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BONDING WITH JUNKIES, CRACK HO’S AND THE HOMELESS

Prescribed medication at the age of 18 and still on it into the end of my 30’s. Dosage so low it really doesn’t do anything anymore, but the body is used to having it in the system so I must take it or risk serious side effects. Sure, I could go off it but that takes doctor supervision and about 3 months of cutting already small tablets into small pieces. A pain. So, over the years I delay going off a drug I no longer need. But, without insurance this little drug is so expensive I have to turn to assistance. Insurance coverage is still a few months away so it is off to the free clinic. Lucky to have access to such a service, but it takes an entire Saturday. Still, one can’t beat the interesting interactions one encounters at a San Francisco city clinic in the Western Addition.

“Hey, baby! I haven’t seen you tiny ass in here for months! How you doin’ baby-child?”

“Sharonda! Good to see you!”

a hug is exchanged.

“I’m cool. Am in between insurance and had to get my dolls refilled. Same old same old. How are you?”

“Oh, you know. Still tryin’ to get my shit togetha. Woke up this mornin’ in some low down piece of shit hotel room and just look at my arm!”

She rolls up sleeves of her frilly top to reveal puss filled track marks. I swear — there was a sort of sour smell. I fight the urge to recoil.

“Oh, sweetie! Are you cleaning your works? And, why are you still shooting into your arms?”

“Oh, Matty. I am sorry, but I can’t be shooting under my tongue! That shit hurts like a son-of-a-bitch!”

“No! Sharonda! Shoot up behind your knee so your arms can heal!”

“Oh, baby these arms are scared for life and I’m usually too tired to do all that aerobics shit to shoot my stuff.”

“Hey! You two! Let’s stop talking about where to shoot up and talk about how to stop shooting up!”

(I guess I pissed off the front desk guy again)

“Oh, shut the fuck up! When am I gonna see the doctor! My arm is killin’ me!”

I lean past Sharonda and ask “Joe” if he’s even looked at her arm.

“‘Joe,’ it looks like she’s really infected bad. Can’t you guys get her in quicker?”

“Thank you!” Sharonda turns her head toward ‘Joe’ as if he owes her an apology.

‘Joe’ gets up and walks over to us. She holds out her arm for him to inspect.

“Oh, man. OK. We need to get you to the hospital. We told you that there is an infection going around. This looks like botulism. Are you having any odd symptoms?”

“Oh, ‘Joe’ I told you people that I came in ’cause this shit hurts, stinks and I am having trouble seeing. You are all blurry which is just as good ’cause you is one ugly muthafucka”

‘Joe’ rolls his eyes. “Hold on.”

He walks away. It is just Sharonda, me and some crazy guy asleep in the chair under the TV.

“What in the fuck is bottlism?”

That’s when I noticed the blue signs on all the walls warning H users about an infection that is spreading among users in SF. Heroin Botulism which, according to the blue signs, can be fatal if not treated.

“I think it just means you have an infection. But it can be serious so you need to do whatever they tell you do to. Ok? I mean, you really need to try to quit.”

“I know. And, honey, you need to get a job with insurance so you don’t have to bring yo pretty white ass in here anymore. Are do you like chillin’ out with us freaks?”

“I love chillin’ out with you Sharonda!”

She laughs. “Pay up then, suck!” — she extends her hand. I laugh. She sighs and rubs her sleeve. I can’t decide if it is bleeding, but something is leaking through the material of her sleeve. I couldn’t help it. I am sure I sort of recoiled. Gross.

‘Joe’ and this cute young doctor walk out. The doctor can’t be more than about 24 years old and she looks like she just stepped off the bus from Idaho. She is wearing latex gloves. She smiles at Sharonda as if smiling at a small puppy.

“Hi. Let’s see that arm of yours!”

“Shit. Are we gonna have a party, bitch?”

I fight the urge to laugh. It really isn’t at all funny, but what can one do? ‘Joe’ tells Sharonda to shut up.

One of the counselors comes out. They explain to Sharonda that he is going to drive her to the city hospital and that she needs to be treated as soon as possible.

