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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Lovely Day!


"We're going down the stores," I yelled toward the back bedroom.  No answer.

Charlie and two other dudes had been in there for over an hour.  I knew they were smoking dust, but I didn't dare open the door and interrupt their high.  You could get your neck broken doing that.

I waited for a minute, just to see if anybody else had a better idea.  Given the circumstances, it seemed unlikely.
"Let's just go," I turned to Terry.  She had fallen asleep watching cartoons with an infant on her lap.

Theresa is Charlie's sister.  They call her Terry.  When I met her, she already had four daughters and was pregnant with the fifth.  There would be two more babies after that.  All girls.

"Are you gonna be able to walk the whole way?" I asked as she got herself to her feet.
"Yeah," she said.  "I'm outta Newports."
She deposited the baby onto the sofa and wedged a cushion behind its back.  Terry was a few months shy of dispatching yet another child into a world where the ones she had already squabbled over every crumb.

Rob emerged from the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist.  He was the cleanest of all three boys.  He showered several times a day with the intensity of a murderer whose victims frequently resisted.  Rob didn't have a regular job, but he stayed busy and seemed to work hard.  I wasn't certain what he did, but I always felt as though I was better off not knowing.

"Can I get five dollars?" Terry whined at her brother.
"What for?" Rob looked down into her ruddy face.
She stared blankly at him.

"Why you broke again, bitch?"
"I got kids!" she moaned.  "They always needin' shit."

"You forget what I told you?"  He looked angry.  "I ain't giving you no more money."
She frowned at him.

Rob launched into what sounded like a combination speech and scolding.
"Terry, I'll buy diapers.  And milk for my nieces.  But that's it, yo," he said.  "If you're too fucking stupid to keep your legs together, that's your business."
Theresa ignored his nasty remark.  She didn't even flinch.

"There's nothing to drink in Mom's fridge," she complained, insolently.  "So, I guess your nieces need milk."
"You don't wanna fuck with me, Sis," Rob warned.  "I don't give a damn if you are knocked up.  I'll lay you flat on your ass."  He balled up a fist and circled it menacingly in front of her face.
"Oh yeah?" she replied.  "You don't wanna fuck with me neither, Rob.  I might kill you when you're sleeping.  And then, you'll be dead."

I stood there with my eyes half shut, just waiting for them to start punching each other.
Instead, Rob put his arm around his sister and kissed the top of her head.
"Let me get my wallet," he said.  "It's in the truck."

When the front door shut behind him, Terry whispered, "Don't say nothing.  I'm gonna buy us some wine coolers."
I wasn't gonna say shit.  I had my own reasons for wanting to get going.

*******

Like most of the individuals in Charlie's family, Theresa frightened me half to death.  She was a vulgar, contentious girl with a hair-trigger temper.  She was quick to take a swing at someone over a harmless misunderstanding.  Although we did not know each other well, I suppose I was relieved that she held me in such high regard.  She referred to me as her sister and friend, but I can't say that the feeling was mutual.

I hated when Terry drank.  She couldn't hold her liquor and got sloppy real fast.  It always bummed me out once I realized she was getting loaded.  Her condition distracted me from my own high, and I became resentful.  I didn't want to clean up anybody else's mess.  Besides, she had all those kids to take care of.  I felt sorry for the girls and powerless to help.  It just seemed like there was too many of them. They needed so much and had almost nothing.

Only a few years older than I, my sister-in-law looked like she could be my mother.  Her hair was graying at the roots, and she was missing a few important teeth.  When she coughed, every bone in her body rattled.  Physically, Terry was a wreck.  She wasn't even forty.

Knowing this made me feel both sad and fortunate at the same time.  My life was falling apart but in comparison, I was in pretty good shape.  The absolute nerve of me to judge.

*******

Mabel's house was a cuckoo clock of illicit activity, with junkies popping in and sliding out all day and night long.  Pendulum regulated want, relief and more want. Addiction in a crowd is stressful.  It is difficult to manipulate the outcome with so many players and lots of moving gears.  Bottom line, everybody's just trying to get high.  I mean, get by.  And nobody knows what time it is.

I was never comfortable down Harding Park.  It was a scary place.  But love, drugs and love of drugs led me down roads I wouldn't have chosen had I more common sense and better self-esteem.

