I posted this on Spreaker here:
This is going to be cross-posted to YouTube. I wrote this at the time of the Marathon. I compiled it and edited it, then narrated it for the Northeastern University collection, Our Marathon.
Reposted on request.
Why does the Watertown Massachusetts Patch allow posting of racist comments, yet will not post the truth? Whom do Patch editors think they are protecting?
I have seen many racist comments on Patch articles. I don’t see why these comments get through.The Patch sure has been selective lately. Are the editors racist, too? Many of these comments reflect hatred toward the poor. They also use bigoted terms such as “nutcase.” Some comments reflect hostility toward immigrants.
Yet my commentary was not allowed through. My latest comment was deleted. I stated that labeling was wrong and stated why. Also relevant to the article was the topic of sexual assault. I mentioned in my comment that I had reported to the local Watertown police that I had been sexually assaulted and the police did not investigate. My point was that most rapes get ignored and that the label “sex offender” only means, “I’m one of the few who got caught.”
I highly doubt that my comment was taken off to protect children, since the article itself mentions sex offenses. Were they trying to protect the man who raped me? Or maybe they were protecting the Watertown police.
On the other hand, some editor may have realized that my posting might end up with yet another unwarranted police visit to my place in Watertown. So were the Patch editors protecting me?
Know what I suspect? I’ve been posting bits and pieces about what happened to me and I’ll bet the police contacted the Patch and told them I was making everything up and was a nutcase who should be silenced.
Know what else? I think the Watertown police owe me an apology. I’m sure someone in their lovely department wants me silenced. What they did was very wrong. For years, I was treated rotten by the cops and some of the EMT’s. I think it’s time that police quit acting like power-hungry assholes. It makes the nice ones look bad, after all.
We hear story after story about corruption in the Watertown police department and even in the town government. No wonder why living there sucked so bad. I want my money back. And the lost years.
This is the piece I wrote for a talent show at my church. Keep in mind the date that I wrote this, given my use of certain terminology that some may find uncharacteristic of me. I don’t think I posted this before. I feel the need to do so now. Please hear what I am saying.
Talent Show, First Parish Church of Watertown
Saturday, March 31, 2012, 7:00PM
My name is Julie Greene. I’m going to read to you tonight. This is a piece I wrote myself. It’s a bit unusual, because it’s written in the form of a single letter. No, not one letter of the alphabet. I mean what we now call “snail mail.” This letter tells true story about a man who lived in Georgia named Roy. The letter is from me, dated March 25, 2012.
I have to confess: I Googled you. It’s just one of those things I do now and then. Let’s face it. Probably everyone who has access to a computer wastes time Googling at least one person out of their past, or two, or many, depending upon how lonely they are. But what was I expecting when I Googled you? I knew in my heart that any trace of you was far, far too deep in the archives of the Georgia State Penitentiary system to appear where I could find it on Google.
Where did we first meet? We met through a pen-pals organization that matched folks on the inside of prisons with those on the outside. This organization was called the Prison-Ashram Project. To apply for a pen-pal, we both wrote in what our spiritual journeys were all about. Me? At twenty-one? I probably wrote something that I thought was wicked profound about finding God on a hitch-hiking trip. You? A Born-Again Christian. I told myself that this might be a little weird. Maybe a lot weird. But like most twenty-one-year-olds, I was always up for an adventure.
Roy, it was so awesome. Through our letters, we dissected every Bible verse we could think of. We didn’t always agree, of course, and this, to me, was great fun. Yes, you were a Georgia Born-Again Conservative, and I was a Vermont Born-too-late-to-be-a-hippie feminist Liberal. I defined the term “saved” very differently than you did. We disagreed about abortion, same-sex partnership, the status of women, on and on, and I ended up being tactful, backing off, and then it was less about politics, and more about our lives.
The Georgia courts had given you a sentence of life in prison. Life in prison. Imagine being behind bars until you die. I had never thought about it before.
How did you endure it? At first, you were angry. You acted out. I didn’t understand all of the stuff you said in your letter about the fact that you were so, so angry about being locked up that a few times, they gave you drugs to shut you up, but now I get it.
But one day, something happened. You picked up a Bible, and read it. You read some more. Roy, we wrote a lot about the joy of discovering God for the first time.
