Tales of a Pandemic in Washington DC, May 1, 2020
I never understood what spiritual violence meant until my circumstances made it almost impossible for me to fast my Ramadan peacefully and with dignity. Now that all the money in my bank account was spent, how am I supposed to fast while being homeless and oblivious? It was kind of inevitable. Again, my poor planning proves that I have a long way to go in becoming an actual responsible adult. I need to aim for a more stable situation. I can’t just let any storm sway me left and right. I don’t wanna be a flower anymore. I wanna grow into a solid tree.
I don’t even remember the exact detail of how I lost everything I own. Not really. I remember that the crackheads stole my Macbook Pro. After checking the suitcases, I managed to get back from them; they also took all my expensive shoes, book, jackets…
I can picture them auctioning my belongings to their Crack high society, selling those pricy items for loose change. This thought made me cringe. I am attached to my stuff, not because I am shallow and materialistic, but because I handpicked each item with care and love. My stuff is an expression of my own unique style and character. Rocking my things is my walking talking signature; after all, that’s all I had.
I’m supposed to worry about losing my paperwork and my cellphone. A taxi driver snatched the latter from my hands after he collected the fare for my ride to the embassy, and I don’t even remember his tag number. I was angry when that happened because I’m usually good at remembering numbers, especially cabs numbers. I always feared being abducted by a shady cab driver, but I guess a Samsung Galaxy S9 has more value than me now. The Pandemic made the greedy greedier. It really made people’s vices bare and stinking even if they were physically hiding in their dens. There is a more alarming thing to worry about than material belongings; my mental health is deteriorating at this point. Why can’t I remember a lot of things that happened in the last seven days? I am homeless, helpless, and pretty much spineless.
The shelter hotline transportation dropped me at an emergency shelter in SW. I know it thanks to the street sign that says “Half St SW.” The shelter is inside a community park; another sign says it’s the kingleaf recreational center. The “Special Police” agent at the door (and I don’t know what’s special about them) said with an overtly patronizing tone and facial expression that I could register for a bed at 6pm, so I lay down on my two suitcases in the Park trying to rest my body.
As for my brain, it’s uncontrollably running all the little remaining memories, trying to troubleshoot this “situation.” The fear of the Coronavirus made people reluctant to help, or maybe they have always been like that. I remember how I was naively begging strangers in the street to borrow their phones for a call, and nobody would even stop to talk to me. They veered away from me and sped their pace as if I were leperous. I never felt that belittled in my life.
About The Author
Mariam is a single mother, a multidisciplinary creative, and a community activist. Originally from Morocco, she made Washington DC her home for almost a decade, during which she developed a strong sentiment of belonging to the District and its unique culture. With a professional background in Hospitality and Entertainment, Mariam was one of the several workers most impacted by the pandemic, which led her to face housing and food insecurity while being pregnant. She hopes to share more of her pandemic diaries in the future.