My Second Year in Santa Cruz

My second year on the street was different.

I lived with Amy for a few weeks in the winter. Then I met M.

We met on a Haight Street in San Francisco. We got to know each other in Santa Cruz. Our last camp was out in the woods. And we named the trees along the path. Part of the walk to the woods was along train tracks. And she once told me of a dream. She was walking on train tracks. A man with a red face followed her down the tracks. Until she turned and confronted him. Then he was gone.

But M needed to go home to Seattle. James gave us a ride to her dad’s home. When we got there she tried to dump me. But I was desperate. I was sad and lonely. I begged. She didn’t dump me.

I returned to Santa Cruz alone. We planned to meet for the Rainbow Gathering in Oregon. I met her in Eugene. The gathering was in eastern Oregon. It was near the town of Prineville. My first gathering.

We traveled from the gathering back to her dad’s place in Seattle. Then we started east. We stopped in Idaho and Montana. But the longest stop was in Boulder. In Boulder we got wet, and we never got dry again.

After Boulder we went to Ann Arbor, Michigan. We traveled along the highways, hitch-hiking. And slept outside under the stars.

From Ann Arbor we went to Ithaca, New York. After I got arrested and released, we left town. Our next destination was Cambridge, Massachusetts. We stayed in Cambridge for a couple weeks. We spent our days in the park and at the bookstore. I gave her a dozen roses. She hid them under a shelf. Sometimes I like to think they would still be under the shelf today.

Then we came back to California. And she returned to Washington.

Soon after coming back I started to work. My first job was for Cal-PIRG. But it didn’t work out for me. I am not a salesman. And I didn’t agree with asking money from poor people. Sometime we went to neighborhoods near San Jose. But others we went to low-income areas of Santa Cruz.

“They have no money,” we would tell our leaders. “They can give you some spare change,” was the reply. And I thought I was working so I could stop begging. The PIRG group does good work. But it shouldn’t be looking to those who have so little. Others who have more should give more.

At one point I was having a bad day. I told them I couldn’t work. They gave me a guilt trip. They said it was because I wasn’t doing good, but I would do better. It was really about M. But I didn’t want to tell them. I quit soon after.

The next job I had wasn’t much better. But my boss became a friend. He became someone I respected. The job was collecting signatures for petitions on the ballot. I did it for months in Santa Cruz. I enjoyed being a part of the democratic process. The pay wasn’t great, but I made some money. I quit begging. And I saved some money.

When Thanksgiving came around I took the bus to visit M. We spent a few days together. And it was good. We made plans for me to move and live with her in Seattle. I went back to California to work and save money.

When I returned to Santa Cruz I camped in the woods. I worked doing the petitions. But the weather was getting wet and cold again.

One day I met Susan on the street. Susan had come to town with an older man, and two female friends. Theirs is the story of Santa Cruz’s ability to draw people and keep people. They had planned on driving through town, without even a stop. But their van broke down. And they stayed and became a part of the community.

Susan was older than me. I always thought of her as being wiser. She felt to me like someone who knew more about the world. But she often didn’t seem to know what she wanted. She was a free love hippy girl. Only as she pointed out to me once. This only meant she was free to choose. And it didn’t mean she would choose to have sex with someone. This was in reference to other guys, not myself.

One of her female friends was a Gemini. One of the few I have known in my life. And she was cute. I had a bit of a crush on her. Except if you ever did something for her because she was a girl, she would be angry. I could understand the theory, but in practice found it silly at times.

When I met Susan on the street it wasn’t my first meeting with her. We chatted and she gave me a hug. She expressed concern about my being cold. Then offered to let me camp with her and her friends.

They camped on the beach in Davenport. It was on the property of the Odwalla headquarters. Although it may have already been a former headquarters. We camped there for a couple weeks. And I was warmer. And it was good to be people. Also, I love the beach.

We heard about a gathering in Big Sir and wanted to attend. So we packed up our stuff. Susan, her friends and I. We all hitch-hiked down to Big Sir. But we split up on the route and didn’t meet in Big Sir.

