After Musicology Eunice was back for grade 12, her final year of high school. Music Camp had been utopian and civilized compared to regular life in Montgomery.
She was known as the mixed girl who ran with the black girls. You couldn’t just refer to Gabrielle’s squad as a bunch of black girls without saying ‘and Eunice.’ They knew she used to be a brainiac who had skipped a grade in elementary school.
Eunice had a handle on the whole popularity thing but it mattered less now. She had spent the few weeks before school started catching up with Gabrielle, Arisbel and Patty whom she considered her circle of friends.
Sam had been on her mind but she promised herself not to think about him. He was the only person she ever told stories of her childhood to. She almost thought she’d been under a summertime spell. Never would she have opened up to him had she not been away. Eunice had trusted him more than anyone but now was afraid he would hold her softer side against her but she already had prepped her denial scripts.
When things went well she never thought they would go bad again. When they sucked she never thought they could get better. As it stood being without Sam sucked. What was it about sweet Sam that stuck with her?
He was a comfort without pretense and wore his heart on his sleeve. He was beautifully dark like an Ethiopian runner. It crossed her mind that deliberations on dating would have been shorter if he had been lighter. Do you want life to be harder on you? She heard her mother’s bias. Martha would want her to marry white based on the struggles she had lived. She had her own reasons.
Walking home from school she thought about how far she had come this year. She had gotten over Sam by filling her life with people who satisfied her ego. She’d become a champ at swapping one persona for another, bobbing and weaving to make connection. Rather than feel rejected she bragged about her oddities and tried to embrace them.
The output of her music CD ended up laughable with her sounding like she’d inhaled helium on most of the songs but it had been fun. Except for the bump in the road with Sam Hood she was feeling like the king of the world!
Excitement and adrenalin drove her endorphins feeding her brain as she played the tapes of ten lives already lived since the beginning of high school. She was keen on getting her knowledge up on social justice and civil rights.
Exchanges between her and Terrence, Gabrielle, Patty, Miss Jones, Martha, Curtis, Angela and Sam made for a chorus of voices inside her head perhaps reminiscent of her mother’s mental illness. It was a matter of deciding which voices to listen to.
After school she walked past the Y then cut over on Jeff Davis Street where her feline instinct picked up the oncoming figure. A small desperate voice hovered in the air, “Please HELP me.” Before her stood a shell of a woman in rags with dusty chalk bleached skin.
“Sorry Dear,” Eunice said, missing the millisecond she’d had to avoid her eye contact. Poverty stricken or crack addled or both were daily occurrences on her walks to and from school. The rule had always been ‘no eye contact.’
Her guard was usually strong but this woman’s desperate eyes and toothless mouth put Eunice back in her mother’s womb.
She remembered sidling up close to the coin Laundromat washing machine to listen to the cushioned hum of the motor moving through its predictable cycles. Imagining it was the same sound she would have heard in her mother’s womb she knew nothing would harm her floating inside of that rhythm.
“You fuckin bitch. I said I need help!!! I HAVE to go see a DOCTOR,” the woman’s metal on metal shriek cut through Eunice’s spin-cycle of disassociation. The woman paused, “Wait a second, you got any sugar? Sugar,” her raspy screech coming from her sunk in tear stained face.
Eunice crossed Court Street and wasn’t about to break her stride. She knew from previous episodes the scene would either go simply, like helping an old lady across the street or turn ugly with the beggar morphing into a lying demon.
“You’re a pretty thing but don’t you GET it, I need to get to a doctor or I’ll die. You got any Krypto?” the woman sounded sweet and sour at the same time. Eunice figured her out pretty quick, the woman needed her fix.
As Eunice got farther, the woman’s screech was more animal than human, so she widened the gap between them. Even if she had been designated the woman’s guardian angel, Eunice decided not to help her. She fought off the guilt which created a war in her mind between being humane and urban reality. Tears welled in Eunice’s eyes. I can’t stop to take her to a clinic.
“Why can’t you help me little Miss Prissy,” her voice was defeated. A sad animal licking its wounds and slowly winding down, “You cunt...” her voice that of a little girl.
Eunice continued walking but it got quiet. She took one last peak behind her to see a man fitting a burnt-yellow glass tube into the woman’s slash-for-a-mouth, as if an electrical plug into a socket. The woman inhaled deeply raising her arms in alleluia, then clamped hands around the pipe to prevent any precious smoke from escaping. Her mouth was a siphon. Her cheek flesh adhering to her skull as the smoke shot like a bobsled down the tube and into her needy mouth. There should have been a celebratory ding, ding, ding as the strongman’s sledge hammer hit its mark, on a fairground midway.
From a safe distance Eunice had no quantifiable feelings. She’s an addict. Lost cause, too far gone, tax write off and as good as dead. There are shelters. It’s Montgomery’s problem not mine. I can’t help everyone. My oxygen before my child’s. I am awful!
She felt an insatiable itch all over. She couldn’t help this woman but why was the power stronger in other situations?
It reminded her of the dog in the car at the north end Home Depot. The day hadn’t been a complete scorcher but hot enough for the Cocker Spaniel to plead when he saw her through the glass, its owners presumably shopping inside.
She marched into the store, stormed the service counter giving the pimple faced clerk a fright and yanked the microphone stem to her lips, “Attention shoppers. There is a vandalized green Cavalier license plate 88-0522 in the parking lot. Please come to the service desk immediately!” her voice echoed through the huge store.
Within minutes a large frantic man with a long beard and overall’s came to the desk. Eunice watched beady-eyed as the culprit followed the clerk outside, “Heavens ta Betsy. It’s my car that got broken into!” he said, sounding utterly victimized.
Later Eunice woke from a fugue state in a nearby park with only a mild recollection of a panting blond Cocker Spaniel. She knew in her soul the dog was safe but remembered little else.
The memory loss had given her a scare.
Eunice could spot injustice and had boundless energy to protect those in need but couldn’t seem to put up with the fakers and whiners. She had a zero tolerance policy for entitled assholes!