[part of the Haywood Street Marks & Memoire series]
Kristi is a storyteller’s dream. In 24 minutes and 53 seconds, we cover everything from her Irish-Cherokee heritage, to moments in her retail portraiture career that include, yet are not limited to, producing Ric Flair’s family Glamour Shots at a Charlotte, NC mall. As gratuity, Ric provided Kristi with a Gold’s Gym membership and an invitation to be one of his sidekick ring girls.
Kristi’s razor-sharp wit dramatically intersects with the tragedies of her life, yet it is evident that her comedic endurance, in combination with a profound and patch-work faith, have been the cornerstones of her survival.
Kristi explains to me the anatomy of abuse—how it breaks you down, yet somehow has the ability to fortify you. She explains the math of fear and loss; the sort of inverse proportionality. In Kristi’s experience, the more that is taken, the less fear remains.
I ask Kristi how she found Haywood Street and she tells me, “Word of mouth. I started coming here for the meals, but now I just come here to rest; to find a piece of sacred space.” She adds, “And I just love that Holy Chaos phrase. I used to say Holy Hell! but now I say Holy Chaos! Because let’s be real, there ain’t no Holy in hell. And you know the sad part is, there’s no Holy in a lot of churches either. But God lives at Haywood Street. God lives at Haywood Street…”
The tattoo Kristi has chosen to have photographed is Raggedy Ann. “Only toy I played with other than Evil Kenevil—what with being a tomboy and all. Yea, she’s got a Band-Aid across her heart, she’s tattered and worn. All her crayons are broke.” “She down and out,” I say. “And I feel that,” Kristi replies. She continues, “I got her about two years ago. I still need her to be filled in. So who knows, maybe someone will read this and want to add her colors. Red, white and blue. Go on and make me an all American girl.”
That’s interesting to me. That the tattoo Kristi has chosen to talk about, is the one that’s not done. The one that’s still got a ways to go. The one that because it is empty, holds the greatest chance of being filled. And this is my most sincere prayer for Kristi and the life that lies ahead of her–that it is full and colorful, and blindingly vibrant.
Almost as soon as Kristi walked into my office, I was made aware that she is currently sleeping on the streets of Asheville. Now, having shared a half hour of conversation and kinship, I feel desperate for that circumstance to somehow change. “Kristi, do you have a plan? Are you pursuing housing?” “The plan is this,” she begins. “I get through the winter and then I go down to the river. I set up my tent and all my belongings. I grow vines in such a way that they cover my site, give me some privacy. I don’t know that I’ll ever try to get housing; ever try getting back into the real world.” Kristi takes an exasperated breath and stares out the window by my desk. “’Cause when that real world crumbles, I want to be down by the stream.”
photo by: Ron Greenberg
written by: Brook van der Linde