Ruby

Im not bipolar, Im schizoaffective, which is bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. With this condition clearity is a just. I am always feeling like I am a ball of emotions that can’t come out. I have no way of expressing myself. Im always getting cut off mid sentence and I am afraid to express myself. Thats bipolar. Theres no way to get the thought out if there no one listening, Bipolar people are creative finding ways like blogging to counter act life. Schizophrenia is hearing voices. I have both disorders.

Most of the time Im bipolar. Thats a normal day for me, I go from one mood to another all day long. I never smile, I always look serious or angry, and its not because Im in a shelter, because thats my personality.

Theres things I like to do, not things that make me happy. I was happy being a mother but its no longer part of my vocabulary.

When this first started and I became a product of the shelter system I had to find ways to entertain myself. I had two notebooks I bought from the dollar store. But before that Ingrid, my case manager gave me legal pads and a bunch of pens. I was writing poetry and journling. I was writing about all the people I watch at Susan’s place. I wrote short stories, anything I could think of to keep myself from boredom.

By 8:30 am I was in the living room watching good morning America. I tried reading. Theres a little area in the computer room with donated books. But My mind was too pre occupied on the up and coming events of my new life at the shelter. So Inrid gave me 2 legal pads and some pens and I wrote. I was still in the throws of an episode thinking that I was in the Fbi witness protection and Diddy was watching me from the security cameras in Susans place. I was like that too at Franklyn woman shelter. I had nothing to do all day, until I met another woman my dorm mate and she had urban fiction novels that she stole from the library. She was a drug user of Molly. She was always reading whenever she was in the lounge area of the facility.

I couldn’t wait till Ruby got back from her program every day. That one day she decided not to go we spent the whole day talking about her. She told me how she had been a crack head, and living with her past relationships. Her suicide attempt and being locked in psych ward. She also told me about her being raped by gun point in Brooklyn. She told me about how she had to eat in a soup kitchen when she was living with some guy before her last boyfriend Fredric, and living in an a basement apartment with rats. I listen to her stories even now, and I wonder how will she make it. She get $800 dollars from ssi, and most of her money goes towards cigarettes. When she has her food stamps she spends feverlishly on cigarettes that by the second week she done spent up $194 on cigs. She doesn’t give the shelter her money. Or rather her case manager doesn’t request her to save. So she spends her money on clothes from S and A and rainbows and cigarettes that by 3rd week she has no money left. She’s a chain smoker with CPOD. She has a deep smokers voices and smokers cough to add to the flavor of things. She’s a diabetic who has to test her glucose with the a machine, she’s also an asthmatic. She stands 5 foot tall. She’s bipolar type one, and on medication for that also.

She gets her medication from her psychiatrist at her program called seamark pros, which affiliated with Nami. Nami is an orgnaization for the mental health society. Its like groups for people with schitophrenia and bipolar disorder or worse. I don’t know what’s worse the schitophrenia.

Ruby knows how to get to seamark but thats about it. I hate to say it but she’s kind of slow when it comes to grasping information. And at 59 she’s still sexually active with a guy she met in Brooklyn. But she’s very nice to me. I have to say I love her she kills some of the loneliness I have. We take walks together, she with me when I got my phone and tablet. She went with me to cash my first check from ssi. We go shopping together and get snacks and eat dinner together in the cafeteria.

She likes to draw. She draws stick figures with dresses and big eyes. She’s good for the gossip though. She makes it a point to say hello to everyone at the shelter. Everyone know Ruby because she’s the lady with the cigarettes.

Once we walked all the way to dollar tree just to buy snacks. Its about a 15 minute walk down the high way, and she tells me all the gossip she heard for the day from the morning till when ever meet up. She had a set schedule once she starts going to sea mark. She out the shelter by 8am. She usually back to the shelter by 4pm. She goes to church on Sundays to the tabernacle across the street from the shelter. She goes for bible study. I tried going with her twice but Im just not that type to be holier then thou. It was around Christmas when I decide to go to church with her.

