“I hate doing what I do,” Sam says. “Like, it’s not fun to panhandle.” Credit: Lloyd Degrane For Chicago Reader

I don’t remember the first time I met Sam, but I do remember the flowers he gave me when I went down to Lower Wacker the day after my birthday this year: three roses, two red and one yellow, their petals only just starting to turn. Since spring, I’d been visiting Lower Wacker, a two-mile street that runs under Chicago’s center, to talk to the people who’ve lived for years in the underground’s dark roar, and knew that every Thursday, in the predawn hours, Sam collects unsold bouquets on their way to the trash from a sympathetic clerk at a Loop Walgreens. In exchange for a donation, as little as five dollars but once as much as 60, he offers them to drivers and pedestrians downtown. I kept the bouquet in a small vase in my living room until the petals began to fall. 

The first time Mia met Sam, they were copping out on the west side. She was 26; he was 30. It wasn’t her first time buying dope at that spot, but no matter how familiar she was with a place, Mia always asked a man, stranger or not, to walk down with her for protection. In exchange, “I’d offer them a bump or a few dollars or whatever,” she tells me over the phone, “and they’d take it.” No one ever did it for nothing. “Except for Sam. He just broke that whole thing.” 

She remembers that now, how he charged her nothing to watch her back. She remembers how good-looking she thought he was, interesting and smart. “He had this childlike innocence about him that was so convincing, while at the same time being a street-hustling dope fiend,” Mia says, “which was kind of wild but intriguing.” She couldn’t figure him out. 

“We started talking, he asked me for my number. Before I knew it, I was his girlfriend, and we were attached at the hip. We didn’t go a day without seeing each other.” 

Sam is a thoughtful speaker and an attentive listener. He was born in Naperville; he has a child who is not quite two. Like me, Sam is 34, an age that Mia, 30 and now living out of state with their kid and another from a previous relationship, referred to (not unkindly) as “older millennial.” To protect identities, names and some other personal features have been changed in this story, but Sam is Black (biracial, but “Most of the time, I just say Black. The one-drop rule, you know.”) and has the kind of sweet, sad eyes that compel Holly, a sex worker down the way, to nickname him Lovely. Mia is Black (“Black Black”), matter-of-fact and hilarious. Sometimes their son, Alonso, points at pictures of himself that Mia’s taken on her phone and says “Daddy?” That’s how much he and Sam look alike. 

When Sam’s phone bill is paid, he tries to talk to his family every day. Alonso was born six days after Sam’s own birthday: he calls his son “the best belated birthday gift” he’s ever gotten. The last time they saw each other was Tuesday, May 25, 2021, shortly before Alonso and Mia boarded a train back home. Sam is precise about this date, down to the minute. In his tent, he shows me the last photo of them together, timestamped on his phone. I see a toddler with Sam’s eyes and black curls, smiling in Sam’s arms in front of Union Station. It’s difficult for Sam to make eye contact with others, but in this picture, his head is up, and he’s beaming.

Monday through Friday, excluding most holidays, Sam’s alarm goes off at 3:30 AM. He hits snooze for 15 minutes. Then he gets up, snorts his wake-up, dresses, and walks up a silent street ramp onto Upper Wacker, seeing the Loop at an hour few Chicago tourists or residents know. Over at his hustle spot, Sam will set up his sign and anything else he might need for panhandling that day. “I hate doing what I do,” he tells me quietly. “Like, it’s not fun to panhandle. It’s the smile on people’s faces, and then they just look down on you. So that’s why I get up early.” He also wakes up early because he’s a Black male, “not old but older. For a person like me, it’s a lot harder” to make money hustling “than other people my age who are white.” At 5 AM, there’s less competition.

For about an hour the morning is his. He uses storefront WiFi to watch YouTube, catch up on e-mails, and generally get in the right frame of mind to do what he’s gotta do. The first of the city’s day-shift workers start arriving around 5. By 9 or so, Sam’s made enough to afford the dope he needs to manage his addiction for another 24 hours. If his supplier is around, he’ll walk to him, “get my medication for the day,” and head back to his tent, where he puts his pajamas back on, unwinds, and takes a nap from about noon till early evening. “Wake up again, snort medication, and then eat dinner,” he rattles off, “hang out until about 11, midnight, then back to sleep until I wake up at 3:30.”

