Saturday, December 17, 2005


After court, Junior thanks me for the coffee and egg sandwich. This is a good sign. It's reassurance that, at least for a minute, he's experiencing the same reality I am. He has Felicia's name in elegant calligraphy tattooed around his neck, and he has an impish smile I've always understood could inspire love. But because his psychosis makes him unable to converse normally, he is isolated from the organized world. And he won't let her get off his island. Even if he did, she might not leave anyhow. But there's nothing for her in Junior's world, no home, no job, no people, no help. No mentor. It's a good sign that he thanks me for the coffee. Sometimes, when she tries to call me, he screams and pulls the phone out of her hands, after which I might not hear from her again for months.

Tonight, hours after we say goodbye, she calls collect. This time she's speaking even more softly. She gives me a phone number to call back and a room number to ask for. We talk honestly for a long time. She cries quietly. Junior is asleep next to her on the motel bed, and if she wakes him, he'll surely hang up the phone. But I can hear what she's saying. Junior is cruel and abusive and then alternately needy and frightened. He begs her to stay with him and then calls her a "whore." She's so torn. Through the tears, she keeps asking me, "Martha, what should I do?" But she's not ready to do what I tell her. Sometimes she's self-aware enough to say, "But I'm not ready." More often, though, she tosses understandable but weak justifications at me: She'll be lonely without him; he'll end up back in jail; he's fine when he doesn't use drugs; she has nowhere to go.