This is a Really Real Mental Health Post.
More specifically, this is a Really Real Trauma Post.
Trigger Warning: Violence, Police Violence, Mention of Drugs
Story time. This is long, one of my longest posts in awhile.
When I was around 22, my son’s father and I were dirt poor and facing homelessness. It was the first time my mental health prevented me from working and he wasn’t able to get or hold a job either.
I found a mental health program that would pay our rent for a year if we could find a place under $400 a month.
We looked and we looked, not finding a single thing. The offer was about to run out and we were desperate. Finally we came across a beat-up, slumlord owned, row home in one of the worst areas of the city.
We moved in.
We put our living room in one of the bedrooms on the second floor because bullets were less likely to come through those windows if shots were fired (and they were, leaving a hole in the car I was borrowing at the time).
We were the only white family for blocks. I got pulled over regularly and learned to carry not only my licence, but my utility bill and even a copy of my lease. The only people that looked like us in that neighborhood were driving through buying one of the many types of drugs that were sold from most corners and in front of the abandoned houses.
Our time there wasn’t all horrible. We made friends with the neighbors, both the ones trying to “clean up the streets” and the ones selling the drugs. We stayed out of the drama and got to know them all as individuals. We got to know their stories and why they ended up where they were. We cried real tears when someone we knew well, who just happened to be in a feud with another dealer, was shot in the head and died.
They also looked out for us. They knew we stood out and could become easy prey so I was often escorted from my car to my house if I had to park far away. Once, in a miscommunication between us and roommates, our front door got left wide open while no one was home and someone from the neighborhood watched our place for almost 12 hours. Of course part of that is the fact that no one wants the cops to show up on “their street.”
But one day the cops did show up.
I had just gotten Kidlet out of the tub. I can still see where I was standing, with my tiny 3 year old, wrapped in a towel, on my hip. I heard breaking wood and the front door slam open and “This is the police” and countless footsteps stomp through the house and up the steps towards me. Guns were drawn and pointed at my face. At my 3 year old’s face.
At My 3 Year Old’s Face.
After demanding to know What The Fuck was going on, my sons father was cuffed and slammed against the stairs. I remember seeing him, defeated, sitting on the bottom step.
They brought people I’d never seen before in from out front. People just passing through? Someone they thought was involved with whatever they thought was happening at my house?
While sitting on the sofa with my still mostly naked son, strangers from out front cuffed and on the floor around me, cops watching me, they threw random clothes at me and told me to dress him.
I asked for a warrant repeatedly. Hours? later they produced one. Something about having to remove the judges name being the reason for the delay. I’m honestly not sure.
They said they saw us dealing drugs through our front door. Said they had been watching us for years building a case. My son’s father said it was because we were white, because we could only look like us, and be in this neighborhood, for drug reasons. They said they had no idea what race we were. Those two facts do not go together.
My sons father and I smoked pot at one point. From what I recall we didn’t have any actual marijuana leaf in the house though, we hadn’t smoked in quite some time. We couldn’t even keep the lights on. We weren’t getting high. They found a box of seeds and stems and some paraphernalia. They threatened to arrest us for that if we didn’t just sit still and shut up and drop it.
A little while later they took what they found and left. Broken door still sitting wide open with no way to close it.
We never heard another word.
There’s a point to me telling this story, but this is long enough, I’ll tell the rest in a part two.