Sam takes cash and gift cards, Venmo, and Cash App. The first six months he worked this corner, he didn’t really make much. Panhandling made him supremely anxious, but he stuck with it, and started developing relationships with a few people in particular who passed his way every weekday. The relationships are both complicated and clear. Many regulars give him a dollar or two a day. In exchange, perhaps without the regulars understanding that a transaction has been made, Sam listens. “A lot of those people that stop, they get up, they go to work, and they go home. They don’t have a social circle. Most of them are going through divorces or they’re not married. So I just have to listen to their problems, and over time, I’ve actually gotten pretty close to a couple people.”

Sam’s work requires him to remove himself from himself, for protection and to make room for the emotional energy of others. He greets every person who walks past him; he forces himself to make eye contact. That’s hundreds and hundreds of strangers for four hours every day. For most people, this would be exhausting; for someone diagnosed with social anxiety disorder and PTSD when he was younger, it can be really rough. “I’m definitely not myself. I wouldn’t stand there with a sign saying ‘Good morning, have a good day.’” But he does stand there, in all weather, except sometimes for when he’s dopesick—it’s when he needs money more than ever, but also is least likely to get it, visibly showing signs of withdrawal. “People don’t wanna approach someone that’s looking at the ground, [if] they look dirty, they look angry, they look bloody,” he says, so he works, performing as someone else for the sake of cash and hiding his own self away.

The first time we’re to officially interview, Sam texts me half an hour beforehand to reschedule. “Hey I am so sorry,” he writes. Mark, another young man at the camp, “just woke me up n said my eyes are bloodshot n I feel so out of it.” Sam takes the weekends off from hustling (there are fewer people downtown, fewer folks giving out cash), so we agree to meet the following Sunday, when he’ll be less wiped out. As I’m getting ready to head out the door, a message. Someone higher up the dealing food chain has been shot, and while they survived, it’s reduced the availability of supplies of the street dealer Sam goes to for his medicine. The dealer owes Sam seven bags from a previous deal, but only gives him two. “[T]his’ll get me right but I gotta find a way to get more d today now. This just fucked me pretty bad,” he writes. He’s out of money, out of dope, and starting to sweat.

Here is what happens when you go through opioid withdrawal, according to the people I know who’ve done it. In every story, what each teller repeatedly stresses is that what you’re afraid of isn’t that you won’t be able to get high. What you fear, what you feel with a dreadful grip in your guts, is that you won’t be able to avoid getting mind-rippingly sick. The last time Sam went cold turkey, he threw up blood and ended up hospitalized for seven days, unable to eat, drink, or sleep. What does it mean to not sleep, not at all, for days, terrorized by the stress responses tripping all over your body? What does it feel like when all the intrusive thoughts, all the awful memories, all the little and large agonies of being alive that you’ve been able to keep quiet with drugs are talking to you now, and you can’t go escape them in sleep? You feel like you’re dying, he told me: you hope that you do.

Thanksgiving week, Sam is short on cash. On Wednesday, he has made enough money for the day but is hustling to come up with $30 to make it through Thursday. A couple weeks ago, he got a tablet from some state or federal program. “Might have to take my tablet and sell it to [his supplier] if he’ll take it. Really don’t want to have to do that though, but when it comes to being sick, nothing else matters.” 

It wasn’t long after that walk to the spot before Sam and Mia were living together in a tent. “He almost gleefully took me to show me where he hustles, where he laid his head, just like any other guy. They like, show you their friends, show you where they live.” He was proud to take her out to dinner when he could. “To meet a man,” Mia emphasizes, “who had been, at the time, out here three times longer than me and was still nice. You can’t use being an addict as an excuse to become an asshole. He proved that.”

The streets hadn’t taken the good out of him, Mia says, but tent life wasn’t easy. They both had active addictions, and when they couldn’t get cash, being dopesick in a tent was hell. She laughs a little. “I’m not gonna get into specifics, but you get to know someone when you live with them. He was still a nice human person, but he was capable of doing what everyone else does. He’s complex as hell.”

One day, sitting in their tent, Mia asked Sam if he could get her a pregnancy test. He called one of his regulars, a guy who works at a Chase Bank downtown, and asked if he would buy three pregnancy tests. In a hotel room they sprung for that night, Mia went into the bathroom. All the tests were positive. Sam was ecstatic and terrified, he tells me, “especially because of our position,” but his strongest memory is happiness. In fact, he was so happy he kept one of the positive tests. It stayed in his tent until a couple years ago, when cops sweeping the area threw his tent and everything in it away.

