Last week at the Thursday Jam I met Frankie. Frankie lay in front of the narrow entrance door to the dance floor, his slumped and deformed body almost completely blocking the door. Everyone that wanted to enter or leave the studio had to literally step over him. He was highly visible and had drooled already a moderate sized puddle when Rajendra and I walked in. At first, I was irritated and didn’t know if that strange behavior might be some sort of joke of one of the jam attendees. I took my time to put money in the jam box, signed my name on the clipboard and looked at the man laying on the floor a little closer. Rajendra came back and tried to communicate with him. It was obvious that he was totally drunk and definitely not a jammer. I was confused. How can a big studio full of people not realize that an entirely intoxicated, stinky as hell, probably homeless man is laying without shoes on the verge of the entrance door? Regarding the saliva puddle, he must have lain there at least for an hour.
How many people might have stepped over him, smelled him, seen the puddle? 10, 20 or maybe even 30? How come no one in our so called aware Contact Improvisation community hasn’t intervened for such a long time?
We went over to the host of the jam and together we started the process of figuring out what to do. Unfortunately, none of us was familiar with the social support services in California. We were thinking about a detox place, an emergency shelter, the hospital, but as time went by and none of our calls were successful, we realized that we had no other alternative than calling the police. Charlie and I were talking with Frankie. Charlie worked with alcoholics and was on his move to Los Angelos on his bike! Charlie wanted Frankie to join the Alcoholics Anonymous and tried his best to reach one of the centers in the area. Charlie wasn’t aware that Frankie wasn’t ready for any kind of higher threshold interference like joining an AA group or other social services. His choice was living on the streets of Oakland. Frankie sometimes shouted help but when I asked him for what, he wouldn’t know. Frankie wasn’t ready to start helping himself. Observing Charlie’s tireless trials to help and convince Frankie, reminded me of my time working in a night shelter for drug addicts in Düsseldorf. In the beginning I was full of desire to help and be a companion into therapy and a better life. I thought these aims were meaningful. Working in such a tough environment and having the best supportive colleagues ever, I understood very quickly that my desire to help was nothing else than my addicted ego greedy for appreciation. I wanted to be a savior.
Frankie was from the East Coast, came to California a long time ago. After he sobered up a little, he showed a language that once must have been articulate and he certainly wasn’t always a desperate homeless person. His eyes were still alive and how differentiated he could return the squeeze of my hand assured me that he experienced love and affection in his life.
The two police officers that came were nice and they knew him. They greeted him like an old acquaintance and told him that unfortunately they had to drive him to jail. Before I walked him over to their car, Frankie asked me if I can be his lawyer and smiled half in desperation and half jokingly. I had to laugh and almost cry too. Frankie surrendered when the officer handcuffed him, but he screamed piercingly “I did not do anything wrong” into the dark sky and I felt like everything in this world is wrong.