Leaving Mesa Kamp Kiefair
In early October 2010, things seemed to be picking up and making a turn for the better in my life. Behind me were the days of sleeping in the RV in abandoned parking lots and worrying when we’d have trouble from the law. I’d sacrificed a lot, but finally had my land under my feet .Life was harsh, but good. I enjoyed living at nine thousand feet immensely. The wildlife in the area was a constant source of joy to me. The wild horses and human raised but released to the wild horses often visited me. Each morning I woke before dawn to greet icy morning and the beauty of the sunrise. Every morning the tiny footprints of the chipmunks and ground squirrels covered the space outside my shelter. I had an alarm set each evening to remind me to step out and enjoy the sunset.
Beneath the surface, all was not well up on the property I dubbed “Mesa Kamp Kiefair” (MKK) I was often cold. The expense of propane more than our budget to bear. We had built a large fire pit outside the canvas sided pop up camper, but it was rarely used to its full potential. My husband often didn’t feel like gathering fire wood, or starting a fire. At the same time, he didn’t want me engaging in those activities, stating that I was too sick and weak to do them for myself. So I remained cold and hungry. It was much the same with cooking responsibilities. There were many days, often several days in succession when we went hungry with perfectly good food frozen solid in their tin cans in the pantry.
Inter-personally, things were not going well between Mr. Kiefair and I either. We fought all the time. We couldn’t seem to agree on anything, and the dysfunction between us made my disease flare and my emotions and behavior run away with me. I take responsibility for some pretty bizarre behavior during this time. After a fight that left me quite insane, I was so distraught that I took off walking across the mesa in the snow wearing nothing but my boots, my my hat, my walking stick and a grim expression on my face. He had goaded me into going out onto the mesa in the snow with the intention of letting mother nature take my life due to exposure. I should not have played his game, and I feel horrible for having done such an extreme and dangerous activity. I just wanted out of the world I found myself stuck in. A world where I was right next to someone I loved a great deal, yet feeling that I was not loved in return. A world where my MMJ license was allowed to expire because he didn’t want me to have it. Yet, I was also not allowed to seek pain relief from a medical doctor via pharmaceutical medications either. He even called the police on me the day my license expired telling them I intended to set fire to all the sage on the mesa. I had never said any such thing. I lived in a world where anger was thrown at me and brought out of me on a daily basis, especially when I was trying to do any writing, activism, or art work. One day in early December 2010, it all boiled over.
It was a warm night in comparison to the bitter cold early December nights we had been having up at 9,000 ft above sea level on the wind swept mesa in Southern Colorado. For the time being, the wind had blown itself out, and the storm had abated. I sat at my neighbor’s geodesic house by the fire waiting for my husband to return from town with supplies. The glow of the fire felt like heaven itself to my cold and fibromyalgia pain ridden bones and muscles. We had not been able to afford propane for the stove in the Coleman tent trailer in some time. Most nights, a down comforter and body heat were the only source of warmth as I slept back to back with my husband, always with nearly a foot of space in between us. In the dark of those cold nights, I often cried myself to sleep. I was so cold. The anguish in my soul sprang from the inherent knowledge that the man I loved lying next to me did not seem interested in holding me; not for the sake of body heat, nor for any other reason. My soul’s ache kept me awake at night more than the cold did.
My neighbor’s adult daughter wanted to feed me, but I wanted to wait on my husband, knowing he would be angry if I ate without him or wasn’t hungry for whatever he brought home. She had seen my weight plummeting since I had moved up to the mesa. This was due in part to my chronic wasting associated with my disease, but the real root cause was my husband.
As I said before, we had food, but it was frozen solid in their cans or needed to be prepared over heat. We rarely built a fire to warm ourselves and cook on. It was enough to drive a saint insane. My husband had made it very clear that didn’t want me building fires or gathering wood. On this day, it had been a full 4 days since I had eaten anything. I eagerly awaited his return from town because I relished the promise of something to eat, hopefully something fresh. My optimistic mind salivated at the thought of a Caesar salad and some protein.
When my husband finally walked through my neighbor’s door, it was much later than I had expected him. He tossed me a pack of the most expensive cigarettes in town (for which I was grateful. I smoke tobacco when I have no herb to fill the gap in meditation), and a pint of “Dr. Magillicuty’s vanilla liqueur”, which I quickly put into my coat. He had a pack of cigarettes for himself, a 30 pack of bush beer, 2 pints of Jim Beam, and some Southern Comfort. No food. I was furious, and took off into the night for home, not waiting for my neighbor who had offered to drive us both the 0.08 miles back to our place. I had hoped that the walk would cool my temper. It did not.
