Oh, God! I can’t even stand up! Where am I? Did I get away? Did I? Where is this? The alley? Behind the Big Lot? I think so. I need to…I need to get out of here! Keep going! There! That’s the street! Cross the street! Oh, God! It hurts! It hurts so much! I can’t breathe! I can’t fucking breathe! It hurts! Oh, God! It hurts! Calm down! Keep moving! I have to breathe! Breathe, damn it! I can’t breathe! God, I can’t breathe! Too fast! Too fast! I’m breathing too fast! I’ve got to slow down! Slow down. Breathe. Just breathe! It hurts! It hurts everywhere! Oh, God, please make it stop! Make it stop! Charlie? Where are you? I need…need you! Help me! Please! Charlie? Help me…please! Charlie? Charlie, help me! Help me! Please! Charlie? Where are…where are you? Charlie? No. He’s not…not here. Calm down! Don’t fucking panic! I’ve got to get out of here! I’ve got to get up! On my feet! It hurts! It hurts! Take the pain! Keep going! Help me, God! Help me! Stand up! Stand up! That’s it. That’s it! Hold onto something! The wall! Hold onto the wall! That’s it! Just hold on! I have to walk. I have to walk. I can’t stop. I can’t stay here. I have to…I have to walk. That’s it. Slow and easy. One step. One step. Another step. That’s it. Don’t stop. You can’t stop! Keep going! Keep going!
OK, stop! Stop for a minute! That’s…that’s it! Stop here. That’s enough. Far enough. I’m safe. I know where I am. I know where I am. The end of the alley. They’re not coming. They’re not coming after me. Good. I’m safe. I have to stop. Just for a minute. I’ve got to breathe. Oh, God! It hurts! It hurts so much! My eyes…there’s blood! Are my eyes OK? Can I see? He didn’t…please, God! Not my eyes! Anything but that! No. No, it’s OK! I’m not blind. I can see. I can still see. There’s blood. I have to wipe it. Wipe out the blood. Fuck! It hurts! It fucking hurts! My face! My jaw? Is it broken? It hurts! There’s blood in my mouth! Is it broken? No. I don’t think so. My teeth? I think…I think I’m OK. They’re still there. I’ll be all right. I’ll be all right. I just need a minute. Just a minute. I’ve got to catch my breath. Just for a minute. Breathe. Just breathe. Nice and slow. I’m OK. I’m OK. I can do this. Keep walking. That’s it. That’s better. Just clear my head. I’m OK. I can do this. Start walking. I have to get out of here. Just walk. Just keep walking!
Oh, God! My head! I’m dizzy. I can’t focus. I can’t focus my eyes. I think it’s…I think…a concussion. I think it’s a concussion. I think I’m going to puke! Fuck! Fucking Ricky got me good! He fucked me up! It’s OK. Don’t panic. Don’t lose it. Not now! I’m all right. I can do this. It’s not the first time. I’ve been beaten before. It’s no different. I can do this. Just take it slow. That’s it. See? I’m coming around. I’m still in the game. Damn! I can’t see very well. Everything’s blurry. I need to rub my eyes. Careful! God, it hurts! I think I got the blood out. There was blood in my eyes. I think it’s gone. I can see. It’s clearing up. I’m OK. God, it hurts! Everywhere! It fucking hurts everywhere! What the fuck? Oh, yeah! It was T.C.! That fucking T.C.! He fucking played me! He fucking set me up! Oh, God! I think I’m going to puke! My stomach! It feels like…oh, shit! There it goes! Be careful! Don’t choke on it! Get it all out! More! God! It hurts! It hurts so fucking much! Oh, shit! More! Is that it? Am I done puking? I think so. I can breathe a little better. Damn! Is there any blood in it? I can’t see any. Good. It probably means I’m not bleeding inside. Fuck! Fucking T.C.! He really fucked me over with that one! God damn it! That was stupid, Miranda! Really fucking stupid! How the hell did I miss this? How did I not see this shit coming? That fucking asshole! It should’ve been him! It should’ve been fucking him! And you know what? It’s going to be him! I’m going to fucking kill him! I swear to God, I’m going to fucking kill him! Dead! He’s fucking dead! I don’t care! I don’t care what happens! That motherfucker is fucking dead! He’s not getting away with this shit! No fucking way! I’m going to fucking kill him! I don’t give a shit what God says! That little fuck needs to die!