“Shit. Ok”

She gathers up her stuff, motions for me to stand up and give her a hug. I do. “Take care of yourself. Ok?”

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll be seein’ you lata.” —– and, with that Sharonda and the bored looking counselor walk out into the sunshine.

‘Joe’ and the cute little doctor with whom I will be meeting in a few walk down the hall. I hear her ask ‘Joe’ if Sharonda is a woman or a transgender. In a hushed tone I hear him say that she is a tranny.

I sit and think about it. Why does it matter? And isn’t she a woman for all practical purposes? I mean, to me she is a woman. To her she is a woman. Why does it matter? Will she be OK? And, if she is OK will she just continue on and get sick again?

I look around the room at all the blue, red, green, white and yellow “alert” and “warning” signs which are written in several languages. A kid walks in. He is handsome but smells badly. He can’t read to fill out his forms so ‘Joe’ is helping him. I hear ‘Joe’ ask the kid where he is living. The kid gives the name of some shelter in the Mission District. I hear ‘Joe’ ask him how long he has been in SF. The kid doesn’t know. He thinks maybe a two or five years. He volunteers that he came here from Nebraska to be in a band. When asked his education level the kid tells ‘Joe’ that he finished 9th grade. The “kid” is actually 29 years old. He sits next to me, but doesn’t say anything.

A few minutes pass. I hear my name called and the cute doctor is ready to see me. As I follow her down the hall she tells me it is a relief to see someone who has it together and just needs some temporary assistance. I am sure that it most be a bit of a break for her. Our conversation is professional but also friendly. She is new to SF and to this job.

Ten minutes later I am back in the sunshine. Blondie is on the iPod and I’m headed to Walgreens to pick up my prescription. As I walk down the street that I would never dream of walking after sunset I think to myself, “How in the hell did I get here? Life is such a trip.”

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March 19, 2006. Uncategorized.

19 Comments

  1. ing replied:

    Ha ha, this reminds me of the time I had to go to the hospital because, unbeknownst to me, I had a kidney infection. I wound up in the emergency room with an IV drip, and the patient on the other side of the curtain was pleading with me to “help” him. I felt like absolute shit and couldn’t do a thing — I didn’t even know what he was asking for. My god, that was expensive!

    I hate going to the doctor’s. I haven’t been in a long time (except once, because my paranoid ex- thought we’d been poisoned or something).

    I know it’s a pain, but cut back! You’ll be glad you did in the long run. The fewer visits you have to pay to the doctor, the better!

  2. matt replied:

    I’d love to cut back! …but I will have to go back monthly till my insurance kicks in. I think it will take 6 to 8 months to “ween” off the meds because I’ve been on them for so long. …and you have to be under doctor supervision. So, I see many doctor visits in my future. …but I work in a medical building so it might not be too bad.

  3. jungle jane replied:

    Matty i love you. i do. you write like a dream. i usually read your posts twice – they are like a fine belgian chocolate dipped in cocaine. this post i read 3 times.

    my god – you are so fuckin glamorous. i pay for my meds. over the counter. no clinic. god i want your life…

  4. crabcake replied:

    Matty, this post was better than watching a movie!

    Life is a trip for sure. And with all it’s ups and downs you have to at least admit, it’s never boring.

  5. Dessie replied:

    Life is a rich tapestry and all that… you must have enough to carpet a house by now 😉

  6. Tim replied:

    … and cover the walls, the ceiling, and any other available surface I think …..

  7. Karyn replied:

    This is not news but you are a better person than I am… I doubt very much I could have successfully fought the urge to say “EW!” upon being shown a malodorous infected arm full o pus. GAK. It’s making me want a bath and I’m not in sniffing distance. Gak.

  8. Karyn replied:

    PS: how sad is this – my eyes are so shot? I thought that was a nice Easter picture of jellybeans while the page was loading. LOL.

  9. ing replied:

    Mmmmmm. . . jellybeans. . .