When he came through the door, we immediately began fighting. “This is your idea of supplies?” I screamed at him with tears running down my face. “We cannot live on liquor and tobacco! Well, maybe you can, but I cannot.”
I slammed the door of the little canvas trailer as if it were the door to some grand house and set myself to defiantly building a fire. The bottle of vanilla liqueur was still in my jacket, and found its way to my hand. I began to drink it thinking, “If drinking on an empty stomach were his plans for the night, who am I do disrupt that part of it. At least tonight I intend to be warm.”
I sat outside by my fire as he and I screamed at each other long into the night. I screamed at him about so many things that had been eating away at my broken my heart lately including: his refusal to be affectionate to me, him quitting work over a year ago and refusing to find more work, him wanting me to stay in bed all the time like an invalid, the bitter cold and no heat, about the hunger and food within reach but frozen, being surrounded by sage wood that burns quickly but hot and yet never having a fire to be warm near, my medicinal cannabis license expiring because he would not allow me to renew my state ID and we hadn’t the money to pay the doctor’s fees, him not allowing me to get pharmaceuticals to fill in the gap of pain that the lack of cannabis caused. I’d had enough! I could deal with all these hardships if only I felt like he loved me, but that feeling was long gone. He screamed at me about how unreasonable and irrational I was being.
I can’t remember exactly what I said, but suddenly, his 6 foot frame came out of the trailer, towering over my nearly 5 ft self, and knocked me to the ground. He took the fire extinguisher, and put out my triumphant fire. Still on the ground in shock from him knocking me down, I got up, and we continued to fight. He slapped me, knocked me to the ground again, and began dragging me to the road. As he pulled my tail end through a prickly pear cactus patch I knew he was aware was there, he said, “You are going to leave this mesa. You are going to walk out of here, and I don’t want you to ever show your face on this property or on this mesa ever again. Now get out and don’t come back!”
I limped down the road in the dark down the dirt road towards the next dirt road. I was terrified that the coyotes would spot me in the dark and make a dinner out of me. I didn’t even have my walking stick, let alone anything that would actually be effective against a predator for protection. I walked up the road to the junction with the main mesa road and maybe 2 miles up the road. I was exhausted, and so, I sat on a kindly old rock and had a cry under the stars. I sat there in the dark and cold for perhaps a couple of hours. When I sat down, I thought I would wait for dawn and then head down the mesa, but as I pondered in the night, I decided to go back.
When I got back home, he was still awake, and the door was unlocked. I went inside, humbling myself and graveling begging for one more chance. After me begging for some time, he finally relented and said, “Alright, but if we get into it one more time, YOU are leaving this mesa on foot immediately.” I humbly agreed and lay down to find sleep.
Dawn broke cold the next morning, and I was so hungry and sore after the previous night’s exertion. I asked if he would build a fire so I could make some breakfast. This began another fight. It was a minor spat compared to the previous night’s flare. He left and headed to our other neighbor’s place. Even though it was early morning, I knew he had gone to drink Crown Royal Bourbon. I set about clearing the fire extinguisher covered ashes out of the pit, so I could build a fire any way and make something to eat. As I did this, I thought about the night before, and about how he had been so willing to toss me to the coyotes quite literally. I grabbed the backpack that I used as a purse, my walking stick and headed for the neighbor’s place where he went. Once I got there, I asked him to give me my food stamp card, and when he came outside, I explained to him in the privacy of the outdoors that I intended to fulfill the terms of his late night ultimatum based on the argument the morning of December 5, 2010. There was a cruel smile on his face of when he said, “OK, if that is what you want. I hope you are happy with yourself.” He knew that wasn’t what I wanted, especially after last night’s begging session that got me back into the house. He also knew that I really didn’t have any place to go but homeless shelters.
I set off walking for town. I knew it was a long hike that I really had no business making with my medical issues. I stopped frequently to rest. I didn’t even have any water with me. Partway down, I found an old bottle of what I thought was water someone had tossed from their vehicle. I was so thirsty I took a swig, then promptly spit it out. It was moonshine, I’d had the pleasure of drinking good white lightning before, but this tasted to be dangerously bad shine at that. I dumped it out to save someone else from it and continued on my way. My gut was on fire from the alcohol I imbibed the night before, and had to get off the road several times to empty my bowels. Luckily I am a country girl and always kept some toilet paper in my bag. I didn’t have a shovel with me though, and was angry at myself that I couldn’t bury it the way I would have liked. I kicked dirt and put rocks over the mess at least.
