I’m Good Because I Have Hope After Grief

Im Good - Aurelia Lorca blog post

Aurelia Lorca – Poet/Writer & High School Teacher (excerpt from “Union Square Punk Rock Blues”, first published in Oakland Review)

My ex-boyfriend Chris died on April Fool’s Day. A week later, his friends gave him two vigils in front of the lamp-post in Union Square where he spent the last of his days.

It still does not seem real.

On Good Friday, April 3rd, at sunset,  the night before the blood moon, a man with a soft voice left me a message from an unknown number,  “This is an emergency phone call,  I have some very sad news.” He asked if I was next of kin, did I know next of kin?

I was not Chris’s next of kin, I was no longer his girlfriend, but I was always his friend, and someone he had known for almost twenty years. The message about his death was the most horrifying voice mail I have ever received. I am still waiting for someone to say, “April Fool’s.”

The day after I learned the news, and contacted Chris’s sisters to make arrangements, I went to Union Square to find out what happened.  None of the other homeless there even knew that he had died.  Needless to say, they were upset, and told me that they wanted to organize a vigil.

[Chris] found more dignity in spanging, asking for spare change from strangers in Union Square, and living day to day though one of those days he knew he would die. I want to say he gave up, but that would not be true: He just decided to live outside the system.

I want to make excuses: how he became overwhelmed by doctor’s bills, making $13/hour,
and paying $800/month rent, the insanity of the drug war which criminalizes addiction.

However, saying Chris was “overwhelmed” does not do him justice because he was a punk rocker, and decided at the end that he would live outside of the world, and that takes heart and courage: He gave up on “society” but still lived in a civilized way- opting not for ambition or progress, but kindness and compassion.

San Francisco, and California, does not seem to understand how poverty is connected to a larger problem: We love the fancy restaurants, but have we ever considered how much of a struggle it is for those working in the service industry to live here?  Get a better job, right?  Go to school, right?  Why, for tuition debt?  Then you get sick, and have to run around chasing health insurance, and unemployment?  What if your family, who also struggles to get by, cannot help you and you are too proud to ask anyway?

The system needs fixing.

Now that Chris has died, I do not profess to know what he experienced, and I do not think I never will.  A year to the date before he died, Chris texted me, “I know I’m sometimes brash, loud, crude, but someday I hope you can understand me, until then I’ll always love you.”

I want to understand, but I do not know homelessness, much less poverty. That said, I can only hope to have empathy.




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