  10. Meredith replied:

    Ah, Matt, you are wonderful. When I stopped snickering over Sharonda’s assessment of “your tiny ass” I felt like I was there. At one point I swear I smelled something yucky and I was sure it was the oozing arm but it was my cat breathing too close to my face. Tuna breath, decaying flesh, there’s a fine distinction.

  11. ginab replied:

    I’ve been what, Matty:

    1) MIA
    2) busier than a scream
    3) in need of a pill
    4) as wise as an infection
    5) some of the above

    Creepy, knee-grabbing details in this puppy of yours. Be sure to wash and rewash your hands in this free clinic. (I am a germaphobe.) Ween yourself off when you can but not without the advice of an MD.

    -g+bb

    PS: I’m seeing the Who, I think, in Barcelona this summer. Hmm.

  12. ing replied:

    You’re seeing the what?

  13. jungle jane replied:

    i am having Matty withdrawl symptoms. its a bit like a crack addict who can’t score.

    when matty shows up again please someone give me a kick – i’ll be right here in the corner shivvering and shaking…

  14. ginab replied:

    you know who!

    today’s a heat wave, at awhopping 40 F. watch me!

  15. Hot Toddy replied:

    I’m here catching up. I just wanted to say that your bankruptcy post was really moving. I went through that in 1997. I think I skated through it a little more easily, but I do remember how ashamed the judge tried to make me feel. (It worked a little bit, but mostly I was thinking about what it would be like to go a whole day without calls from collections.) BIG HUG

  16. ing replied:

    Anyone who would judge you, Matty, obviously doesn’t know you. Kind, honest, and forthright; that’s you.

    And people should not stand up during the movie previews!

  17. ginab replied:

    Hmm, isn’t it crack who? Seeing as ‘whore’ is spelled ‘whore’, I thought dropping the ‘re’ was enough.

    Netflix sent me Fellini all scratched up. P-issed. I am pee-issed.

    -g+bb

  18. matt replied:

    Jungle Jane! I am so not worthy of your praise! I’ve been suffering from global blog withdrawl!!! I blinked and an entire week had flown by! So, I am about to catch up with everyone! Can’t wait to see what you’ve been up to!! And, it is you who are the glam one! You’re own network!

    Crabcake — You are so right! It is never dull. I hope that when I am gone no one will ever say I was dull or lived a boring life! …or, that I didn’t take chances. Rolling the dice is have the fun. …A Stones song comes to mind. …tumblin’ dice.

    Dessies & Tim — Yes, quite an assemblege of decore. However, I think I’m ready for something a bit more earth-tonish. …no, not really. Just seemed like the thing to write, but it wasn’t.

    Karyn — Sometimes I do pretend that my ‘dolls’ are pretty jellybeans! Makes it all the more fun! LOL! Oh, you would have been fine. You’re far too compasionate to have reacted that way in the heat of the moment.

    Meredith — I’ve always wondered what decaying flesh smelled like. Hmmmm…

    Gina! I am so jealous of your planned trip to Barcelona — AND seeing The Who while there! Get back stage and tell Little Roger that I’m all ready to be his love slave on the fish farm whenever he is ready for me! And, no worries I am a bit hyper when it comes to the washing of hands, etc. Oh, and you might be correct on the spelling of the ghetto version of “whore” — I learned how to spell it that way from rap lyrics. However, I would be so worried of offending the Rock Gods by writing “crack who” and someone thinking I was refering to Pete & the boys. You know, I saw The Who in concert in Houston. I wanna say it was in 1982 or so — but I can’t remember much other than getting sick in the parking lot and laughing too much. Ah, the 80’s.

    Hot Toddy — Thank you for the hug. However, you know I want more than a mere hug from Hot Toddy.

    Ing — I love you. And, yeah — I don’t regret bitching at the girl for not sitting down. Oy! Annoyance! However, that might have been the highlight of STONED. LOL!

    Gina! …well, a scratched Fellini is better than no Fellini at all. Still. I would be emailing NetFlex! What were you going to be seeing? I love my Fellini!

  19. joe replied:

    matt, that was a fascinating slice of healthcare!

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