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I Was Today Years Old

When I discovered that the custody termination papers had come directly to the residence hotel I was staying at in 1992.

Wow, that's amazing right? To learn about this little piece of information thirty years later in time for the completion of edits to a chapter in my book? Tijanna, how did you discover this?

It was written on the paper.

The paper I've had for decades.

The paper I was holding in my hand.

The paper I'd looked at dozens of times over the years.

It's right there on the first page, this address, this question, answering this question I've had for years about how I received the notice that my custody had been revoked when I was using. In the book I speculate: "The letter had come a few weeks prior: sole custody has been granted to Sevven David. I’m not sure how I got the final judgment. I mean, I was homeless although I periodically lived with One Dred Fred. I don’t remember picking it up from a former address and I can’t imagine it being delivered to the hotel. Magically, then, I received the letter."

But it was not magic.

The letter had been delivered to the hotel, c/o One Dred Fred. The envelope I imagined tearing open was, indeed, put into my hand probably by Fred and I tore it open. Maybe not tore. Maybe I eased an index finger along the small opening in the lefthand corner, as one does, being careful to not rend the envelope, which could have rent the pages, which would have added to the rending of my psyche that was about to experience one of the most devastating consequences of my addiction.

In 2022, this particular piece of paper here looks too fresh, too new to have been the original I received. Besides, I was essentially homeless and would not have kept this piece of paper after leaving One Dred Fred's for the homeless shelter or after leaving the homeless shelter for jail or after leaving jail to go back to the homeless shelter only to discover that they'd thrown away my last duffle bag of possessions.

This must be a copy.

This must be Sevven David's copy.

He must have given it to me sometime after I got clean. He is a fucking saint.

I have a whole folder of papers from that time: court reports, chronology of events for the reunification process, petition to establish parental relationship, settlement conference report, psychological evaluation, formal supervision progress report.

I have the 11x17 piece of construction paper with the letter Arthur wrote me during my last time in jail in March 1994, him wishing me well, saying how proud he is of me, and me returning the favor by cutting him off during my first few months in Walden House.

I have the 11x17 piece of construction paper, folded into 16ths, that documents all my hopes and dreams back in April 1994, a month into my two-month jail term in SISTERs before being transferred to Walden House.

I have the three decorated file folders from the women in SISTERs in 1997 who wished me well after my two-year term as orientation counselor, me three years clean and working at the program that gave me my entire life back.

But these court papers, these custody documents, these reports. These dated reports. These reports with dates on them. I've had them. I've looked at them, I swear.

But sometimes I'm unable to see them.

Just looking at the typewritten words, the crossouts, the handwritten information, the wet signatures--the mere act of viewing the collections of letters sends me into the black box of hard memory. Into the fear, the self loathing, the utter despair, the attempted OD, the two additional years of literally living on the street, the filth, the failure, the serrated thumb, the missing teeth.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it's okay now because I'm in a better place and that does not mean I'm dead yet.

But it is tricky. Because the mere sight of these words produces molasses, slush, a jumble, an inability. Sometimes I cannot see the forest for the trees.

It took me several tries just to put my arrests in order. Part of that is because of how the rap sheet is displayed. It is not as straightforward as you might imagine. It's taken me months, periodically, to put the court stuff in order because of molasses and how I can get lost in how loudly the letters are shouting at me, making it impossible to hear the message they were imparting.

But today I answered an important question, one that hasn't so much been bugging me outright as permanently existing just out of view of the corner of my right eye.

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