15 February 2009

Bold Truth

It's official: I am no longer making ends meet. After a couple of months during which my basic expenses and income were in mysterious precise alignment, the dynamic has changed. In honor of this new development, I am making a few changes here at SITC.

Since Obama entered the White House (or shortly before), the world's felt different to me (and lots of other people, too, from what I hear). It's possible to take a full, deep breath again. To hear my heartbeat when I sit still. To view my reflection in a mirror without distortion.

I hear a Good Witch trilling gently, "Come out, come out, wherever you are...."

I am coming out.

I'm in dire straits. Financially, artistically, physically, socially, psychologically. This is not the first time but it feels like a first somehow. Feels important. To borrow a line from Joni, I'm "either gonna thaw out or freeze." I will either find a way out of this hole and back to the vibrant green surface or I will disappear. This is the last visit to Dire-ville.

I want to document the process. Without comment from anyone. I've censored myself (a little) to date at SITC. Why? To avoid having to explain or defend myself to identified gentle readers, my family or the occasional stranger who stumbled upon the blog. To sidestep or duck the pity or saving that might be provoked by my description of some poignant or painful reality. To maintain the sweet residuals of my reputation.

The filters are being removed today.

I'm not writing for anyone else now. This is for me and for anyone curious (compassionate, patient, brave...) enough to read the close-to-the-bone coming-of-age story of a gray-haired colored girl. I'll use whatever words and images best describe the process of recovery (or demise). The appropriate modifications to Settings have been made.


Bold truth #1: I bummed two cigarettes on Friday 13 February from J____. We were drinking at Cafe Atchafalaya on one of the first steamy nights of the season. The cafe doors were open and folks were wandering in and out between the bar and the legal smoking space.

What a great night! What a great day: I had eaten lunch there earlier in the day with R_______ from the old job at Ashe School. It's one of my best places in New Orleans, just a 10-minute walk from my house with a loving chef (as proven by the food) and really friendly staff. Lunch felt soooo good going back for happy hour seemed a good idea. The sky opened up and poured about half a block from home. Walking in the downpour even felt good.

Anyway, I was drinking Manhattans and had two cigarettes in quick succession at some point in the evening. [Conversations on the sidewalk with Joe (drummer), Tony (manager), Eileen, Beth, Stewart, Avery, Ruby, Christine (the bartender....who is misnamed).]

image by Lonely Pierot

Mornings: For weeks now my waking thoughts have consisted of the following fragments, swirling and repeating in no particular order:

What's today?
My back hurts --- this goddam air mattress....
Is there a reason to get up?
Do I have any food?
Do I have any money?
I've got to find some work.
I've got to make some money.
Am I depressed?

Not realizing the severity of the hole I was falling into, I asked for help a few weeks ago. Borrowed money. Then borrowed a little more. Then Daniel canceled his piano study with me on the day the rent was due and I borrowed some more.

Now I'm facing Mardi Gras. KIPP School will close for almost a week. Puts me in the hole $160.

I've tried to hang on to the KIPP job. For the kid's sake. For my sake because I enjoy teaching. For Mr. Hart's sake because he needs the help and support.

BUT for a couple of weeks now words like "cutback" and "layoff" and "reduction" have begun to be spoken aloud by the business manager and Mr. Hart and others. It would be crazy for me to wait for the axe with no backup plan. And even if they figure it out and don't have to layoff the music adjuncts, I need more money and it's difficult to fit another job around my one-hour-a-day schedule at KIPP.

My intention is to send a resume or make a call every week day.

Sharon Cummings, artist

A breezy exuberance floods my sensorium now that there is no way to make ends meet. I can stop sweating it. There was no tension waking up this morning. The truth of my powerlessness confronts me straight on. I feel soft and healthy and free.

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