Maybe it was my feelings about the Conservative part of you that made me feel that I had to keep things hidden from you. Or maybe I didn’t want to disappoint you. I guess the warped world that I was slowly slipping into was by definition a world of secrets.
I relocated a year later. Things were changing. Madness gradually whittled away at my connection with God, until there was nothing left but a single, thin strand. I cried out every night. When I tried to pray, all I spoke was evil gibberish. I tried to keep all this from seeping into my letters. I remember that I was still able to keep up the electricity and excitement and magic just as I had before, and although I was busy with college, our letters were still very long. But that winter, Vermont had record low temperatures, and I even used my oven to warm my tiny apartment. I was so cold, and shivering inside and out, that I think you knew then. You knew my despair.
I’m not sure when it was that I asked you why you’d been imprisoned. I told you that if you didn’t want to tell me, it was okay. You said, “I am in prison because I killed a man.”
Shortly before I turned twenty-six, I was imprisoned, in a hospital. It hadn’t been the first time. But now, it felt like I had reached the end of the road, because all my friends dumped me, my roommate left off a bag of clothes and never came back, and the nurses wouldn’t even talk to me. My doctors threw their hands in the air. They had no clue what to do with me.
Roy, by then, you had gotten parole and work release. You lived in a halfway house. You called me every day. “Julie, I know how hard it is to be locked up. There is a way out. Please, hang on. Life is worth living. Your illness imprisons you, but your heart is always free.” The head nurse demanded, “Who is that man with the Southern drawl, and why does he make you cry?” I shrugged and went back to my room.
Maybe it was a year later that I stopped hearing from you. I waited. I waited a bit longer. I don’t know how I just accepted that no more letters would come. It was many years later that I knew, instinctively, what had happened. Prison breaks a man’s body down. Prison stays with you. Sometimes, the body wears out, and even when you’re set free, there’s nothing you can do to save yourself.
Roy, when I first came to the microphone tonight, I told the folks here at First Parish Church that I was going to tell a story about you, but maybe the story is some about you, and a lot about me. Now, I’m wondering about the things that you left out of your letters, the many parts of your life that you chose to keep to yourself.
Now, I’m fifty-four years old, double the age that I was when I last heard from you. I want you to know that I’ve joined a wonderful church, and as I speak these words, the folks at church who have welcomed me are now welcoming you. If I had the courage to light a candle, I’d light one for you tomorrow. Cuz really, what I want to do is to do what you did. I want to be like you were. I want to save one person’s life.
Here’s the link:
As you can see, I commented there. Actually, I still get alerts and news from my old town Watertown, Massachusetts, USA. I’m no longer scared to comment anywhere and speak freely. I used to get real scared of yet another “police visit” from the Watertown cops terrorizing me because someone didn’t like hearing the truth. Oh well.
If the kid was having a drug reaction, he should be set free for sure! All he did was to show up with weapons. He didn’t shoot. Now, in prison. Betcha anything he visited a psychiatrist. Personally, whoever wrote the prescription should be hauled into court. Of course, this is speculation on my part. Are these questions even being asked?
Here is the extent of YOUR HIPAA privacy, spelled out:
What does “serious and imminent threat” mean? How is “serious and imminent threat” determined?
You’d think that a person would have to demonstrate said “serious and imminent danger” to self or others, right? Guess who decides? A psychiatrist, social worker, or law enforcement personnel.
Here are some examples of how such “serious threats” are determined:
1) The patient is interviewed for about five minutes. If there is any fear of liability (oops, this person might die under our care and we’ll be held responsible) the person is deemed “danger to self” for the protection of the health care provider’s reputation. So after a mere few minutes talking to you, you lose all HIPAA rights.
2) The patient uses the word death or suicide, or various related keywords. The context doesn’t matter. The patient could be talking about a friend’s suicide. Still, Anyone’s HIPAA rights can and will be obliterated based on one or two words taken out of context. They will do this for their own convenience and to protect their reputation and they can and will do whatever they want.