The gathering was said to be at some hot springs. I had hitch-hiked with Susan and one of her friends. We got there without food and money. We talked to a store manager, he gave us some bad fruit to eat. And we did. On the first night we were there we slept in a cabin in the woods. I don’t know how we found the place.

Susan was next to me in her sleeping bag. She would be close, then push me away. Then pull me close. It felt confusing. In the morning she and I hitch-hiked into town. I recall she was eating an apple. And using a small knife to cut the apple. Then when a car came along she would stick out her thumb. Then back to cutting and eating the apple. We both were eating the apple. I suggested to her, “we might get a ride faster if you put the knife down.”

We couldn’t find out friends. So the three of us started to hike up the trail. We figured we would find them at the gathering.

We were about half-way to the hot springs when we met our friends. There was no gathering. And for some reason when we split to hitch-hike our group had all the tents. So our friends had spent the night without a tent. They stayed in the hot springs to stay warm.

We were halfway there so my group still wanted to visit the hot springs. Then we returned to Big Sir. And went back to camping on the beach. Susan’s said her grandmother once sent her a carbon-monoxide detector. Poor grandma didn’t seem to understand where Susan was living.

After a short period back on the beach the sheriff came and asked us to leave. Susan and her friends had talked about leaving town. But I wanted to stay. Susan gave me a tent, and left.

This is the tent I camped with too close to the river. I used it while the winter passed and I saved money. I called M when I was ready to move. But, she told me, we would just be friends. So I didn’t move to Seattle, i moved to Portland. A city M said she hated.

More Santa Cruz people…

I met many of the people on the street with little ado. One day they would just walk into town. Or maybe they had been in town. But hadn’t been on the street.

Happy was a person who just appeared. He had clear mental health problems. But he was a sweet person. Other people mocked him. They made fun of him.

“Happy days, happy nights…” he would say often. This is why people called him Happy. His named was John.

He dressed like a hippy. No, not like the hippies on the streets. He dressed like a hippy in a movie. He was a hippy. Rumors floated around on why he was crazy. Too much acid in the 1960s.

We found out later he lived in special housing. The housing was related to his mental health. But someone should have watched over him better.

“She’s so cool, she shits cool ice cream…” was another thing he said.

At some point someone gave Happy a toy gun. He had the mind of a six year old. I never saw the gun. But others said he would point it at people. One night he went near a night club downtown. He was playing with his toy gun.

When does a six-year-old boy understand the game is over. Is it when the police come? Is it when they bring out their own guns? Or is it when they shoot him dead on the street. Happy was a man. A man with problems. And the Santa Cruz Police Department shot him dead.

On the night of the shooting I was with a friend, Erin. The sirens seemed to be everywhere. And people gathered in a large crowd to see. We didn’t know someone had been shot. We didn’t know Happy was dead.

In the days after those people who get upset, got upset. Few people noticed Happy when he was alive. Unless they were noticing him as a joke. While many came forward saying he was their friend. I never saw he had any real friends when he was alive. Real friends weren’t there to help him. I wasn’t a real friend.

I had first met Erin through Sean. And the night Happy died we were talking. We had met on the street. She was a pretty girl, a smart woman. And over time we became friends. We would spend time together. We would take walks. And I started to fall in love with her.

But she wasn’t in love with me. A proclamation of love to a friend makes things awkward. But we remained friends until she moved. Then we still stayed in touch. A few years later I visited her in Arizona.

I had caught a ride with a friend from Boulder. I was in Tuscon to see Erin. We spent some time together. Then she asked me where I wanted to camp. It hurt me. If I had been a normal friend, she never would have asked the question. I told her I came to visit her, after asking if I could come to see her. And I asked to stay at her house. She was living with her dad. She let me stay. But I’ve never been in touch with her since.

I also don’t know where I met Ken. Like Erin we were friends after the streets. It wasn’t until years later I cut off communication. When I met Ken we camped by the river together. He was older, but he was agile. He wasn’t old. Later he got himself a place to live on the mall. But this was after I moved away.

