Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Change of scenery

One of the weird aspects of becoming homeless and having to rely on the kindness of friends is that the kid and I have been in much swankier neighborhoods than we used to be. It is a bit like moving to a foreign city though in reality we are less than 5 miles from where we started.

Things are green here. Old houses are kept up. Gardens grow. Kids play outside. Actual kids, actually playing. It is something that struck me when we first moved to the Central District a few years ago, how few children there seemed to be. Sure there were plenty of teenagers acting much older and tougher than they should, but seeing little kids in parks and on bicycles was not a daily happening.

I have to wonder how much the constant threat of violence wore on us, on our neighbors, on their kids. Would I have become so depressed and housebound if I wasn't constantly afraid, not of some big attack (though I was certainly afraid of those for the kid) but of the tiny bits of daily verbal violence and threats of physical harm. Every trip to the store or to work became akin to running a gauntlet and hoping that today I wouldn't get hassled.

Safety is a privilege. We buy it with our zip codes. We turn the threat of violence that accompanies poverty into a an "other". We give it shape in a dark skinned man with baggy pants, though I bet that same man wants safety too. He's finding it the only way he can when there are no dear friends in nice green neighborhoods to run to.

Women will understand this. We live with the daily, back of the mind kind of fear of rape. Unless you're traumatized, it doesn't turn into something that is exactly crippling, it's more like a chronic cough you can't get rid of, this fear of violence. In poor neighborhoods, it's not just women (though we get a double dose) who are afflicted.

I wonder how much damage I've done to my son by leaving him in such an oppressive place for so long. I wonder how to fix those who are still there. How to make sure that they can get the openness and freedom that just having enough money to live on brings.

(I've been reading Elizabeth Gaskell lately. She's my new favorite Victorian writer. So if my writing has turned a bit flowery and prosy- blame her).

No comments: