"Tore back?" I asked him.
"Yeah," he told me "I forgot you are from fucking OHIO. What is in Ohio...anyway..." he points again.
Cherri was sitting at the doughnut shop at 7th and Market, in front of what must have been a cup of coffee at one time. There was a brown substance slowly dripping off the table under the booth where it reached a pool of empty sugar packets and her shoe. Her pantyhose were black and torn. Her knees were white, red, and scabby. I could instantly see why. With one hand she propped up her sagging head, with the other she was gingerly scratching the living hell out of that knee. I would have though she was dead if it wasn't for the occasional bob of the head which lead to a twitch then a scratch. Her purse was laid out all over the booth along with the contents of her backpack. The coffee shop would let you sit in the booths for one hour if you ordered something. The big corner windows were a prime spot for people watching. In this case, the people were looking inside at Cherri. The tourists walked by pointing while they smiled and laughed.
"Should we go help.."
As he handed me the 40oz Max interjected "that bitch gives Junkies a bad name!"
OK, I guess we won't be helping then
Max and I were both killing time until we could pick up our food stamps. Our workers told us the cards should work at one o'clock. It was 12:30. I had never been on food stamps before. I had been broke, especially when I lived in Minnesota, but they had made you work for food boxes. Four hours in a warehouse for a box filled with broccoli, the government cheese, cans that said "PORK", beans, cereal, and some pasta. I was working then but with a boyfriend in jail there was little money left over. He needed things- right?! I laughed to myself as I took a drink of my beer. Within a few weeks of getting out, he was fucking my best friend. I guess he needed LOTS of things.
"How did you end up here, Tracey?" Max was making the kind of small talk junkies make in between highs. I don't know if I was even a junkie yet. I could go a few days or even a week in between my next high but that vice was getting tighter around my next.
"Drugs," I told him "I came here because of drugs."
This was only half true. I came here for lots of reasons but the drugs made it impossible to leave. Heroin was the only thing that consistently made me happy anymore. Not sex, not food, not traveling, not my family, not myself. I left a job and apartment to come here. Now I was living in abandoned buildings and dirty hotel rooms wondering how in the fuck did I ever get here. I know I could easily fuck Max if I wanted to or even if I didn't want to. He would buy me dope until we had some sort of failing out over something petty. Or maybe it would be the other way around. He would hold me against his chest. I would think I was in love for a few moments. I would support our habits until some stripper came along with a bunch of money and a place to live. But neither would happen. Not today.
"I am going to go help Cherri" I told him as I passed him back his beer. I pushed myself up. I gave him a backwards wave as I started walking away.
He gave me a confused look "But I thought we were calling Flacco together?!" I couldn't really here him. I was tuning him out. Ya, we can meet up later. Got it. Maybe Cherri wants to go in with us too. Okay, I will ask her. Hos before bros right? whatever.
As I walked into the doughnut shop, Cherri opened up her eyes long enough to smile at me. She remembered me. I knew her. We had sat up tweaking one night starring up at the stars. She knew all the constellations by heart. As she showed me the belt of Orion, she told me to be careful around here. She had woken up one night in the alley behind the doughnut shop. Her pants had been cut open, There was a used condom hanging partially outside of her. He raped me but used a condom, she laughed to herself. I think it kept her from crying. WHAT a gentleman. She told me. I already knew though. I already had heard this story from at least five other people. Except it was somehow "her fault" because she was a drug user.
"Maybe I can show you the stars again," she told me as I helped her pick up her backpack. I handed her a napkin of the table to wipe up her mascara. I could see she had been crying. And you know- hos before bros.
"Girls like us Tracey," Cherri told me "we gotta look out for each other."