This is where I left him: just out of range of the Big Lot and Ricky. He’s got to be around here somewhere. Christ! And I thought my ankle was bad! As a result of that fucking ass-kicking, I can’t even feel it anymore! Every other inch of my body hurts ten times worse! There’s blood all over me! All right, fuck that shit! I need to concentrate. I need to focus. Where the fuck is that little shitbag? This is where we’re supposed to meet. The only reason he’d take off is if he saw me get my ass kicked. There’s no way he’d stick around after seeing that. But the only way he could’ve seen it is if he went to the edge of the Big Lot, and there’s no way in hell he’d do that. Ricky would beat him ten times worse before he killed him, and T.C. knows it. No, he wasn’t anywhere near the Big Lot. That means his miserable fucking ass is around here somewhere! Hiding like the fucking pussy he is! Good! He thinks Ricky is bad? Wait until that little shit sees what I’m going to do to him!
“Miranda? Is that you?”
How about that? I don’t have to go looking for his ass! Good! I’ll have more strength to beat the shit out of him!
“I’m over here!”
“Right here, you fucking idiot!”
“Did you get my dope? You got it, right? You got my…holy shit! What the fuck happened to you?”
I’ll give him a second or two to figure that one out. Then I’ll fucking kill him!
“Jesus! You’re bleeding! Your face! What happened to you?”
OK, that’s long enough! Say goodbye, asshole! You’re about to fucking die!
“What happened? What happened? Fucking Ricky happened, you motherfucker!”
“What do you mean?”
“Look at my fucking face! Do you know what I mean now?”
“He kicked your ass? How come?”
“Kicked my ass? Look at me, motherfucker! Does this…does this shit look like an ass kicking? He damn near fucking killed me!”
“Why? What did you do?”
What did I do? What did I do? Is he fucking kidding me? Tell me he’s fucking kidding me!
“I didn’t do shit! Why do you think he did it, motherfucker? Can you answer me that one?”
“I…I don’t know.”
“Oh, I think you do!”
“No, I don’t!”
“You’re fucking lying! Don’t fucking lie to me, asshole! You knew! You knew the whole fucking time!”
“Knew what? I don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“You set me up, motherfucker! You fucking set me the fuck up!”
“What? No, I didn’t!”
“I said don’t fucking lie to me! You set me up! You sent me to get your fucking dope because you knew Ricky was looking for your ass!”
“No, I didn’t…”
“You son of a bitch! You damn near got me killed!”
“I swear! I don’t know what you’re…”
“Liar! You fucking piece of shit! You fucked me over, and now I’m going to fucking kill you! You’re fucking dead, motherfucker!”
“No! No! Take it easy! Come on, Miranda! Just take it easy!”
“Take it easy? You’re dead, motherfucker! You’re going to die right fucking here!”
Just jam the knife right below his sternum and shove it upward into his heart! Just like Charlie taught you! That’ll kill him for fucking sure!
“Whoa! Put the knife down! Come on, Miranda! This shit ain’t funny!”
“Funny? Do you think I’m fucking kidding? I’m going to fucking kill you! I swear to fucking God, you’re going to fucking die!”
“No, look! I can…I can explain!”
“I don’t want to hear it! None of your fucking bullshit! I just want to hear you scream!”
“OK, I’m sorry! OK? I’m sorry! Come on, Miranda! Just put the fucking knife down!”
I’d better take him down before he starts running! There’s no way I could run after him! That’s it! I’ll fucking kill him on his knees! That’s how he should die! On his fucking knees!
“Get on your knees, motherfucker!”
“No, come on! You don’t want to do this! Please!”
“I said do it! On your fucking knees! Right fucking now!”
“No! Don’t do this! Please! I’m sorry! I should’ve told you! I’m sorry! I swear!”
“You’re sorry? You’re fucking sorry?”
He’s on his knees! Look at him! Useless piece of fucking shit! Kick him! Kick him right in his fucking face! Yes! Got him! Right in his fucking face!
“Does that hurt, motherfucker? Does it? Huh? How about this!”
Kick him again!
“You fucking asshole!”
Kick him again!
“You gave up one of Ricky’s boys! You gave him up to the fucking cops!”
Kick him again!
“You fucking snitched him off to save your ass!”
He’s down! Kill him! Do it! Kill his fucking ass! Stomp him! Stomp the fucking shit out of him! Just like Ricky stomped me! That’s it! Again! Again! Again!
“Please! Miranda, please! Please stop!”
“What did you say?”
Kick him again! Right in the gut! Now in the fucking balls! Now in the fucking face! Kill him! Fucking kill him!
“Did you just beg me to stop, motherfucker? Did you?”
Again! Kick him again!
“The way I begged him?”
“The way I screamed?”
“And he just kept stomping me?”
“And he wouldn’t stop?”
“He just kept hitting me!”
“And kicking me!”
“And stomping my fucking guts out!