*******

I didn't like to admit how much I enjoyed rock cocaine.  When I was high, crack made me think I was busy and important.  But when it was over, I felt devastated.  I knew my involvement was something I shouldn't brag about.  The regular smokers looked like death warmed over, and their desperation scared me.  Still, I wasn't like them.  Yes, I was embarrassed by where the pipe kept taking me, but I had everything under control.  Sure, I did.

Unlike my steady diet of speed and alcohol, I couldn't smoke crack every day.  It was a thoroughly ungovernable drug and insisted on being the only thing worth pursuing.  It was jealous of friends and hated all of my jobs.

Therefore, I considered my relationship with crack as a special occasion that occurred more and more frequently and lasted longer each time.  But like I said, I had everything under control.

*******

"You know what a Vespa is?" Terry asked as we trudged along toward Soundview Avenue.
"It's like a little motorcycle, I think."
"Veronica says they make one for Barbie," she explained.  "Her birthday's coming up."
"That sounds nice," I said.
"Yeah.  I wish I could get it for her."

Terry sounded as though this idea was already an impossibility.  I didn't respond. I'd already bought Veronica's Barbie a horse at Christmas, and the girls broke one of its legs fighting over it.  I wasn't about to hand over a European scooter to an angry foot mob.

"Maybe she won't remember she asked me." Her thought drifted off under the wheels of a big truck that screeched to a stop at the corner.

"I like your big titties!" the driver hollered out the window in Terry's direction.
She smiled broadly and cupped her breasts.
I wished she wouldn't act like that.
Terry bought two Zimas and a gallon of milk at the bodega.  She liked to play the slot machines in the back of the shop.  With change of two dollars, she dragged a stool across the floor, positioning herself on the seat.  Her swollen belly rested on top of her thighs.  She inserted three quarters into one of the unmanned boxes, pressed a button and pulled the handle.  A bunch of coins plinked and plonked onto the tray at the bottom of the game.

"I never win nothing!" she shrieked with delight, bouncing off her perch.  "You must be good luck, Mare.  Come and try it!"

Terry pressed some change into my hand and urged me toward the machine.  I wasn't really certain how the game was played.  I pulled the lever hesitantly, and all the lights on the appliance went nuts.  A fifty dollar win!

The clerk at the register validated my receipt, and I split the cash with Terry - twenty five bucks each.

"Try and save some," I suggested as I shared her cut.  I was thinking about that Vespa.
"I guess," she muttered, mesmerized by the spinning fruits on the screen.

I watched for a few minutes as my sister-in-law continued to feed her prize money into the one-armed bandit.
"I'll be right back," I told her hunched shoulders.

*******

At the liquor store, I chose a jug of wine and a pint of vodka.  I would have liked to get the bigger bottle of each, but I didn't want to be lugging them around all afternoon.  Besides, once people at the house knew I had booze, it'd be gone in no time flat.  I had to hide my liquor behind the couch, and I didn't like reaching under there.  I asked the store owner for an extra brown bag so I could put the bottles in my backpack.  Hopefully, they wouldn't break.

I noticed the display of mini roses on the counter, the kind in little glass tubes for smoking crack.  I slid one over to include with my purchase.  Instant special occasion.

*******

As I stepped back onto the sidewalk, Terry was bumming a smoke from some guy pulling a microwave behind him in a shopping wagon.  I

"Just tell Rob, okay?" the dude begged.  He sounded somewhat frantic.  "I got this and a nice air-conditioner, if he wants.  They both work good."
"I need a light," Terry informed us as the cigarette dangled from her lips.
"Yeah, yeah.  Sure.  Got it.  Sure."  He lit a match and held it to her face.  His hands were trembling.
"Promise you won't forget to tell him.  You're gonna tell him, right?"
Terry took a long tug and handed him back his half-smoked butt.  "I gotta go."

"So, how'd you do?" I asked.
Terry wasn't carrying the milk or her drinks anymore.
"Where's your stuff?"
"Fuckin' machine's bullshit," she grumbled.

"I'm gonna need to make a stop," I said, as we ventured back down the block.
"Stop where?"
"Just for a minute," I told her.
"I hope you ain't getting too wrapped up in that garbage," Terry cautioned.
"I'm not," I replied.

Crack was just a treat.  Besides, she should talk.

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