3) The interviewer can determine a patient is “danger to self or others” based on flimsy evidence, or no evidence whatsoever. The interviewer might note, for instance, hair style, or a style of dressing, or perhaps a tattoo. Race, religious background, family status, living situation, age, “handicap,” sexual preference, and nationality will immediately cause bias in judgment here. If they find a black male teen wearing a hoodie don’t think for a minute that kid won’t be judged in biased manner. If NSA, which is supposedly a professional entity, can profile anyone who has dark skin or appears “Arab,” of course this profiling happens anywhere, especially in health care.
4) Any person can call the cops and claim you are “danger to self,” demanding a “wellness check,” and at that point, you could be subject to any of the above.
All this is supposed to protect individuals and society, but what happens is that people who are NOT DTO/DTS end up losing their HIPAA rights. There are people out there who are indeed threats to others but these people slip right by, again and again.
I can give you examples from my own experience. Perhaps you can relate, perhaps not.
1) I was in a family session. My entire family, including my brothers, were present. I was discussing future plans in this meeting, mentioning a friend of mine whom this therapist knew. Immediately, the therapist interrupted me. She revealed to my entire family that this friend was currently “in the hospital.” This was a clear violation of my friend’s privacy, HIPAA or not. I was furious. I didn’t know what to do nor how to respond. I knew what she was doing was wrong, though, and I said so right then and there. I walked out of the session, completely pissed off. God knows what else was revealed after that. I then had a moral dilemma: What do I say to my friend?
I had to think quickly on this one. I knew this was going to upset her. Maybe I should just keep it to myself. I knew, though, that my mother had a way of running off at the mouth. I knew that “tact” wasn’t my mother’s strong point, and most likely she would say something to my friend.
I decided to tell my friend precisely what had occurred and how I felt about it. I told her I knew what had occurred was wrong. I was glad I revealed this to my friend, because sure enough, my tactless mother blurted out, “I’m so sorry you were in the hospital.” You can imagine my complete embarrassment! My friend was also embarrassed, but I had already told her that this therapist had blown confidentiality.
I confronted the therapist, who justifed everything she did. Her supervisor backed her. The excuse was flimsy at best. I know the therapist had done this not for viable reason, but because she made a bad mistake. Back then, it was easy to get a lawyer, so that’s what my friend did. Looking back, I admire this friend’s actions. What the therapist did embarrassed the hell out of both of us and affected my quality of life and my friend’s quality of life for the remaining years of our friendship.
2) I showed up at an ER. I’d never been hospitalized before, and had no clue what I was in for. The person who accompanied me clearly told the ER staff that I did not want my parents notified. I was almost 25 years old and since the age of 17 had mostly lived independently. I didn’t have a legal guardian, and I was financially independent from my parents. I signed no papers at the time allowing the staff to disclose information.
They were in a quagmire then. They didn’t want to give me free care even though at the time, this was the law. Free care to yet one more patient would mean the hospital would lose money. I was well aware of the law. At the time, it was called the Hill Burton Act. I had recently been unexpectly laid off. I’d had a temporary position and was told when I was hired that my job would end January 15. This turned out not to be true and I was let go December 15. I was stuck with no job and was looking around for another, living on meager unemployment payments until I found something. The job hadn’t provided health insurance. I was uninsured and unable to pay out of pocket.
So that’s why the hospital immediately broke my confidentiality. HIPAA or not, what they did was not legal at the time because I wasn’t a minor. They called my parents and told them to “come get me.” Why? The hospital wanted me out of their hair and they figured my “rich Jewish parents” would drive three hours in the middle of the night up to Vermont (it was the dead of winter) and this would successfully avoid yet another patient receiving free care.
This didn’t happen. They had called my parents at 11:30 at night, or possibly later. My parents were shocked to hear I was in such a state. At that point, my parents made the decision to hold off and wait to hear from me. I ended up admitted but the hospital still wanted my parents to immediately take me away. I was aware of this. Of course I was! I was embarrassed, too. I phoned my parents as soon as I could, rather apologetic. I told them not to take the trouble to show up. I knew they were worried but I was insistent. I confronted the doctor and informed him that I was aware of Hill-Burton. The doctor was shocked that I knew this law. I could tell he felt awkward. He tried to justify why they informed my parents of my whereabouts, saying my parents were my “nearest living relatives.” I pointed out that “nearest living relatives” would be informed if I was dead, not if I showed up at an ER. He admitted I was right and admitted the existence of Hill Burton and that I could get free care since I was unemployed and uninsured. I was put on Medicaid, which covered my stay retroactively. The breach of confidentiality caused embarrassment for me, and caused undue panic and confusion for my parents.