The story I recall about Ken is about my camp site. He had been on the street for a long time. Maybe we met when we camped near each other. The last place I camped in Santa Cruz was along the river. He said it was too close. I felt safe.

Too close, too close. But then he quit telling me because I wouldn’t listen. But my life was changing. I had plans. And one day I took a bus and left town for a new life. The night I left it started to rain hard. And it rained and rained. And the river flooded. A couple years later when I returned for a visit I found my campsite. My tent was about six inches deep in the mud. I was too close.

I don’t recall much about Willie. He was a drunk. And in the worst way. He needed the booze. He was the one who was the first person I knew with a sign, “why lie I need a beer.” But he did need alcohol. When he didn’t drink he got the shakes.

Once he told me the beer sign made him more money than a food sign. Which made me mad. Because I didn’t drink and I couldn’t bring myself to pretend. But he was a good man. He was a good friend. At one point he gave me a shirt to stay warm. The bugs which came with the shirt didn’t keep me warm. Bugs are a part of life on the street. Shelters stock the medicine like a shampoo.

Willie was back and forth between San Francisco and Santa Cruz. In the city he told me a large cardboard box was him home. I don’t know where he slept in Santa Cruz. But one morning they found him frozen to death behind the thrift store.

Maybe he was someone’s father. Or someone’s brother. He was someone’s son. And more than a few people’s friends. No one should die alone and cold behind the thrift store. Like so many on the street, he needed help.

Another person I knew both in San Francisco and Santa Cruz was Roy. He wasn’t homeless. But he did spend time on the mall. And I got to know him. He was a gay man, but never hit on me. We became friends. And when I needed to move he helped me.

Once he planned to meet me in San Francisco. But he was a flake. He didn’t show. When I saw him later he asked me why I didn’t meet him. I informed him I was there, and he caved. It was a bluff, he was hoping I hadn’t shown up. In which case I wouldn’t know he had flaked.

I’m not any of my other friends knew Roy. He was a landlord in San Francisco, from what he said. He had a place in Santa Cruz and a place in the city. Before I left he took me over for a visit. It was a decent place. He was a decent person. I never asked him for much, and we were friends.

I became friends with some of the local high school girls. I never took a serious interest in any of the girls. But I had a crush on a couple.

One had blue eyes and dark hair. I recall finding her attractive, in a cute and dark way. A lot of the girls were goth. “Ohh my goth, why don’t I just staple my hand to my forehead,” they would joke.

“I’m just going to die… die… dye my hair black,” was another joke.

But this blue-eyed girl was sweet too. Once we played a game of war with playing cards. But I got bored and started to cheat. Not cheat so I would win, but so she would win. And she caught me. But it was fun, she was cute and it was just a game.

There was another girl, who was friends with my friends. This made me think we were also friends. But she was a little colder and distant. I made a mistake once and got caught stealing from the store where she worked. The store kicked me out for life. She saw me being kicked out. A year later, I went back to the store. I saw her and she saw me. Soon a manager came and asked me to leave.

Another girl told me she was the sheriff’s daughter. And she was wild. Like Drew Barrymore as a youth. Or Paris Hilton in later years. Maybe we didn’t really spend much time together. But I do recall a time talking with the girls.

Once I was talking to one of them about lost things. I had my bag with me. She pointed out it was easy to find what you were looking for, when you didn’t have many things to look through. She wasn’t being flippant, more just understanding a part of my life. If I remember right these girls also knew Tony. And it may have been through him I got to know the girls.

It was a small group. And nothing happened between me and any of them.

The other girls I got to know in Santa Cruz were the church girls. One of them was Christie. She and her church would wash people’s feet like Jesus. They had a mission just off the mall. She was the sweetest most caring and loving person I have ever known. I loved her with a simple and pure love.

The number of times I went to service at the church. We sat and talked. She would wash my feet and give me clean socks. Even when I told her I had plenty she would give me more. For a while I didn’t have to launder my socks because I kept getting clean socks. I wasn’t changing them every day like I do now.

