Silence was born a month and a half early in California, to a mother of Navajo heritage and a father of Irish descent – a one pound, seven ounce baby with a lazy right eye, pigeon toes and a hole in his heart, which was cauterized via drilling through his sternum when he was an infant. Due to a lack of oxygen from the hole in his heart, he was considered autistic as a child, until he challenged the curriculum and skipped from 3rd to 5th grade. “They thought I was a savant like autist. Geniously retarded.” he says, and chuckles.
When he was nine, he moved to a four by eight block town in Utah, Clarkston, where his family had a small garden, several hundred chickens, pet rats, dogs, fish, lizards, snakes, scorpions, rabbits, dogs and cats … and also a plethora of abuse. Silence was physically and sexually abused as a child, and went into foster care at 16 along with his little ten year old sister, though they were placed with separate families. When he was 18, he came to Salt Lake City, and soon fell in love and had a child, but when the relationship failed after six years, and he was prohibited from seeing his little girl, the grief in losing his family sent him to the streets where he’s lived for the last five years. He quickly became addicted to meth, predisposed by a mother who was on the highest allowed Ritalin prescription while pregnant with him, and also as a form of slow suicide. He had given up. “With my metabolism being naturally aggressive, I thought it would eventually eat me away, and my body might die.”
The streets have shaken him, traumatized him and hurt him. He has seen the most hellacious things on the streets he says, women being raped, grandparents beaten, stillborn babies tossed in the gutter. He has been raped and beaten viciously multiple times, as has his girlfriend. “I’ve become a fairly suicidal, a very angry individual.”
“Most of the individuals that hurt the most actually need love the most. I’ve stuck it out and stayed here trying to do what I can to help people while simultaneously drowning myself. It’s taken my life, my time, my attention to my dream, and the focus of my inspiration. I feel like there’s a time to grow up and leave this behind. At the same time it’s all I know.”
He looks at his girlfriend, love shining from his eyes. She is crying. “But this is where we found each other again. so we’re struggling together to make at least one life out of two.”
And as hard as life is living on the streets, he admits it has taught him immensely.
“I’ve learned I can’t do it alone. I continue to see miracles. People come to me everyday even though I have nothing and they give up what small resources they have, whether it’s clothes or a backpack or food or drugs or a moment or just a listening ear. It’s always exactly what I need. Exactly what I would ask for, regardless of how small or petty it is. I’ve found a little bit of god, a little bit of endurance regardless. Being still here I’ve had the opportunity to see many people die, but to save several lives myself. Last year my girl and I alone saved 12 people who were blue and grey and brought them back [with naloxone]. We find life regardless how suicidal our tendencies are. There’s a beauty I can’t deny and I haven’t let escape yet. So I guess that means I’m supposed to be here. And you know there’s you guys. I wouldn't be able to be here without you.”
To get off the streets, he needs passion and hope.
“I need to find a reason to put my action into so I can start to build on something. To have hope. Being on the streets, it’s hard to keep anything, values, morals, inventory, hope. Just to keep anything. To have something to build on in the first place. [I just need] something I know I can put effort toward and have it grow into something, no matter what.”
He dreams of creating a tiny home village, and gardens. “Back to the old ways,” he says, nostalgically. And he knows action can help lift him out of the hell that is homelessness.
He dreams of a place “where a man would seek to build a home for his wife and children and loved ones and peers and build them a home so they can have their families and their children and the rest of their elder days without having to fear freezing a limb off in the bitter cold or overdosing on heroin, where they can receive treatments and pets and medical care, and all these things that the freest country in the world finds hard to maintain and afford.” He wants to continue a simple way of life.
(pictured, Silence, in front of the Weigand, on Christmas Eve when we first met him, sleeping under a pile of blankets)
“So many of our liberties are taken. We as a people are coming to the consensus of self policing.” He motions to the camp in front of him. “To see the most degradated people of society come together and share with each other, and what not, it still seems like it’s a possibility to come together as different cultures, backgrounds and ages, to come together to make something civilized, a small town, something that’s the people’s again.”
And he dreams of sequestering carbon from the air, and knows exactly how to do it. “It’s for the people. So that we can have light and electricity and be able to terraform our own planet and save us.”
And with an IQ of 187, he is just brilliant enough to do it. (Buehler, Buehler, Elon Musk?)