“No, Judy… You can’t send this letter to your sister. I mean, first of all, you used my real name.”
“I know. I know Yolanda but I tried. I just couldn’t think of any other name.”
“You don’t even have to…. You know, that is not even the point. Like, none of this is anything we even talked about, you know.” She folded the letter back up and put it on the table next to her cup of coffee. It was still full. She said, “Here Judy. Take one of my cigarettes.” She pulled her pack out of her purse and flipped out two cigarettes. She pulled a book of matches from between the box and the cellophane with one long red fingernail. “I don’t know what happens to all my lighters.” She lit both cigarettes with one match and gave one to Judy. Let’s go to the couch where its more comfortable.”
The living room was small but comfortable. The couch was on one end, a coffee table with a large blue ceramic ashtray in the shape of her daughter’s hand at five. Tina was in her twenties now and they never spoke. On the other end, the TV was running with the volume down. They sat. Judy sat as far against the armrest as she could. Yolanda scooted closer to her and put her hand on Judy’s knee. She looked at Judy and took a long puff on her cigarette. Then looked at the TV and pretended to watch. “Judy, you were supposed to be making amends not telling her what she did.”
“I know. I know. I worked so hard on it.”
“I can see…” Yolanda shifted nervously in her seat.
“No. I really did, but…”
“Hey, hey, it’s OK. Relax… No. Fuck it!” She faced Judy this time really looking at her. “You’re using again, aren’t you?”
“What? No! I’m not using.” Judy stood up from the couch and banged her shins against the coffee table. “I would never.”
“We both know that’s a lie.” She stood up, too. “We’d both be using if we could. We’re both stupid enough.”
“I’m not gonna let someone accuse me.” She pulled open the door and knocked the screen opened with her shoulder. She kicked the screen door when it came swinging shut on her.
Yolanda yelled out the door at Judy as she stomped across the lawn. “You better be at the meeting tonight.”
Judy turned around and flipped her off with both fhands. “Fuck you! You stupid bitch.”
“You know I can cuss too. You dumb cunt! You better be at the meeting. I don’t want to hear about you dying on the streets dosed on fentanyl.”
Judy threw the stump of her cigarette and said, “I hope it catches your house on fire.” She stormed down the street not knowing where she was supposed to be going.
She really wasn’t using, but she wasn’t doing well either. She had been offered free meetings with a psychiatrist, and she even went a few times. But he was trying to put her on drugs, and she can’t do that. They say it’s just a pill, but for her one pill is like another, just not as good. And before you know it, she is using again. Tricking again. Stealing again. In jail again. Or worse.
She had been walking for a long time, and when she realized where she was, she was back in her old part of town where she used to score. She was right in front of the U-Pak-It liquor store the same place where she was arrested last year for shoplifting. She could feel people looking at her. She recognized one of the men who had been sitting against the building. And he recognized her and got to his feet.
“Judy! When I hadn’t seen you, I thought you was dead.”
“No, not dead.” She started to feel the old familiar twitch. “Meetings.” It was Romero. He was a sometimes dealer and an all the time user.
“Meetings? Honey, not you. You don’t do meetings.”
“Yes. I am going to one now.” Judy was trying to think of the quickest way back home without anyone else seeing her.
“What? Before lunch? Out here huh… I know what kinda meetings you looking for. In fact, I looking for one, too.”
“No, Romero. I need to go home. I don’t want people to see me.” She was fidgeting and looking for a chance to get away quietly.
“No. Honey, no. I got my share of the money, today. We just talk to Markus…” There was banging coming from the liquor store window.
The old man that worked the counter was yelling. “You two get out of here. I calling the cops.”
Romero hit the window himself. “You’re an asshole, Mr. Ling. Nobody out here likes you.” He grabbed Judy by the arm. “Come on let’s cut through the alley. We can find a good place to hide before the cops find us.”
Judy tried to pull away. “The cops can’t do nothin. I ain’t done nothin.” But she figured Yolanda had probably called the cops from their earlier dust up. She knew because she had done the same anytime one of her friends had acted like that in her house. But all her friends were addicts weren’t they? Yolanda isn’t… anymore. But she could sure talk like one. Goddamn! Could that bitch scream out the word ‘cunt.’ The whole neighborhood knew when Yolanda was pissed.
Romero had led them through the alley and out to a housing complex. This wasn’t one that she had ever been to, but she knew why he had stopped.
“I don’t remember H as your shit. But that’s all Mopey got, and we ain’t gonna be back by Markus. Not when the cops is around. So… you got money, or you gonna suck his dick? Cause I ain’t gonna suck his dick.”
