Pots, pans, shots: Elmhurst, 2020
The things I post on a blog are not any final draft of any full story in a chronological narrative arc. I’m not that organized, my thoughts and memories aren’t clear and organized.Everyone that lived through the events of 2020 has a story to tell, and i can tell mine. I can tell it, now, only in small sections of the entirety, as best I can muster. It requires me to get in touch with memories that are difficult to access for numerous reasons. Some of it is traumatic, some of it is just hazy because I was in a constant state of chasing the chemicals that would help me cope with what was going on in the world, but really cope with what’s always been going on inside my mind.
Homelessness is tiring, it’s tiring on your feet, it’s tiring on your back, it’s especially tiring on your brain. Tossing and turning on a pile of cardboard that you’ve collected, trying to fall asleep for a little while… i dont like tossing and turning with my thoughts on a king size bed, it’s unpleasant. Those times, trying to get a bit of rest on the piles of cardboard are very dark. Uncomfortable physical situations are one thing, but the uncomfortability in my head is a living hell. After a few weeks of this, one looks for an out.
Many people slept on the subways around this time in the city, as they were more empty than I had ever seen them before. I slept on the 7 train for some time, as it was a very long ride from point to point. All of this, this way of living is very depressing, and I became very depressed. Sometimes I’d watch a train arrive and think about how much better it would be if I just jumped in front of it, instead of sleeping on it. I’m already prone to depression, in a regular life, with a home, a job, security… sleeping on a subway at the center of the end of the world isn’t helping my mental state any. If you’re reading this it should be obvious that i didn't jump in front of any trains, i went looking for help.
Homeless people end up in hospitals. That’s a fact. Ask ER nurses. People with mental health problems end up in hospitals. People with mental health problems end up homeless, people with substance abuse problems can end up homeless, and then in hospitals. Given my history with mental illness, substance abuse and homelessness I am not unfamiliar with the inside of emergency rooms. I still feel very guilty about adding my problems to the already overworked hospital system in New York City during the pandemic. I met a social worker at one of them that told me that I was just doing what any human would do to survive, and that feelings of guilt were not really helpful on top of all the things I was already feeling at the time, and to give myself a break. I felt guilty at the time and when I look back, I still do. I did survive, though, here I am. The results of all of it, right now, are beyond what I could have possibly imagined.
I was somewhere, in the middle of things that needed to be reported. I was in countless emergency rooms where I saw people that were being treated for the effects of a respiratory virus. I saw people at every stage of that illness, from coughing and wheezing, to being connected to tubes that were helping them cling to life. I don’t know what intubation is or the specifics of what any of these tubes do for someone, or why they were in the ER in this state. I suspect that critical care beds were full. I can never forget being surrounded by hundreds of people that were sick, and struggling to draw the next breath. There are things that I know were being r.eported on CNN, that stuck with people sitting at home: the morgue trucks, the full ERs of the covid patients, the food lines all over the city. It’s all true I was there. I was trying to get help with wanting to jump in front of trains, and keeping myself fed and I was operating at a very primal level of survival. Even if I was considering ending it there is something still inside me that wants to keep walking. I listen to that voice. That’s why i’m here typing this,
Most hospitals turned me away, rightly so. There were people dying everywhere, and it was taking precedence over everything else. One of the hospitals that sticks with me is Elmhurst hospital in queens. This is where I saw the tractor trailers that were there for the dead. Elmhurst is in my memory, like a scene from a Hollywood disaster film. There was a strong army presence there, and I bummed a cigarette from the guy who seemed to be in charge of all the troops in the area. Whenever there’s a presence of the military, you know the situation is serious My street experience did not end at Elmhurst, but it stands in my head: for the morgue trucks, for the army, and the full beds of people dying and surviving, and the hospital staff bravely handling the masses the best they could. These people deserved all the applause, and the banging of pots and pans that happened everyday, across the five boroughs. And they deserve more.
If you find that I am constantly telling people to get vaccinated for covid, incessantly on all the platforms where I voice my opinions, you should know why. It is because I stood in places during the spring of 2020 where I was surrounded by sickness and death, and the heroism of those who were there to help. Those who didn’t only save the lives of coronavirus patients, but my life too. Whoever I am, to anyone, I am in a unique position to tell you what it was like to be somewhere that many people were watching on television from home. I do not want to go back there, i do not want my fellow people to go back there, and i don’t want the doctors and nurses and social workers to have to see that kind of thing again.
If you applaud health care workers, anywhere. If you bang pots and pans, and praise them on your social media feed. If you didn’t like quarantine and everything that went with it: please get vaccinated.
I will attempt to continue to tell my story when I can make myself let it out, I promise it isn’t all corpses and sleeping on the 7 train. We are all a product of every single experience that we’ve had.