Scar Tissue | 33.) Jerk Chicken

I’m picking gum off the kitchen tile. Before picking gum out from under my fingernails. I feel a little embarrassed about my unshaven legs but figured I have more important things to worry about.

Shay hands me the tongs.

“Wait for it to get brown, then turn it.”

Henry, our crippled mouse, scurries back and forth between overflowing trash bins and the stove. I feel bad for that mouse. He’s a bold one though, dragging his back leg behind him.

She pulls a well-charred leg out of the pan, with drippings, and slowly starts filling paper plates.

“Too spicy?”

Dominique pulls a bottle out from the back of her sweatpants and hands it to me. She snatches it back at the sight of a guard.

“Trust me on this.” Shay pours a can of crushed pineapple in the pan and begins to stir slowly. “It’ll make it sweet. It’ll cut the heat.”

Shay and Dominique got locked out a few days later. They called me, frantic, and asked me to break into their room and throw all their stuff in plastic bins and hide it under my bed.

“We can’t afford to lose everything again.”

Three months go by.

“Use it. Dump it. You don’t have to keep it.”

I couldn’t keep everything. By the time we signed a lease, they crossed the border into Pennsylvania.

I started blending their belongings into mine. On the top shelf of my closet is a box with Shay’s anxiety medication, her state ID, birth certificate, and debit card. I have a backpack of their belongings. Expired condoms, pay stubs.

Her phone is still disconnected. The shelter won’t release any information.

“Don’t go to the police.”

I started blending their belongings into mine. I took the Zoloft. I trashed the condoms. I pushed the jerk seasoning to the back of the cabinet.

 

 

For the last ten months, we have been navigating the New York City shelter system.  From Manhattan to Queens, back to Manhattan, and finally, to Brooklyn. We’ve been all over this beautiful city. Eight months prior, we stepped foot in a courtroom. We spent most of 2017 fighting tooth and nail – a rent overcharge and neglected repairs. It’s unbelievable how much a landlord, a single person, can cause this much pain in a person’s life. It’s scary how quickly our lives can fall apart at the hand’s of another. I have collected nearly 100,000 words documenting our journey. In Scar Tissue, I will share with you pieces of my collection.
© 2018 Jocelyn Figueroa All Rights Reserved “Scar Tissue”

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Scar Tissue | 32.) Reflection

Tossing and turning. I could never sleep on my back. As soon as I start slipping, I switch sides again. Beneath me, Thomas breaths heavily. I tell him he shouldn’t sleep on the floor. Rats. Roaches.
I look at the clock.
It’s 4 am again.
5.
6.
The light peaks through crooked blinds.
I sit up, stand up, and sneak out again. I leave my key under my pillow and leave the door cracked.
They don’t have mirrors here.
Mirrors shatter. Shattered mirrors slit writs and throats.
Around the corner, a woman takes a chef’s knife to a cutting board.
I haven’t seen my face in months. I imagine the sorrow is evident. I wonder about the bags under my eyes. I could buy a compact. I could take a selfie. I could walk into any department store, but, I haven’t washed my hair in months. I haven’t called anyone in months.
I splash water on my face and stare at the wall, where the mirror should be. I see blank, white brick. I wonder if tonight is the night.
But, it’s morning.
I creep back out into the hallway. Slip back into our room. Slide my hand under my pillow, clasping my key.

 

 

For the last ten months, we have been navigating the New York City shelter system.  From Manhattan to Queens, back to Manhattan, and finally, to Brooklyn. We’ve been all over this beautiful city. Eight months prior, we stepped foot in a courtroom. We spent most of 2017 fighting tooth and nail – a rent overcharge and neglected repairs. It’s unbelievable how much a landlord, a single person, can cause this much pain in a person’s life. It’s scary how quickly our lives can fall apart at the hand’s of another. I have collected nearly 100,000 words documenting our journey. In Scar Tissue, I will share with you pieces of my collection.
© 2018 Jocelyn Figueroa All Rights Reserved “Scar Tissue”

Sunday Scribbles — January 27, 2019

January has shown me many signs that this year will be the year of difficult and painful growth. It will be a year of continued healing — forceful and militant healing.

Through these signs, I have taken a deeper, closer look at my life and the spaces around me. This has motivated me to continue my journey of gaining courage to turn this roof, into a house, and this house into a home. Through this process, I am overcoming my fear of potentially losing it. I am letting go of my feelings of unworthiness.

Blessings are continuing to pour into my life at full force.

As promised, last March, our landlord has returned all of our additional security deposit at the beginning of the year. Essentially, this means we don’t have to worry about making a rental payment until April.

This has allowed us to enter the New Year with a established savings account that I am determined to generously fill over the next few months.

Shortly after the New Year, my dear friend Sequoia launched his publishing company Bervintro and offered to translate and publish Scar Tissue to reach wider audiences! This is exciting news. I have been very close friends with Sequoia for several years now, and he has been, more or less, the most consistent and helpful friend through our journey with (and recovering from) homelessness. So for us to be doing this together means quite a bit to me.

I’ll also be writing and working with Invisible People more closely, and regularly, very soon, as well. I can’t tell you how enthusiastic I am about the work we will be doing this year.

In other news, there’s been something on my mind. And, it’s all about my relationship with social media, specifically “large/big” social media and how I want to go forward with it in the future. To be frank, I’m unsure if, at this point, I want to participate in it, or at the very least, invest the amount of time, I currently do, into it.

Sequoia introduced me to a new blogging platform, Pillowfort, about 3 weeks ago. And, long story short, I love everything about it. It’s sort of like Tumblr and old-school LiveJournal had a baby. Right now, it’s in closed beta, and so the community feels quite small — and it is! However, I’ve probably had more in-depth and rewarding discussions over Pillowfort than I have…well…anywhere! WordPress comes pretty close, though. It fosters conversations, through a thread-like comments section, in ways that I’ve really never seen before.

I’ve used twitter to self-promote my writing (and still do). But the truth is, I’ve always hated Twitter. I didn’t like Twitter 5 years ago, and I still don’t like it now. Yet, I have it, because I kind of assume it’s something I “have to do” if I want to reach more people. But today, I’m just not sure anymore.

Small, tight communities make big impact because they’re small, tight communities. I like the sort of tribal-like community where everyone is looking out for each other. For one, I feel like I can help people, and I have more control over my ability to help people. The truth is, I have a better chance of changing YOUR MIND, and changing the way YOU think and interact with the world… than say… the couple thousand people I speak at on Twitter. And, let’s face it, there isn’t a lot of substance in re-tweeting or sharing posts that most of us aren’t reading.

280 characters is just not enough for me. But y’all already knew that! 😉

Scar Tissue | 31.) Survivor’s Guilt

I deserve this.

Regardless of how often my mother says it, how often I write it, it doesn’t quite sink it. It doesn’t quite register. My brain still rejects it.

Why me?

Must I punish myself, sacrifice myself, drown myself, for all those who didn’t make it out?

Just to resurrect myself, over and over again, for my mother, my husband, and my children and grandchildren yet to be born? Don’t I owe my husband my best? Don’t I owe it to myself, too?

Am I wrong to claim this for myself? For us? Do I have permission to seek joy and experience it?

So today, I choose to live. I’ll do it today and tomorrow, for Franky. I’ll do it next week, next month, and next year, for Shay.

Because they’d want me to.

I’ll chase the horizon again.

 

Author’s Note:

First and foremost, thank you for being here. Thank you for following Scar Tissue, loyally, for the better half of 6 months. Thank you for walking this path with me.

Initially, I didn’t suspect I’d continue Scar Tissue. This doesn’t mean I intended to abandon the story, however, the project has weighed heavily on my mental health, and a break was needed. A lot of the material I’ve been working through continues to be very personal, very hard to write, and to be frank with you all, I wasn’t sure where I was going with all of this.

