A History of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Black People: A Case Study
I’m serving myself up on a platter for you to dissect. It seems everyone pretty much hates me, anyway. I’m sharing my story, so that these smug bastards who have a ridiculous amount of control over the direction of my life can figure out exactly where I went wrong in this whole idea of participating in the “American Dream”.
You have a decision to make. Whether you’ll let this kind of thing continue, or whether you’ll join my alliance of glory.
First some context: I’m an army brat. I’m also very, very…diverse? I suppose is how you’d say it.
Anyway, I was born in Ohio but grew up in Oakland for the first eight years of my life. When my parents divorced my mother moved me and my siblings back to Ohio to be closer to family. I then spent my entire life trying to escape. I don’t know what it is about Cincinnati, but it was a cesspool, a literal toxic environment for me. I have always teetered on that edge of extreme poverty, and my body and health paid the price.
Nearly immediately upon arriving in Ohio at age eight— and all the way up until I was able to leave — I was bullied, beaten, raped, starved, neglected, forced to be the sole caretaker for my schizophrenic sister, and otherwise bear witness to atrocities.
Ever heard of the ACEs study? Yeah, I score pretty much as high as it can go.
Yet, I also have a secure attachment style. Weird and unexpected, right? How have I managed to be such a resilient person?
Well, even though my own parents were a bit shit, they did teach me the most important thing: everyone is human. Treat them as such. Serve when you can. Take care of yourself.
And so I have. My family legacy of service, compassion, and perseverance continues on in me.
Even though life has sent me such trials, I have endured.
For example: as a child, no one ever knew where the hell I was. There are large chunks of missing time, even though my earliest memories start at age two. The research suggests earlier childhood memory start dates implicate extreme traumatic events. The mind only remembers the aftereffects, hinting at the event without exposing it.
I don’t know what happened to me. I don’t know where I was during those missing moments. There’s some suspicion I may have been abducted. I may never know. I do know this much: I first attempted suicide at age 12, in between writing what would eventually become cuil fiction, struggling with debilitating heavy periods, and being raped every night for over eight months.
I kept trying to kill myself and it took decades of cycles of cutting myself, of panic attacks, and deep depression to finally connect the dots between my menstrual cycle and my suicidal tendencies, my untempered but nonviolent rage, and the worst of my depression.
Still, I suffered the pain, agony, stalking, and assaults on my own for decades. It wasn’t until my early 20s that I was misdiagnosed, correctly diagnosed, and reluctantly treated (a stupidly common experience for Black queer people most often read as female).
Still, it was pretty lonely.
At age 18, I finally met someone that was the exact opposite of everything I wanted, but who accepted me exactly as I was, with all of my intersectionally marginalized identities and experiences.
Six years later, after treating my conditions with fertility treatments instead of the birth control that only seemed to make everything worse, my first miracle occurred. I tried harder than ever to escape Ohio as my health grew worse and as former rapists and stalkers began to seek me out once more.
Two and a half years ago I finally made it back. I moved to Mountain View to live with my father, leaving behind my son and his father (my partner for nearly a decade). The intention was for me to get established and then move them out to be with me. We took turns going back and forth, with them visiting me in August and me visiting them over Christmas break each year.
We made it work.
And then my old health conditions — consisting of endometriosis, Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, vasovagal syncope (dysautonomia), anxiety, and depression — and several new ones — most notably fibromyalgia and a recurring breast abscess — attacked in force and I spent much of last year in the hospital for treatment.
My mettle was tested in the biggest way. Here I was stranded without the people I loved most, in the worst health I’d ever been in, and being cut into day after day.
And I fucking survived it. Over them months I got to know my doctors, nurses, even the pharmacists. They were all in awe of me, they were all cheering me on, they were in love with me and my family.
I went into that secret quiet space and took self care seriously for the first time in my life. I slowed down. I learned to rest. I spent more time meditating and breathing and writing. I began to talk about myself for the first time.
As I was healing up from what turned out to be the last breast surgery, I brought out my son and his dad so we could get established and so I could have support. However, my dad decided not to give us a chance and talked my partner into returning to Ohio. Shortly thereafter I realized I was pregnant. It should have been impossible. But then, my entire life seems to be that way.
I decided to take a long trip back to Ohio. I went in December with the intent to rescue my family and to bring them back to Cali for good, only to find out my son had been abused by either his father or his family.