We treat each other for cups of coffee and buy each other snacks. When I first got to the shelter She had given me a denim jumpsuit that didn’t really fit me too well but I wore it. She had bought it thinking it would fit her round short frame but it didn’t.

At the deli on the hill you can get chicken wings and French fries with your ebt card. Usually the rule with EBT is no hot food can be bought, but on the hill they let it slide. So one day I decided to get chicken wings and French fries and saw that it was too much for me to eat. so I told Ruby about it. So when she went to open her public assistance case when her three months due with SSA for her ssi payments, when she got her snap she bought us chicken wings and French fries. It only costs $9.00.

She keeps 3 or 4 packs of cigarettes at a time. She smokes every half hour to 45 minutes and she’s hyper active. She can’t sit in the living room with out having to get up and do something else. She uses her phone to watch Micheal Jackson videos and listen to the oldies. She pays her cell phone bill but also has an assurance wireless phone she keeps for back up. She only calls a few people to check in on them and she’s close with her daughter shatika who I feel uses her for money. She really only comes around during the first of the month and asks for $100 for groceries for herself and her daughter Lana. She lives up by university ave. Ruby was staying with her when she got evicted from the apartment she was living with her boyfriend when he got sick and his family moved him down to virgina. These is the reason why Ruby never has any money, like last month Ruby went to target with her daughter and bought her a playstation 3. Then she had also bought her grand daughter an iPhone from metro pcs. Her daughter isn’t working she’s going to school and has a full public assistance case open with section 8. Section 8 is by invitation when you live in a shelter. Her daughter was living in a shelter before getting her apartment.

So when Ruby got evicted she was staying with Shatika. things where not working out so her daughter brought her to Franklyn woman’s assessment shelter which is on Franklyn ave which is a half hour by car.

When your at Franklyn and get transferred to another shelter they take you by car to the shelter. Ruby has only been at Susans place a week longer then I have. But I never saw her.

The beds at Franklyn are cots. And the same rules apply like at Susans place. No contraband. Ruby found a way to go to seamark. Medicaid paid for her cab ride to and from the shelter. Seamark is important to Ruby because she’s part of a society. But I really don’t know how she’s going to make it living on her own. She wants to live in the bronx to be closer to her daughter but I don’t think thats going to happen the way she wants.

She only just got approved for a 2010e. she still has to get approved for cityfeheps, which is like a section 8 voucher. when Ruby gets paid on the first of the month she takes out almost a quarter of her money from her bank card. She banks with capital one, and she keeps cash on her. She is always buying underwear because she is incontent. She is always having accidents with he bladder or sharting on herself, that she has to ask for depends diapers from the bubble.

Once, we where outside and she peed on herself. Which brings me to her being sexually active. She’s not to old to have a boyfriend, but she found herself going to some mans apartment by sea mark pros. A friend she made while outside smoking a cigarette. I forget his name but he would give her a few dollars for coffee and have small talk with her. He solicited her for sex, so After sea mark was over for the day she went to his apartment in crown heights, then came back and told me about it. They didn’t use any condoms, she figured she’s fixed, her tubes are tied so she can’t get pregnant even though she already went though menopause. But she wasn’t thinking about STDS. She said he was ruff and hurt her. He gave her $9 dollars and on her way back she bought a pack of cigarettes.

She once told me she always got paid for sex when she was a younger woman, and she was always the other woman in the relationship sleeping with married men. Not paid enough to pay her rent but paid enough to buy cigarettes and a hot cup of coffee.

She told me about when she first got on SSI and she got her retro check in the mail. She opted to have a paper check sent to her because she didn’t want a bank account, so she would keep $800 dollars in cash on her at all times. She got back $1300 for her back pay and spent it on crack. She didn’t even buy her mother food, Those where her words. She partied like crack heads do. She lived on her own once in Brooklyn in a studio apartment that was left to her. In was in a brown stone. It was an illegal apartment so the land lady just had her pay $300 a month to stay there.

