introduction
Pregnancy and Addiction in the Daily-Rent Hotels
CHANDRA HOTEL. MISSION DISTRICT,
SAN FRANCISCO. NOVEMBER 2009
As I walk down the hallway, it is completely silent.1 This isn’t unex-
pected. It is about one o’clock in the afternoon, and most of the renters
in this privately owned, $50-a-night hotel are either out trying to make
rent or sleeping off the crack excesses from the night before.
I notice that the window you climb out of to reach the fire escape
at the end of the hallway is open, but there is no breeze. The hotel
smells like stale cigarettes, garbage, and Indian food (prepared by the
management, who have access to the only kitchen, in their apartment
on the first floor).2
Last night when I saw Ramona on an outreach shift, we talked briefly.
Ramona was irritable and short with me. I asked if I could return today
to go get something to eat with her, she said, “I don’t care.” Then,
“OK, sure.” At eight months pregnant she looked uncomfortable, and
hassled. Her trick was waiting patiently for her to finish up with us. Her
face was set in an angry grimace.
Today, I reach Ramona’s room, end of the hallway on the right, num-
ber 26. I knock on the door. “Ramona, it’s Kelly.” Thud and a groan.
Silence. I knock again. “Ramona, open the door, it’s Kelly. Let’s go
get something to eat.” It sounds like someone is crawling on the floor.
Then I hear a sound that is difficult to describe. It is a grunt, several
grunts actually, followed by a low moan. It is deep, animal sounding,
but it also sounds almost muffled. More grunts. It sounds like she is
trying to talk to me, to respond, but she can’t.
Several things flash through my mind at once. First thought: stroke?
Possible. She smokes a lot of cigarettes and a lot of crack, on top of
her large heroin habit. She could have had a stroke and not be able to
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