I was home on fall break in my final year at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana, and I needed money to pay tuition, so I was working a twelve-hour shift with my father at the ceiling-tile factory.
I was twenty-six, working full time at the Bagelry in suburban Chicago, avoiding the future. The future did not seem like anything you could count on. Even in suburban Chicago, where Public Works employees smiled while scraping up roadkill, people were unhappy, desperate to convince themselves of something good. Desperate.
Amlan Sanyal took these photographs at a road-construction site on the outskirts of his hometown of Siliguri in West Bengal, India, near the foothills of the Himalayas. He says the workers, mostly migrants from remote villages, are often exposed to hazardous materials and run an increased risk of respiratory problems, dermatitis, gastrointestinal diseases, and other disorders.
I stood inside the entrance of Central State Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana, waiting to get patted down. It was my first visit to the institution, in 1992. I was twenty-four and had been working in the field of disability and mental health for two years.
This is how it works when times are hard, and even when times are better, if we’re lucky. We women stand on the sidewalk and rest our backs against fences and lean into open car windows to see who needs what. In my twenty-five years living on this block, there have been recessions before, but this one has lasted the longest.
This is how I met Hugo: I pick up strange men in my car, sometimes two or three at a time. I drive to the parts of town where they offer their bodies: on street corners, outside the paint store and Home Depot and U-Haul. When I slow down, they cluster around like — I was going to say, “like flies around a plate of fruit” or “like bees around a flower,” but the truth is, they swarm my car like men desperate for work. Hugo was so bold he just opened my passenger door and climbed right in.