By the time I met Ruby she was still getting paper checks and traveling to her old address in Brooklyn to go get her check so she could cash it. She hadn’t let Social Security know that she had moved so the checks where still going to the Brooklyn address. I said Ruby why don’t you just use Susans place address so your check will go to the shelter. She was afraid that she would get caught up in the 3 month holding period being in the shelter and she didn’t want her checks to be garnished. But eventually with her daughters help she went to the Social Security office and transferred the address to Susans place on Jerome ave. She was even paying for a P.O box the checks never got there they went to the Brooklyn address.

She had a problem right before she transferred her address. Her check went missing. Then the land lord switched locks on the mail box she couldn’t open the mail box to retrieve her check. So she had to go to social security and have her address changed on file to Susans place, and they re issued the checks. Then her daughter got her to open a capital one bank account. She travelled to Harlem with her daughter to open the account so she could have her checks direct deposited into her account. But she still keeps most of her money on her, so she can buy panties, clothes, food and cigarettes.

She goes to bed around 7pm every night. She takes a shower after dinner is served and tucks herself in and goes to bed. She gets up at about 4am every morning. I know she’s up because I hear her silver bracelets banging together while she’s up getting ready to start her day. She takes another shower and gets ready for breakfast. She’s one to have 3 meals a day. She’s usually ready to leave the shelter by 8am. I meet her outside around 7:45am to smoke a cigarette with her, and she’s off to the train station to head to Brooklyn to go to her program.

Most mornings there’s oat meal, or grits, boiled eggs, pancakes with sausage or turkey bacon or waffles. Sometimes we get scrambled eggs which are from the powder form of eggs or egg beaters. For lunch there’s usually fish sticks, hot dogs, Jamaican meat patties, hamburgers and french fries. The lunch comes with soup if you want it or salad. And dinner usually consists of turkey wings, chicken and rice, or mashed potatoes, sometimes there’s liver, and then there’s pasta with meat balls. Some times they make up dishes like meatballs and rice. A lot of the second choice is chicken and rice which most of the woman eat. We get fried chicken and mashed potatoes once every other week. And Ruby eats whatever they have served for the night. I on the other hand don’t always eat dinner. You get sick of the same thing every night, chicken and rice almost every night.

Ruby is good people though. She’s kind and generious and can tell the same story over and over again and not get bored of repeating herself. She’s in love with Micheal Jackson. She uses her phone to watch you tube and watches Micheal Jackson videos, she knows all his hits. But she spends her money stupidly. She also lets Finisha borrow money from her. Finisha is another woman at the shelter who’s schiztophritic who’s on SSI. Theres allot of borrowing of the finances that goes on in the shelter. Finisha gets paid on the 3rd of the month and I don’t know why. Im friendly with her but I don’t talk to her. She’s a butch lesbian who wears mens clothes and has a low fade hair cut. She’s always borrowing $50 to 60 dollars from Ruby or having Ruby buy cigarettes for her on her Food stamp card, “Ill pay you back on the 3rd.” And Ruby lets it slide. Ruby is out of money going on the third week of payday.

When I didn’t have money Ruby would buy me snacks when she got back from he program. She even bought me cigarettes. But our barter is I pay her back with EBT. I buy her a pack of cigarettes and sandwiches and stuff. We eat it together in the cafeteria , while watching the Id Chanel which is always on in the cafeteria.

I fear for Ruby because she’s piss poor with money management. And I should be the one to talk. But now its a different ball game. I have no one to rely on but myself. Theres no one to cop $20 dollars from when Im low on cash, now that Im receiving benefits I really have to maintain $300 dollars instead of $781 because my case manager insists on me going to the post office to get a money order to put away money in my savings. I fear for Ruby because she doesn’t have a savings with the shelter. She uses her whole $800 a month on things like lipstick and nail polish. She buys fake nails and nail glue and polishes them because she doesn’t like her finger nails. Even though its only a couple of dollars it adds up, and then she’s consitantly giving her daughter money and buying outlandish things on her fixed income. Her daughter has a dead beat boyfriend who stays with her in her apartment and doesn’t buy food or anything for her all they do is argue, but this is Rubys family. The daughter she gave up to foster care. I think in some ways the reason why her daughter found her is to take advantage of what she didn’t get from her mother growing up. Shatika was in foster care from the age of 3, then a group home. Then she was out on the streets living in an SRO and was in the shelter system. Shatika has 3 kids of her own. Two girls and a boy and at age 40 is a grand mother, because her sons girl friend had his baby. Her son is 22. I always would tell mason don’t make me a grand mother in 30s. Shatika became a grandmother in her 30s.

