?

Yes, I’ll be there by 7 for damn sure – hopefully sooner. What’s up?

Holler when you get settled we can have a nightcap

Sounds good.

~

I’ve only met her twice. She lives across the street and is a friend of my roommates. We sat outside, laughing and toking and sipping alcoholic beverages, trading stories around a fire. (Well, I mostly listened and laughed as Sal and one of my roommates traded stories and bantered.)

I’d ignored her Thanksgiving text.

Hey this is sal across street. I’m making yummy food & watching football if you wanna come over

I heard the soft alert. Picked up the phone. Discovered my roommate must have given Sal my number. Swiped to read the text. Read the text. Turned the screen back off. Flipped my pillow over for a new, cooler side. Smooshed my face back into said pillow. And went back to sleep.

Though I apologized only a couple hours later and was honest about what my day looked like (this time of year is rough on me, y’all, but she was also alone), she hadn’t spoken to me since. And, of course, I’d read into that, but I shouldn’t have.

So this time, I immediately responded. “Sounds good. :-),” was my reply, even though it didn’t. Sound good, that is. It’s fucking cold out, and I knew she’d wanna hang outside. I was hungry. Grumpy. Sleepy. Itching to read my third book in as many days.

But Sal is lonely…no, starved for attention and affection is more like it. Polite. And harmless, if occasionally flirtatious. The roommate she’s closest to was out of town, and the other roommate hides in his room more often than not. So this would just be me. Me and Sal.

~

I get home from work, tend to the kittyboys, bust out the leaf blower to clear the back patio and pool cover, use the bathroom, wash my hands, pop open a sour, and let Sal know I’m home.

I perch myself on a kitchen stool and try to focus on the words of the book in my hand as I wait. Half an hour. Not really frustrated, but wishing I knew if I had time enough to eat.

I’m out back

As I’m opening the sliding glass door from the dining room to the patio, I see Sal standing there, slightly stooped over and cupping her hands to coax a flame from her lighter to the tip of her cigarette. She’s tall: a good six inches taller than me, at least. Sturdy, but not in the way “creative” authors use “sturdy” as some innovative and less-offensive term for “fat.” No, the woman is sturdy. Strong. I don’t know what hair, if any, she has. It’s winter, and I’ve only ever seen her with a hoodie on, over a beanie. No stragglers peeking out. She’s wearing tan colored overalls. The hoodie she’s donned over that is orange, and her beanie is gray. Fuchsia slippers adorn her feet. That’s right: slippers.

She has some mystery foot ailment, you see. I heard hints at it on the first night I met her, but last night she explained.

Doctors don’t know what ‘n the hell’s wrong with my feet. Open wounds. Blisters-like, but not blisters. They’re hard. Can’t stand them fuckin’ shoes any more’n I have to, so I put on my slippers soon ‘s I get home. Reckon I’ll lose my feet one o’ these days. But for now, these slippers sure are nice.

Sal, would you like to sit down?

Naw. I’m use ta standin’, but thanks.

Sal fires up a joint and puff-puff-passes it right on over to me. Of course, I oblige. And she chats.

And chats.

And chats.

That’s all Sal wanted, really, all she needed: someone to talk to. Not necessarily with, but to. And to know that that someone was listening, actually and actively listening. She’d first arrived under the pretense of borrowing something from one of the sheds.

Promise I have permission. Told her I needed a scale, and she says there’s one on the shelf in her shed.

HOLY shit! Holy SHIT! *Sal emerges from the shed, holding aloft a bulky black scale.* I told her it was for WEED. I could stand on this thing! I mean, I’d break the motherfucker, but point is I could fit both my feet on this som’bitch.

That scale was a source of random jokes over the course of the next hour or so, but her true purpose was to chat. No, to not be alone. If only for a little while.

~

The longer she was there, the happier I became. And not because of the herb. I didn’t let myself partake enough to be too far gone. I just became aware of how special it was to her to not be alone for a while, and I indulged in that feeling a bit myself. Allowed myself to be happy and present, rather than silently willing time to fast-forward to a not-so-distant future point when Sal’d be gone and I’d be alone again.