I’ve had to sit down and really think about what greater purpose there is to my story. I finally came to the realization that there is none. As a writer, the only purpose is to tell a story, as best as I can, as true as can be. There is no agenda, political or not.

Scar Tissue is my life. It is a memoir. I am a writer first, and this is my story.

Of course, this is not to say that the issues featured in my story are not of great importance to me! However, Scar Tissue is the raw, the grit, the unbiased. It just is. What it is.

I welcome a dialogue. I welcome conversation. But, please, keep in mind, not everything you will read will be politically correct. This is why I am making such a clarification now.

 

 

For the last ten months, we have been navigating the New York City shelter system.  From Manhattan to Queens, back to Manhattan, and finally, to Brooklyn. We’ve been all over this beautiful city. Eight months prior, we stepped foot in a courtroom. We spent most of 2017 fighting tooth and nail – a rent overcharge and neglected repairs. It’s unbelievable how much a landlord, a single person, can cause this much pain in a person’s life. It’s scary how quickly our lives can fall apart at the hand’s of another. I have collected nearly 100,000 words documenting our journey. In Scar Tissue, I will share with you pieces of my collection.
© 2018 Jocelyn Figueroa All Rights Reserved “Scar Tissue”

Government Shutdown Threatens Hundreds of Thousands of Americans with Homelessness

This government shutdown, along with Trump’s shameless disregard for the poorest people in our country is a real, true sign of how broken our system is, and truly, how unsafe we are if “shit were to hit the fan”.

As you folks probably can tell, I rarely comment on any kind of current event — politics included. At least not here! But this — this government shutdown, and the complete disregard for its real threat to the poorest, most vulnerable people in our society really bothers me. In fact, so much so, that I’ve been contemplating whether or not I should write about it.

Many poor and low-income families are at risk of losing housing. And, by many, I mean thousands — hundreds of thousands, if not more.

So, yes, this is a big deal.

In fact, the National Low-Income Housing Coalition has identified, and even mapped out, the 150,000 deeply poor seniors & people w/disabilities who are at risk of losing their homes right now.

With virtually no end in sight, the list of federally-funded programs that this government shut down will affect is only getting  longer and longer.

According to the Columbia Housing Authority, if this government shut down doesn’t end in February, the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, will also take a hit.

That means many of those using the Section 8 program may face eviction. Millions of low-income Americans utilize Section 8, the federal rental-assistance program.

Such an influx of homelessness among the most venerable is devastating. Even if we could combat this, it would be extremely difficult without federal funds that make homeless-prevention programs happen.

There is no doubt in my mind that we are facing a crisis if the government does not re-open soon.

Consider for a moment, how bad we let things get — where access to affordable housing is so greatly dependent on government-backed housing contracts.

I know it’s a bold statement, but I would go as far as to say that this is what class warfare looks like. Capitalism has hurt us to such a degree that we could not exist, we would not survive, we could not endure, in current conditions anymore.

And, I think, what is most sad, and most ironic, is that Trump, our president, is the face of that reality. He is the face of Capitalism. And, perhaps, NOW, we are all finally seeing it.

 

Welcoming 2019 with Gratitude

Hello Scribblers,

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve been on WordPress and a lot has happened since my last Blogmas post. As you can tell, I didn’t “continue through until New Years”. I straight up abandoned y’all!

Well, for starters, my brother-in-law, and his girlfriend arrived on Christmas Day and we ended up spending as much time as possible together until ringing in the New Year. I’m so glad he came to visit us and we were able to spend time together. It was, truly, the perfect way to end a blessed year, and that’s the kind of attitude and feeling I want going into 2019.

For the past several weeks, I’ve also been reading Marie Kondō’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing

Once I got nearly a third of my way through, I found out that there is actually a Netflix series about her books as well! Although I’m unsure how everyone else is receiving this new series, but for me, I find it quite interesting, and even soothing, to watch.

The home is now very important to me. Having a safe and comfortable place to live is something I really cherish. I want to honor the blessings of having shelter.

Ultimately, this is where I want to start my journey when it comes to bringing gratitude into the New Year.

