Amy: It starts out as, “Do you have a cigarette?” or, “Can you get me a beer?” and then it’s “I want you.” About six times a day I have to say, “I’m not for sale.” That’s just how a lot of people live on the streets. I don’t belong on the streets *tears”. I have a masters degree, I don’t belong on the streets! I have cancer. I need medical treatment and a home to live in and a job.
But, today I was blessed with my birth certificate so, Tuesday I’ll be able to go get my ID and hopefully go to work. *sobbing* It sounds stupid but it’s hard to get a bath or shower. I can’t go to work if I don’t have a way to shower. There are a lot of shelters but they usually don’t have room for women. I’m a victim of violence at least once a week out here and none of the domestic violence shelters have any room. So, I’m left to sleep in a tent or in the outdoors.
BW: I’m really sorry. What do you have a Masters in?
Amy: In psychology. I specialized in substance abuse and sex offenders. I worked for the state of Illinois for fifteen years.
BW: Interesting. Why did you get into that line of work?
Amy: My grandfather was an alcoholic and he was also my favorite person in the world. *cracks beer open*.
I was taught to drive when I was 10. My grandpa would let me drive his brand new truck, because he drank. I thought it was normal. He would say, “Pull over here. I’ve gotta check the wheel, Amy.” He’d get a beer out of the toolbox in the back and pee on the tire. Then I could drive on to the bar.
BW: Did he let you go in the bar?
Amy: Oh yes. All the men in the bar knew me. I was in there from the age of five until he died. They’d give me quarters to play games and buy me potato chips. Then at the end of the night I’d drive my grandfather home.
BW: So, it was kind of a hangout for you.
Amy: It was a great time because my grandpa was my favorite person in the world. He had pins in his legs from the war and I use to follow him around and try to walk with a limp just like him. He was my biggest hero.
BW: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask… your grandfather was an alcoholic and you treated people who were addicted. I meet you today and you’re drinking a beer. That doesn’t necessarily mean anything but…
Amy: No, I am an alcoholic. I am. I drink to ease the pain. I’ve been sober for years of my life. When I was raising my daughter, Mya, I didn’t drink. I worked and I took care of her. After her father killed himself on his 30th birthday, my drinking started again. I took care of her for a year, put her through counseling and when she was OK, I fell apart. That was my fault.
I found out when Mya was four months old that he was gay. I told him, “I love you with all my heart but I’m not going to play house with you.” But, we raised our daughter as best friends. He would take off for years but he would call me everyday. So, on his 30th birthday, he dropped Mya off. She was eight and had spent the night with her dad in a hotel.
When I told her that her dad had died, she said, “Mom, dad asked me to tell you something.” I said, “What is it?” She said, “There’s a letter in a wooden box at the head of his bed, for you.” It was a seven page suicide letter that said that I was the only person who ever accepted him for who he was and that he was simply miserable on this planet and that he had to go.
BW: Who does Mya live with now?
Amy: My parents.
BW: If you could tell your daughter one thing, what would it be?
Amy: *Tears* You’re my best friend. I love you. I’ll always be with you.