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Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Expect Delays - In response to this week's prompt from A Week for Writing, Uttley tells about hitting bottom

In 12-step programs, they talk about 'hitting bottom'. When I hit bottom, I did so with credit card in hand. I had no ID card, no car, no home, but I had one working credit card. So I was an odd sort of homeless person. I had washed up in a college town on the west coast of the US, a town where I knew exactly one person, whom I had failed to locate due to his having moved from his old digs, leaving no forwarding address. So I lived on the streets and in the mission house there. Then one afternoon, I used my credit card to check into a hostel. After signing in and stashing my little red cardboard suitcase under my bunk, I walked down to the local co-op grocery store and charged a bag of raw nuts. Returning to the hostel, I sat at a low, metal table on the streetfront and proceeded to eat.

As I was feeding myself, along came an interesting young fellow. He stopped and said hello. His clothing was threadbare, his hair a mess, and one of his eyes listed off into space, peering up and too the left - looking at God, I thought. I invited him to take a seat and have some nuts. He accepted, and produced a bag of raw spinach to share. We sat a while, munching, and he told me that he was from Tennessee, was traveling the country on a wing and a prayer, and was mentally ill. "In my head," he said, "I am a black preacher." Outwardly, he was a white guy. 

After we ate, we decided to take a walk around the neighborhood. We strolled a few blocks, and came across a grey-haired, portly man. The man was standing at the driver's door of an old Volkswagen which was parked in front of a small house. Affixed to the porch of the house was a large yellow sign reading "Expect Delays".

The man greeted us cheerfully, Tennessee and me. He was just popping out to the store, he said, but would be right back, and if we wanted, we could come over and hang out. "I've got some great ganja!" he said enticingly. That sounded pretty wonderful to me, bottoming out as I was, with nothing in the world to do. I looked at Tennessee, and he nodded eagerly.

And so it was that an hour or so later, we were sitting in the living room of the Expect Delays house, passing around a little stone pipe. Once we were good and lit, the old man picked up a huge eagle feather, and told us that he was in psychic contact with his tribe, and that they liked us very much. He was a white guy, too, but I guess inwardly he was Native American. I looked at Tennessee; he appeared to be in a trance - doubtless delivering a momentous sermon in his mind.   

 After a while, Tennessee bestirred himself and said that he had to go find a friend of his who was keeping his backpack in an old schoolbus. The old man and I bid him farewell. I did not return to the hostel that night. I slept on the old man's couch. The next morning, we smoked again, and I decided to wash the dirty dishes which were piled up all around the house. Hours later, when the chore was done, the old man thanked me profusely. 

I asked him if I could use his computer to order a copy of my birth certificate - the first step in the process of getting an ID card and getting off the streets. "You bet!" he said, and so I did.

And that is the tale of how I began my climb back up from the bottom. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice story. Made me want to read it took the end.


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