I began to be concerned about dehydration. When I thought I couldn’t go any further without a drink, I found another bottle. This time it proved to actually be water. I was so grateful! I had left around 8:30 in the morning. I walked 7 of the nearly 10 miles to town. An older Latin American man picked me up and gave me a ride the rest of the way to town. It was so nice to have a gentleman take pity on me and want nothing from me. By the time I got to town, it was late afternoon. It felt like I walked 12 miles or more!
Luckily, it was the beginning of the month, so I stumbled into the little pizza parlor and ordered a personal pizza. I ate but one slice, and my stomach was over full. So full I was afraid I would loose my hard won calories. I got a to-go box and walked down the street to put myself up in a hotel room for the night. Despite my exhaustion, my body would not allow me to rest, so I treated myself to several baths in close succession. I had so missed having water on demand and enough of it to soak in. My husband seemed to think 9 gallons of water a week were enough for two adults and the dog I had given him for his birthday in November (to replace the 3 cats the mesa predators had all claimed).
I called my husband several times, inviting him to come down and have a bath at least. I hoped that perhaps if he got into a more comfortable setting and had a bath that perhaps he and I could talk some sense into one another. He wanted nothing of it. So, I had another bath, enjoyed the rest of my pizza while watching TV, (a luxury I both missed and did not miss at the same time). I also called my neighbor’s daughter who had just recently moved to town so it was easier on the children to get to and from school in town each day. The next morning, she took me into Alamosa and to the domestic violence resource who then put me up in the protected part of the only shelter in town.
I had explained to both places that I have panic attacks from pain, and that sometimes a cigarette was the best way to end that panic attack. I was assured that if I needed to smoke in the night, I would be allowed, even though it was not exactly within the procedures of the shelter. Sure enough, my first night there, the pain got out of control and I had nothing to ease it. I had a panic attack and made my way down to the lower level to ask to go out to smoke. The message regarding my needs had not been passed on to the cruel gentleman who was watching the shelter that night. When he harshly refused me, he melted away in my panic, and all I could see was every man who had ever hurt me. I screamed and soon the police were called on me. I spent the night at the hospital, and left with a firm recommendation to continue my medical cannabis (despite not being legal to do so) and a prescription for Lyrica to help ease the pain when I could not smoke. The ER doctor even told me in the presence of the officers who had brought me in that I should go buy some weed on the street to get my pain under control. The mental health worker put me up in a hotel around 5 am. I had been assured that I would have at least one night there. I bathed again, and went out to get my prescription filled and some food. When I returned, I promptly began getting calls from the hotel to leave. They informed me that check out time had come and gone and I was to get out. The cops were called on me again, and I ended up back at the same shelter I had been at the night before. I could only bear to be there one more night, and then left early the next morning for the bus station.
I had decided to head for Denver where I knew there were many more shelters and many more services for the homeless. Before boarding the bus, I called my husband to make sure it was what he wanted. He refused to pick up the phone. It was already mid afternoon when I got into Denver. I was dropped off at Union Station, and made my way to the “tattered cover book store” on the 16th street mall. There, I bought myself a cup of Earl Grey tea to settle my stomach and to justify to myself the use of their wi-fi connection. I made contact with some people over the internet and let them know my situation. I hadn’t been homeless in Denver since I was a teenager and couldn’t remember all the good places. I ended up in “Writer’s Square” on the 16th Street Mall. It was one of my old haunts from when I was younger, but the vibe there had changed a lot and I was not comfortable sleeping out in the open air there as I once had been. I spit venom at other activists, probably trying to self destruct. Luckily, a fellow sufferer from post traumatic stress disorder came to my aid and helped me get my things to Samaritan House. But there was no room for Breezy at the homeless inn. They made arrangements for me to stay at a shelter for women and gave me bus fare and directions to get there.
I narrowly missed my bus, and sat on the bench patiently waiting for the next one. Across the street from me were several of my homeless fellows bedding down for the night on the street. I am not sure why, but I began to serenade them with Christmas carols and other songs I used to preform with choir as a child. Whenever I stopped singing, they asked me to continue, and I did. The bus finally came, and I left them in the cold night, perhaps a little warmer for my music. I finally got to the woman’s shelter I had been directed to, was let in and given a bed for the night.