Wednesday, July 21, 2021

She Only Knows if Someone Wants Her

Red Sunflowers in Red Hook

A breakfast burrito with sausage, egg, cheese tomato and onion, rolled and slightly toasted. 
There was a woman who started working in my department several years ago.  She was very sensual, in an exaggerated nervous way.  Think a half Puerto Rican Jessica Lang in Blue Sky, with Tommy Lee Jones.   She was bold, buxom and had lots of tattoos, piercings and dyed black hair that she curled in big rollers.  She had a bright, white smile that gave off a false innocence, which worked in her favor.  At first glance, you didn't see the seediness but it was there, even back then.  As smiley and giggly as she was, I doubt people noticed.  No matter if later they said something demeaning about her, when men were in front of her, they turned twelve.  I'm pretty sure she was tricking, or lining up future 'dates', during her shifts.  She wasn't exactly a good coworker but I figured she'd come and go like the wind, and she did.  She was good friends with someone in the department, so through the years I see her from time to time.  
Even though her natural personality is that of someone who just downed 4 glasses of champagne, the next few times I saw her, she was more obviously inebriated than usual.  I formed this curiosity about her, an urge to study her from afar, because I felt such darkness, but I always rooted for her.  I got a little worried, you could see life taking it's toll much too quickly.  I was told she had a few children, one after the other.  I was also told by her friend, she had mental problems.   A few times she came in a little chubbier and less Amy Winehouse looking, now sullen and withdrawn.  What little I knew of her, she was one of those women that is always too concerned about some dumb guy that probably treats her like a rag doll.  Then the following visits became more apparent she'd developed a healthy drug problem. 
Coincidentally, on this day, I checked on my little tree that got struck by lightning during the storm months ago.  It's progressing nicely and recovering.  It had lost half of it's trunk and it's broken half lay on the street as cars rolled over it's leaves at that time.  Thank goodness it had the resilience to heal. 
The woman came in today with one of her children, a girl around 4 years old.  She was dragging her on the floor by one arm as the girls hair mopped the dirty floor.  I turned my chair to look because I recognized the voice.  The little ruffian's face and clothes were dirty and she acted possessed, hissing at us and biting at the air.  We all dropped our smiles immediately as we took in this little scene before us.  Our old coworker was shockingly thin and sallow looking.  She was slurring her words and I greeted her, pretending not to be horrified by her appearance.  Inside I began to cry but she was in that familiar drug fog when people stop noticing they're dying and instead go to retail stores looking for people that can loan them money, with children in tow.  

I keep thinking of her, how you can forget some people are living a real hell on earth and that your life is pretty darn grand in comparison.  That tragic desperation I saw in her beautiful smile years ago finally manifested itself and like one of those spiders that invade another insects body, so had her life in the Red Hook Houses snatched hers. 

As another woman on the planet, I can't help but mourn for her, another walking casualty in this city.   I want to believe that just as the tree, she can become resilient again and bounce back from this but I also know chances are not in her favor. 

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