“And it’s your fucking fault! You fucking asshole! You did this shit! How do you like it? Is this what you were afraid of? Is this what you thought he’d do to your fucking ass? Like this? Is it? Answer me, motherfucker!”
He’s hurt! He’s fucking hurt bad! Good! I want him to hurt! I want him to feel what I felt! Right before he fucking dies!
“Please! I’m…sorry! Please! Please…stop! No more! Please!”
Listen to him! Listen to him cry! Listen to him beg for his miserable fucking life! Just like I did!
“Come here, you little shit!”
That’s it! Press the blade right against his fucking throat! Harder! Let him feel it!
“I don’t have the strength to beat you to death. So I’ll have to settle for slitting your fucking throat!”
“Oh, God! Please! Please, Miranda! Don’t kill me! Please don’t kill me! I’m sorry! I swear! I’m sorry! Please don’t kill me!”
“Do you feel it? The sting? When it just starts to cut your fucking throat! Do you? It’s really fucking sharp! Sharp enough to take your fucking head off!”
Yeah, that’s right, asshole! Cry! Cry like a fucking pussy! Cry like I cried! No one helped me, and no one’s going to help you! And now you’re going to fucking die!
“Please don’t kill me! Please! I’m sorry, I swear I’m sorry!”
That’s it! Beg for your fucking life! Humiliating, isn’t it? You fucking piece of shit! I should’ve killed you years ago! Everyone should’ve killed you! You don’t fucking deserve to live! You never did!
“You’re going to fucking die, T.C.! You hear me? I’m going to fucking kill you! Right fucking here! You fucked me over and now I’m going to take it out of your ass! Every fucking bit of it!”
“No! Please, Miranda! Jesus Christ! Please don’t kill me! Please!”
Enough! Just stick him! Fuck his heart! He doesn’t fucking have one! Just stick him in the fucking gut! Cut him all the way across! Watch his fucking innards fall out of his gut! He’ll die slow! Painful! Fucking agony! He deserves it! Now! Do it! Stick his worthless ass! Do it! Do it!
Fuck! I can’t! I can’t do it! I can’t fucking kill him! Not even him! I can’t even kill a useless piece of shit like him! What the fuck is wrong with me? Why can’t I kill him? I want to kill him! I want to kill him so bad! But I can’t! I can’t do it!
“Fuck! Fuck you! Fuck you, T.C.! Fuck you!”
“Please don’t do it! Please don’t! I’m sorry! I swear! I’m sorry! Please don’t kill me! Please!”
I can’t believe I can’t bring myself to kill this motherfucker! But I can’t! I can’t fucking do it! Well, at least I kicked the living shit out of him! He’s bleeding almost as much as I am!
“Get up, motherfucker!”
“I can’t. I can’t…”
“I said get on your feet! Now!”
Does it hurt, T.C.? Does it make you want to scream? Does it feel like you couldn’t stand up if your fucking life depended on it? Good! That’s what that asshole Ricky did to me!
“I said get up! Now!”
I almost forgot the whole point of this shit! I need money! If I kill him, I won’t get it. He said he had it stashed. I need that money now!
“What? Where? Where are we going? Are you gonna…please don’t kill me! I’m begging you! Please!”
“You said you stashed your money around here! You’re going to take me to it! Right now! Move!”
“I can’t! I can’t…I can’t walk!”
“You’d better! I said move! Now!”
That’s it, you fucking asshole! Start walking! Yeah, I fucked you up good! It hurts, doesn’t it? Every step makes you want to scream, doesn’t it? Good! Serves you fucking right!
“All right, where the fuck is it?”
“Don’t fuck with me! Where’s your fucking money?”
“In…in the wall! In the wall…by the pipe! In the hole! Over there!”
“You’d better not be lying!”
Let’s see what he’s got here. Good! He wasn’t lying. He’s either too scared or in too much pain to lie! Yeah, I know the fucking feeling!
“It looks like you’ve got about twenty bucks here! Who’d you blow for this?”
“Don’t do this, Miranda! I need that! It’s all I’ve got!”
“You’re luck you’re getting off this easily!”
“But…what about my dope? You’re gonna…you’re gonna give me the dope, right?”
Am I hearing things? Did he actually fucking say that? Did this motherfucker actually ask me to give him his dope? Is he fucking out of his mind?
“Oh, your dope? What? You mean this shit?”
“Please, Miranda! I need it! I need it bad!”
“Yeah, especially since I kicked the shit out of you, right? Does it hurt? Does it fucking hurt? It’s bad, isn’t it? You need this shit more than ever, don’t you?”
