I would like to share my experiences with one of the most fascinating people I have ever met. For the purposes of this story, I will call her Emerald. And if you believe in the powers that gemstones and crystals contain, her name is very appropriate. I met her while we were living in the same encampment. My tent was right next to hers. For the first week I would hear a group of people hanging out in Emerald’s tent, sometimes during the day but mainly at night— sometimes all night long. That didn’t bother me. Living on the streets, you become immune to noises and distractions while you sleep. I never said anything to Emerald about the parties. Actually it was quite refreshing to hear people having fun, playing around, joking, laughing, and having a good time.
My first week at the camp I was speaking with one of the longtime residents. While we were talking, Emerald came in and in her quiet voice asked us if anyone had been by her tent asking for her.
The other resident responded, “Emerald, you know you can’t have visitors.” He explained that those are the rules of the camp, no guests. She just glared at him and abruptly walked off. I wasn’t quite sure what had just happened and it wasn’t any of my business.
After she left we continued to talk, I said to the other resident, ‘I’m not trying to snitch on Emerald but she has had guests at her tent all week.’ He said I was wrong—that she hadn’t had any guests.
I didn’t want to cause any problems so I said nothing more.
The next night I heard people over at Emerald’s tent again. As I stepped out to use the restroom, I looked over at her tent. There were no lights on and I couldn’t see inside, nor could I see any shadows that resembled people. But I heard the voices very clearly.
It was very apparent to me that she had four or five people in her tent. I could hear Emerald talking, and there was a small child that sounded like a five-year-old playing, laughing, and giggling. I could hear the child’s mother speaking to her daughter. There was a lady with a disciplinary tone, it sounded like she had a real attitude, she repeatedly said things like, “don’t do that” or “what do you think you are doing? I’ve told you again and again not to do that!” She seemed like a real killjoy. I also heard another voice, I couldn’t quite make out what this person was saying, just undistinguishable statements and sometimes laughing.
It may very well be that we are the delusional ones.
Over the course of the next week I continued to hear the group having conversations and hanging out in her tent, mainly at night. I would leave in the morning and not return until dark.
One day as I was sitting in my tent, I heard Emerald’s friends over at her tent talking again. When I stepped out of my tent, I could see inside of hers. She was the only person there.
It was at that point I realized something wasn’t adding up. I slipped back into my tent and just sat there listening. Again, I could hear four to five people having a conversation. And I’m not talking about one dimensional conversation, I’m talking about multiple conversations with each voice practically overlapping the other.
I spoke with another camp member about his perception of Emerald’s behavior. His belief was that she was an Oracle, and a doorway to the spiritual world. He went on to say that most people in the camp were reluctant to set up next to her tent. I think he was somewhat shocked when I expressed my excitement. I have met many people living on the streets, traveling from here to New Orleans and back. I have never met anyone like her.
I will add, Emerald does not drink, smoke or do drugs of any kind. Her mentality is simple, sincere, and honest. During one of our conversations, she stopped in the middle of a sentence, looked at a chime hanging up in her tent that resembles a dreamcatcher and asked “is he a friend?” She stared at the chime briefly and then said, into the air, that she and I had been friends over a thousand years ago.
Quite possibly, Emerald understands this world in a way that we are incapable of grasping. It may very well be that we are the delusional ones, not in touch with spirituality. After all, we only have the perceptions we’ve been taught.
This story originally appeared in our October, 2019 issue.
Timothy Busby is a homeless writer who lives in Berkeley. He writes from his past five years of experiences while living on the streets from New Orleans to Berkeley, and many cities in between.