This weekend I went to my hometown, a small city in an oft-forgotten state, for my 20th high school reunion. At the Saturday afternoon picnic in a state park, my oldest friend's five year old daughter had a small problem and went looking for Mommy.
Though I didn't see the event that set her off, I saw her running with a very serious, purposeful expression on her face until she got within eyesight and earshot, at which point the waterworks and sound effects went off. She ran up wailing. Mommy, who hadn't seen her coming, went right into consolation mode.
"She was fine until she got in range," I noted to another friend, also a mother, who laughed knowingly.
Last night the same thing happened to me, except it was Priscilla the minute I got out of the cab from Midway. I even saw her coming. I was picking up the soggy copies of Hoy on the front sidewalk when I saw her small, lithe shape coming from across the street. "Oh, shit, it's Priscilla. Here we go," flashed through my head.
She wasn't crying then, but she was when she got within range. "I just need to talk to you," she wailed. "Yup-yup beat on me." We sat on the stoop. I thought I saw Rosa getting out of her white car with the different-colored doors and wished I was talking with her instead.
Priscilla and I sat on the stoop while she sobbed out a story to which I paid very little attention. The story involved her boyfriend, whoring for crack (this time she used the words "going on dates" as a euphemism), how she wants to get off the stuff but he got mad when she didn't bring any rock home to him, etc. etc. She says two ladies prayed for her on Sunday and she was able to stop using for half a day. It's a start. I had an arm around her, which she appeared to want, but my inner purpose was to judge her arm and body strength in case something bad happened and I would have to use force to defend myself. She's strong for her size, and it's harder to stop someone on crack.
When she started to wind down, I had her breathe deeply and long on the exhale until she was quiet. "Are you really hurt anywhere?" I asked her, with a serious not syrupy tone.
"No," she said, equally serious. It's so hard to know when the actor's mask is off with an active addict, but that word had the ring of truth.
"You're probably hungry," I said. "I don't know what I've got in the house, but let's see."
She was soggy and cold (it rained all day--it was sunny in my hometown). I let her eat. She asked for a t-shirt to wear while her clothes were in the washer. I went upstairs and found an old t-shirt with the word "Boss" small on the chest and large on the rear. It was a gift from a friend when I became board president of her youth-focused nonprofit. It has a stain on it now and was the easiest of the t-shirt memorablia to part with. Besides, it's probably Hugo Boss, so Priscilla could be styling in it.
She took a nap in the living room while her clothes went through the washer. It's hard not to feel affection for someone while you're watching them sleep. But that still didn't mean she was going to spend the night at my house, which she was angling for.
to be continued...
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