“Oh, God! I’m fucked up! I think I need a doctor! I think you broke my fucking ribs!”
“You and me both, motherfucker! But I’ve got something else for you! Something you’ll remember!”
This all started because he snitched off one of Ricky’s dealers. Well, I know what to do about that! Being a snitch earns you something out here! Something you never fucking forget! I can’t kill him, but I can leave him a fucking scar to remember this shit for the rest of his worthless fucking life! Grab him by the face! That’s it! Hold him! Now, cut him! Right across the fucking cheek! Cut him deep! From his ear to his fucking mouth! Do it! Yes! Got him! God, listen to him scream! Yeah, I’ll bet that hurt worse than the ass kicking! And it’s bleeding like a motherfucker, too! Good! He earned it! He’s luck he’s not fucking dead!
“You know what that is, don’t you? That’s a fucking squealer’s scar! Everybody who ever looks at your fucking face is going to know exactly what that is! For the rest of your fucking life!”
And just like that, he’s fucking marked! As if he needed a big fucking scar across his face to let everybody know he’s a piece of shit rat! But it felt good to fucking do it!
“If I ever see your fucking face again, I’ll take you straight to fucking Ricky! I’ll stand there and watch while he beats your fucking ass to death! Do you hear me? Answer me, you fucking piece of shit! Do you hear me?”
“Yes! Yes! Please, Miranda! Please don’t do that! Please! I’m begging you! No more! Please, no more!”
Yeah, just like I said! And nobody came to help me, either! Only I didn’t deserve it! This little fuck does! He deserves a million times worse!
“Now, as for your dope? You want it? Here! Go fucking get it!”
Jesus, I shouldn’t have tried to throw it so hard! That hurt like a motherfucker! God, that fucking hurt!
“I said go get it! Move! Go get your fucking dope! If you can find it, that is! Move! Go get it! And don’t you ever let me see your fucking face again! Never! Do you hear me, you motherfucking piece of shit? Never! Never, ever! I’ll kill you if I see you! I swear to God, I’ll fucking kill you!”
Yeah, that’s it! Crawl, motherfucker! Crawl like I crawled! Holding that fucking gash in your ugly fucking face! I hope you fucking burn in hell! Fuck you, T.C.! I hope Ricky finds your fucking punk ass and kills you slow! I hope the whole fucking world kills your fucking ass! Die! Worthless fucking piece of shit! I hope you fucking die!
Holy shit! Fuck! I need to stop for a second! I need to…I need to breathe! Just for a second. God, it hurts! I’ve had my ass kicked plenty of times, but that was a bad one! Fuck! I guess I’m lucky I can still stand up. Christ, I’m lucky to be alive! Who’d have thought I could ever take a beating like that and keep going? Chalk it up to living out here. This place definitely toughens you up. Well, at least enough to come back from a serious beat down. Good thing, too. It took all my strength to kick the crap out of that fucking T.C.! I can’t believe I didn’t kill him! God, I wanted to! I wanted to kill him so bad! But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t kill a fucking useless piece of shit like him. What does that tell you about me? It tells me I’m a fucking coward. I mean, if I can’t even kill someone who deserves it? No. I can’t do it. There’s only one person I can kill, and it’s not a question of her deserving it. She just needs it. So I’m a failure. All this time out here and I can’t even stick someone who gets me beaten within an inch of my life! That’s the failure of all fucking failures.
Give me a minute, OK? My vision’s still kind of blurry. At least my head’s clearing. I just need to get it together. I need to calm down. Just take it easy. Breathe. Oh, God! Every fucking inch of my body hurts like a motherfucker! Getting stomped by some sick son of a bitch is bad enough. It’s worse when he’s wearing cowboy boots. I think that’s why he wears them. He can do more damage that way. How the hell could I have been so stupid? The last fucking night of my life, and I volunteer to go see that son of a bitch? There must have been an easier way to make a few bucks. Hell, maybe I should have blown some guy for it? I couldn’t hate myself any worse, and I wouldn’t be sitting here bleeding and aching from head to toe. Oh, fuck it! Like Charlie always says, you can’t turn back the clock. So I fucked up. I fucked up big time. What else is new? Fucking up is the story of my goddamned life. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t.