3) I saw a psychologist named Tom Alkoff. My parents were delighted that I was seeing Jewish doctors. My parents were like that. Sadly, the doctors did many unethical things in their practice. My parents were paying Alkoff in part and my father wasn’t happy due to Alkoff’s billing practices. I slowly became aware that Alkoff was revealing to my parents just about all of what I told him in my sessions with him. I found out that my parents questioned Alkoff’s expertise. They found out his home phone number somehow and used it to communicate with him. I’m sure he found this awkward, but this was back in the day when you couldn’t block calls and most people didn’t have answering machines. Voicemail, call waiting, and caller ID had not yet been invented. I never had Alkoff’s home phone and he didn’t give this out to patients. But my parents, who were paying him, were therefore privy to any information they wanted to squeeze out of him. He didn’t keep any confidentiality whatsoever. After a time, he started ending our sessions 20 minutes early (after he’d started ten minutes late). I asked him why he was doing this. He said he was asking me to leave the office so he could “call my parents and tell them what I’d said to him.” These phone calls occurred on my time during just about every session. Years later, my parents verified that this in fact had been happening. They weren’t aware that these discussions were taking place during what was supposed to be session time they were paying for, nor did they realize that even though they were my parents, what he was doing was unlawful. One day, I figured it all out. I was in shock, dismayed, confused about what was happening and questioning why Alkoff had certainly not cured my eating disorder, but made me worse. I knew he was a liar and a faker with a Messiah Complex. I went and tried to confront him. I also told him I intended to kill myself. He ignored what I said, assuring me I was “doing great.” I saw no evidence of improvement whatsoever. I stopped at a store and purchased a can of diet ginger ale and a bottle of Tylenol. That’s what I used, as soon as I got home, to swallow all the Imipramine and Thorazine in my possession and as many Tylenols and I could before I passed out.
Alkoff worked with a married couple, Carl and Ronnie Burak. My friend was also a victim of this trio of fakers. She died of suicide a few years later. There were many wrongful deaths. The trio left town, of course.
4) I later saw various shrinks in the Boston Area and elsewhere. There were countless violations. HIPAA didn’t exist yet but even without HIPAA, there were confidentiality laws that should have protected me. Due to monetary concerns, the shrinks acted as buddies to my parents, ensuring that my parents were informed. They wanted my parents’ unquestioning faith in them so they’d continue to siphon money right out of my parents’ wallets. Our family was profiled as “rich Jews” whom they could take advantage of. It was so unnecessary, and embarrassing for me. I felt patronized. Slowly, my self-worth crumbled, because I felt like a pawn in the situation. Over the years I was losing my voice. I wasn’t aware of this and assumed I was getting “expert care.” I regret that my parents and I were taken advantage of.
5) After my dad took sick, and eventually died, my parents were suddenly out of the picture. I’ll be honest: this was an incredible relief for me! You can see why I felt this way, can’t you? I was sick of being talked over, treated like a child in grade school who was being discussed in regular parent-teacher conferences. It was so demeaning! After my father’s death, I went back to college. I was doing well, too. By then, HIPAA was in existence as was the Americans with Disabilities Act. I didn’t ask for nor require accommodations, and I never went to their disability services. The only time I did ask for accommodations I was not required to file paperwork. All I did, in January 2000, was to call the school and tell them I’d broken my leg that November and was still on crutches. I asked for classrooms that I could get to without using stairs. I was granted this and that’s the only time I asked for anything like that.
I had my one decent therapist at that time. In 2001 she was laid off and after that I had crap for care. While it was true that having my parents out of the picture gave me independence, I also lost my dad’s advocacy. My boyfriend, Joe, stuck up for me whenever he could, but he had far less clout than my dad did. Joe died in 2003. After that, I had no one. I had no one to confide in and no one to advocate should I have any conflict in “care.” Of course, the care then worsened. I became a pawn of the System. They could do whatever the hell they wanted and I had no one to come to my defense.