I want to thank my home for giving us shelter, safety and comfort.

Part of that, I think, is treating my home with care, as well as my belongings.

In truth, for a long time, I was afraid of attachment to my belongings because we did lose everything. It’s only recently that I’ve realized that I can, in fact, enjoy and appreciate what it is I have, now, and allow it to serve it’s purpose to me, now. The past is the past, and the future is always uncertain, but that doesn’t mean I cannot seek joy today.

There is no question that 2018 was, how do they say it now? One for the books. It’s a year I will probably always remember — a time of growth, healing, and redemption.

So many wonderful things have happened, but here is a “short” list of the very best:

  • I reconnected with my family, including my Grandmother, as well as my parents.
  • I reconnected with many old friends.
  • In January, I met my broker, Jay, who spent almost 4 months helping us find an apartment.
  • We found our nest, and it’s perfect.
  • Thomas landed a better job in February.
  • I met Mark from Invisible People, and we started working together in April.
  • I launched this blog and started writing Scar Tissue. I’ve made and build wonderful connections through my story.
  • In May, I landed a union job at a local community college.
  • I landed another job, with the research foundation, shortly after.
  • I met and became very close with several new colleagues.
  • I opened a credit building savings account, and raised my credit score 50 points.
  • In August, I received flowers, balloons, put up decorations, and Thomas baked a cake for my 28th birthday.
  • I’m slowly starting to re-build my wardrobe.
  • I’m beginning to find myself again. This has increased my self-confidence.
  • I’ve prioritized and improved both my physical and mental health.
  • This year, I made it a habit to walk several miles, 4-5 times a week, and eat as clean as possible.
  • In October, I joined our on-campus Urban Farm.
  • I started investing in home decor, and even put up seasonal items in our home.
  • I took an interest in, and started pantry-filling/stock-pilling for a rainy day.
  • I’ve built a habit (and learned how to) clean and organize my space.
  • In December, Thomas and I both received a multitude of gifts for Christmas from friends and family. Thomas, who is a counselor, received several gifts from students and parents. I also received several gifts from colleagues.
  • I was invited to and attended several Christmas parties.
  • I had some time off for the holidays.
  • We spent Christmas with family.

2018 was my year. And, you know what? 2019 will be my year too. 

One final push. // #BLOGMAS 2018, Day #22 – 24

Merry Christmas Eve Scribblers,

How goes the festivities? Are you done with your Christmas shopping? I’m betting some of you are still scrambling in the department stores and malls. Please, don’t let me keep you. 🙂

This one final push will contain sort of a year-in-review, goals for the New Year, and the usual Jocelyn babble that you’ve all come to know and love.

Shall we start with some babble then? OK, fine, what about a song?

 

 

Although I didn’t get 25 Christmas-y posts out this month (I suppose I *could* keep going until New Years…), I’d say I did pretty darn good. I tried my best to not miss more than one day at a time. I slacked a bit this weekend and didn’t post at all. I think my body is slowly sinking into hibernation-mode. I’ve been sleeping quite a bit, eating quite a bit (oh, sweet chocolate.), and overall, just kind of loving myself — gaming through the afternoon, early pizza delivery — you know, the usual.

This morning, er, it was like noon, I dragged my sleepy self out of bed on this wondrous Christmas Eve, and made myself some hash browns. There were eggs too. I didn’t just eat potatoes, but I probably would of, you know, if there were no eggs available for an omelette. I put a pot of coffee on and sat at the computer.

A cold chill came in through cracked windows, and it didn’t take long for my little finger tips to disapprove. I shut that window, and sat back down, scrolling through Twitter. It was there that I saw my dear friend, Sequoia, share photographs of a traditional Yule spread from Sweden. There is something special about sharing these traditions with the world, and even just for a moment, getting a glimpse into the lives of others — especially during this magical time of year.

I think, for me, that is what I love most about Christmas. Regardless of the reason for the season, whether that be Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, or the Winter Solstice, we all feel something special in our hearts. Isn’t that what is most important anyway? That we’re all feeling some kind of magic.