Maybe she was just a sweet girl. Or maybe she was a girl sweet on me. But I felt so dirty at the time. If I ever had thought of being with someone like her, it would have seemed impossible. I hope where ever she is today, she is happy.

Her friend was different. It was to her friend had proposed the hymnal cleaning offer. I recall talking to her friend about Satan. And how Satan was a needed part of the plan of the Biblical god.

If man and angels had freewill I explained. At someone point someone would use it, and then become Satan. Besides, freewill is only free if there is a choice.

The church feed us, and clothed us and tried to offer us salvation. A good number of beautiful people worked at the mission.

I didn’t go back to campus after they kicked me out. But I did make a new friend from Bethany. We got to know each other, it was my second year on the street. I had been off campus for a year.

When M moved to Seattle he gave us a ride. He once gave me a notebook to write poetry. We became good friends, but lost touch when he left Bethany.

He told me about a night in the pool room at Bethany. Someone was talking about me, saying bad things. Which is funny since I hadn’t been around for a year. But he asked them, “do you know Chris?” Then he told them to shut up or deal with him.

One of the oddest friends I had was a hooker. Yes, and she was open with most people about her work. “So what, they go out to a bar and meet someone and go home and party,” she said. “I also go out to a bar and meet someone and go home and party.”

The only difference she pointed out, was she got paid in the morning. I believe I met her one late night on the mall. I was knitting. We went and got some food together. I wasn’t attracted to her. Not because she was a hooker. But just because she wasn’t my type.

She was a funny girl. A sweet and caring person. And we had some good times together. I recall one morning we had stayed up all night. And then went to the park and watched the sunrise. As the sun came up we found a spot on the grass and went to sleep. It was only illegal to sleep in the park at night.

Between the lines

“We are alone.”

“Does anyone know?”

“No.”

“It feels good doesn’t it?”

“With you here, like this alone? Yes.”

“And why can’t we…”

“Please we don’t have much time.”

“Do you love me?”

“Yes, I love you. But I…

“There is no but is love Charles.”

“I love your butt.”

“Pervert!”

“May, please.”

“Don’t please me.”

“Okay, then I won’t.”

“No, no please do. I wait all week watching you across the hall.”

“And I watch you dear.”

“Why are we so silly?”

“Love isn’t silly…”

“Not love you fool. We’re not loving, we are silly.”

“What are we doing now?”

“Hiding, and love doesn’t have to hide.”

“I know.”

“You’ve known for ten years Charles.  But in all these years you haven’t changed.”

“I have changed.”

“Not towards me dear, and I think it is time I changed.”

“But May, my life without you?”

“I think you’d better get used to the idea. Tonight may be the last night we will be together.”

“What can I do? How can I…”

“You know what, you know how, but you won’t.”

“The kids, the house, my career. How can I throw it all away?”

“And what have I given up these last ten years? I could have started my own family. My own man, my own child, my own life.”

“You want a child May?”

“Not with you! Not now, and I am starting to think not ever.”

“But May, I would…”

“Would do anything unless it is something difficult. I think you want to have your cake and eat it too.”

“You aren’t being fair.”

“Fair, you disgrace the word by letting it form on your lips.”

“And what about your husband?”

“My husband is different. I would leave him, I have before.”

“Then why haven’t you?”

“And be alone when you turn me to the cold? You’ve said you couldn’t leave her. You said it Charles. You said it.”

“I want to leave her. I want to be with…”

“No you don’t, stop it. If you wanted to do it, you would. At this point I have to believe you like a little on the side. And you like your life with a safe woman, children and job.”

“But we could have…”

“I am not and never will be your safe woman. I hope you remember tonight well.”

“You going to walk out of my life? Go back to the putrid fellow you married in high school?”

“He is a good man. He is…”

“A drunk who doesn’t love you. Who spends all his time at work or on the golf course.”

“You have no right…”

“When was the last time you made love? Made love with passion the way we make love?”

“I don’t know Charles.”

“Any wonder you don’t have children.”

“I can’t stay. I can’t go. What can I do?”

