Monday, December 20, 2010

Dark Days

I made myself a promise.
I could not return to this blog or Facebook until I wrap my most urgent cases before the holidays.
Mission accomplished.

For me, recent days have been like running a wet marathon while avoiding black ice and grabbing sleep  only when sleep overtakes you... because this is an investigator's busy season.

When the clouds and rain come, the moods darken. A legitimate diagnosed medical condition called SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) strikes many who either migrate to the Pacific Northwest from sunnier climates, or those prone to depression when the sun goes away.
Some people are just plain miserable during the long months of zero sunlight.
I thrive on it.
A good winter storm does for me what being on a lounge chair by a sunny poolside does for others.
Here in  Western Washington ( the west being the side of the state with mountains on one side and open seas in the other), when the rain descends... the world becomes dark and waterlogged. The sun has gone elsewhere.

And because we are so close to Alaska we have these endless nights, nowhere near as long as Alaska's, but long enough.
Winter in the Northwest is a more rugged, primal, visceral time that has a definite effect on the psyche.
The sun sets close to four, the wind chills, the waters freeze, the streets become ice rinks... and those prone to depression become more depressed. Those prone to being crazy become more crazed.  For some, darkness brings a descent into decay, desperation and/or decadence.

I have longed to write about the the things I have seen lately. Perhaps I have conned myself into believing that writing about them will help purge me of the images.... the things I have heard, seen and photographed recently.
Almost every day, there's something and someone new... and often someone living a life so intense, it is an epiphany for me.

Recently, I've been having many dialogues with a homeless man who does have family, yet they won't take him in. He was a passenger in a bad wreck and I will have to leave the details at that to protect his identity and privacy.

Suffice to say he has one crushed leg from ankle to the top of his thigh, even his knee is in pieces. The driver of the car he was in has been arrested for DUI and it in unknown whether there is any auto insurance. He has no health insurance, so no hospital will give him the surgery he needs. The homeless shelters are filled to overflowing and because of his broken leg, he hobbles about on crutches  and can never get to a shelter in time to get a bed because the lines, then waiting lines, are so long.
On the rare occasions he's gotten into a shelter, he's had to sleep sitting up on the floor. He said the mentally ill people in the shelter keep kicking the cast on his leg on the way to the bathroom on purpose. He said 60% of people in shelters are mentally ill.

His sister gave him the cell phone and the minutes he calls me on.
She will not, however, give him safe harbor.
I ask him over and over...
you have no one, nowhere to go?
No one? No where?
I keep repeating it because I can't fathom it.
Always, he says "no."
I list the usual litany of options.
Been there, done 'em all.
He's bottomed out, he said. He sleeps on the streets every night since the accident.
And while the thought occurred to me, I certainly can not bring him to my home.

So I just tell him how sorry I am for what he's going through, how I wish I could help... and how an investigator can't bring their attorney's clients home. That seems to be a good enough explanation for him.

He told me last weekend if something doesn't change, he's probably going to kill himself. I told his attorney I suggested he go to a specific psych ward via a hospital ER and tell them that. At least he'll get three days respite from the rain.
He tried that and after a brief exam and discovery of no health insurance, the security guard escorted him out. 

And then there is the woman I just met, who physically could be the mirror image of me.
Except she was in a wheelchair and had a huge brace on her broken neck.
She said she was crossing the street, when the little white man in the crosswalk indicator said to walk, then KABOOM! She was hit by a DUI who drove off into the sunset and she flew down the road,  like a rag doll,  landing on her forehead, the frontal lobe hitting the concrete first.
Her brain injury was obvious as were her other physical injuries.
She just moved here from another state to work at a casino.
It will be a wonder if she ever works again.
She is now stuck living in a situation she was trying to move out of -- with a hostile boyfriend and his son who just got out of jail for the second time for dealing Meth. He, the son, has been stealing her pain meds she said.
She asked if I had a spare room.
I said, "I wish" and left it at that.

When you're a P.I., you often work for.... or on behalf of.... someone who is hurt, in crisis, in trouble, may need evaluation, evacuation, salvation.

There are also those clients who seek something simpler --  solutions, answers, missing pieces to puzzles in their lives. It's the latter group that's the easier to work for.
If you don't find their answers, they're not happy, but they'll be just fine.
But the former, the ones in true crisis.... they are either going to make it or they are not.
And unfortunately, many do not.

Last night I went to a holiday party filled with nothing but nice people. I didn't sense a single psychopath in the bunch. Everyone was happy, smiling, the food was gourmet, the beverages free flowing and there was a white elephant gift exchange. I think I won the most unique gift. A pair of fingerless gloves made out of mens underwear. Very classy.

On the ride home, my hunger satiated, gifts in hands, conversation flowing.... my cell rang.
I looked at the number.
It was the homeless man, the one the lawyers asked me to disconnect from.
The one living on the streets.
With just a little more than a moment's hesitation, I slid the phone to "ignore"...
I wanted "normal" during the car ride.
I was selfish and knew it.

I listened to the voice message from his ignored call when I got home.
It said he was almost out of cell minutes and his sister is not returning his calls for more.
He said he has been sleeping in doorways and under bridges and doesn't think he can hang on much longer. The hospital, the churches, the mission, everyone is turning him away. His cast is soaked.
He said he went to two ER's and they turned him away.
He wished me happy holidays.
Then the phone went dead.

When I walked with the dogs out in the freezing cold last night after listening to his call, they quickly did their business and ran back inside by the fire to warm up.
When I  climbed into bed, under a fluffy, warm comforter, the rain had kicked in.
I listened to that rain pounding on the roof, the wind howling, and thought of the homeless, broken man on the end of the cell phone.
I wondered where he was... how.... and if he would make it through the night.
And I thanked the higher power of your choice that night, that it wasn't me.
Or one of my kids or kin.
I don't know if it's genetics... nurture.... or simply the luck of the draw.
Or, is it a matter of, "There but for the grace of God go I?"

Either way.... I say today is a good time to count your blessings...
There but for the Grace of God go we.

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