Oh, I feel like I’m going to start puking again! Please, God! Don’t let me start puking again! I can’t believe there’s anything left in my stomach to throw up, anyway. My head’s throbbing like a motherfucker. It really feels like it’s going to explode. I wonder how bad this gash in my head is? I’m going to have to take a look at it. I think it’s still bleeding. I’m not sure, but I think he loosened a couple of my teeth, too. I can’t really tell. Damn! He really got me good! Oh, and then there’s my goddamned cunt. Why do guys always kick a woman there? What the fuck is it with them? We kick guys in the balls because it hurts them so much, it disables them. Then we can get away. But it doesn’t do any permanent damage. It’s not the same thing, guys! Yeah, it hurts like a motherfucker, but a lot of times we end up bleeding. It can get pretty fucking serious. Jesus, what the fuck is up with guys? Why do they get off on that? I don’t know, but it never fucking fails. A woman gets in a fight with a guy; he grabs her tits and kicks her right in the fucking cunt! Every fucking time! I swear, guys are some sick motherfuckers sometimes. I think it’s genetic.
All right, enough of this shit. I have to keep moving. I can’t stop. I can’t sit down. God, I want to sit down! I can barely stand up. But if I sit down, I might pass out. I can’t risk that. I’ve got to get back to that roach coach. I don’t know how much time I’ve got. Christ, I can’t even see my fucking watch! My vision’s still kind of fucked up. I don’t even know how long I was back in that alley. Damn! I think I’ve got a concussion. Lord, just don’t let me keel over. Don’t let me pass out. Not tonight. In a few hours, I’ll sleep forever. I’ll leave all of this shit behind me. Just a few hours more. I can do that. I can hang in there for a few hours. I’ve hung in for almost seven years. What’s a few more hours? Then I won’t have to worry. Then it’ll be over. Permanently. I just have to focus. Focus and don’t think about the pain. That’s how you do it. That’s how you handle being beaten half to death: you focus. You focus so hard that you lose yourself in it. When that happens, you can block out the pain. It works. Well, it works if you can do it. That’s the hard part. Sometimes it’s harder than other times.
I guess I should look on the bright side: at least now I can afford the notebook and pen. Shit, I could go to the 7-11 and buy it if I had to – assuming I could even make it over there. But I won’t have to. The guy on the roach coach will come through. It’s a few bucks and he doesn’t have to do shit for it. If he jacks up the price, I can still cover it. My vision’s still a little fucked up, but I can see well enough to read a ten, two fives, and three ones. Not bad! Hell, maybe I can buy a bag of ice from him to put on my fucking eye? You know, technically, what I did amounts to armed robbery. I have to admit, that’s a first for me. I’ve ripped off plenty of people and places, but I never did it at knifepoint and beat the living shit out of them before. But you know something? I don’t feel a bit sorry for it. You’d think I would, what with me about to stand before God and have to account for myself in a few hours. But that fucking T.C. fucked me over so bad; I honestly believe I was justified in what I did to him. And I let him live, right? I didn’t kill him, even though I had every intention of killing him. Fuck him! He deserved it! And he’ll have a big fucking scar across his face to remember it for the rest of his life – however long that turns out to be. Yeah, I know God said “vengeance is mine,” but in this case, I think I was entitled to borrow it for a minute. So now I’m an armed robber in addition to all of the other shit I’ve pulled over the years. But I don’t consider it robbery. No, I like to think of it as T.C.’s contribution to my suicide fund. It’s his charitable donation to a worthy cause. It helps him build character, and that’s a good thing. That little piece of shit definitely needs to build some character. So in reality, I did him a favor. Good for me.
OK, maybe I should fuck around with being so irreverent; what with me being so close to death. But the truth is, I don’t feel a bit sorry for T.C. That fucking asshole! I really wish I’d killed him. Why didn’t I? Maybe I really was afraid that if I killed him, I’d have to face him in heaven. I’d get to the pearly gates and that asshole would be standing there in line, just ahead of me – and hitting up everybody in line there for some fucking dope! Talk about a fate worse than death! But now that I think about it, there was no way I was going to have to deal with his ass in the afterlife; one way or another. There’s no way a fucking weasel like him gets into heaven, and he wouldn’t last two seconds in hell. So either way, there’s no way I’ll run into him in the afterlife. So what will happen to him when he dies? I’m sure there’s some sort of celestial toilet that’s always backed up and overflowing with shit somewhere. That’s where the T.C.s of the world go when they die. At least, I hope they do. That’s where they belong. Ouch! Shit! Fuck! My fucking back! That hurt! God, look at me! I’m a fucking wreck! Leave it to fucking Ricky to do that much damage in just a few seconds. I’m lucky I’ve still got my teeth. Damn, he can punch! He’s got a fist like a rock. I wonder if he broke my fucking jaw? No, probably not. I don’t think I could move it if he did. And that fucking gun! If I’d been able to think straight, I would’ve made him shoot me. Then it would’ve been all over. All of it. If Ricky shot me, he would’ve killed me for sure. Not like the cops. Ricky would empty the fucking gun into me; no question about it. But to tell you the truth, I could barely think at all. I was so damned scared and it hurt so much that I didn’t exactly know what was going on. I know what he made me do. That’s another first for me. I’ve never had to give a gun a fucking blowjob, either. Yeah, that was just what I wanted to do before I die. If I sound like I’m just brushing it off, well, I’m not. The truth is, it hurt as much as the ass kicking. It was humiliating. It was humiliating because he made me do it. I was so scared, I would’ve done anything he told me to do and he knew it. That was the worst part. He owned me back there. He owned me, and he knew it. I was his bitch and his whore and his slave and his fucking garbage to scrape off of the bottom of his fucking boots, and he knew it. There’s nothing more humiliating than being owned by someone. It’s like he took every last bit of who I am and stuffed something else inside me. And when he was finished, he took it back and threw me back inside myself so I could know just how scared I was of him. So scared, I’d do anything he said. So scared, I’d let him do whatever he wanted to me. I’d have blown them both and swallowed every last drop if he’d told me to do it. And then he brought me back so that I could feel every fucking bit of it. I hope to God you never find out how much that hurts. Because if you did, then I probably wouldn’t be the only one killing herself tonight.
