by Jeffrey Stockbridge
MARILYN: Um, life in the streets is like pretty tough. I survive by um selling myself and getting in cars with strangers that I don’t even know and it’s pretty scary. Um. I don’t know, anything I can do to get money, I do. And that’s about it, it’s like really hard out here.
I’ve been out here for two and a half months. I’m homeless, I live in the streets, in the train tracks.
JS: In the train, In the Lehigh Viaduct?
MARILYN: No, on um, the one on uh Allegheny, 2nd and Allegheny.
JS: You have like uh, did you build something over there?
MARILYN: Yeah, like it’s like a little room in there. Yeah, and that’s where I sleep, and I get little buckets of water and that’s how I wash up.
JS: You use heroin, is that it?
MARILYN: Yeah I use heroine and crack.
JS: How long have you been using those?
MARILYN: Well, in and out, for 12 years.
JS: What got you started, do you remember, do you have any idea?
MARILYN: Uh, The men. Men.
JS: Men? Anyone specific?
MARILYN: My daughter’s father. He got me hooked into it.
JS: Can you tell me a little bit about that?
MARILYN: Well he was hooked into the drugs, and because I didn’t want to give him any money he just kept feeding it to me, like, little by little. And one day I got up and I was sick. So, and ever since I’ve been using.
JS: Do you still talk to your daughter?
MARILYN: To my, to my daughter’s father? Uh, Yeah, he works around the corner from where I’m at. Yeah.
JS: Does he still use?
JS: So he got clean but you never did?
Marilyn: I did for 22 months, this time. But I, uh, got into a relationship and it was bad and um this is like, I just know how to run, you know.
JS: What do you mean?
MARILYN: I don’t know how to face, um, the realities of, I don’t know how to deal with the feelings that I’m feeling and I just run. I use drugs to numb what I’m feeling.
JS: If you’re self-conscious of that, why is it that you still let it happen?
MARILYN: I don’t know I just like, I guess I’m not brave enough just to face it, I just don’t want to face it.
JS: How’s your daughter?
MARILYN: She alright, she been with my Mom ever since she was born.
I’m dealing with um, custody matters now. I got two small kids.
JS: And how long have you been homeless?
MARILYN: For two and a half months.
JS: What happened?
MARILYN: My, my Aunt kicked me out. I was living with her, and she found out I was using again and she told me I had to leave.
JS: That simple.
MARILYN: That simple. Pack your stuff and go.
JS: So you were saying, um, you were talking about how it can get kinda embarrassing you had said, can you explain that to me?
MARILYN: Yeah, like when you walking by, just, out of the, out of the blue somebody just walk by and tell you something nasty or call you names and stuff, you know. Making fun out of you like, like it’s, it’s a game, it’s funny to them. I say, I say, people just tell you to wait here, I’m coming right back, and they never come back, and they get like a kick out of it like. For them it’s a game, for me, I’m surviving I mean, it’s not, I do things I don’t even wanna do just to get a few dollars, so, sometimes it’s not even all for drugs, it’s to eat too, you know. Like it’s real risky every time you get in the car, you don’t know who you’re getting in the car with. I could get raped, killed, dumped somewhere, nobody ever find me. So, I’m taking that risk every time I get into the car.
JS: Why do you think you’re taking that risk?
MARILYN: Cause I wanna get drugs, I wanna use. I’m sick, I need to get well, so I do whatever it takes to get the drugs.
JS: Even if it means you get into a car and never get back out?
MARILYN: Yeah. Yeah. It’s just like, I, I wanna get out of it but it’s like, uh, I dunno how. It’s like everytime I wanna get out, it’s like, something stronger than me just pulls me back in, and it’s hard. It’s like, I’m debating, like, it’s just like a battle.
JS: What is it about the avenue specifically?
MARILYN: What is it about the avenue specifically? It’s very addictive, like, it’s easy money. Anybody wanna get money fast, just come to the avenue, you’ll make money quick.
JS: Do you think that’s always been the case?
MARILYN: What, on the avenue? Yeah. Yeah, because like everybody knows where to come and get the people they wanna get.
JS: How long have you known about it?
MARILYN: Known about this? Years. For fourteen years already. Ever since I got here I heard about Kensington. And one day, I said just let me try it, and just started walking, somebody pick me up, I make quick money. And it get addictive. It’s like the people that sell drugs, they get addicted to it. It’s the same thing.
Yeah, I have to pretend I’m tough because like deep down inside I’m just like a little kid crying, crying out for help. But I have to pretend that I’m this tough woman, and can nobody touch me, just so nobody could hurt me, you know. And it gets hard at times, you know, sometimes, I just cry alone when nobody can see me, and I cry and ask God to help me, you know. Cause I’m tired, you know. If I give up, like like, I could die, or something else could happen to me. So I just gotta keep on going, Yeah, this is like survival.
I’m always, I’m always by myself pretty much, like I’m a loner. You know, I come out here make my money, go and get high all by myself, every other thing is by myself, you know. Because I don’t trust people around me, all they wanna do is like, like see what they can get from you, hurt you. So, I’m pretty much by myself. And it gets tough you know. It gets lonely and tired. Like, I go in places, like, like, I live in the train tracks, like I go in there, and it’s, and it’s dark. Like, I don’t know who’s there, you know. I just walk right in because that’s where I live, you know.
I dunno, the drugs just numb your feelings, it’s you don’t feel nothing anymore. Just like a zombie. Just walking, I have no, no type of feelings, everything is numb, that’s what drugs do. So, it’s not that we don’t care, it’s that in this particular moment it doesn’t even matter, like that’s what drugs do. That’s why we use drugs to numb any feelings we have. We don’t feel nothing. Yeah, any type of feelings. We just, nothing phase us, you know.
JS: Beautiful day today, huh?
MARILYN: I had like a like little room in the woods, right. I prayed to God last night before I went to sleep that I don’t fly away. I was like “God, please don’t let this little room fly away.” You know, cause it’s like half cement and half woods. So when I opened the door this morning the trees were down and all kinds of type of stuff in there. I was still there.