[Essay] ADULTHOOD V. THE PEOPLE by Betsy Perez
In one long sitting, one long night, Betsy Perez, wrote this powerful piece while she was participating in one of Hidden Water’s first Green Circles. She shared it with her Circle later that week and brought nearly everyone to tears —not of joy or sadness— but of profound recognition. We are so honored that Betsy will be performing a part of this hard-to-describe spoken word poem-essay, during our 5th Anniversary Celebration in a few weeks.
ADULTHOOD V. THE PEOPLE
Wassup Mi Gente!
How y’all feeling? How y’all living?
As I sat on the toilet this morning, with a fresh blunt I thought-
“This is how I know at least my body is lining up with adulthood, when you can't leave the house before your morning shit, it's like the whole day is off. Your whole equilibrium, off… Damn, now I know why people sit in here with cigarettes… feels so… adult-like.”
These days, meaning the last 7, I’ve been filled with anxiety about the way I'm living, or where I may be living soon, and rent…
BAM BAM BAM! It was 7:13am, on a Tuesday, in January. I thought someone finally stopped minding their business, and called in about the cyphers. I never answer my door. I have anxiety about it being someone I wasn't expecting. I guess I ain't living right... [...] BAM BAM BAM! I quietly tripped over a pair of shoes that I wore around my house that one night I almost went somewhere. I looked in the peephole, and of course it was some fat white man with a NYCHA jacket on. The one time I see a white man in the projects and this nigha leaving a court notice on my door, ain't this about a bitch. I knew what it was…[...] I guess I’ve been avoiding walking straight home, literally; what a metaphor... I haven't been paying the rent, and I’ve been conscious of that, and not so conscious at the same time, believe it or not.
The first time I saw a similar letter back in September, or let's be real, the housing court notice, I wasn't expecting it; oddly enough. I was so manic, and feeling so up in the clouds, what fucks did I care? Until I came home after months of not knowing how to. I remember thinking, wow, how long was this on my door? [...] Thanks. I mean, someone can say, “Well, pay ya rent.” Valid point, whoever you are...
I panicked that Tuesday morning. Not a Girl What Are You Gonna Do? Panic; more like a, Bitch, Why Do You Keep Playing Yourself? Kind of panic. The kind of panic you can't help but start tearing yourself apart with, and can't even stop to think, like girl, what you gonna do? Forreal. And I panicked in the way I thought I would. I shut down, and I applied for Food Stamps, and immediately psyched myself into this “you are a responsible, able, “functional”, educated adult,” because I am, aren’t I? How could I not be on my shit? What the hell are you thinking loka? Don’t start using that trauma bullshit again. This is you. All you. And I went down to 111 Centre St. Room 225, and got my January 26, court date. It's been 2 months since these moments in life.
I found myself last Wednesday morning dancing for Eleggua (an orisha; associated with opening the roads, and often depicted as the child/trickster) I put the music on, Juan Luis Guerra, “La Cosquillita.” I played the maraca I bought him in DR last year, and I danced for him. I sang with him. I even followed my intuition this time, took manteca de corojo (red palm oil) and lathered him in it. I’m about to go to the management office for the almost three thousand, if not more dollars in rent I owe, that I’ve been to housing court for in the last year. It's embarrassing to say, because it was the first thing I remember talking about when I got my place, about how paid my rent will ALWAYS be; until you're in the heart of it. Mismanaging funds, time; turn around your mental so shot you end up unemployed, and no real idea of how to navigate the system that's already looking for a reason to deny you something; that has an image of what struggle, poverty, and mental illness looks like; and then you realize you are still embodying your childhood trauma that can make your adulthood feel like a constant state of crisis.
It’s scary, and it gives me anxiety. The moments I stood there and looked for my name on a wall, with everyone else, Housing v. Betsy Perez, but it reads more like Adulthood v. Betsy Perez. Adulthood v. The People. I sat there in a courtroom of mostly women of color, and we sat there, listening for our names to be called, by our housing assistant when they show up, or the judge who seems to always show up; it makes my stomach flip even as I write it. And you know? I’ve had this conversation with too many friends in one week about rent, about making adult decisions; what does it mean to be an adult, like what the fuck does that really mean?
We think that we know what’s an “adult”, and we also know what an adult is “supposed“ to be, we are reminded everyday, and are expected to make “better” choices but how do we make choices we never made? Never taught? People see me and think I got it together because I speak the way I do, or find myself in spaces doing advocacy or work in the community; that I am able to do for myself. I feel sometimes so embarrassed to sit with the misconception of "being able” to keep a job, "being able" to eat at least 3 meals in the day, and of course "being able" to at least pay da goddamn rent, because don't you care? Don't I care? […]
To read the entire piece (which c’mon howcanyounot?) kindly visit Building Bizzy, where Betsy documented some of her writing during the time she sat in one of Hidden Water’s first Green Circles.