You’re probably wondering why I didn’t fight back. Why didn’t I? Why didn’t I pull my knife and tell him to back the fuck off? Simple: I was too fucking scared. I didn’t fight back because I’m not strong enough. I’m not tough enough. Most of the assholes out here? Sure. I can keep it together. I can fight back. I can even win. But not with Ricky. I’ve been fucking terrified of him almost since the day I ended up out here. He’s made my life a living hell since I’ve known him. He’s pure fucking evil, and something about him just struck a chord with me. The worst part is, he knew it instantly. He saw it in my eyes from day one. Even on the best day, it was all I could do to keep from shitting myself and screaming my head off if I got within fifty feet of him. Tonight I was in a bind, and I saw a way to get the money, and for some stupid reason I thought I could handle it. I should’ve known better. So I guess I brought it on myself. Serves me fucking right, huh? And people say I’m the smart one! God, if they only knew! So I’m sorry if you were expecting me to pull some street ninja move on him and show him who’s the boss. He knows who’s the boss out here. He is. Ask anyone. Everyone’s afraid of him. Do you remember what Milton said about ruling in hell? Well, there you go! This place is hell and Ricky is the devil. And everybody out here knows it.
You know, for a second back there, I thought that was it. I really thought I was dead. But it wasn’t like I felt a sense of relief. Not even close. I thought Ricky would beat me until I couldn’t stand it anymore and then he’s toss me to his friend and they’d take turns raping me until I died. I want to die, but not like that. No one wants to go out like that. There’s no way your soul can rest if you die like that. But I really thought that was how it was going to go down. I thought that’s exactly how I was going to die: right there, in agony and humiliation. Somehow, I thought maybe God was punishing me and that this was only the beginning. But he wasn’t. He was doing something else. He was showing me a different lesson: I survived. I got away. I’m still here. That’s important. It’s important because now I know God was showing me what’s going to happen if I don’t kill myself tonight. He wanted me to remember exactly what it was like to have no fucking control over anything. He wanted me to remember just how bad it’s going to get and how fast it’s going to happen. He wanted me to understand that I’m doing the right thing. And who knows? Maybe that whole thing served a purpose? Maybe after that, I’m guaranteed to get into heaven? Charlie says that’s one of the benefits of living on skid row: we’ll all go to heaven because we already did our time in this hell. After that beating, I think I’m safe taking his word for it.
All right, I need to sit down. Just for a minute. I can do that. I can sit here for a minute. I won’t go to sleep. I won’t pass out. I can’t. But I need to stop. God, I hurt everywhere! I can barely raise my arms above my waist! Every step makes me want to scream. I can’t even turn my head. It hurts too much. I have to sit down for a minute. Just a minute. But I can’t. If I do, I’ll pass out. I’ll fall asleep. I’m so tired. I can’t do this! I can’t do this anymore! Why, God? Why couldn’t this night go easy? Why did you have to let that happen? Why did you have to let any of it happen? I’m so damned tired. I’m afraid I’m going to fall asleep. I can’t. I can’t let that happen. I need to stay awake. How? How do I…I know! Those matches! Thank God I’ve still got them. I used to do this sometimes when I didn’t want to go to sleep on the street. Just light one and hold it against your hand. That’ll keep me awake. The pain keeps you awake. Not like this pain from getting my ass kicked. This kind of pain drains you. It knocks you out cold. But burning pain wakes you up. See? Like this. Fuck! Jesus fucking Christ! God damn! That fucking hurts! Holy fucking shit! That hurts like a fucking son of a bitch! See? It works! No way am I going to sleep through that! Do you believe this shit? I just got beat half to death and here I am, burning myself with a fucking match! I must be the craziest bitch who ever lived! But I have to do it. I can’t pass out. I can’t fall asleep. I’m running out of time. I’ve got to finish this. I’ve got to keep moving. Come on, Miranda! Get up! You’ve got work to do!