So Ruby is a great grand mother at 59 years old. She only just recently got in contact with her son who lives in Augusta Georgia. Her son was mad at her for putting him in foster care so he didn’t want to talk to her after their first initial conversation some years ago. But he changed his mind and Ruby keeps in contact with him. But he doesn’t call her mom he calls her Ruby. Then her youngest daughter lives in North Carolina. She’s a stripper and is prostituting herself. She’s bipolar and has suicidal tendencies. She lost her her kids who are in foster care, and lives on her own. Ruby barely talks to her everything is about Shatika who doesn’t live that far away from the shelter.

The one thing Ruby and I share is being Bipolar. Rubys mood when she’s not on her medication changes. She can become very distant. Thats how I feel most of the time. I also feel like someone is watching me when Im outside. Like all eyes are on me. Ruby says she feels the same way at times.

She wants to live in a studio apartment in the Bronx, but I fear she’s not going to be able to get around the way Im trying to. She can’t even get to the social security office with out Shatika. And then there’s a life insurence policy she’s trying to take out with colonial pen for $11 dollars a month. You have to send a check so they can open the program, Ruby sent a money order and made Shatika her beneficiary. I don’t think they opened the account for her though.

Before I had the phone and the tablet weekends in the shelter where boring. I would force myself to sleep until 11am and just lay there. Ruby would be up galivating. By the time I got up and got myself dressed for the day It would be 12pm and time for lunch. On Saturdays they sure ham and cheese or turkey and cheese sandwiches. Sundays is hot dogs or stuffed shells. After we finished eating we would go out for a cigarette and then there’s nothing to do. So we would take walks while Ruby talked about why her son didn’t want to talk to her, or tell me stories about herself as a child growing u in Brooklyn.

Ruby never finished high school, she was in a special education class, she can’t read or write to well either. But she reads her bible on Saturdays and gets herself prepared for bible study on Sundays. The church opens at 9am, so Ruby has already been up 5 hours. Bible study is for an hour and half, then there’s service. The church is Baptist so your required to give a donation in order to attend service. Ruby never attends service because she never has the money to donate to the church. So she’s usually back by lunch, and we find things to do with the day.

Usually after lunch we go back to the dorm for about an hour, but still hungry so we go to the deli on the hill and get sandwiches. By 1pm we are back in the cafetria eating. Now that I have my phone and my tablet Im usually laying in bed streaming Netflix or binging on the show Power or law and order. I take breaks to hang out with Ruby, but there’s nothing really to do in the South Bronx. We are surrounded by garages. of 200 woman there’s no one to talk to. Even Ruby gets bored talking to the woman of the shelter. She gossips. Like when there was word that SSI recipents would be getting a stimulus check deposited on our bank cards. Or who had a fight with who in the cafeteria in the morning or who went to the hospital in the afternoon. The ambulence is always at Susans place because someone is having a nervous break down or getting sick, or having a seizure.

Then monday starts the week and you have to find your place in the shelter all day. The cafeteria reopens at 10 am, so if there is a group going on in the morning in the living room and you don’t want to attend you have to leave the common area. Theres no where to go but outside. The groups usually start at 9:30 some mornings. Zumba is at 10am. Ruby attends groups all day at sea mark. She has her friends that she takes breaks with and goes to lunch with like her friend Jimmy who’s asian. she calls him her little boyfriend. He takes her to Popeyes or they have pizza together. They serve lunch at seamark but Ruby doesn’t like the lunch there all the time, so she eats out.