“Nothin, Romero. Nothin. I don’t want no H. I don’t want nothin.” She had said it, but she wasn’t sure it was true.
“You really are clean, ain’t you?” He gave her a funny look. Then he reached into her pockets. He said, “You got me out here. I gettin my shit.” He pulls his hand out of her pocket. He had a hand full of coins and the pen she had used to sign the letter to her sister. She grabbed it. He let her have it. He said, “Where’s the rest of your money, bitch.”
“I ain’t got none.” She held the pin in front of her with both hands.
“Are you gonna stab me with that, bitch.” He almost looked amused. “Well, stab me then.” He slapped her. He slapped her again, and he punched her. Her nose began to bleed. “Well, bitch you gonna stab me?” He pushed her to the ground hard as he could and kicked her in the ribs. She dropped the pen. He kneeled down with one of his knees on her chest and went through her pockets again. He pulled out her EBT card. “Is this all you got? Huh? How much you got on there?” She looked stunned and didn’t say anything. “OK, bitch. You probably ain’t got nothing on it anyway.”
He dropped the card and it fluttered to the ground. He didn’t know about the twenty that she kept in her shoe, and she wasn’t going to tell him. He began to walk away like he hadn’t just beat the shit out of a helpless old woman on the street in broad daylight. She was gonna use the money. She was gonna got fucked up. He wasn’t gonna get any.
She had never done H. She had never liked the downers, but today was a special day. A good day to try something new. The only problem was she didn’t know Mopey. She didn’t know which one of these doors was his. And knocking on random doors asking for a known drug dealer is a good way to get robbed or shot especially when he doesn’t know you.
She got up and started walking back toward the U-Pak-It Liquor. She knew Marcus. He had the shit she liked, and he might even give her a deal for old time’s sake.
Her head hurt from the getting hit, and she thought she may have hit her head when Romero knocked her to the ground. But she was starting to forget bits and pieces of what had just happened to her. She was swaying as she walked down the alley, and she was squinting. The light seemed so much brighter that it had been earlier. So she wasn’t too surprised when the cops pulled up behind her without her noticing. If she couldn’t concentrate before she sure couldn’t concentrate now.
The cop got out of his car. “If it isn’t Judy. Why am I not surprised? Come on get in the car.”
“Officer Clark, I didn’t do nothin.”
“Oh, come on Judy. A crack head has always done something. And look at the blood on your face. You have been fighting.” He cuffed her hands behind her and put her in the back of his patrol car. “Old Ling called on you earlier. You knew you’d be going down. Are you gonna tell me who did this to you, or are we gonna find out downtown?” When she made it to the station, she called Yolanda to come pick her up.
When she arrived at the station, Yolanda went to the officer in charge of the desk to get them to release Judy. “Look. I’m her sponsor. I just need to know, so I can know what to expect.”
The officer leaned closer to the little metal grate in the glass barrier. “Fine. All we had was a suspicious person report. She didn’t have any drugs on her, and she didn’t consent to a blood test.”
“So you don’t know. And took her in for no reason.”
“Look, she has a history, and I wasn’t the one to pick her up.”
“I don’t care about that. I wanna know about her.”
He sat back down. “I guess you are just going to have to ask her.”
“She’s just gonna lie.” He shrugged his shoulders and motioned for her to sit in the waiting room.
Judy was escorted through the double doors by another officer. He was helping her walk. Her eye had swollen and was starting to turn purple.
Yolanda said, “Oh Judy….” She turned the officer. “Did you do this to her?”
He looked at her with open disdain. “You would like that wouldn’t you?”
“And you didn’t take her to the hospital.” Now she was starting to get angry.
He said, “Take her yourself.”
Judy said, “I’m fine.”
“They would just give me drugs.”
Yolanda said, “So you’re not using.” There was relief in her voice. “OK. No doctors then.” Yolanda shook her head. “Then you’re sleeping on my couch. You look like you got a concussion.”
Judy said, “And the meeting.”
“You just rest tonight.”
“No, I really need it.”
Yolanda drove them back to her house. She got Judy cleaned up as best as she could and lent her some of her clothes. They were too big, but at least, they didn’t have blood on them. At the meeting that night, Yolanda helped her to her feet. Judy looked at everybody. She said, “My name is Judy. I am a stupid cunt, and within a month, I will be dead dosed on fentanyl.” She saw the looks on their faces. She said, “I ain’t usin, but I fuckin want to.” She had never been this honest with them before.