6) HIPAA laws are meant to protect. They don’t. Care for me after Joe’s death got more abusive and my confidentiality was broken whenever they felt like it. I’d get sectioned on a whim, again for convenience. My most abusive, manipulative, power-hungry therapist, Maria Mellano, most likely was well known to local police in many towns around Boston. I can’t imagine how many times she used her sectioning power, or threat thereof, as scare tactic. She even sectioned by accident! Yep, she told me she’s phoned the Watertown cops asking to do a “wellness check” on me. Instead, the police took me in on a “section” that she claimed she never ordered. She said they misinterpreted what she’d told them. I recall I was at home, heard that familiar sound of a stretcher being wheeled down the hall, asking myself, “What now? What have I done? Nothing!” They didn’t ask questions, they just took me. I developed so much fear due to Maria’s threats, which were increasing in frequency. It was getting scarier, since the police knew me now, as did the EMT’s. I was often relieved if I was sectioned on a weekend, which meant the EMT’s and police were the “weekend guys” who didn’t know me, therefore didn’t judge me based on Maria’s abuse. The weekend guys were noticeably more respectful. I felt like I was a criminal. But I wasn’t! I only wanted my eating disorder to go away, which is the reason I went to therapy in the first place. My condition, over the decades, had seriously worsened due to “treatment.” I suffered multiple medical harm from medications alone. I no longer was employable since I’d been out of work for so long. I was physically ill. This happens to many “mental patients,” this gradual deterioration that otherwise wouldn’t occur.
Do any mental patients thrive? These are held up as model patients, however, they are the exception and not the rule. Often, these model patients, later in life, fail due to effects of long term medication use. Their bodies break down long before they ordinarily would. While they were once outspoken, they then are hidden from public view. You want to know “Where are they now?” You won’t find them thriving anymore. Whatever harm has occurred is covered up.
6) After this complete breakdown of all respect for me, I had no HIPAA rights whatsoever. I was subject to illegal searches. I was barged in on by police illegally countless times. They can only do this legally with a warrant for arrest. I was taken to hospitals on anyone’s whim. No proof of DTS/DTO was necessary, only a doctor’s or social worker’s word.
In 2012, I reported that i had been raped. I suggested to police how they might find evidence of this man’s wrongdoing. I told them others were at risk. The police told me that he was protected by law from search and seizure without a warrant.
What am I supposed to think of that? It’s okay to violate the rights of a “mental patient” with no warrant, no evidence whatsoever, but god forbid do an investigation of a rape by a non-patient. A rapist was immune. I wasn’t.
You can imagine how I felt at that point. Completely invalidated. I was totally worthless in anyone’s eyes. This is a story of serious neglect and abuse. At that point, my peers doubted my word, townspeople who had previously been my friends doubted what I was telling them, and my life seriously was falling to pieces. My brothers had long since removed themselves from my life and I couldn’t turn to them at all, even though one lived only an hours’ drive away. Anything I said was immediately doubted, even though I was telling the truth. They could get away with this, and they did. I recall I was told the psych unit I’d been on “didn’t exist.” I was told things that occurred hadn’t happened, yet they did.
I wasn’t claiming there were microphones in my TV, nor a secret transmitter placed inside my body. I wasn’t claiming that I could communicate with aliens. I was well aware of CCTV cameras in my building because there were signs stating that these cameras had been placed there for safety of the residents. There were several such cameras that I can recall where such notices were displayed. One in the elevator, one at the front entrance, and in the vestibule areas right outside the elevator where people waited for its arrival. Police had ability to illegally break into any apartment in the building at their whim. This was done regularly, in fact. I recall once I went out and then, while outside and about to re-enter, witnessed the arrival of the ole familiar police/fire/ambulance crew that showed up once or twice a day at my place to haul someone off. I was scared because by then, I’d developed fear of uniformed personnel due to horrible experiences. I circled around a block and then came in my back entrance. I decided to wait a bit until they left because I didn’t want to be around them. I entered via my rear entrance, which meant if there were any cop cars remaining, I wouldn’t have to walk past them.
Guess what? My door had been opened and had been left not only unlocked bu wide open. I had no clue what had happened nor why the police had broken in, willy-nilly, like they owned the place. I was so scared! What the heck had I done now? Why did they treat us so disrespectfully, like we didn’t matter. This was spring 2013. I was so fearful by then. The police were supposed to protect. Instead, they were treating me like a criminal!
