The strong aroma of glue hangs over the grassy
area. Children and teenagers lounge around, most of the young
women noticeably pregnant. Several infants lay in the grass,
no mother in sight. After adjusting my eyes to the darkness,
the plastic glue bottles become more obvious. With highs lasting
five minutes or less, a continuous sniffing cycle consumes each
An observed fight. A 29 year old woman slapped by her 14 year
old lover. Her eyes fill with tears as we approach. He shoves
her, laughs, kisses her fiercely, and turns away, this time
with a mocking, haunting laugh. Helpless and alone, her small
frame shakes. I'm encouraged to make conversation with her but
am at a loss for words. Thoughts fill my mind, in English, about
the drastic age difference, abusive relationships, and cycles
of violence. She sniffs more glue and saunters aimlessly across
the street, out of sight.
A pregnant woman slouched across a dilapidated cardboard box.
In one hand, an insulated mug, in the other, a spoon and a glue
bottle. She scratches at the sandy ground with her spoon, trying
to dig a hole in a frenzied state. A DEA helicopter passes overhead
again. A deep sigh escapes her as she continues creating a hiding
place for the drug she is already high on. She turns her glazed
eyes towards me. A slurred statement about needing water for
her baby. My confusion must be apparent. I don't see a child
with her other than the one awkwardly protruding from inside
her. She explains that her son is down the street. Don't you
hear him crying? He's yelling, she says. Latin music spills
out from a local karaoke club across the street. Sirens cover
any other distant noise. She releases her baby's cup, clenches
the digging tool with her hand, and takes another sniff of glue
with the other.
A young man with countless battle wounds wearing a torn, stained
Old Navy shirt. Most remarkable is the chunk of flesh missing
from his thigh. Or perhaps it is the story he formulates about
its cause. Some cream and cleansing will jumpstart the healing
process. A sniff of glue serves a different purpose.
Three young children hang on me. 'How about a ´malo caballo',"
a small boy asks. His sister patiently awaits her turn. Their
mother smiles gently while others stare at the white misfit
on the corner. A warm sensation trickles down my back. It takes
me a moment to realize that the little girl, still giggling,
is peeing. I swing her off my back and down to the ground to
see the face of a scared and embarrassed three year old. How
can I be upset? She has no home, no bathroom, and her mother
is lost in a temporary high from her glue.
Chaos. More stab wounds. Women who refuse medication, fearful
of the effect on their unborn children, yet the glue remains
a central part of their lives. A terrible burn, the police lit
him on fire he says. Children darting through a busy lane of
traffic, jumping over the barbed-ware fence into the median.
The only thing that seems constant in this situation is the
presence of glue bottles. And the stench, the stench of despair.
-Journal by Maria Landis