My worst nightmare had come true. And I didn’t have the time to respond because the clock was counting down.
My kids’ father was arrested and is still currently in jail, my mother tried to take custody of my sons, my own father had abandoned me, and my sister was having her own problems with her partner. I was going to be on my own in a big way.
But hey, I’d faced everything else in my life; somehow I’d get through. I took a deep breath and prepared.
The next few months were harrowing as I sought to return to California for my first author event in February. I just barely made it: carrying five large bags with my only possessions, accompanied by my rambunctious toddler, only to arrive and find out there’d been a horrible mixup with the hotel.
I ended up begging my dad for assistance with booking the room. I found a babysitter and dashed off to my event, which went swimmingly despite everything. I met amazing people, shared a sneak peak, and then later passed out with my son, hoping for better days.
But after some days of rest and recover, my father officially informed me I could not bring my children back to his house, that there was no room. Devastated, I grit my teeth and buckled down yet again. I worked with the social worker I’d been assigned and with local authorities to find services. I was told to go to a certain city, where I could get the most help.
I returned to the bay area but ended up stranded in the wrong city because, wait for it, no one would help me with my bags. I finally broke down in tears and called an emergency help line, who directed me to the nearest shelter. Thus began my long stretch of homelessness.
My kid and I bounced around from hotel to hotel, shelter to alleyway, city to city. We searched for a permanent home. We got passed over for someone’s cat. Yep, you read that right. A cat!
My belly grew bigger, my chronic pain worse, and still I pressed on. Thankfully, I managed to find a sublet that saw me through to the last month of pregnancy.
I had continued working and writing throughout all of this — with my coworkers, friends, and boss cheering me on and supporting me as best they could. I shared nearly the entire tale with a group I ran, keeping them updated on my trials.
It was cathartic to release the poison, and I eventually started creating videos documenting our experiences.
But I’m getting ahead of myself a bit.
All this time I had also been healing my relationship with my son, mending his hurts surrounding my absence and his father’s betrayal as best I could with my disabilities and pregnancy. The sublet gave me enough time to find what I thought would be a permanent home. It was around this time I was introduced to Hilliary through a mutual friend. She was to help me secure items for the baby. The very next day, I was informed abruptly that I would not be able to move into my new home.
No explanation was given, and I was quickly running out of time and funds. With only weeks left in my pregnancy, I spilled my tale to Hilliary, in explanation of why I’d be unable to make the dinner we’d planned to have.
It was then that she asked if I might serve as a house sitter for her until they could sell it. I agreed and trekked to my current location on my own, with the few (but heavy) items in my possession. I gave birth a week early, having gone into labor just days after arriving. I returned to work two weeks later, because I couldn’t afford not to.
I don’t know about you, but I felt like one hell of a bird!
There was no period of rest.
The very day I arrived home a man showed up in the backyard and I ran from the house while Hilliary called the cops. Since it was mere days after major surgery and since I was severely anemic at the time, I began to hemorrhage. I just barely escaped needing a blood transfusion.
It was an interestingly awkward start to my life here, and it only proceeded to get stranger. Good thing I’m already so used to weird.
I was informed that the house had no heating or AC, that there would be workers in and out throughout the coming months, and that I’d have at least 30 days from the sale of the house (if they decided to sell) to move out, on top of having 30 days’ notification that the house was up for sale. In lieu of rent, our verbal agreement consisted of a trade: I served as house sitter, guide, and cleaner. I took over payment of the gas to help alleviate their expenses and set up my mail to be delivered to the house.
I offered to take on other utilities if needed and we even discussed me renting the property. She assisted me with the process of having this address listed as my permanent address, made sure all of her friends and old neighbors knew I was coming, and warned me of the bothersome neighbors in the house across the street. There had been some trespassing, she informed me. I was given the number for the police just in case.
Originally I was going to be placed upstairs. But after an inspection, since we anticipated work being done there first— and since the electricity was completely out in the entirety of the top floor — my son and I remained downstairs.
Considering I ended up having a forced c-section (the doctor threatened to kick me out of the hospital in the middle of the fucking night if I didn’t agree to it), I found it rather fortuitous we posted up downstairs.
Obviously, I had little need (nor the capacity to afford) a five bedroom house for just me and my sons. But I had long raised my child together with my sister and her children. The house would be big enough for all of us. My sister had originally planned to move out after me within a few months or years. We spoke with Hilliary: asking about renting, buying, and possible transition for my sister’s family.