So they justified breaking in to the apartment of a known “mental patient” time after time, yet they refused to investigate a rape. Great hero cops, eh? These are the same cops who were praised by townspeople. I sure didn’t worship them! I was so disgusted every time I saw those words “Watertown Strong.” What a complete farce! If I ever mentioned “rights” or my disdain for police, I was immediately accused of paranoid delusions. Again, this is the further breakdown and degradation of the dignity of a human being who hadn’t committed a crime nor was paranoid or delusional. I was scared for legitimate reasons! Why did this happen? I was scapegoated again and again. This happened because I was voiceless, and no one came to my defense even when I asked anyone to do so. People could get away with it, and they did just that.
As you know, I fled my town. I am safe now. I am no longer in a terrible situation. My life has completely changed. I suffer the aftereffects of trauma. And after all those years, the one thing I went to therapy for in the first place, my eating disorder, was barely addressed nor solved at all.
I don’t know what will kill me first, the permanent kidney damage that resulted from years on lithium, or my eating disorder. All I can do is do my best to survive now. I am doing much better being away from the oppression. But the aftereffects are still with me. I try not to worry about it. I hope to accomplish what I can with the time I have left.
Thanks for reading, Julie and Puzzle
They say Freedom comes with a price. The concept isn’t an easy one to grasp since we are always redefining what Freedom means to us. People aren’t static, they are living and life means change, growth, and decay. Where do all these ideas come from if all we are are our bodies? But we are more than that. We are sacred.
I went out last night in Atlantida, Uruguay, leaving my home at 11:30pm, or, rather, 23:30. The sun sets now around 21:00 and rises around 6:00. We are currently on Daylight Savings Time, at -2:00. Some call it Amazon Time. So 23:30 here was 8:30 in New York and Boston, where the hoopla was just starting.
I suppose it’s cold there, in my former home of Watertown, Massachusetts. Folks have to be careful driving on ice. We have some of that commercialism here and a few of the stores were packed with long lines at the register. Only a couple of our stores broadcast Muzak, thankfully, or have statues of Santa greeting customers.
I was amazed at the lack of Christmas decorations. Where I lived in the USA, there was so much “holiday cheer” that it was sickening. My landlady here is one of the few in Atlantida who has Christmas lights in her door. I’ve seen very few Christmas trees.
At 23:30, I decided to go out and see the fireworks. I didn’t bring Puzzle with me cuz I figured she’d be scared. But honestly I think with all the popping around, perhaps she was uncomfortable staying home alone.
The night was warm. I tried walking down Artigas toward La Rambla, then turned onto Cuidad de Montevideo. Around the intersection with Rep de Chile, I saw some folks gathered. Someone was doing something in the middle of the street. He was bent down. Then, he ran off to join the others.
In the spot where he’d been fussing, sparks shot up, up, up and erupted into bursts in the sky. Popping sounds surrounded me. I quickened my pace, moving away from the noise and explosions. I turned back onto Artigas.
The street was marvelously empty. A lone couple passed me walking arm in arm. I nodded to them but they were engaged in Spanish conversation I didn’t understand.
I passed by one of the bakeries, or, rather, panaderias, which was closed up for the night. Their parking lot was empty. Just beyond, I saw a man bending over. I thought he was looking for a lost coin. I told myself if only I could speak Spanish, I could ask him if he’d lost a ring or if he needed help searching for whatever valuable he was frantically seeking.
Maybe he was seeking God, or meaning.
But I reminded myself that Freedom comes with a price. I walked past, then turned to see what he was doing. He got up and walked away rather quickly.
All at once, the spot where he’d been searching (so I thought) erupted in sparkles and thunderclaps. More sparkly stuff shot up. Boom! Boom! I told myself this was a loud one. A large one. Did he even anticipate that a pedestrian might be walking past? Or was I stupid to be out on such a night? Boom! Boom!
Silent night. Holy night.
I didn’t turn onto the highway at Plaza de la Madre, but headed up Ave Circunvalencion, toward the Liceo. The popping became more frequent. I turned to see what was happening in the homes. Some folks were enjoying parties. I suppose the folks in the darker, silent homes were either at another party or trying to sleep. Or maybe these homes were vacant, their owners hungry for tourists to rent them. Many, indeed, had “Aquilar” posted out front.