Throughout our phone calls, Mia coughs. Among other health problems, she has severe asthma. One January day in 2019, nine months pregnant, Mia, Sam, and a friend were sitting inside a Jewel—“seating is a privilege for people like us”—when she started having trouble breathing. She remembers someone calling an ambulance, then nothing. Her next memory is of waking up in a hospital room. Sam stood over her with tears in his eyes. He had some news. “First, he assured me the baby is fine—healthy, beautiful, eating, good weight—he looked good,” Mia says. Second, three days had passed since that ambulance ride from Jewel. And third: she had, at one point, died for about eight minutes. 

The first time Sam met his son, he could hear him before he saw him. Mia was still unconscious, on a ventilator after a fluid pocket from her placenta lodged in her lung. She had a heart attack. Because the couple is unmarried, the hospital refused to let Sam see either Mia or their child until Mia’s mother gave permission. For 12 hours, Sam waited alone, his thoughts running to the darkest of places. He’d never had a kid, had never held a kid, and he thought Mia was going to die. And then, a nurse wheeled in a tiny incubator. Whatever was inside was roaring its heart out.

“Hollering,” Sam remembers now, smiling a little. “Just yelling. I go up, and I talk to him, and he immediately gets quiet. It’s like, the best feeling. I can’t even—” he stops for a moment, then continues quietly. “It was an amazing feeling, and I was just terrified to death.”

The first time Sam’s biological mother Ellen met the woman who would raise him, she closely watched the way Vera played with a Black child from across a crowded room. The women were at Sunny Ridge, an adoption agency in Bolingbrook, Illinois: Vera as a longtime volunteer in her early 40s who already had several children, Ellen as a 15-year-old, white and worried about what kind of family her biracial baby would be adopted into. Vera and her husband, also white, had fostered dozens of children. She was the matriarch to a large brood of children, including one adopted son. She wasn’t looking to adopt again, but when Ellen walked over and asked if Vera would take her baby, Sam tells me, the older woman said yes. 

The first time Vera met Sam, he was six days old. The adoption agency was housed in an old mansion. “I just remember us bounding up the stairs, and there was Sam in the bassinet. It was really just a beautiful occasion for us.” She wants me to understand how sweet Sam was as a child: very kind, and gentle, and shy.” He didn’t like getting his picture taken. He loved math and playing sports.

One time when Sam was in kindergarten, a classmate asked him how come his mom gave him away. That night, Vera was reading to Sam. “He always had this habit,” she recalls now, “it was funny. When he was about to fall asleep, he’d always take my hair and twirl it around his index finger before he kissed me goodnight.” With a lock of her hair ribboned around his finger, Sam asked: “‘Mom, why did my mom give me away?’ I said, ‘Sam, your mom didn’t give you away. She loved you so much. She wanted to make sure that you had somebody who could take care of you well, and that you had a place to live.’ I tried to talk in a five-year-old understanding,” she explains to me. 

“Hollering. Just yelling. I go up, and I talk to him, and he immediately gets quiet. It’s like, the best feeling. I can’t even—It was an amazing feeling, and I was just terrified to death.”

Sam on the birth of his son

The next evening, after they finished their book, he had a new question: “Why was my mom homeless?” Ellen wasn’t technically homeless; Vera had forgotten how literal kids could be. By “place to live,” she was trying to clearly explain a complicated notion. At 15, Ellen couldn’t move out of her parents’ house to support herself and her baby, and her parents didn’t want her to raise Sam in their home. 

Sam and Ellen would eventually get in touch during his young adult years, which is how he knows what qualities she was looking for in a mother for him all those years ago. He’s friends with his birth father on Facebook now, too. Down on Lower Wacker, he shows me his results from an Ancestry DNA test Vera gifted him. On his phone screen are the breakdown of percentages, messages from the wide web of extended biological family he’s never met. Together, we look at who he is and who he could be.

Sam loves scented candles, as does everyone else at the camp, so I collect dusty, forgotten pillars from friends to hand out when I can, along with Narcan and rigs (rigs are what some who use drugs call clean needles). At first I would make jokes about not burning their tents down, but then I heard how patronizing that was and stopped. He says they keep him warm, which might be true; I wouldn’t know. I do know that sometimes people raise the stakes of their situation when they ask if I can get them something, because other people treat them like they deserve nothing unless they’re about to die, and sometimes like they deserve nothing even then. But comfort and pleasure are a matter of life or death, too, a grave one. It’s OK if he just wants to stay warm in his tent and spark a small glow of light.