Sal’s forty-nine years old. Did I tell you that? A forty-nine year old self-described “uber butch” lesbian, who tries really hard not to flirt with me but would “eat [me] from sundown to sunup” if I let her. She’s actually cut it out, so I can relax and enjoy conversing. (First night in her presence was rough, lemme tell ya. She was relentless.)

She filled me in on weighty chunks of her life story last night.

Her father molested her as a child. For ten years. Ten. Fucking Years. The state finally found out when she was twelve. (That’s right. TEN. YEARS. By the time she was TWELVE. Let that shit sink in.) No thanks to her mother, who knew all along and said nothing. Did nothing. She was placed in foster care, group homes, but ran away and struck out on her own at sixteen.

Her relationships have composed of a series of women whom she busts her ass for, remodeling kitchens, constructing retaining walls, designing elaborate landscapes, building furniture to desired specifications, staining and restaining this surface and that. Only to be brushed aside when the last project on the list gets checked off. The last one was so nuts, she locked Sal in their bedroom (with her own children witnessing it all) for twelve hours. Barricaded her there. Then called the police on Sal and had her jailed, making all these wild accusations about her life being endangered. Even the woman’s kids reported on Sal’s behalf that their mother was the crazy one, here.

~

There were tears in Sal’s eyes as she told me of her adoptive parents. She’s going to live with them in Upstate New York, where she’s from. Moving sometime before Christmas.

She just met them a couple of months ago and went to visit them for a couple of weeks.

My dad has cancer. I know this is gonna sound bad but I don’t mean it but I do but I was hoping that som’bitch would die while I was in the area. So I could poke that motherfucker and make damn sure he’s really dead.

Turns out, the woman watched Sal grow up. She was married to Sal’s father before Sal’s mother was. Sal’s father cheated on her with Sal’s mother. This woman never had children and always hated the way Sal was treated. Watched her grow up…from a distance. Even attended her ballgames. But never said a word. Not even when Sal could have used somebody when she went into the system at twelve.

But the woman is there for Sal now. The woman and her husband, both. And they’re – no shit – adopting Sal. Formal, legit, legal papers are being drawn up, so Sal will have the family – the parents – she’s always longed for. She already calls her “mama.”

She was so excited. So fucking excited. Her eyes were filled with it – this giddy, unvarnished excitement that we tend to call “child-like.” But why can’t adults feel that way, too? Yes, there’s a lot to Sal that can be considered “child-like” and under-developed. But she’s also a grownass woman, one that has lived her whole life in search of someone to love her. Need her. Cherish her. Value her. Parent her. Nurture her. And by god, her excitement and relief and hope and regret and optimism and fear were palpable. Palpable. 

She tried to apologize, and I had to stop her. Express to her how special this all is and how I’m sharing in her excitement and hope.

You’re fun, Stephanie. *smiles genuinely at me* Really fun. This was fun – thank you for talking to me.

No, Sal. Thank you. Really.

~

Sal left me with more jokes about the incongruous scale, hopes that her old beater truck is up to the several-hundred mile journey ahead, and half a joint.

I shall enjoy it this evening, while reflecting on Sal and her journeys past, present, and future. And the little, tiny slice of her life I’ve gotten to share in before she moves on to her next chapter.

Or perhaps I’ll invite her over and actively engage…save the reflecting for days Sal-past.

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That Time I was Adopted

In September.

Of 2016.

As in, four months ago. At the tender age of 36.

Back in August, when I was mainlining xanax to get through the immense stress I was going through trying to get the fuck out of Louisiana, one of my buddies from work came to chill in my office for a while. I’ll call him “Habanero,” since he’s the biggest RHCP fan I know (besides LE MOI. DUH.).

So we’re listening to the chili peppers and chatting about random shit, and finally we get into Oregon and Portland. Finally landing somewhere around this paraphrased bit…

Habanero: Dude, so I heard you don’t know anyone up there. I laughed when P. Whipped told me that.