Oh my God! It hurts! Every fucking step! It feels like my legs are going to tear apart! Don’t think about it. Don’t think about any of it. Just keep going. It’s not much farther. There, see? I can do it. Just keep moving. Keep walking. Forget about the pain. So it hurts. So what? Everything hurts. Every fucking thing in my life hurts. Why should this be any different? Just shut up and keep moving. A little farther. Just to the end of the block. It’ll still be there. I’ll get my shit and I’ll write my letter and get it to Carl. Then I can finish it. Then I can jump. It’s a hell of a walk back to Miranda’s Place, but just think about how good it’s going to feel when I don’t feel a goddamned thing ever again. Think about that. Come on, girl! You’ve got to do this! Keep moving. Don’t think about the pain. Just keep moving. One step at a time.
There it is. See? I told you. I just need to keep moving and I’ll get there. One step at a time. I did it. I fucking did it! There’s the roach coach. He’s still there. Go on, girl! Get what you came for! Let’s wrap this shit up! Finally!
“Hey, mister! I’m back. I got your money.”
“Jesus fucking Christ! What the hell happened to you?”
“I fell down the stairs.”
“Bullshit! What the fuck did you do? Wrestle a goddamned alligator?”
I never heard that one before, and I’ve had my ass kicked so many times, I thought I’d heard them all.
“Yeah, I guess you could say that. So can we get this over with?”
“Are you crazy? Lady, you need a fucking ambulance!”
“I need some paper and a pen. You said five bucks.”
“The notebook and the pen. You said you’d sell them to me for five bucks. I’ve got the money.”
“You went and got your ass kicked for five bucks?”
When he says it like that, it makes me sound all the more stupid, doesn’t it?
“I guess so. Just give me the shit, OK?”
“Are you fucking serious? Listen to me, lady! You need an ambulance! You are fucked up! You want me to call one?”
“I want you to give me the goddamned notebook and the pen! We had a deal! I got your money!”
“Your head’s bleeding!”
“Like I don’t know that already! Just give me the notebook and the pen!”
“Hey, suit yourself! Here you go. I hope it was worth it.”
“The pen, too.”
“Right here. See? It works, just like I said.”
“Yeah, you’re a real man of your word.”
“Hey, wait a minute, lady.”
“What? You said five bucks! I gave you five bucks!”
“Hey, calm down! I ain’t looking for more money. It’s just…honey, you’re really fucked up! Your head’s bleeding bad! And that eye! Jesus, you look like you can barely stand up! Are you sure you don’t me to call an ambulance?”
Damn, is he the same guy who wouldn’t take three bucks for this shit a minute ago? He’s certainly changed his tune.
“Yeah, I’m sure.”
“I said no ambulance.”
“OK. Well, here. Put this on your head.”
“What is it?”
“Relax. It’s just a bag of ice.”
I must really look pathetic if he’s being nice to me. Maybe I should’ve gotten my ass kicked more often? I’d probably have done better in the world.
“Thanks. Hey, can I get a bottle of water? I’ve got money.”
“Keep your money. Jesus, if I’d have known you were gonna to do something stupid like that…just take it. Here you go. You gonna wash your face?”
“And my hair.”
“Yeah, you got a lot of blood in it.”
Well, as long as he’s being generous…
“Hey, can you see the cut? Can you see where it is?”
“Let me take a look. Yeah, I see it. It’s right on the side, above the ear.”
“Is it bad?”
“Well, I ain’t no doctor, but I’d say you probably need a few stitches.”
That’s what I figured. It hurts too much to be anything less.
“I’m afraid that’s not going to happen.”
“You can’t go to the clinic?”
“They won’t open for a few hours. I’ll just have to tough it out. Don’t worry, I’ve been through it before. I guess you could say I’m used to it by now.”
“What happened, lady? Who the fuck did this to you?”
“Just some asshole. It happens out here.”
“Yeah, I know. That’s why I keep a piece under the seat.”
“Can I borrow it?”
“No way! It’s registered. I can’t have a murder on my piece.”
“How about a suicide?”
“That bad, huh?”
“Look at me. What do you think?”
“I think whoever the fuck did that to you needs to be locked up. You want me to call the cops?”