“Don’t cry dear. I am sorry. I really don’t want to lose you. I would…”

“Stop it you asshole. I don’t want to hear anymore of your ‘I would’s. Because you never do any, and I doubt you.”

“Doubt me?”

“How can I not doubt your love for me? I lay awake at night with my pillow. The tears are the only thing real.”

“What should I do?”

“Take my hand from me now. Take me body and soul. I want all of you.”

“You barely took all of me last time.”

“Stop being an asshole. You know I am not making some childish joke.”

“I am sorry.”

“I know you are, now apologize.”

“You’re funny.”

“Don’t touch me, and keep your pants on. I don’t want you to touch me. I am nothing to you.”

“Nothing. After all these years, how can you say such a thing?”

“After all these years, exactly. What have you done for me? Flowers on my birthday Charles. My fucking mother sends me flowers too.”

“You know if I were to…”

“Yes, what would people say? Maybe they would see we love each other. Maybe they would know it is the right thing.

“Where are you going?”

“I don’t know. I don’t care. I just need space and time.”

“Please…”

“Take your hands off me. Stop trying to hold me.”

“May…”

“You know how badly I want to kiss you right now. How much I want to lay down in this cheap hotel bed with you? How much I want to feel you inside me.”

“I want it too baby.”

“I know. But not today.”

“Fine, you walk out the door. Walk away from everything we have together.”

“What do we have together? A hour of sex on your lunch break every Friday. I spend more time with the barista at the corner.”

“You fucking him too.”

“Her, she’s 16 and hot. And she would be better in bed than you.”

“I get it, you like girls.”

“Hey prick, it was a joke. What I really want is a man who loves me.”

“I love you dear.”

“Love me on my back. Love me with my underwear around my ankles. But you have no idea who I am. Where did I grow up?”

“Nebraska.”

“Nebraska! Have you been hit in the head? I was born and raised in Alaska.”

“Isn’t it close. Out west some place.”

“Why did I ever fall in love with a east coast snob like you.”

“I don’t know geography, so what?”

“My favorite colour?”

“Blue.”

“Have you ever seen me in blue underwear? They are all green, do you even pay attention?”

“I am just tired.”

“Tired. Me too. Goodbye.”

“Please Nancy.”

“Nancy is your wive’s name.”

 

(a Room to Write exercise)

Fiona Apple

The Way Back

But I am not lost
any more than leaves are lost
or buried vases
This is not my time
I would only give you second thoughts

I know you must call me traitor
because I have wasted my blood
in aimless love
and you are right
Blood like that
never won an inch of star

You know how to call me
although such a noise now
would only confuse the air
Neither of us can forget
the steps we danced
the words you stretched
to call me out of dust

Yes I long for you
not just as a leaf for weather
or vase for hands
but with a narrow human longing
that makes a man refuse
any fields but his own

I wait for you at an
unexpected place in your journey
like the rusted key
or the feather you do not pick up
until the way back
after it is clear
the remote and painful destination
changed nothing in your life

-Leonard Cohen

The Empress

Our journey starts with the fool. All the early cards are forces helping us. The Empress is the fourth card. But it is numbered 3.

In the cards before we got wisdom. The cards gave us the tools we need.

The Empress is about nurturing. She tends to our bruises. Like The High Priestess, she is the earth. From her flows the power of the Goddess.

The number three is about growth. On the card is a woman. She holds a shield with the sign of Venus. The planet Venus rules Taurus. The primary earth sign.

The Empress is the safe harbor. But as the saying goes: ships weren’t made to sit at harbor. The Empress is the soil. All things depend on the life which grows from the soil of earth. The soil protects and nurtures the seeds. It warms them, cools them, waters them and feeds. But the seeds growth forth into the sun. And when they die, they return to the soil.

The Empress is the mother bird. It feeds and feeds its baby. But when the moment is right. The mother bird will kick it out of the nest. It must learn to fly. And so must we.

The power of The Empress is no less than her partner. The next card in the deck. The Emperors power is different. And it finds a different expression. But do not let the softness of The Empress fool you. She is just a committed to your growth. She is just as focused. Just as driving, in her own ways.