I tried to walk past the Liceo. Not a chance. A line of young people, teens I suppose, stood out there and I knew they were blowing off more firecrackers. I walked around the school and took a side street to the Interbalnearea.
This major highway was completely devoid of vehicles. I saw no buses, even though I know I’ve walked past here and seen the bus stops crowded late into the wee hours. Tonight, on this holiday some consider sacred, those bus stops had been abandoned. No buses. No cars. I saw no cops. After about ten minutes’ walking along the Auxiliary Road, a lone ambulance or rescue vehicle whisked past without playing its siren, and tore eastward along the abandoned Interbal.
You would think, then, that all would be silent, with no cars nor people around. No, hardly. The popping increased to a feverish mania.
I could have been in a battlefield. The sound of machine guns surrounding me. Up ahead, I saw it just in time. Some teens set off a firecracker in the middle of the Auxiliary Road. Damn good thing I saw it and turned around, hurrying away as it exploded.
I reminded myself there was no need to be scared, though perhaps being out on such a night wasn’t the best idea. Especially alone. I was now headed westward, but I was hesitant to pass the Liceo again. The popping and firecrackers display made the USA Fourth of July look and sound like kids’ play. Even the Boston Pops concert on the Charles River paled by comparison.
And no, the quieter, more private and less pricy north side pf the IB wasn’t quiet tonight. While I walked on the south side, on the other side of the highway were higher and more elaborate sparkles in the sky. The grass is always greener. Especially since it’s summer here.
I remembered that under the bridge where Ruta 11 crosses over is a teen hangout. I told myself maybe I shouldn’t be walking past there. But I saw no kids, no people hanging out at all. I laughed, then knowing they couldn’t shoot firecrackers under an overpass, so they wouldn’t want to use this hangout. Silent night.
I walked all the way past Tienda Inglesas, of course, closed up for the night. The Petrobas gas station also was closed, open only to those who had credit cards to use at the pumps. I followed Calle 11, hoping it was safe from mischievous kids. Something told me again perhaps I shouldn’t have ventured out, but the warmth of the night comforted me and I felt rather secure. Now, midnight had passed, and the popping machine gun noise was calming down. Less frequent, coming to a close.
I didn’t hear the churches ring bells. I haven’t heard mention of Jesus or “Senior” as they sometimes say, referring to Jesus.
That I know of, we have only two churches in town. One is a Jehovah Witness meeting place, and I know the Witnesses do not celebrate the holiday. The Catholic church of course does. But I have heard not one familiar Carol. No Jingle Bells. No Little Town of Bethlehem. Yesterday, I saw cashiers wearing Santa hats at one of the stores. They seemed to regard this as a bit too silly.
And above all, no snow. No snowmen. No White Christmas here.
All at once, I wanted to shout out, “No! This is not my country!” But I didn’t. I wanted to be home now, holding Puzzle and comforting her. Surely, she must be spooked by this. Why had I left her alone?
I passed by a home and saw a Christmas tree in the window. The family was gathered around their dinner. Norman Mailer picture perfect. For whatever reason, I found this scene immensely relieving.
I walked a few more blocks. I saw the pharmacist, an older guy who works at the pharmacy on Calle 11, closing up shop for the night, perhaps his wife with him, headed elsewhere. I wanted to wave but didn’t. I’d gone there looking for calculator batteries only two days ago.
I prayed for peace, for love, for understanding. All at once, I had arrived back at my apartment.
I opened my door, stepped inside, and felt such marvel at what was before me. Nothing had changed. No one had come to do an illegal search. No one was here to drag me off to some hospital or holding place. Puzzle had been asleep, and rose to greet me. I gave her a pat. Yes, I have come to Home Sweet Home at last.
The four walls that surrounded me in Watertown that was my apartment sure didn’t make a home. It was more like a prison. Home is a place where you are wanted and loved and feel secure and safe. I never had that in Watertown, not since 2008. Here, in this place where Navidad is so different, I am okay, safe, and free.