Hilliary spoke a bit vaguely on it, but stressed that for the moment, she simply wanted to focus on finding work. My sister offered to look over and update her resume.
Hilliary’s new resume resulted in a call the very next day, leading to a brand new desirable job within a week.
We all celebrated. And my sister planned a visit to help with childcare, housework, and so she could scout for a future job out here.
We thought we’d be ok.
But then trouble sprang up.
Though Hilliary had been profusely thanking me for being here prior to her new job, things seemed to sour between her and my sister for no discernable reason.
It came to a head upon my sister’s arrival.
See, mere days before her first flight, she was threatened with homelessness. Her partner had told her and her children to be gone by Friday.
We scrambled for a solution: putting what belongings could be saved into storage, sending the children to stay with my sister’s ex-husband, and praying for the best. My sister’s visit became a battle to save herself and her children. We updated Hilliary on the situation, asking if it would be ok for my sister’s family to stay for a month or so, or even simply long enough for her to find a new job.
My sister also proposed buying the house as-is, as a solution to all of our problems (we even knew of someone who could fix up the house and charge less, and we didn’t even mind the more cosmetic issues). Hilliary’s behavior was conflicted: she said two weeks was fine but then they would have to leave. She wouldn’t even talk about selling the house. We agreed to two weeks for the kids but shortly after my sister arrived, Hilliary began to make threatening calls to me, starting on my birthday.
She eventually informed me the house would be up for sale on June 27th and that no further work would be done on it. Since my sister was to leave — and since we were all starting over from scratch — we began accepting clothes, toys, and other items from neighbors to survive on and move with.
We received a rather enthusiastic amount of things from neighbors: including furniture, and did our best to keep everything downstairs and tidy. Hilliary then informed me real estate agents would be coming through on various dates. We prepared each day, tidying up, sorting and packing what little we had, and searching for housing. I was informed I could remain with my sons for up to 30 days after the house was sold (or however long the escrow lasted) but that I could move out with my sister if we found a place sooner.
Keep in mind that this house was utterly bare for the majority of the time I’ve been in it. We didn’t even have fans for most of the time and absolutely no heat. There was also a possibility the stairs would need to be completely redone, as they might also contain asbestos (which was the reason the entire heating and cooling system had been removed).
None of the work that was being done was in order to make things more habitable; it was done to make it more sellable.
I ignored this at first, but it should have been a huge clue. I never wondered why they didn’t fix the heat and AC. When I had asked about it initially, they told me it would be done in mid-June.
It was never done.
After that, every time Hilliary called or texted, she was blaming me for damage to the house, for leaving it a mess, and for apparently scheming on social media or something. She started accusing us of trying to secretly move in and kept threatening to kick me out.
The calls grew worse and the stress intensified. My chronic pain returned with a vengeance due to medical mixups and stress. Even after I was able to get an emergency supply of my medication, the damage was already done. The medication takes time to work, and we were fast running out of it.
My sister spent frantic days on the phone each day in the quiet of the upstairs bathroom, doing all she could for her kids from afar. She ended up smoking in there one time while job-searching. The main worker on the house, a long-time friend of Hilliary’s, had suddenly started coming by to do work again and noticed the smell. He reported it to Hilliary, who was understandably displeased. We apologized but also noted there was no explicit agreement about smoking.
Regardless, we kept everything as clean as we could. Hilliary gave my sister a deadline and she brought her children over. We were finally all together. The scramble began anew as we both sought out medical records, birth certificates, and other paperwork necessary to starting over from scratch.
Then we realized she would have to return to Cincinnati to replace some items: somehow all of her most important documents had gone missing, as had my medication. We figured that was best because she had to leave, anyway. Since I was once again feeling all of the pain, Hilliary said I could have either my sister or her teenage daughter stay to help me around the house. I settled on having two of the older girls remain behind.
The day after my sister left back Hilliary called and accused me of still having them in the house. And since Rob had been there the day of, obviously with all the packing it was a bit chaotic and messy. Though we went through and cleaned that very evening, she accused me of constantly leaving the house in disarray, of damaging the floors, and of being the reason no one wanted to buy the house. I sent her and the real estate agent pictures of the usual (read: clean) state of the house.
I was told it was fine. I even received compliments on the photography!
I began to wonder why Rob kept returning. The house was already for sale as-is, after all.