If we can take the lessons of the Empress to heart. Our experience with The Emperor will go easier. As the path takes us from one card to the next. It is almost always the case one leads to the next. If we learn the lessons of one card well, the next is easier.

The Empress is the mother. So it could represent a mother in your life. Someone who is becoming a mother. Or just someone who is giving birth to a new energy. There are times in our lives when we give birth to ourselves.

We experience the energy of The Empress when we change our own lives. Transforming ourselves and our center of focus. Like a butterfly we shed the dust of our past. We pull ourselves out to become our true selves.

We can mother a new project or new energy. A work of art may take a focus and commitment like a child. Although on a whole different scale. We put our time, our strength, our energy into its creation. We put ourselves into its being.

The whole journey of the tarot is the journey from the mother. And then returning to the mother. What Leonard Cohen called the “remote and painful destination which changed nothing in your life.”

We are the same when we finish the journey. The world about us is the same. But we ourselves have grown. We have become mothers. In giving birth to ourselves. We give birth to a new world. In nurturing ourselves, we nurture a new world.

There is no separation between us and Goddess. All of her healing and nurturing power is ours. We cannot complete this journey alone. We understand our place in the universe by touching the heart of the mother.

 

Feed the People

Feed the People was started by an Egomaniac with a big heart. Sean was a loud man. But he was a caring person. Never shy to speak his mind. He often spoke up for others. He would talk you out of anything he could get. But he would share all of it himself.

I got to know Feed the People while eating their food. What they made was hot soup. Sometimes they would serve bread and juice. Sean had once cooked with Food Not Bombs. But he had personal disagreements with the group. And so started Feed the People.

The first person I got to know was John  Earth. In some ways John was the opposite of Sean. Where Sean was loud. John was quiet. But they shared a concern for others. And they shared the mission of the group. It was a simple mission, feed people. They also shared a deep friendship.

When I became associated with the group Sean was in jail. I do not recall the reason. John was looking for a place to cook. And having a hard time keeping the group functional. John was the mother of the group, taking care of the day to day details. Sean had been the father. His was a more active role. But both were important.

When I met John Earth I was living with Amy. She had talked about helping others. She was a caring soul. I thought she would want to help John. When I asked her she said, “yes.”

So John started to cook in her apartment. And we would carry the food downtown to serve. We made the soup from donations. It was always an odd selection. We chopped and boiled anything we got. But never meat, or dairy. It was always vegan. Always made with love. And it was always yummy.

During this time I was also spending time with friends from Bethany. One of them was Doshia. I had known her while a student. But I got to know her more after I left Bethany. Shannon was someone new to the school. But we became friends, as she was friends with Doshia.

When Doshia heard about the feeding program she wanted to help too. She had a pickup truck. Instead of walking the food downtown, Doshia would give us a ride.

Over time the four of us became friends. Then Sean got out. When he came back to the group, he took the lead again. He was a natural leader. And to be honest I felt pushed aside a little. I felt like less important.

Amy and I had been close. But at some point she said we would just be friends. This had been upsetting to me. But on one trip to San Francisco I met M.

When I came back to Santa Cruz I introduced Amy to M. It was an odd meeting, quiet and awkward. It may not have been a wise choice for me. But I don’t know if it was a choice I could have avoided without changing my life in Santa Cruz.

The night I recall the most was at Amy’s. Sean had been talking about having a party. And it was going to be at Amy’s apartment. Well, amy’s parents completely supported her. And before meeting M I had spent almost a month living with her. I knew she was nervous about her parents finding out about me.

Amy was a caring person. But also a quiet person. When I invited the group into her home it was John. And John and Amy had much in common. They were both had a natural peaceful spirit. But Sean had a natural active spirit. And I knew at times Amy wasn’t comfortable with his level of energy. But she would never had said a word.

Well, back to the night things went bad. Sean was talking and planning a big event. In my mind I grew concerned for Amy. My feeling was this wasn’t something she would want in her apartment. Also it could cause problems with the apartment management. By this time I was not living with her anymore. So, it wasn’t my interest.

