Ryan Berg, Writers' Retreat Fellow

Ryan Berg, Writers' Retreat Fellow



20:10 writers for treating fellow and nonfiction yes all right so I'm reading from No More I'm writing which is about working in a group home with queer kids as a caseworker and the person I'm gonna be reading about is Chi Chi she's a trans girl and the only thing you need to know is that her birth name is Baldomero the discharge conference our agency support team in the case planner from the administration for Children Services gather in the conference room to discuss planning strategies for teaching she doesn't attend she's been AWOL from the program for days some of the other residents have seen her on the stroll there are rumors that she's been staying at the hotel ganzel wore in the Meatpacking District with the celebrity we begin to talk about her functioning during the previous six months in her discharge plan each child goes through these meetings twice a year most of them refused to attend a little bit participation is considered a critical they know from experience that they can be ugly uncomfortable gatherings adults sit in a room and discuss their cases offer suggestions conflict resolutions speak about the most private moments of their lives each incidents still framed dissected picked through I don't blame her for not showing up the room is like yellow maybe canary there are pictures on the walls of sunsets a snowy landscape subtitled with inspirational sayings like today is the first day of the rest of your life workers sit around a conference table and half listen as I read from the narrative that I prepared Gigi is non-compliant with program rules and right Nations she abuses marijuana and crack cocaine on a consistent basis and self reports that she prostitutes intermittently other staff believes it's much more frequent she was arrested three times during this reporting period for prostitution and once for purchasing narcotics the agency has made concerted efforts to engage Gigi in therapy in order to address her history of family trauma and abandonment that she refuses to comply with recommendations TG will be turning 21 on August 30th and subsequently aging out of foster care she has no viable temporary housing resources is and isn't able to maintain employment past two weeks the agency has attempted to place her in a detox program to address her chronic drug abuse but Gigi refuses and it goes on the details of her life imparted by DRI Kurt language summing up her existence by a series of failures to comply with recommendations exposing her tender spots like blisters we pick we pride and make our fingers sticky with the mess of her life are there any positive role models in her life asks the ACS worker I can't place her accent not exactly Jamaican definitely Caribbean she's overdressed a gold chain lies heavy on her blouse she looks out of place I'm suddenly reminded of when I went with chichi out the public for the first time she drew so much attention to herself that it made me uneasy sashay down the street as if it were her own personal catwalk always walked by and how old you see that one said that was a dude nasty ass she kept walking with her chin high the boys passed us and once patted her feet I pretended not to notice just buried my hands deep in my pockets searching for some change I didn't have the only adults in her life or from this agency and the tricks on the street I say there's little disco there's little recourse the executive director says the only thing we can do is set her up with long term treatment she's knocked down all her all other attempts at permanency planning despite the canary walls the room seems dark the ACS worker scribbles down her nose her nail polish is immaculate and an imitation jewel is centered at the tip of each nail she starts to make recommendations for chichi although she's never even met her doesn't even have a clue what she looks like she talks strategy and planning bank accounts job referrals she calls chichi Baldomero and I know she doesn't get the difficulties of planning for her I want to explain that finding a job or chichi has obstacles that a typical client doesn't have to face an employer takes a look at her the glances at her state ID Baldomero then I got nothing against two people personally but we don't want to make our customers uncomfortable I want to explain that the lure of the use of the straw was more than just money it's the only place where chichi feels accepted for a brief moment in the arms of the trick she's no longer a freak she's desired I look at the wall the pale canary the worker keeps spewing out words that have no relation to chichi family resources secured employment she might as well be discussing stock options summer homes advantages I imagine where chichi could be now instead of this meeting I picture her in a room near the piers maybe with two other trans girls they scored enough rock to get them roiling until the Sun crashes into Jersey only a blowjob of peace fifty bucks a pop 30 minutes out of their day and they can blaze into their brains at night filling their lungs as the world fades away leaving them to forget all the things that wanted to be today is the first day of the rest of your life follow the finally she stops talking the meeting is over and make my way down the stairs [Applause]

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