Then the pressure ramped up again, and I endured.
As the days passed many people died in encounters with police, people that looked like me or who identified similarly. Several close calls with friends happened during this time as well.
The same day one of my white queer friends was purposely run down by a truck, right before an appointment with child services to file child support, Hilliary called to say the real estate agent was displeased with the state of the house (ie. it looked lived in, basically) and that I needed to be gone by July 15th. Though she was curt about it, she did offer to cover the cost of a deposit for a new place. I agreed, since the circumstances left my family unable to move anywhere in such a short time.
I was highly puzzled that she claimed that she was unable to sell the house because of me. You see, I had literally just passed along information from a very interested real estate agent who knew the situation, had spoken with me, and was eager to get in touch. She and the agent had just approved the photos of the house days before.
If I had made such an incredible mess of the house, if I was somehow scheming to prevent the sale of the house, if I was such a stubborn person, he certainly didn’t think so!
It wasn’t until I spoke with Rob the next day that it was made clear to me the following disturbing things: she was selling the house under the false assumption that it was empty (thus it couldn’t look “lived in”; explaining her displeasure at our furniture and food), she had several of her friends and former neighbors (including Rob) spying on my family in person and online and reporting back to her, and that she had led Rob and myself to believe some falsehoods about what was going on with the house and one another.
By now I was so stressed my eczema had returned. To make things worse, I’d discovered my sister was stranded in Cincinnati until August 5th. I had two of her older daughters with me, by permission, to help out around the house since I am disabled and was still waiting for my medication to work. We started to pack the remaining items and food and managed to find a new home; all we needed was the deposit promised us.
However, when I asked for the amount from Hilliary, I was informed that they would only give me a far smaller amount. It would not be nearly enough for either a deposit or to set us up in a hotel until August, when my sister would be able to return and help move everything.
I let Hilliary know that it would not be possible to move. Since my sister had been forced out, obviously our funds were now low again. My sister actually lost out on an excellent job because we acquiesced with some arbitrary decision!
I was damn near at my lowest point by this time, wondering why Hilliary had promised to help without intending to follow through. Surely since she had lived here all her life she knew what the deposits and rent were actually like. How could she realistically expect me to bounce back from trauma, pregnancy, surgery, single parenthood, health issues, and everything else? Did she not understand what poverty was like?
I desperately searched for homes, any home, temporary or permanent. Did I take my sister’s daughters with me or send them to her? A disabled single parent with four kids?
Understandably, I was at a loss. I begged my friends for help and prayed.
Hilliary then had her real estate agent contact me, apparently to “talk some sense” into me. The real estate agent basically told me (in extremely broken English) to get out, that I had brought all of my problems upon myself, and that Hilliary had enough problems without me adding to them. I told her she was being rude, had no idea what I’d been through, explained what I had been promised, and asked for the time to have my sister come back to assist with moving. At the time, it would only have required another month (my sister is the type of person to get hired quickly).
I waited patiently for the reply.
Several days later I was served a three day notice by Rob, claiming that the reason I had to leave was because I’d moved my sister into the home.
It made no sense.
She’d had permission to be here for two weeks, she’d gone, but Hilliary was determined to find any possible loophole to kick us out.
I mourned the loss of a great friend, letting him know I bore no ill will, and knowing that we were now on opposite sides for no discernible reason. I thought over everything again and again, trying to find out where we went wrong, why she thought I was out to get her, trying to make sense of it all.
Obviously, with poor health, no adult help, and other random, terrible shit I was unable to move. I was trapped in an ugly situation. My anxiety flared up full force; just the thought of Hilliary had me shaking and panicky. I knew she wanted me out and I was doing my best to comply; I just needed some fucking time! I had been running on “E” for years and it was catching up to me. I had done everything I could.
My body was wearing out again. I was close to a crash but I couldn’t stop. I grit my teeth once more, dredged up power from…my imagination, I suppose, and soldiered on.
My public health nurse, who’d been around since the birth of my youngest and who had born witness to all of this, started desperately searching for a way to help me find housing. She gave me health tips since mine was failing (low vitamin D in the desert likely meant autoimmune issues) and tried to help my son and I get into counseling. In all this time, we hadn’t been able to properly decompress. We’d been forced to hold most of the anguish in, because life marches on relentlessly.
But I was ok. Because I’m used to enduring the impossible.
