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Easier said than done.

Best new duds. Check.

Bike packed.

Helmet found.

Strawberry blonde hair glowing in the sun.

Not even our masks could hide our grins.

Through the park, down the derby track, and across town we go. First day of school for real! Like, really the first day. Peyton had transferred to Howard at the beginning of 7th grade, but this was her first time actually stepping foot on the premises. We rolled in victorious (me: she will probably never ever let me ride with her again. P: I am crushing it today). Twenty seconds later she was shaking, fighting back the tears as she locked her rig up.

“Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you...”

The yelling came from across the street where under the tree a man was at war with himself, punching himself over and over and over again.

“It’s tough to have a scratch on the brain, P. Let’s focus on locking up.” I say as way of explanation, knowing that I am not helping. “It’s not that easy, Mom.”

After a year of COVID, wildfires, ice storms, days without power, temper tantrums, depression, and more death than I can shake a fist at, I might be a little numb. Or maybe I’ve become adept to rolling with tragedy in all its forms.

And it does come in many forms. In the past week, I’ve picked up more human shit than usual. Our shop doorway dweller, Manny, has taken to defecating in the doorway and then sleeping on it. His mental health deteriorating—he has pushed another unsheltered friend into oncoming traffic, spent most of his days muttering to himself and picking up scraps of paper when not picking fights. A line had been crossed with no easy answers in sight. I started reaching out, trying to find help for him.

He is only one of roughly 500 people in the downtown area with a scratch on the brain. He prefers autonomy over services. “I’m getting better, mama” he assures me as I calmly tell him he has to go, knowing that a group of people will be swooping in to make sure he has his meds and to help him transition to whatever is next. I tell him that I love him. Because I do.

But sometimes loving is easier said than done. So many scratches I can’t fix. My only resource is to look it dead in the eye and not flinch.


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