Alternate Histories: 5/30, 4/18


They spend a billion dollars over there, but here, they got the homeless. It was told to me the U.S. was like a bully. My mother always told me, take care of home … In my life I never thought I’d see a black president. I told it to my dying brother, he never thought he’d see it either. I’m living for him.

[At this point, a woman in a wheelchair, whom he knew, came up and asked me if I could tell her how to get dental care, and they got into an argument I couldn’t follow about the ACA.]

Before I leave this earth, not this country but this earth, I wanna get my SSI. To me it’s a conspiracy. Everything in life is a conspiracy.



We can’t give Z a world perfect for him from the day he was born. We can’t even say that in a world perfect for Z he would never be mixed-up, never in distress–partly because we haven’t even tried to make that world. What can we imagine for Z as he is now?

Z’s part of town is mainly on a level–no hills between him and where he wants to go, no steps in the storefronts and churches and short-order clinics and library branch where he is welcome. He’s welcome in all of these places unless he gets combative, which happens when he’s frustrated or loses track of where he is. When that happens, the people in all of these places insist that he go sit on their awninged benches or steps outside, where he sits swearing to himself for a while, or go to the fury shrine a few blocks away, where he can break plates. It took a while for Z to make this a routine but when he does see sense, he sees the sense of it. Sometimes he gets so angry that he sees the solar clotheslines hanging and hits the panels with his stick, and cracks them, but this doesn’t happen that much anymore.

He makes his circuits; he’s restless. He goes to services at three different churches. He listens to people rap, sing, and perform poetry in the park. The food places make sure to have something around that he and other people with not that many teeth can eat. A baked apple, a plate of fufu. “You go to the clinic already today?” they ask. “You get your foot taken care of?”

One place he doesn’t ever stop is at his blood family’s house. He can’t come there. Z carries a burden of guilt. Most people know that he has it, but not what it is. Most of the people who talk to him or respond to him are men, except at the clinics. “Teresa, I heard you used to be a man,” Z says every time. “No no,” she says every time, “I been a woman, I just used to look like a man.” They laugh, now. She re-dresses his foot with disinfectant trucked in from Illinois on a fast road and ointment made by witches here in town.

We can’t erase the pathways and deposits and erosions that history has left in someone. We may help to shift the center of the circle they walk in.


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