Most of Sam’s tattoos are from prison, but not his first. It’s a dreamcatcher on his shoulder, meant to catch the nightmares that relentlessly ride in his sleep. He was 18 when he got the tattoo, 14 when he first used heroin, and 12 when he says he was first sexually abused by one of his brothers. In other conversations, Sam reflects on a strict but happy childhood: attentive parents, family vacations, lots of siblings to play with. Like him, this brother was adopted; like him, this brother was Black in their otherwise-white family. He tells me about the abuse over text, along with phone numbers for some of his family. It’s very hard for him to talk about, he says, but he thought I should know before making any phone calls. This brother also abused other family members: Sam says this is what has torn his family apart.

What Sam doesn’t say, Vera does: out of all their siblings, these two brothers were the closest to each other. Where one went, the other followed. The brother, older than Sam by a few years, is also mentally disabled. When Sam started drifting away from him around the time he also started getting caught with drugs, Vera figured it was because Sam had passed his brother in mental and emotional maturity, and was struggling with complicated feelings about having his brother around when his friends were over. She and her husband didn’t know about the abuse until years later, she says. She’s spent the last decade and a half interrogating her memories for clues she missed, mistakes she might’ve made.

A few months ago, I wrote a story for the Reader about my own mental health and what it’s like to try and get treatment while on Medicaid. After reading it, Sam said to me, “I didn’t know you were depressed!” We both laughed. In the story, I wrote about my awful night terrors and the kicking and twitching my body did all night long. “Can I ask you something?” he said. “I have the same thing. How do you make it stop?”

One summer night when Sam was 21, one of his best friends called and asked if he had any cocaine. He didn’t. Margaret, the friend, called back a few times, asking for dope instead. This he did have. Eventually, he agreed to sell two bags—and this is important—to the man she was partying with, not to her. Either way, Margaret and the man came by and picked up the dope, then went back to the man’s house.

Sam was homeless then, but did have a car. The next day, he went out west to buy more dope. On his drive back, he received a text from Vera, asking him if he wanted to meet up for lunch. He and his mom did meet up for lunch occasionally, but something about her phrasing made him worried. He pressed her: this is how Sam found out Margaret was dead, and the cops were at his parents’ home, looking for him. 

A “legacy of the 1980s War on Drugs,” drug-induced homicide (DIH) laws hold that the person who distributed drugs to someone who later dies of an overdose is responsible for that death. Illinois’s own law passed in the 1980s. Variations of DIH exist in many states and at the federal level. Frequently, these laws include mandatory minimums: in Illinois, DIH has a mandatory minimum of 15 years. “Essentially, someone pulling out a firearm and killing another person during a bar fight would serve less time under Illinois law than someone giving their spouse a single ecstasy pill, and the spouse dying from having an allergic reaction to the ecstasy,” wrote Seth McClure, an assistant public defender in Kane County in a 2012 report he authored as a law student. On the phone with me nine years later, McClure says he stands by this statement.

There was only one DIH prosecution in the entire country in the 1980s, and that was for the death of John Belushi. Prosecutions began to rise in the 1990s, rose again in the early 2000s, and exploded in 2013, the same year the CDC calls the start of opioid overdose death’s third wave. Sam was charged with DIH in the 2000s. “They made me out to be some random drug dealer,” he says. Fourteen years later, he still maintains that he didn’t sell to Margaret, but it didn’t matter after that initial interrogation what he said: “I was the last known source.” 

Facing 15 years in prison, “there was no trial,” Sam tells me. “I ended up copping out.” He pled guilty to delivery of a controlled substance and was sentenced to four years’ time: he served two. 

That evening, shortly before Margaret died but after Sam had dropped them the drugs, the man she was with beat her badly. She collapsed on the floor. He left her body in a car in a library parking lot, where she was found the next day by young boys heading to their baseball league. The autopsy report ruled her death to be drug-induced, but Sam, his lawyers, and his mothers strongly disagreed. Vera believes that Sam should have to face consequences for dealing drugs, but feels like the state made an example out of him. The other man, who is white and the son of a corporate executive, was charged with misdemeanor battery and received probation. 

