by Betty Dederich nee Coleman
Walking up and down the beach we passed this little storefront with the word TLC written on the door. My friend said “This is the place”. And I remember I went in and there weren’t any lights, just some candles on a counter and a lot of people sitting around. I didn’t know that this was all of it.
There wasn’t any food. There wasn’t anything but a strange motley lot of people. I stayed on the couch in the living room, sick as a dog. “Just one more fix and you’ll die.” They said.
I never did meet Chuck really. That phone on the wall was supposed to ring and the newcomer would be taken down to Chuck’s pad, and he would talk awhile and fill out a form. It seemed very important. I kept waiting for that phone call but it never rang. It never happened. He never called me down. Later he said he didn’t know how to talk to Black people.
In the morning at nine a committee would form to go and see Chuck and bring back the word of the day; who would clean and who would cook and who would shop with the little money we had. And every Wednesday we would have an egg. In the afternoon there would be a few grapes or some old sandwiches and stale donuts. We knoshed and the books were passed around. Emerson, Erich Fromm’s Art of Loving, The Hostile Mind.
I think I stayed those first few days out of total fascination.
Two or three times a week we played the Game. I’d sit there and sweat in terror that my turn would come next. and I’d think, If he says something bad to me, I’m going to hit him over the head. I’d playout the fantasy in my gut and would leave the Game shaking. I was terrified and as I said fascinated.
I was no different than any other addict. I was crazy. I was vicious. I was hostile. I fought with the girls. All my life I had been saying, “I can’t , I can’t. I never had the experience of doing for myself, of participating in a group process. When I found out that I could jump up and down in a Game and yell “You dirty motherfucker” to everybody, well, that was great.
I think my blackness made me isolated in a way. I had never voluntarily lived with white women before. I was the only black and we were awfully tight for space. We didn’t have a bed apiece. We slept together. They drew straws to see who would have to sleep with me.
One day a girl was scrubbing the tub. She was really scrubbing it out. “I don’t want to take a bath after that nigger.” Something snapped inside my head. The honeymoon was over.
Twenty minutes away was my mother’s house, my own bedroom and bath. “Why should I sleep with Rita in a pull-down bed and bathe with dope-fiends and whores? They could have a disease.” I had my own set of prejudices.
I smoked some pot and felt lonesome. I got up in the morning and there weren’t any people around. I was at the bottom of my life. I had never felt so empty before.
I called Chuck. “I’m terribly sorry. I want to come back so bad. I swear I’ll never leave again.” He said “Be here in one hour.”
And I was there. I was just there. I really missed that gang. It was my first feeling of belonging. They beat me up in the Games. I got raked over the coals. And then I flipped over to the other end of the stick. And became a savior because Chuck said I was. He sold me on the vision – the vision of Synanon. He told me that all I had to do was sit still and he would make me the biggest women in the United States.