I feel magic in my heart, and I hope that you do too.

If, for some reason, this is a sad time for you, I wish you peace and mercy from that hurt.

Now, for some quick attempt at offending someone:

 

So many blessings have been bestowed upon our tiny little family this year. I feel like the holes in my heart have been filled. And, although, some of that pain inflicted, still remains, there is still a greater joy, a greater love, that carries me through it.

Everything just started falling into place this year. In truth, I just needed one good reason to keep going, and instead, I was given a dozen. Believe it or not, we started 2018 with hearts filled with hope. Finally, we were on our way to being housed after nearly a year of homelessness. I met our broker, Jay, right after the holiday season. For months, we looked at apartments. We viewed a variety of places, including basements and fancy elevator co-ops. After being stood up by a scammer, thinking we may not find a place to live, we met our landlord, Rose. She was warm, and I felt it instantly. She offered us the apartment on the spot, without even an exchange of bank statements. I couldn’t believe, as we stood there, in the hallway of our new nest, with these two angel who would change our lives.

The first few weeks, even months, felt surreal. I was personally working through a lot of difficult emotions, as you can see here:

Who would have thought that walking into the kitchen at 4:30AM would be an adventure of itself? When you haven’t had a kitchen for so long, a kitchen becomes a big deal. Now, everything is a big deal. Every moment that is I feel safe is a big deal. Every moment that I feel comfort is a big deal.

And, so now, whenever I stand there, in the kitchen, washing dishes, I remember the many nights I bribed a guard just to let me in, so I could finally eat.

I don’t have to do that anymore.

I can eat when I want to, even at 4:45AM, with no worry of repercussions, with no punishment.

I don’t have to worry about being written up and kicked out for eating, or looking at a guard the wrong way, or having a bad day.

Note that several more chapters of Scar Tissue can be read under Writer’s Corner –> Projects.

Eventually, a healing I didn’t think was possible, began. Eventually, I started settling in. I started setting goals again. I started writing again. I even started working along side Mark, founder of Invisible People, a non-profit that strives to change the narrative of homelessness.

I started taking better care of my mental and physical health, and being honest about it, too. I starting looking for a job that I actually wanted to do. Within a few months, I was sitting on my boss’s couch, in an interview. Now I coordinate a support center for a local community college that I love. I was then hired by the university’s research foundation to assist in a grant program. Eventually I made a decision, a commitment really, of where to go next in my education, in my career in academia. Claiming that goal will require studying and teaching and trips to each and every faculty event — and several I have shown up for in December alone.

I started taking better care of my finances, with a few slip ups here and there, of course. (I’m often tempted by pizza and video games, as you know.) But that didn’t stop me from saving money and raising my credit score 50 points this year. That did not stop me from packing a well-balanced, full lunch, each and every day. That didn’t stop me from meal-planning and pantry-filling. That didn’t stop me from shopping local markets as often as possible, and even spending some time at our campus urban farm, and, overall, just making more conscious, ethical choices in my day-to-day life.

I guess my goal for next year is to simply keep this up — to hold fast through the difficult months, because there will always be difficult months.

My biggest goal of all is to live more intentionally.  Although I cannot control everything in my life, I can push really hard into it. I can put up a fight.

I believe, in some way, God, or the Universe, did necessary work this year. Regardless if intentional in any way, or what it’s reason may be, I feel it necessary to honor those blessings regardless of how or why it came to be.

I have an inkling of an idea — I began to stray from my path, from my fate, from what must happen, and this sharp turn was required to get me back on track, to fulfill whatever it is I must do, am meant to do, in this life.

But perhaps, I’m over reaching. Perhaps I’m underestimating myself, my power, and your help. Maybe it was all me. Maybe it was all you. Maybe with the help of others, we simply manifested each and every blessing. Maybe this is reassurance for me, that we, together, can do so much.

Merry Christmas, friends. Thank you for all you do. For being here. For reading; for entertaining a stranger.