Sam and Margaret had been best friends for years. They went to rehab at the same time as teens; they slept over at each other’s houses, never romantic but always close. “Her parents knew me,” he says. “Feeling like I’m responsible for her death, it’s still hard to deal with.”

Margaret was the second of Sam’s friends to die in three months, though the first friend’s overdose is not connected to him. After he was charged, Sam attempted suicide. He’s been to prison twice now, and there’s a warrant out in another county for his arrest. His other two charges are nonviolent and essentially criminalize him for being an addict, something research overwhelmingly shows is largely not within the sufferer’s control.

Every year Sam is incarcerated is another year Alonso grows up without his father, another year Mia is effectively a single mother. After the women’s center she was living in with Alonso abruptly closed this spring, Mia moved in with her own mom, who welcomed her back now that she is no longer in active addiction. Mia, caring for two children under ten with her mother’s help, is only able to take on low-paying, part-time work that matches her childcare schedule.

As the number of prosecutions under the drug-induced homicide law rise in Illinois, so do overdose rates. If the prosecutions worked how advocates of the law desire, this wouldn’t happen. Stories feature the testimonies of families who gained an atom of relief in their black hole of grief after someone is prosecuted under these laws. In reality, the implementation of DIH and other addiction-related laws prosecute more people than the individual charged. Mia didn’t know Sam existed when he was arrested for Margaret’s overdose. Alonso was born ten years after Sam first was incarcerated. If—with the warrant out, it’s unfortunately more of a question of when—Sam goes to prison again, he’s looking at serious time. In this way, a sentence intended to punish Sam punishes his whole family. From his original conviction and jail time, pain and its material consequences—physical illness, psychic disintegration, intergenerational poverty—quietly radiate out. 

A warrant out, and Sam is once again at a crossroads. After years of trying to get housing through city channels, an apartment is on the horizon. “Stable housing,” he tells me, “is really the first step to everything”: safety, a place to detox, a place a therapist already in contact with him can meet for sessions in the privacy of his new home. Maybe, eventually, this apartment can be a place Mia can visit with Alonso and her daughter, a home where they can be a family, together.

It’s hard for Mia and Vera to have hope when, facing his most recent charge, Sam disappeared. It was the height of the pandemic, and the jail he’d spent the last two months waiting in was moving as many people out as possible. “They would’ve kicked me out the first day if I had a house to go to,” Sam says, but he was homeless. His public defender negotiated: while his case was ongoing, Sam could opt into a rehab center instead. Unlike the time spent waiting in jail, his time in rehab would not count toward time served. It wouldn’t be part of his plea. Rehab would, however, get him out of county and away from its creeping COVID-19 rates. It would look good to the judge, and it might actually do what rehab is supposed to do—help treat Sam’s addiction. To get out of jail, Sam said yes to rehab, but he never checked in. 

I ask Sam why. “Unless I have a paid lawyer, I’m going to prison.” I ask if that’s because this is his third drug-related charge. “Not even,” he continues. “It’s because I’m Black and I have a record. Rehab or no rehab, I’m still going to jail. No matter what.”

His second reason is Alonso and Mia. He wanted to be with them. Sam sends them what money he can, and the day he got out of jail ostensibly to go to rehab, he went to Mia instead with his stimulus check. He was having nightmares in jail about bad things happening to Alonso: It was all he could think about. He wanted to see his son.

And finally, Sam says, “I didn’t want to go to rehab anyway.” He’s been in and out of rehab since he was 15. “I know what needs to be done. But honestly, the way [rehabilitation centers] are formulated these days, they don’t help with the underlying issues. They give you tools and skills to prevent you from picking up in the first place, but they don’t resolve why you want to pick up in the first place—like my PTSD, my issues with my adoption, my child abuse. I need mental health therapy more than anything else.” When he doesn’t use, his nightmares get worse, which is why he started using heroin in the first place.

“I hate doing what I do. Like, it’s not fun to panhandle. It’s the smile on people’s faces, and then they just look down on you.”

