Forty-Something Years in Ninaland

I Forgot To Tell Him


Photo by Caleb George on Unsplash


I did something wrong the other day. I wrote a poem that was racist against white people. Poor white people. I showed it to a man in my life who is Caucasian and he was hurt by it. He said he wasn’t, but he said it felt like a punch in the stomach because it mentioned things like cockroaches in a pejorative way. He mentioned how he knows poverty and it’s not a joke.

I forgot to tell him though.

I forgot to tell him I lived in an apartment in New York City with a Hispanic family once. There were little baby cockroaches in the kitchen sink. They scared the shit out of me. I had run away from home then in my twenties. I went from my opulent existence in the Michigan suburbs to a small place with bugs and a spicy smell I could not ignore. I forgot to tell him I know what it’s like to feel like a cockroach.

And another time I spent three months in New York living in hostels and hotels. A different one every day. I had a good job but was essentially homeless. I didn’t have to worry about eating, but sleeping I had to worry about. That’s as close as I’ve come to understanding homelessness I think. One night there was nowhere to go, everything was full and my feet were tired and I couldn’t walk anymore in my pointy black leather boots. I called and they had one room left in New York City. It was five hundred dollars a night. I took it. I wasn’t poor, but I was stupid. And I wasn’t going to spend the night on the street.


Photo by Molly Porter on Unsplash


When I came home I asked my dad how much his new dishwasher cost. He said four hundred dollars. It’s as if I spent that night in a dishwasher. The five hundred dollar room had rooms in it. A navy blue living room and a peach colored bedroom. I stayed up all night but rested my feet. I watched Frasier re-runs. I forgot to tell him I know what it’s like to be alone.

I once lived in a beautiful high-rise apartment at Columbia University with a rooftop restaurant and it was infested with cockroaches everywhere in the laundry room etc. Many rooms had them too, mine luckily was high enough to not have bugs. I was just lucky there were no cockroaches in my apartment. I forgot to tell him I’m just lucky.

Photo by Bagus Ghufron on Unsplash


I’m lucky I’ve never been poor.

I forgot to tell him that I’ve broken bread with homeless people in an inner city psych ward. One man who sat at my table at the mental hospital, I later saw getting food from a dumpster on the outside.

I forgot to tell him mental poverty, losing one’s mind, might be as bad as losing all your money. I don’t know. I don’t want to know.

I forgot to tell him about the last time I was manic.  I was in my thirties and in New York City again and I ended up getting picked up by a Pakistani cab driver who was creepy in the middle of the night. It was no wonder he thought I was for sale, I was wearing a red paisley bikini top with a sheer blue skirt. He gave me a cigarette to smoke and I blew the smoke from the window thinking I was finally free. I ended up in a padded room for two days after that.


Photo by Mario Azzi on Unsplash


I forgot to tell him that I am far from perfect. That I constantly do the wrong thing.

I forgot to tell him I’m sorry sometimes for who I am.

He asks me if I’m happy. I forget to tell him, yes, I am because you ask me if I am.


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