Monday, August 23, 2004

Street Legal Part VIII

At the hearing, each member asked Sally a number of questions. She had to explain herself and defend her position. It seemed to me that as the questions and answers progressed, they were geared to culminate in a bad showing on Sally's part. Some of the time, I felt that she was being railroaded into answering negatively and other times I was afraid they were going to say she was just fine, needed a good dose of tough love and sent on her way. One of the final questions was asked by a psychiatrist, regarding hanging from her toes 5 stories above the ground. Until then, Sally's actions seemed to be regarded as highly self destructive. This doctor said, "By the way, have you had any gymnastics training?" Sally replies, "Tons, I was enrolled in gymnastics every year from the time I was 5 until 16, and I am particularly good on the parallel bars, would you like me to show you some of my best moves?" After we all had a good laugh, she was asked why she did it, her reply was that someone dared her, she needed the money and knew she could do it. She ended with "do you think I'm nuts? I wouldn't do anything on a dare that could kill me, would you?" It was funny at the time, but it did put into perspective that although her behavior was dangerous, it was less dangerous for her than for someone else and at least she was thinking, maybe not well, but still thinking.

The evaluation was that Sally was not psychotic, nor was she normal. She required behavior modification, drug rehab. and a good dose of introspection. It was recommended that Sally check herself into a 6 week program (at the same hospital) with a followup in 3 weeks time. Sally said yes. Both her mother and I were very relieved to hear this because by the time she would be released, it would be fall, and too cold to go back to the streets. Maybe she would go home.

Sally stayed in hospital for 2 weeks. I came to see her everyday during the first week. Sometimes she was in good spirits, others not so good. Most of the time she was like a little child needing her mother. I did what I could to help her, mostly it was just bringing her pretty underwear, a teddy, chocolate and cigarettes. The second week, Sally started acting out aggressively. I saw her twice that week at her request. The week after that, Sally was back in the park. Some of her park friends arrived for a visit and she signed herself out. She was gone.

It was now the end of September, and most of the park kids had gone home, after all, summer fun was over and school was in session once again. We didn't hear from Sally for another 2 weeks, then one day, she phoned and said that she wanted to go home. I purchased a bus ticket for Sally and put her on the next bus for home. I was relieved to see the last of her I confess.

Sally went home, tried to work for a while, but then left again for the coast. She sought out a "commune" and has been living this lifestyle since then. At the commune, each member must be willing to carry their share of responsibility and at the same time, there seems to be a sense of personal freedom associated with that lifestyle. I think Sally found her spot within the commune, at least I hope so. We don't hear too much about Sally anymore. She keeps in touch with her parents from time to time, so I guess no news is good news.

One beautiful fall day, I was in the city on business, and out of curiosity, I thought I would drive over to the park to see if anyone was still hanging out there. I parked and took a look around. All the homeless seemed to have left. There were one or two old fellows lying on the grass, but mostly, the park was just that, a park. I was about to leave when a group of 6 girls arrived. They were wearing the uniforms of a closeby private girls school and had school backpacks loaded with books. One began swearing like a sailor into her cell phone. Now, I've heard colorful language before and used it myself from time to time, but I never heard such verbage as that from the mouth of this "upper class" girl! She, a privileged 16 year old along with her privileged friends had come to the park to buy and sell drugs. She was upbraiding her dealer for being late for their appointment, and if he didn't get his #&%xx!ass over there within 5 minutes she and her friends would be dealing with his rival across the street forever! After that her voice changed and I heard, "Hi mom, yeah, we're in the park hanging out, what are we having for dinner? yeah, I'll be home soon, love you too". I left. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Peace out!

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