Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Nobody wants Sandy

I wrote this earlier this year, on Valentine's Day...

Yesterday, when I got home, Sandy was waiting for me. Sandy has long brown hair, a wonderful smile, a chirrupy voice, and almost no actual contact with reality. Through whatever vicissitudes of life, Sandy lives in her own world, an imaginary world, a world that touches the one we experience at only tangential points. I'm told she has been like this since she was a child. She is utterly childlike; no, she simply is a child, a child in a forty-five year old woman's body. Like a child she is innocent and devious, casually unmindful of how she inconveniences you, still believing, like a child, that she is the center of the universe.

What is really amazing about her, though, is how persuasive she is. She believes in her own little reality, and has the power to make you believe in it too. Her world is utterly coherent, her stories hold together amazingly well. Her manner of speaking does not immediately tip you off that something is not quite right. If you didn't know her, you might actually believe her when she tells you that she is a medical specialist or a children's worker or a librarian. She once convinced a passel of contractors to show up for a meeting in order to submit bids to build a children's center on property she didn't own. They really believed her, and were exquisitely angry (as only contractors can be) when they realized it was all, well, it wasn't exactly untrue, it was just Sandy's truth, not the truth that the rest of us have to live by.

Sandy has four children, all of whom have been taken by the state. She could not but be an unfit mother. She is a child herself, and does not have the capacity to be a parent. God only knows what men have taken advantage of her along the way to allow her to have these children, these gifts from God whom she loved but could not keep.

What make Sandy unique is that she is so cheerful, so unlike most people who live through the grueling day to day struggle of trying to find enough food and a place to live. She has a glowing face. She has purpose, drive, ambition, even if it is towards entirely fictive endeavors.

Sandy was waiting for me because her brother has threatened to have her arrested again if she goes back to her home. You see, for years and years Sandy lived with her mother in a little trailer on some property belonging to Sandy's brother. When her mother died, she left Sandy the trailer in her will, but the property still belongs to the brother. Now that her mother is dead, her brother refuses to allow her to stay there anymore, so Sandy is homeless, wandering the hills. When she came to us, she hadn't had a shower or a warm place to stay for a week, and she hadn't eaten in awhile either.

I went down to see the local sheriff today to see if there was anything to be done about the situation with her and her brother, if her brother could really keep her out of her own trailer, remove the circuit box so she would have no power if she tried to spend the night there, and steal whatever food or clothes she leaves there. He told me that the brother could do so; it is, after all, his property. Moreover, he informed me that there was a warrant out for Sandy's arrest, possibly for trespassing on her brother's property to stay in her old home, possibly an old warrant relating to her neglect of her children. He told me that they would be happy to "take her off my hands" if I knew where she was; they could lock her up where she would at least have a cot and three meals a day. I told him that she had come by, but didn't tell him that my wife and I had given her a place to stay for a couple of nights. He sort of looked at me sideways and told me that putting her up would not exactly constitute harboring a fugitive, but that I could get in trouble if I tried to hide her.

All the way home, I thought of a line from Dickens' Christmas Carol: "Are there no workhouses? Are there no prisons?"

Last night, she called her daughter, who lives in a town about a hundred miles away. In Sandy's perfect and fictive world, her daughter was planning to come up and spend Valentine's Day with her. Of course, her daughter wasn't coming, had never intended to come. But Sandy didn't get upset; she is, after all, far too busy with her projects: building the new children's center, helping others with their medical problems, reorganizing the library. She has too much to do to let a little thing like being alone on Valentine's Day upset her.

Nobody wants Sandy. Not her own children, not her brother. Nobody. The world is waiting for Sandy to die and get out of the way. There is nothing for her here but a cell, a cot, and three meals a day.

Tonight when I got home, there was a scavenged business card in the door that said, "We appreciate your business; thank you for giving us the opportunity to serve you." Sandy had signed it. I think she's probably gone again, wandering the hills. Maybe she'll break into her trailer tonight, and try to spend another night there with no heat, or light, or water, shivering with the cold, thinking about her mother, who used to share the trailer with her.

Remembering someone who wanted her.

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