She becomes distracted. Thinking about dope. “I know exactly where you can buy it too…”she stops. “Crack too.” She turns towards me quickly and looks directly into my eyes. Maybe gauging my reaction or ? “But I don’t like crack too much. I use it to get up. Do you know I spent $80,000 on crack last year? $80,000.” She trails off and turns to picking at the food again. “That was my whole retirement. I have been living in my car in Richmond. Can you believe it? In Richmond, I am black. I have quite a community there. I know everyone. The dealers, the prostitutes, everyone, but I do stick out because I am a white girl.” Now my imagination gets the best or is it worst of me. I visualize too many things. She reads my mind.
“No, I haven’t starting ho-ing yet, I am too much of a dyke for that.” She laughs weakly then.
I change the subject, uncharacteristically uncomfortable. I am consummately curious about most people’s stories. I learn so much by asking. The asking deepens my understanding or compassion or sometimes just plain sick curiosity. I am interested, but also aware that what I have learned is that most addicts lie. Lie most of the time. I won’t be sure what the truth really is. So far it seems conceivable. The road to dope.
“Last time I saw you or knew of you, you had a kid. I think I saw you at our Alma Mater and you were working there…” I say. “Yeah, Henry. He is three. I haven’t seen him in 4 months. The bitch…” she stops, and then goes on. “ I was working until — took over.” I can’t recall the name she said now. “I quit.” I wonder if this is the real story. I began to dig, search for some memory of her partner and the boy child. I want to put this all in some sort of context, or at least the context of the past. I say, “I can’t remember your girlfriend’s name.”
“——–, you remember, Mary. She worked for the college too.” “Oh, ok,” I reply. “I do remember.” I don’t tell her that I don’t remember that well or what ——- looks like. “She won’t let me see Henry. He is everything. A beautiful child.” I start to see the sadness, but not despair. I am waiting for that, but it doesn’t come.
Its my turn. “——, when I saw what you were in the jail for, I tried to formulate an explanation. My gut told me that it was probably some partnership thing. I don’t know. Perhaps I was trying to come up with a palatable explanation.” “Well, you’re right, Mary. You are a real cop. I asked her for money and she wouldn’t give it to me and I had her ATM card and I took out $300. $300 lousy dollars and she got a case…all I did for her. She saw me and hooked me. She knew how to get me to run around. All the things…” I now accept some as partial truth. I wouldn’t ask if she stole the card or anything else. I really didn’t want to know.
“I got arrested on this warrant before, and if my friend wasn’t speeding and that dumb Antioch cop didn’t pull us over…” I recognize the blame game. It was really showing itself. Others’ fault. “Can I tell you illegal things?” she asks. “Sure,” I answer, although I feel I made the wrong choice. Oh god, please don’t tell she witnessed a murder or hurt someone. “ I deposited this forged check for $5,000 for this guy and was supposed to take out $500 and give him $480. I took $100. Why didn’t I just take the $20 for my fix? I owe this guy $100. See this?” She points to her left eye. I don’t see much but I look hoping. “He hit me, and I will probably get teeth knocked out when I see him again. He pulled up his shirt and showed me the gun in his waistband last time. This is crazy, huh?” The story is believable knowing what I have learned about the dope culture, but I get this feeling that she is pulling me somewhere. Wants my sympathy, wants money. I do feel sorry for her, but I will not go there with the money issue. No way. I feel a twinge of guilt, but know it is the right thing. She doesn’t pursue it, but I feel it resting heavy in the air.
We talk about court and what likely will happen for a bit. “The first thing I am going do when I get out of there is take a pull on a pipe.” I think she sees my disappointment and says, “just to get up a bit. Get going …” I ask her about her car and learn it is with the friend, the speeder, the reason she said she was in here. At least she has that. She reads my thoughts again. “Yeah, at least I have my car. They didn’t tow it, thank god.” She asks about my ex.
I realize how articulate she is. Her memory is great too. Likely better than mine, I think. When I told her we hadn’t been together for years, she appeared surprised. Our circles don’t overlap that much. It’s clear now. She then tells me that I must be a terrific cop. “You were a great coxswain” she smiles. “Poised. Calm. I bet you are like that now too.”
I tell her I enjoy the job. I begin to feel the divide, the great distance between us. How I have changed. How our worlds, although entangled in certain ways, she has landed on the darker side. She shows no shame. If it is there, she hides it well. It is obvious that the dope is calling her. Her anxiety is for its relief. She exhibits no despair though, and I feel that venturing into chat of rehab or “working” as an X, a snitch in Richmond, wouldn’t work at the moment. She is a mind reader or the pauses tell her something vital. “The dope gives me that place where everything is ok. Some peace.” She stares at me and asks, “Do you know what I mean. Do you have something?”
“I think everyone has something” I offer. So what is yours, Mary?” I pause and imagine all that could be and feel a bit of solace then. “Guess it is cigarettes, “ I say. She turns with obvious disappointment. Wanting to be more alike.
I give her my business card and tell her to reach out if she is in trouble. I give it as a cop, as a police officer, I know. Perhaps the anguish will emerge and I secretly hope that it arrives before death. I ask her if I can give her a hug and she stands to receive it. “Be safe,” I say. “You too,” Mary. As I walk out the cell door,” I finish, “I have to shut this door, ——-” “ I know, go ahead”, she says as if giving me permission. I shut the door as softly as I can but it is heavy and slams. I leave the jail and walk back into my world.