Jane Heng‘s “Baby Man Hand

Yesterday I was awakened from a hazy sleep with a text from my landlord asking if I had a check ready for rent and I popped out of bed, immediately wrote one out, and handed it to her as she ran by with her dog, Pepper. Even though I felt a bit chagrined that I had forgotten to put the rent in the dropbox a day before, ran out with a sweatshirt hastily pulled over my slip and was caught sleeping in like a teenager- I was grateful.

It has been a while since I’ve truly worried or thought much about finances- or lack thereof. A chosen lifestyle at twenty years old to share a gloomy apartment facing brick walls with strangers who become friends, smoking ironically expensive cigarettes on the fire escape and spending our minimum wages from Urban Outfitters, freelance artistry, and hostessing restaurants and clubs on Rainier Tall Boys, living room tattoos, and paying off doormen. I recall spending a night in with my friend Leroy after watching Smallville scavenging for quarters to buy a dinner of Top Ramen, Sour Cream and Onion Pringles, and a bottle of cheap wine; it was naively thrilling, it was delirious fun, it was a middle finger to our friends living on their parents’ dime and we laughed as we ran laps around Capitol Hill, wearing paint stained denim and half cocked grins.

A few years later feeling more serious about my in-between state: transitioning to a new job in Cambodia, I remember living off $1.00 styrofoam containers of dumplings and rich bowls of hand pulled noodles from the infamous Chinese Noodle House for a full week with my boyfriend. He working in advertising for peanuts and me, just figuring out what it was like to have to figure out a permanent work situation once I decided I’d be making Phnom Penh my home. A few dollars and riel were set aside for tuktuk rides when he wasn’t able to drive me to the office on his moto and I waited anxiously for that first paycheck as a magazine editor- eager to indulge yet again in the bar scene and delicious restaurants. Soon enough, I found myself with more funds than I knew what to do with and forgot those preciously lacking moments… that didn’t really lack. We still led lives of complete leisure and bounty.

I realize there are many a soul who can’t write that rent check out, half asleep- without concern. The homeless levels in Pierce County hit ‘crisis’ levels this past April and as it rains today under a sheet of grey, it only reminds me of how dire so many in need are. With rents skyrocketing and the housing market at an all time high, I must remind myself of how fortunate I am to have a roof over my head and the abundant luxuries I find to be basics at times: Metropolitan Market, savings accounts, Happy Hour, weekend getaways to California, takeaway pizza, the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

The ease of falling out of touch with what large portions of the world goes through- being in want- is so easy to do. Whether reading insensitive or ignorant comments in The North Slope Historical District Facebook page or having half-hearted arguments with friends and acquaintances about how to best be of service to the homeless, we just don’t know. Sometimes I’ll find myself in surprised conversation with someone who experienced or experiences true homelessness: sleeping in a car with their parent and sibling just trying to get to school the next day, surfing the couches of friends not knowing whether they’ll be welcome for another night or not, or even waiting for the impending eviction notice after not being able to catch up on rent.

It confounds me that this friend or person, literally sharing the same air I breathe, faces something as desperate and debilitating as not having a stable, safe place to simply be. Any space of their own. Their openness and trust is beautiful and tiring and I do not know what to say sometimes, and sometimes I know I don’t need to say anything because I shouldn’t for lack of understanding.

All I know is that right now I am markedly blessed, I regard highly those who step outside themselves to try and understand the very different lives of others, and that I cannot solve a problem if I don’t truly understand the equation that leads to an answer.

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