Just keep going. One step at a time.
Finally in mid-August, I was served with a notice that I was being sued for unlawful detainer.
We had five calendar days (two of which were weekend days) to file a written response in order to at least receive a court date. I literally barely made it and even landed in the fucking hospital because I had pushed myself too far and the stress finally caught up to me.
After that, we were at the mercy of the court. We spent the next few weeks getting everyone back to Cali, trying to wrestle medical records from Ohio (I don’t know what their issue is, but they hate giving out records; I spent months trying to get my son’s shot records), looking for housing, and searching for jobs.
Keep in mind that I work from home. I cannot afford a babysitter and never have been able to. So parenting and working and cleaning house through the pain and all that shit, on top of being unable to mourn or react to any of the events within the past couple of years and facing the threat of imminent homelessness just months after major surgery.
You try it and see how long you last!
Everyone else with a fractions of the intersections I have end up dead, dying, or destroyed.
Ask me what keeps me going.
But even I have limits. My doc decided to double the dose of my medication to keep up with the additional stress and pain.
Additionally, my coworkers at one of my jobs noticed I was a bit off and, knowing what I was going through, spoke to my boss on my behalf. She called me and we reworked my work so that I wouldn’t be so stressed out.
For all the ways I’ve learned to ask for help this year, for all the ways I’ve done my best to do self-care, it still hadn’t occurred to me that I could transition into what I really wanted to do for the magazine. Weirdly enough, I’m finally transitioning into the areas closest to my heart. One of my groups reached the 2000 plus mark in less than a year, my cuil fiction is taking off, and I’m reaching up higher than ever for my dreams.
But I haven’t been able to celebrate. As is always the way in my life— as things get better, they also get worse.
Concurrent with my strivings, my new dosage of medication only serves to make me nauseous and even more tired. It sort of helps with the pain but the brain fog has been so much worse. On top of that, my new doctor has no idea how to treat me. Even though she knows my situation she’s repeatedly mixed up my illnesses, she’s tried to shame me for not making every fucking appointment count (despite the fact that it was always their mixup and not mine!), and basically told me my disabilities weren’t real.
As if I didn’t have enough to worry about, I now realize I need a new doctor. But I haven’t had time to search for one because, guess what?
We’re facing homelessness again in a couple weeks! Once again, I have to put our mental and emotional health on hold because we’re out of time.
This is what happened:
The court date finally arrived. Hilliary had brought the real estate agent, her husband, and Rob and his wife as witnesses. My stomach knotted up to be so near her. My hands trembled. My baby’s smile and my sister’s presence calmed me enough not to faint.
But it was a circus.
The judge wouldn’t even meet my eye because he knew these white-passing folk and their Uncle Ruckus were lying. At one point, the real estate agent, despite having sworn to tell the “truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” told the court she had seen my sister in the house on either one of two dates when she was fucking 3000 miles away.
I have the fucking plane tickets. I even told him so.
There are hundreds, thousands of witnesses to this shit. Even the judge couldn’t contain his disbelief as the agent swore up and down she’d seen my sister before. I explained that my 14 year-old niece was the one she’d likely seen, and that she looked like a white girl. My older sister looks a lot like me.
There’s no way to confuse the two.
But it didn’t matter.
The judge heard these lies. It took nearly an hour. He heard about a fraction of the hardships I’ve faced in the last year, none of them of my own making.
And then he decided to let them win anyway.
Disabled, Black, read as female, suddenly single parent, poor as shit, with a fucking newborn and a scarred five year-old, homeless until the forced c-section, with little to no family support, after broken ass promises and no actual legal reason given:
They evicted my “evil” ass. Instead of just giving us a rational, legal, or even our agreed upon amount of time.
This violence falls on me in the biggest way. Don’t believe me?
Take a look at my articles on PMW and Cuil Effect and Everyday Feminism and here on Medium, find my personal posts in Intersectional Non-Monogamy, check out Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Black People on YouTube.
Ask me what the fuck I’ve ever done to “deserve” such violence.
Because that’s what it is. All of these hardships, assaults, ignorance, and ill intent conspire to end and erase my life.
I’m finally screaming, but not in fear. In outrage and pain and determination.
Will you ignore me?
Will you let them kill me?
Or are you listening?
Will you help?
Will you take this ridiculous burden off my back?
Will you walk with me to prevent this from happening to others?
Will you join our alliance of glory?