It’s wildfire season in Spokane, so I’m stuck inside Crosswalk, the teen homeless shelter where I work. I’m the summer employment specialist, hired to help the homeless kids in my group learn to get a job and hopefully keep it. 12 kids are supposed to show up, but only two, Jessica and Reya are here and a third, Makayla is on her way. Usually we go outside to do the job the city gave us a grant to do – measure the slopes and accessibility of streets all over the downtown area, but today the whole city is obscured by the haze from fires on the edge of town. Walking feels like wading through a swamp.
My title, employment specialist seems ironic because for the past couple of years I’ve been pretty much unemployed. Mainly I participated in medical studies while co-conspirator roommate sold her plasma. I had a job working for a place that did digital investigations on people that were accused of looking at child porn, but when I accidentally saw a picture of a little girl in her pink underwear over the shoulder of one of the other employees, I left and never went back.
People don’t stop on the corner outside of 2nd and Post outside of Crosswalk except to wait for a light to change. Homeless adults and rough looking teens own the sidewalk bumming cigarettes and talking shit. Boys in long jerseys of teams that don’t exist hide their probably-stolen kid-sized bikes in upturned garbage cans so they can go inside for a minute. Every morning, girls in tight, once-white tank tops and low slung elastic jeans get out of the hooptie cars of their much older boyfriends and shuffle in to eat breakfast with the other kids. The girls look hard and in control, popping their gum like a warning shot. The boyfriends wait outside smoking cigarettes and scrolling on their phones in their cars or drive around the block waiting to collect their girls again.
Read the full essay on the Manifest Station here.