We never lose. Sometimes it just takes us a while to win.
It’s the same tired refrain I often use when a long week has thoroughly kicked my ass, leaving me contemplating my career ambitions and wondering if full-time bartender would be a more fulfilling vocation. Peeling off a dingy, sweat-stained yellow outreach shirt and tearing the steel-toed boots off my swollen feet, I cracked the first beer of an always short weekend and tally the win-loss record.
My lovely girlfriend asks how the week was as we softly rock on our porch swing, watching the daily pressures of New Orleans fade into the heavy humidity of a Friday evening. She knows when and what to ask. Most of it is rehashing 3 AM pillow talk as I crawled into bed after night outreach. She already knows if I won. There was no question last week.
It didn’t matter that when I was searching an abandoned building for signs of homeless squatters, three hornet stings left my forearm a bright red swatch of sandpaper. It didn’t matter that eight hours spent driving to and from Southeast Louisiana State Mental Hospital, tacked onto middle-of-the-night outreach work, twice shattered any concept of my circadian rhythms. I ain’t worried about any of that. My Miller Lite tasted especially cold and pleasing last Friday. My sad, pathetic seven-year post-Katrina waltz with Ms. Gwendolyn and a shattered mental health system finally ended. The music stopped. The proof is the bronze key for apartment #223 stamped “DO NOT COPY.” First thing we did was go get a copy.
Ms. Gwen got her pad, her crib, her new digs. The sad schizophrenic woman who has a tendency to wear a gold-painted baby shoe dangling off a loose pony-tail and prefers to scream hyper-spiritual chants at passing motorists and pedestrians warning of impending damnation … is finally housed. She is currently a medicated, charming and politically insightful lady who happens to have a twenty-year history of homelessness. Who knew that the biblical verses she wrote in permanent marker up and down her legs would come off after a couple of showers?
Yeah, the outreach team never loses. Sometimes it just takes us a while to win. For that, we deserve another cold one. Seven years is a long time to keep a celebratory beer on the ice. Knock another off the Tenacious Ten list of homeless outreach clients most resistant to housing. It’s been a hell of a summer.