Love in the Time of Corona, Part 13 “Twelve Bullets in Tremé”

A man was shot to death yesterday over in the Tremé. What a shitty way to spend a Sunday afternoon. They shot him more than a dozen times according the cops, one of those assault type weapons, you know. The man died at the hospital so the first thing I thought was damn, that must have sucked still being alive all that time with twelve pieces of lead in your body. I’ve passed by the corner where he was shot a thousand times. I never knew it was called “the D-block” but then again, I’ve never been in the market for some heroine which I’ve now learned this block is famous for. I’ve seen the fallout from that pandemic though. I see them, people who live without addresses on the street, hollow-eyed and hungry, either desperate for a fix or clearly having found one. I don’t know which is harder to see, someone in impoverished longing– no, not longing, hunger, or someone who is immersed in a closed-eye paradise of no pain while knowing they will soon return to the filthy reality that they’ve shat their pants. I don’t mean to imply that all those who find themselves ensnared by opioid addiction live in the streets; that’s a killer that knows no boundaries, not living situation, not economic status, not race. One day I was walking with friends down St. Peter street in the French Quarter when we came upon a man who was overdosed on heroine on the sidewalk. Because I had recently volunteered with Utah Naloxone on a trip out there, I knew what symptoms to look for. Click here for a list of opioid overdose symptoms if you’d like to refresh your memory. Lucky for this guy I also happened to have Naloxone. He got to live to fight another day. Shortly after I heard the news of the shooting yesterday and who it was who got shot, I wondered if the heroine in that boy’s body I’d helped came from this dead man’s heroine operation; for no other reason that proximity, there’s, a good chance that it did. Word on the street is this guy headed a pretty big enterprise before going to jail. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, the dead man had gone to jail. He wasn’t dead when went to jail. But he’s dead now. He was set free along with a bunch of other “lower-level criminals and pretrial defendants” after at least two inmates and one jail medical provider had tested positive for Coronavirus. I was in support of this decision because life inside a facility where it is very likely that most or all of the inmates will contract the coronavirus and some will die must surely qualify as “cruel and unusual punishment” and therefore prohibited by the Constitution. Not to mention, most of them are young men of color who are in there for doing less than what most white frat daddies you know have done and gotten away with. But this guy was no sold-a-bag-of-weed to a narc criminal. He must have been “pre-trial” because he sure-as-shit wasn’t “low level.” The DA describes him as someone who headed a violent heroine operation that caused a lot of deaths. The irony of it is that he was set free to keep him alive and was told, as we all have been, to “shelter in place.” Yet when he was killed, he was out bouncing around the old block, his “turf,” the center of the heroine operation. Because of a pandemic, a man who had no regard for human life was set free for his own sake. Then this is a man who helped to fuel the fire of the opioid pandemic ended up taking fire (literally) after saying “fuck you” to the chance he was given by the Criminal Court Judges of Orleans Parish and the Coronavirus. To me, not abiding by the shelter in place orders was a demonstration of a continued lack of regard for others’ lives. But let’s face it, he didn’t have a long history of that anyway. I don’t have it in me to celebrate anyone’s death. I can say I’m relieved this man will no longer be part of destroying people. 

About an hour ago, I saw two of my neighbors; young, female, and white (you’ll see why that matters in a minute) walking by my porch with a dog crate. It is my impression that these two have not been quarantined together for the past fourteen days.

“What y’all got going?”

“I’m donating some furniture. I’m getting out of here” one of them said.
“I didn’t realize they would come and pick it up during all this. You mean Goodwill is still out collecting?!”

There were a couple of unintelligible sentences that left me feeling that maybe “donating” meant taking it to the curb. I can’t remember what in the short, ensuing conversation that made me say it but at some point I said,

“Hey, it’s not like you can just pop out to Lowe’s like you could before, right?!”

“Sure you can! I was just up there this morning and I’m going back there after ‘while. They’re open!”

“Well, what I meant was that I’m not making any unnecessary trips out there in the world. Grocery. Pharmacy. And when I go out to exercise I don’t touch surfaces and I stay far away from others. I have family in healthcare. No furniture is worth putting their lives in greater danger and every single time anyone, anywhere does not abide by the protocols that so far have been the only thing that has worked, it puts their lives, and everyone else’s in greater danger.”

I give them my regular impassioned plea and go back in the house. A few minutes later I get a text from one of them.

“Hey, can you please help us move a dresser? We need the manpower! We have a dolly!”

Jesus Christ. We’re doomed.
It has always been hard for me to say no. Also, and with apologies if this seems anti-Feminist, when I was growing up, if any female, especially and older female asked you do something, especially if it involved lifting or moving anything, you said “yes ma’am” and you did it. It was hard for me to say no. But I did.

“I’m sorry, I made a promise that I intend to keep.” 
A few minutes pass and then I get a response:
“It’s okay. We got the maintenance man to do it.”

Holy shit. Remember when I told you I’d tell you why it mattered that they were young and white? The maintenance man to whom she referred is John. John is super-good at what he does. Very hardworking. He’s friendly and smart and has successfully tackled any problem I’ve had. The last time he was in my apartment was last week. My clothes washer wasn’t working and the water was at a trickle through the house. We kept far away from each other and I thanked him profusely for risking his life so that I could flush the toilet, bathe, and wash my clothes during this. 

“I worry about you, man,” I told him. 

“Oh don’t worry, today is it,” (this was last Wednesday) “I won’t be back around here until all this shit is over. Except if there’s an emergency.”

I don’t know what the “emergency” was that had him back on the property today but somehow that dresser ended up being an emergency.
John is also Black and the reason that matters is because as I look around and see those who are expected to continue to show up and work, which of course also means putting their life in danger, it seems like a disproportionate number of them are people of color. Racially-based income inequality in this country or “station in life” (a disgusting term) seem to have had a huge input on who is putting their lives at risk and why. John should be home with his family unless something very serious requires his attention around here and in which case he (and others like him) should be being paid very, very well—like hazard pay I’m thinking. 

I get up to go for a glass of water and look out the big picture window on the way. The young woman who asked me to move the dresser is out now walking her dog. They meet a young girl of about ten on the sidewalk. They stop within a couple feet of each other and have a brief conversation while the girl pets the dog. So far it is believed that canines cannot contract the virus but may carry it on their fur. Felines can get it. One tiger at the Bronx Zoo has it and many others there are showing symptoms.
When I’ve retreated back to the dark cave of my bedroom, I sit on the bed leaning up against the headboard to hopefully finish the blog that It’s taken lots longer to finish than I thought it would today. I hear footsteps walking up my porch steps and see a silhouetted human pass my blinds-drawn window. Please don’t ring the bell, please don’t ring the bell. No doorbell and the lumbering figure walks back off the porch. I guess it was a delivery of some sort. I go to investigate and see James walking away with the as-yet-undelivered papers in his hand. I’ve requested several times that the management company not stick anything on or through my door. It never makes a difference. I look to my front door to see my copy sticking through the crack. They’re notices telling the tenant about a two-week waiver on late fees for rent. Thanks for that. In case you’re wondering, according to WebMD, some strains of coronavirus can live on paper up to five days. 

We had a good run.

About this entry