I think that Ruby has a co dependent relationship with her daughter, and thats the only reason why she wants to stay in the Bronx. “I want to live near my daughter on Fordham” But its not Fordham her daughter lives near. Its university ave. She forgets thats she has to go to the DMV, Social security, and Snap when she moves from the shelter, she’s going to have to get around by herself, and she has panic attacks when she’s alone on the train. She said she has to brace herself every morning on the the crowded train. She looks for her daughter to take her places and was even looking for shatika to start getting paid by medicaid to be here home health aid cordinator, someone to take her to the places she needs to go to, like HRA when she moves out from the shelter. If she never found her daughter Ruby would be stuck. I feel bad for her because she is slow. She 59 years old but had the mentality of a 20 year old. I feel bad for Ruby sometimes, I don’t tell her that I don’t think she is going to be ok living on her own. These are just my thoughts as I watch our relationship progress.

She’s accustomed to shopping at S and A for underwear, or going to rainbow for shoes. She got comfortable. She buys at least 15 pairs of underwear a month because she has accidents and instead of putting her soiled underwear in her laundry bag she throws them out. I can understand why, its not sanitary to wash shit from your underwear in the bathroom sink, but these little things I feel are going to hinder Ruby.

Her area by her bed isn’t that cleaned up either. She has her laundry bag by her bed with clean clothes in it because of all the things she bought at S and A like perfume and leggings, thats she doesn’t have enough space to fit all of her clothes. Theres a grading system for ILP, which is the case managers come and inspect your dorm area to make sure your up to code. They check your locker and make sure your bed is made up. She always gets a 65% and a warning that she has to clean up her area. I got a 90%. I fold my blanket I don’t spread it out on the bed, which down grades my grade point average.

But once we are out of quarantine and back in the shelter Ruby is going back to sea mark, and I will be alone again. When we found out that the shelter was transfering woman to hotels Ruby and I both didn’t want to go. But It was a Saturday and staff came around and selected woman to go to Wyndham hotel on east 151 street in the Bronx by van. I was there for a little under a week. Ruby asked Ms. Courney the supervisor if we could be room mates but they already had every ones rooms and room mates put together on the travel plans.

Then one night staff came to my hotel door and said that me and my room mate where being transferred in the morning, to have our things packed up and to gather down in the lobby with our things. we went back to Susans place and the rest of the woman where being transferred to other hotels. The lobby was filled with “Luggage” Which is the thick clear plastic bags with name tags.

The shelter rented 2 yellow buses and we where taken to the city to park west hotel. This time I would have my own room, because they where practicing social distancing. I said good bye to Ruby who was left behind at the hotel in the bronx. She gave me her number so I could call her, and I was on the van back to Susans place.

I called Ruby twice already. She’s dong well watching Matlock on TV. The other hotel had a better television output. The hotel Im staying at now only has two channel and no cable. So I allowed myself to do a trial subscription to HBO max so I could watch friends and the fresh prince. But I don’t want to pay for another Chanel on my phone. I forgot to pack my tablet which I left in my locker so all I had was my phone. Then I bought the lap top and had it shipped to Susans place, and the van brought it over during dinner time, and I got my delivery.

Ruby found someone who was selling cigarettes at he hotel, because the deli which is a few blocks away from the hotel sells them for $15 dollars a pack, she’s getting them for $9 a pack, and that was pretty much our conversation. She got paid her monthly benefit and is still waiting on her stimulus check to be deposited on to her card. I keep trying to tell her SSI recipients don’t get a stimulus check, but she believes that we will get one. We don’t pay taxes on SSI. SSA doesn’t issue a stimulus check the IRS does. I asked her what she was going to do with the money she said save it for when she moves.

I miss her though, She cuts the boredom and always has a a story to tell. I told her about when I ws living on the street and that I lost custody of my children, but there’s not much to say about it. We now live in the shelter system waiting for a determination of where we are going to be placed. Its a rocky road for some, and a bitter sweet road for others.

I have watched woman move out to their own apartments, and some who moved back into the shelter from their own apartments. Its not easy. I think Ruby is going to be one of those cases where its bitter sweet to move but she will be back in the shelter with in a year after moving. I know thats fucked up for me to say but thats how I feel. I don’t think she’s going to be bale to make rent or find her way to social security and I think she’s going to blow her money on outlandish things for her daughter.

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