Me: arches an eyebrow

Habs: No fucking way. Friends? Family?

Me: Nah. I don’t have anyone up there. I don’t know why everyone is making such a big deal out of it. shrugs

Habs: laughs and leans back. The whole Pacific Northwest? You know…nada? Maaaaan, P. Whipped thinks you’re nuts. Hell, everyone does. But me? I envy you. You got some serious balls. What’s your plan?

I give him the gist of what I intended – which was to spend a week in an extended stay, during which time I’d find a place to rent and take whatever job I could find.

Habs: Listen, I know a guy.

Me: If this is gonna end with me dead in the desert or in a Mexican prison, I’m not interested.

Habs: Dude, I think I saw that one! ANYWAY. I know a guy: Jalapeño. Jalapeño and I grew up together, and he has family in Oregon. I’m gonna hit ’em up. They’ll let you crash for a couple weeks, while you get settled. I’m tellin’ you. They will.

Me: My eyes must have been big as saucers. This is something I normally would have put the kibosh on I-FUCKING-MMEDIATELY. Really, Habs? You think so?

Habs: I fucking know it. I’ll talk to Jala. We’ll sort it out; you’ll see.

Me: Dude, even if this doesn’t work out – you’re fucking awesome for even suggesting it. For thinking of me. Thank you.

Habs: Nah, you my homegirl. I can’t stand the idea of you going up there like that, with nobody at all. These people are cool. I mean, nice. Like. Nice as fuck. You’ll see.

~

Habanero didn’t contact them until around the last week of August…as in right at the last minute. But he wasn’t kidding. They took me in, showed me around, and now I’m renting a room from them.

It’s weird. And uncomfortable. Awkward as fuck.

And I’m tellin’ you, these people straight up act like they’re my folks. They’ve even introduced me that way once or twice, “This is Stephanie, the daughter we just met in September.”

They text me when they think I’m out too late.

They text me when they think I’ve been gone longer than whatever errand I’m on should require.

I do their laundry for them (sometimes).

I dogsit for them (often).

They drag me to family functions (after promising my presence and tricking me into going by telling me we’re doing SOMETHING ELSE ENTIRELY THEN WE SHOW UP TO A FUNCTION WITH SEVENTY PEOPLE).

And…

They’re nice. And what I’m paying them in rent has enabled me to drag out the little bit I got back from the sale of the house…so that I can look for a job I actually want to pursue instead of settling for the first thing some agency could dig up for me. I had only been here a week when they approached me and asked me to stay. “The angels sent you to us. It was meant to be. We talked to our medium about you. She thinks you ARE an angel. Will you meet her with us?”

Yeah.

It’s interesting, alright.

And it’s a strange feeling. Being parented. At 36. After a lifetime of little to none of that.

They’ve taken me to the beach. They’ve taken me to restaurants my budget would definitely not allow. They gave me gifts at Christmas and cry and tell me they love me.

So I have to deal with some overbearing shit. So I have to deal with someone who may be at the beginning stages of dementia. So I have to deal with hugs and hovering and manipulation to spend time with them. So I have to listen to them repeat the same life stories over and over and over again for hours on end. So I have to deal with parents. Family.

I’ve also been given this two-fold gift of being able to take my time and pursue something better than “just a job.” And…as strange and uncomfortable as it is…it feels good, sometimes. To be depended on. To be…loved.

As grateful as I am, you’ll most assuredly get plenty of rants about how manipulative they can be. And how downright fucking mean-as-a-snake the man can be. But when I’m being fair, those times are few compared to how fortunate I’ve been and am right now. This is temporary – they both know that, though they’ve both also said they want me to stay for good. (Yeah, I’m serious. There’s obviously more I haven’t told in this little post: like how I think my very presence has acted as a balm for them and their loneliness, health problems they’re both dealing with, etc.) But I agreed to their rent proposition “for up to a year.” I’m not sure I can deal with the smothering that long, but hell. The way things are going, don’t ask me what comes next. I sure as hell don’t know.

Life is weird. And this new chapter book my life is writing is certainly no exception.