“You haven’t even asked Amy,” I stated at one point. Which was true, he hadn’t. But it wasn’t Sean’s nature to ask. He assumed people were as giving as himself. Often this worked for him. But in this case I think it was a mistake.

Well Sean got upset. Amy got upset. And M got upset. Looks like I did a great job. But the event never took place.

Sean got upset because I challenged him. He was an egomaniac. I don’t think he conceived of Amy not approving. Maybe he got upset because he knew I was right. People get upset when they are caught, and they know they are wrong.

Amy got upset because I spoke for her. As much as she would never speak for herself. And maybe it wasn’t my business. But to this day I think I made the right choice. She knew it was out of concern for her. Of all the people, she may have forgiven me the easiest.

And M? Well she got upset because she felt like I still wanted to be with Amy. I made a lot of mistakes in my relationship with the two girls. Sean later told M I never defended her like I did Amy. Which was true. But M was a different person. A stronger more able person in many ways.

There was another time I recall. We were at Amy’s with Shannon and Doshia. I don’t know if M was with us. They started talking about old souls. Sean had said Shannon was an old soul. Doshia asked about herself. And then we talked about a few other people. Then Doshia said, “what about Rainbow?”

Sean’s comment was he would tell me when I acted my age. Which was fine with me. I didn’t put much stake in the whole discussion. I still don’t today. I’ve met many old people who aren’t wise. And I have met many young people who have much wisdom. Why would it be any different with souls?

One time when I wasn’t around Sean made an odd comment to Doshia. The tension between me and Sean was growing. I was never sure what caused this tension. It must have been something mutual. He was a Sagittarius, a sign I often don’t match with well.

“I’m not going to let Rainbow come between me and my girls,” he told Doshia. Which is a funny thing for him to say. Of the list of girls he could have been speaking of, most were my friends first. Besides the fact, people don’t belong to people.

At many times I wanted to impress Sean. In some ways I looked up to him like a father figure. But I also resented him in ways. Because he was so confident. So sure of himself. Maybe for my part the tension came from this internal struggle. I wanted his approval. But I didn’t want to be another of his groupies.

Sean had a way of getting things. I don’t know how. And as far as I know it was legit. We would watch movies for free. Not by sneaking in the side door. He would talk to someone at the ticket counter and we would walk in the front. And he invited almost anyone.

The group got donations from various places. The only one I remember was Odwalla. This was before Coke bough the company. So it was when they were still good. We got gallons and gallons of juice. And we gave it all away. Odwalla was a different company. You could ask a driver for a sample, or an out-of-date and they would often give you one.

At some point Sean’s girlfriend went on a trip. He was alone in his tent and offered to let me and M stay. We were there for a while. On the last day, me and M cleaned up the tent. We wanted it to be nice for Sean and his girlfriend. Me and M moved into the woods. As a parting gift we left them a couple condoms. We must have just thrown them on top the blankets.

The next time we saw Sean he was threatening my life. Said he had trashed his tent, left a mess. It wasn’t the truth. And I would not back down. Giving in felt like becoming another of the people who bowed to Sean.

For days we avoided each other. M and I felt nervous. But I also felt like he wouldn’t hurt me. At one point I told him: “this is America, we don’t submit to terrorism.” Sean was of Iranian decent.

I know at some point we got together and talked. If I remember right the problem was resolved. But we were never close again.

It was through Sean I met Erin. Who became a close friend for a number of years. She is someone I still miss today.

I’m not sure the last time  I saw Sean. Or John Earth. Or even Amy.

The saddest part of the story comes years later. John and Sean had gone to Fresno. Sean had gotten tired driving back, and asked John to drive. Later John said he hadn’t felt tired himself. But, he fell asleep at the wheel. The van was wrecked and Sean was killed. For a while there was a concern they were going to charge John for his death.

I felt how much I had loved Sean after he died. I learned a lot from him. He was an egomaniac. But he also had a big heart for others. I am sure he would have helped anyone.