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Privilege

August 22, 2015

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My street is noisy in the warmer months.  Two houses in particular rotate residents who let me experience street yelling and public drunkenness unlike anything I saw growing up.  On a military base drunkenness is behind closed doors, at initiations, at picnics maybe, but even there I don’t recall the shouting or displays that happen where I am now.

There were no women on our court who staggered on the sidewalk telling all how they got drunk off of one and a half nips of 101.  One. And. A. Half.  She repeats it several times in case we hadn’t heard.

Earlier in the week this woman spent a quarter of an hour declaring her sexual preferences.  If I wanted to set her up with someone, I now know exactly the type of man she is seeking.

We almost know each other.  On a recent trip to the Emergency Department, she was there apologizing to another woman for having an affair with her husband.  “Am I supposed to pretend that I don’t know you?”  She takes a seat closer to her unwelcoming audience.  The entire room pretends not to listen.  We are all listening.

She is crying now.  “He came to me, you know,” she continues as if this information will somehow be comforting.  “He brought vodka and well, you know, that’s my drink.  That’s. My. Drink.” She repeats everything.  I know now this is her way.  “I had my chip.  I was so proud of that chip. My one day chip.”

I know alcoholism is a horrible combination of choices and illness.  My heart hurts for her.  I become less charitable when I notice she can flip off the tears as if they were on a switch.  When the other woman is called back it is all laughter and smiles.  Discussions of parties and people they know.

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My neighborhood is in a precarious spot.  Shootings are more frequent now than four years ago, but are not random. I can walk at night if The Kettle Slayer is with me.

As I write, the woman is yelling that she is leaving.  Going to someone else’s house.  She has told all her friends on the porch, the people across the street on their porches, her housemates and me, inside my upstairs apartment in the house next door.  She has told us all five times.  Some of us pretend not to listen.  We are all listening.

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My landlord wants to sell this house. Am I interested?  He asks from time to time.  This week my mortgage loan was approved.  My hope is to not stay in this house. To move away from this street with the public drug use and yelling and drunkenness.  To live on a street where the bears and I can walk safely at any time. A street where people keep their problems shut up tight in their houses where they belong. Where did I learn these things?

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It is easy to leave here. I have the means and the desire.  I didn’t do anything particularly special to obtain those things.  My field was chosen almost completely at random when I was fourteen.  Medical language was fascinating to me and I had read a snippet of career advice that suggested choosing a language you will be able to use every day without tiring of it.  Only much later did I realize that health care jobs were in almost every town and spanned all skill and education levels.  A happy accident.

My mother used to tell us that you can’t make a school system better by taking good parents out of it.  Is it any more right to walk away from a neighborhood?  What makes me assume that I’m the good here?  This is on my mind today.

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