Sam

Until Sam gets clean, and stays clean, Mia can’t make real plans to visit or move back without the paranoia of wondering if he’s high. “As much as I love him, my responsibility is to [the kids],” she says. “They don’t deserve it, and I don’t fuckin’ deserve it, and he doesn’t either, to tell you the truth.” When they talk lately, she has to bring herself back to the past, back to how she thought and behaved when her number one priority was staving off withdrawal. “What occurs to me to do as common sense, because I’m clean now, is absurd to him. And vice versa,” she says. “I can’t talk about normal things, like what did you have for lunch, or how was your workday, or I can’t wait to see you.” She keeps speaking to “you” and it’s like she’s speaking to Sam, not me. “You’re still in that underworld, and I have to relate to you on that level, because that’s all you understand right now.” It sounds, I suggest, like their future is not about their love, about how much of it they have or how strong it is. “Thank you!” she says. “It’s about the realities of life.” I start to ask another question, and nearly drown out what Mia says next. Her voice has changed again: she sounds simultaneously very frustrated and very sweet. “I love you!” she says. “But I love you to life, not to death.”

Vera is 74 now. Her husband, Sam’s father, has Alzheimer’s; until a few years ago, he visited Margaret’s grave every few months to say some quiet words. Vera and Sam are not exactly estranged, but it’s been awhile since they’ve spoken on the phone. After two decades of struggle, multiple stints in rehab, 15 psychiatrists, most of his family has stepped back from him. For their own sakes, they can’t give money when he asks, can’t be too closely involved, but in every text, Vera asks me if, the next time I see him, I can give Sam her love. The way she says it makes me think of a small physical gift, like a bouquet of pharmacy roses.

The last time I saw Sam, we met for breakfast at a Corner Bakery in the Loop. The landlord of the building Sam was supposed to move into before Christmas had abruptly decided he had enough tenants whose rent was paid by the Chicago Low-Income Housing Trust Fund. The apartment with the shining wood floors Sam had shown me pictures of on his phone wouldn’t be his, wouldn’t ever be the place where he and Mia could begin to be a family in person; the social worker from the nonprofit he was working with told him they’d start again in January. “I don’t have hope anymore” for housing to come through, Sam told me simply. It’s easier that way.

It was the first week of December in Chicago, all cold wind and pewter light. After breakfast, we walked the blocks to his supplier; I kept an eye over Sam’s shoulder while he got what he needed. A few days before, an undercover cop had parked for awhile at this spot, watching the supplier, also an addict, count his cash in the open. Each passively watched the other; each knew what the other was here for. On our walk back, we talked about that, plus another spot, recently cleared by the police, where people were starting to trickle back and set up shop. The police had known about that one for awhile too. I wondered out loud what it is that makes them suddenly care. 

“When white people complain,” Sam said wearily, then we both laughed. “Wait,” he said, then changed places with me so that he was walking on the outside of the sidewalk, nearest to the street. “I don’t know if you know about that,” he said sheepishly, “it’s kind of old-fashioned.” He explained that a woman is supposed to walk on the inside of the sidewalk, a man on the outside: “One, to show you’re not for sale, and two, if a car goes over the curb or there’s bullets, I can shield you.” I didn’t know that, and don’t usually appreciate when men make gestures like it, but Sam seemed awkward but sincere, and I felt awkward but cared for.

He walked me to my el stop, snorting his bag on the way. I gave him some rigs. We talked a little about what we were going to do with our respective days. I reached out for a hug, to his surprise, and he accepted. Then we parted ways.

A few weeks ago, someone in my support group for friends and family members of alcoholics said something about leaving room for the “possibility of hope.” I was having a day where I had no hope for my own brother, none, and I wasn’t interested in obtaining any. Frankly, I’m still not. His addiction has been the longest and most painful experience of my life, and it doesn’t stop: the volume on it just goes up some days, down some others. Hope, in my experience, can add to that pain. But I like the idea of possibility. Possibility is not hope itself. It’s not letting hope and all the attending visions of a healthy brother or a healthy son, long-lived and loving, come through the door of your heart. Possibility exists in the small empty space where that door is cracked. Today, this hour, I think I can live with that crack. 

I shared this idea with Vera on our last call. At this point, we had been on the phone for almost two hours. Like Sam, like Mia, Vera is complicated. She never wanted her son to go to jail, but believed he should have to face the consequences of his choices. She wanted those consequences to help him regain his future, not break it. She grieves terribly for the assaults she suspects—given some behaviors he now has and some guarded words he’s dropped—he endured while incarcerated, though Sam has never confirmed this, but also feels relief when he’s incarcerated, because at least then she knows that he’s alive. She likes the idea of the possibility of hope, she says, and will keep it close at hand.

The last men’s hotel

For those who live there, the Ewing Annex Hotel is a refuge, an artifact, and a last chance. The man who’s been holding it together for more than 20 years is about to retire.