|The new angelito|
In the chapel, voices are raised. There is an argument, to say the least, in process. A is demanding that B go to Harlem and buy drugs. A is saying that B had kept A high for 4 to 5days running and now has cut off the supply. That B knows what A needs just to taper off. That this is deliberate, intentional action on B’s part to hurt, to control, to have power over. A is increasingly agitated. B is stoic, or perhaps just numb. There is disagreement over who made the purchase of drugs they both have been using. How could B do this to A after
In the midst of this, Angelo the artist walks in. With a woman. Ella esta una artista muy famosa de Argentina, says Angelo. Bienvenidos, I say. The artista has picked up on the vibe in the chaole. So she asks, Hay una reunion aqui? And I respond, No hay una reunion aqui. Por favor a mirar las pinturas. They are measurably short in their visit. On their way out, Angelo gives me a new angelito, this time on a key chain, to watch over me.
This negotiation will continue throughout the afternoon. I leave to host a meeting of the executive committee of the Interfaith Assembly on Housing and Homelessness. Like every other group I’m involved with, the Assembly has its back against the wall financially, as it has for its whole existence. Only now is worse. The population of homeless has increased by 20,000 in the last year alone. We can no longer depend on denominational hierarchies for support. The answer, for all of us, is old school community organizing, grass roots up. Build strong local networks that are not dependent on outside funding. As IAF says, serious money locally raised.
The meeting has ended. Meanwhile, stakes are being raised. A and B are now in the sanctuary. A is arguing that if B will not buy drugs, then A will need to go drinking, just to take edge off. Just to be able to make it to work tomorrow. A has not slept in 4 days. A offers to jump B’s bones if B will only buy the drugs. Or at least turn over a phone number. (How does this relate to the contentions about who bought the drugs? If A knew how to get them why is A asking only for a phone number? Why not just go buy the drugs?) The pleading, the desperation is painful. Never experienced anything quite like this before. I have no idea what to do. I can’t condone sending B out to but drugs. Can’t tell A to go drinking. I suggest the emergency room. A rejects that out of hand. They’ll put me in triage. Say this is drug procuring behavior. I only want to just taper off, you know.
Yes, that will work, I think. Sardonically.
A ready to walk out. No idea what to do. I ask A to come onto my office. A needs a guarantee that I won’t contact 9-11. I agree. A says its either/or. I say, I don’t know anything about this. Why not just choose not to? Like day by day? A says, you just don’t understand.
So if you go out drinking, I’ll be very sad, I say. So now I can’t disappoint you says
NO , I say, I will be sad. But you will always be welcome here.
The sense of what I do has been growing in me for awhile. I remind A that I am not a psychiatrist or a psych farm. I’m only a minister. And I ask if we can pray.
I start and A says that A is just not able to focus. So I take A by the hands and start again. Say aloud all I believe is good about A. Invoke A’s favorite saints. Ask for strength. Comfort. Protection. I take out my water from the River Jordan. Make the sign of the cross on A’s forehead. Take the angelito I carry with me daily out of my wallet and give it to A.
And I look. The tension is gone from A’s face. The anxiety relaxed to almost nothing. The manic behavior stilled. Desperation quieted. A asks to sit alone awhile.
In the middle of all this, I get a text from Amanda. I respond, Can’t right now. Am casting out demons. No. Seriously.
I go visit with a friend. Tell the story of my day. The friend asks what I did. I say, I used my holy water. The laying on of hands. And I prayed.
My friend says, You’re putting me on.
I say, no I’m not. Seriously. And you know what? It works.
My friend looks at me. Laughs. Says, that’s the funniest thing you’ve ever said to me. Of course it does. It works. Ha!
When I g back, A is sound asleep. First time in days.
And I think, it works.