They say Freedom comes with a price. Watertown must have had over 20 churches in four square miles. Here, not one charity group nor church people came to me this season asking for money. In the USA, they spoke of Christmas around the world. What a dumb, ethnocentric idea. I doubt Santa made it past the equator, and had he slipped down anyone’s chimney here, he would have been considered an intruder. Here, if you want to alert those inside of your presence, you clap your hands outside the door. Santa needs to learn our customs or I guess he’s not wanted here. No wonder the cashiers were laughing over “Ho ho ho.” The joke’s on the rest of the world.
Late at night, I held Puzzle in my arms while she slept peacefully through the remainder of the fireworks. I, too, fell asleep soon after I lay down. I made sure both of us were on the inside of my mosquito net. And then, we lay curled up together, like mother and child.
Merry Christmas, everyone.
So I was getting dinner ready for Puzzle. In comes an e-mail. Breaking news: Polar Vortex to hit Watertown.
That’s that little town in Massachusetts, folks. Typical overpopulated town. If you want to catch some great noise pollution, hop over there.
I asked myself, “What the heck is a Polar Vortex?” I promised myself that I’d get to the computer soon, and look it up.
Was it a meteor? How about a tornado? A sudden Act of God that instantly wipes out the entire town….
Well? I said to myself, “If I could have done it myself, I would have.”
I would have loved to leave that town knowing it was about to blow to bits. But no, I’m not a bomber, not a criminal, and I’m highly unlikely to do a mass shooting. I’m a writer. In my writer’s mind, I imagined burning a bridge. The most lethal fire I could build in my imagination would destroy everything.
That’s how pissed I was.
Maybe I was meant to be something other than the meek girl I am. Maybe in my heart, I’m a more militant activist. Maybe I worked for the Underground Railroad in the time of the Civil War, or I was a Holocaust Rescuer in Nazi land. Maybe, in my mind, I’m an escapee from the worst prison ever built. Know what I did? I climbed over the wall. Jumped 500 feet. To Freedom. I lived. To tell the story.
I used to live in Watertown. I remember the stories I learned as a child. That God destroyed wicked cities. Is this true? Well, he (I really have to make him male right now) knocked down the Tower of Babel. I was told in Hebrew school that God scrambled people’s languages. They could no longer communicate well enough to efficiently build the tower.
He saw to it that the Walls of Jericho came down by using the power of music and sound.
Of course, there was Lot, and his wife who turned and looked back at the destroyed city.
I think of knocking down all the prisons. I think of the locked doors and walls of mental institutions crashing down. Let not one more person endure the torture of psychiatric diagnosis. “You are forever maimed, you are incapable of complex thought, you cannot relate to others in a meaningful way, you cannot get away from us, and if you try, we will crush you.
Glory, glory! Mississippi is burning….
If I had my way……
Yeah, I remember Watertown. I wish I didn’t remember so clearly. I can hear those cars honking at me, “Get out of the road, stupid!”
Or walking down the street with my little dog, who never hurt anyone, and getting yelled at every time, “Get that fucking dog off my lawn or I am calling the police, asshole!”
I was walking in my own parking lot, and a lady yelled at me to get the hell out of her parking space. Just for stepping into it for a few seconds.
Oh, they’d get together in their meeting houses, those white people, and they’d talk a nice talk about diversity. So long as there weren’t any blacks, poor people, foreigners, trash like me, anyone diseased or called “dangerous,” or homosexual. They boasted love and liberalism. I think that was bullshit. Love for the few. They hated everyone else.
The spoke of friendship. Oh, really? Friendship meant sending those you pitied to therapy. Isn’t that a nice way to get unwanted folks out of your hair? Oh, the nuisance!
When I left Watertown, all I could think of, over and over, was “Good riddance.” I remember that one playing itself again and again. Walking out felt fabulous.
So I got online just now, all prepared to see that Watertown had been destroyed by an Act of God. I hoped it was just Watertown, and not the other towns around there. Or that the few left in the Boston area that I care about, or care about me, weren’t anywhere in the vicinity when the “polar vortex” hit.
Well? What the hell is a Polar Vortex? It’s a cold front, folks. Those hateful people are getting snowed in. Shucks. Is that all? God in Heaven, you are a sissy.
They’ll have fun, though, since they are always at each other’s throats, throwing snowballs at each other, plowing the messes off the road, and towing away anyone they don’t want.