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Another Cracked Phone: Karma, I Suppose

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Another Cracked Phone: Karma, I Suppose

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John Michael’s newest Life Is a Sweet, Tender Bruise column, “Another Cracked Phone: Karma, I Suppose,” talks about James and his karma with women and phones. 

James is a good-looking kid, in a boy band kind of way. He’s lean, I imagine from all the girls chasing him around the schoolyard when he was younger. He has a speech impediment that makes him seem sort of harmless, like you want to throw your arm around him to comfort him, and I do, at times. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a very likable guy, but he can be volatile and manipulative like anybody else.

Homeless and in his early 20s now, the girls are still chasing him, and he is chasing them back. It’s hard on his buddies because their girls are always falling for James, and he doesn’t hesitate to make his play. I’ve known him for a couple of years now and he told me his back story once, but I don’t remember it.

I drove by him one evening and he held up his current phone with the screen shattered and cracked. A metaphor, I suppose, for what’s going on with him. He has shown me about ten phones with shattered screens, his way of telling me things are not going well at that moment.

James and his friends all seem to have phones, often two or three at once. I sometimes ask them where they come from and never get a straight answer. James is a little more forthright when it comes to the truth, and he admitted how he and a buddy steal Straight Talk phones from Walmart.

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James was living with his grandma for a while, and I think she may have raised him. They used to argue a lot. She went away for work for a couple of months, leaving him in the apartment alone. He’s homeless now because he punched a bunch of holes in the apartment, and she kicked him out upon her return.

James had a girlfriend I liked, and then he cheated on her with her cousin. I warned him not to do this. My warning went unheeded. When his girlfriend found out, she reported him for rape. I don’t know what happened there, but he spent some time in jail and pled to a lesser charge.

James is working at a car wash now and has been for several months. He’s sleeping in a park with a couple of other homeless youth. I hope I’m not painting him out as an asshole, because he is not. He helps others out with his car wash pay and is quite playful and fun when he is not breaking phones.

One time, I was driving James somewhere and he told me he was bisexual. He had a boyfriend, for a minute, in a nearby community. He went and stayed with him for about a week, and then things went south. I got the impression he may have told me this to see if I was interested, although that may have been my ego.

James will be going to court again soon because he is not taking his probation seriously. He is pissing dirty for marijuana and not making meetings. I doubt he’ll reenter the crowded jail system but may get community service or a fine he won’t pay.

Most of these kids tell me little about their drug use other than they smoke a lot of pot. James is doing fentanyl off and on now, like a lot of folks around here and across the nation.

Most of these kids tell me little about their drug use other than they smoke a lot of pot. James is doing fentanyl off and on now, like a lot of folks around here and across the nation. They come in a blue pill that sells for $20 apiece. You heat them up on some tinfoil, according to James, and inhale the smoke, careful not to take more than a few hits or you are going to OD. A lot of folks use them as a comedown from meth.

An old girlfriend, Alice, shows up now and again from out of town. I really like her, sort of a sad tomboy with some abandonment issues. They had a kid together in their early or mid-teens that was adopted out. James likes her a lot, but they can quarrel. She’s back out of town now because she was calling him way too much at work.

James showed me another cracked phone recently. One he had thrown because of Alice. She had informed him that she was beginning to see someone else. Karma, I suppose.

I’m going to continue praying for James, running him and his crew some food on occasion, and driving him across town when he needs a lift. He is a friend of mine and I want every good thing for him.


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John Michael

Hello, good people. I am rarely sure how to describe myself. If I say I am a Christian, many things may arise in your mind that ain't necessarily so. I was homeless for seven years and learned more about myself in that stretch of time than in any other segment of my life. I read the Bible a lot out there and came across a passage in Proverbs that has shaped my approach to life: "A man's pursuit is his kindness." I am well educated with a Master of Social Work degree and have worked a wide variety of jobs in my 52 years. None have lasted too long however. When I was homeless, the beauty of Texas wildflowers made me decide to want to live again. Along with kindness, beauty, play, and self-expression are life-guiding ideas. My shadow contains things like feeling sorry for myself, a truckload of defiance, a desperate need to please women, and no small amount of cruelty. A quote from Luke also has had a lasting effect on me: "For God is kind to the ungrateful and the evil." When I read that I thought, "Hell, I have got a fighting chance." I am here to tell you, you have a fighting chance as well. Besides Christianity, practicing Buddhist and Shamanic techniques inform my relationship to God and the world.