“What for? What the fuck are they going to do?”
“Not much. Not for you, anyway. You people are pretty fucked out here, ain’t you?”
“Like you wouldn’t believe.”
I’m beginning to think that this is the first time he’s come face to face with the realities of our little nighttime world. If it is, then I don’t envy him. It must be one hell of a shock.
“Here, take these towels. Wash your hair out. But be careful: that cut’s gonna hurt like shit if you touch it!”
“Hey, if I’d have known you’d do something crazy like this; I’d have given you the fucking shit for free!”
Now he tells me!
“Well, it’s not your fault. I didn’t exactly plan on this. It just kind of happened.”
“Honey, a beat-down like that don’t just happen! Whoever did that shit; somebody ought to cap his ass!”
“Are you volunteering?”
“Sorry. That shit’s out of my league.”
“Too bad. Look, I’m going to try to wash this blood out of my hair. If I start screaming, just don’t freak out.”
“Be careful around that gash.”
“Owww! Son of a bitch!”
“I told you!”
Jesus! He wasn’t kidding! Holy shit! That hurts! God, it feels like someone’s driving a knife through my head!
“God, it hurts like a motherfucker!”
“Looks to me like your head ain’t the only thing that hurts, lady. You took some body work too, didn’t you?”
I’m not going to tell him where else I got kicked. He doesn’t need to know that.
“Yeah, that alligator really fucked me up.”
“You need more water?”
“If you’ve got it. Thanks.”
I should really drink some of this shit before I waste it on my hair. With all of the puking I did back there, I’m probably dehydrated as hell.
“Damn! That’s a lot of blood! Honey, you really got to get that looked at. I’m serious. That shit looks bad!”
“How about tonight? You might have a concussion.”
“It wouldn’t be my first.”
“Can you even see out of that eye?”
“Yeah. It’s actually better than it was a few minutes ago.”
“It ain’t gonna be better in the morning; that’s for sure. It’ll probably be swollen shut by then.”
“Tell me about it. Did I get the blood out of my hair?”
“Uh, yeah. You got most of it. You want to try and run a comb through your hair?”
“Have you got one?”
“Right here. Keep it.”
I’m not surprised he doesn’t want it back. Hell, would you want it back? At least I can drag it through my hair. That tells me I got most of the blood out. Thank heaven for small miracles, huh?
“There, see? Good as new.”
“Yeah, right! Honey, have you seen yourself in a mirror?”
“It looks pretty bad, huh?”
“Yeah, but it looks better than it did. Go look in the mirror up front. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
Let’s see how I…Jesus Christ! It’s worse than I thought! Ricky really fucking nailed me in the eye! God, that’s going to be swollen shut in a little while! Christ! Look at my nose! I thought all of that blood on my shirt was from my head! Did he break it? No, it’s sore, but not broken. It looks like he split my lip, too. Let’s see…at least my teeth look OK. None of them look broken or anything. It’s funny. There was a time not long ago when I actually got used to looking like this. I’m not kidding. That should tell you a lot about why I’m going to kill myself tonight.
“Boy, you weren’t kidding! I guess I look like shit, huh?”
“Honey, you look like you got hit by a car, and then the dude backed over you. I know. I’ve seen people get hit by cars. They look just like you.”
“That wouldn’t have hurt as much. Hey, can I get a few more paper towels?”
“Yeah, sure. I got some hand soap here, too. Clean that cut out. Wash your face. You’ll feel better. Those head cuts always bleed really like a bitch. You got to be careful with that shit. Infections, you know?”
“I know. Look, I really appreciate your help.”
“No problem. I’m sorry I was such an asshole before. Like I said, if I’d known you were gonna do something crazy…”
“Don’t sweat it. Every fucking thing I do anymore is crazy. Why should tonight be any different?”
“You can save me the hard-ass routine, honey. You saw your face in the mirror. This shit was definitely different.”
I guess I can’t argue with that. And that’s the point of all of this. If I go back on the street, it won’t be different. Not ever. This shit will be a regular occurrence, just like it was before. It’ll be just like this for the rest of my fucking life. No way am I going to let that happen. Which is basically what I’m about to try to tell Charlie. Jesus, tell him in a fucking letter! It seems so fucking pathetic, doesn’t it?
“Listen, I’m going to sit on those steps over there and write this letter. Would you do me a favor?”
“Sure. What do you need?”
“Just look over at me every few minutes. Make sure I don’t pass out or anything.”
“You think you’re gonna pass out?”
“I don’t know. It kind of feels like it.”
“You really should go to the hospital. You can’t fuck around with a beating like that. And don’t tell me you didn’t get beat! I’ve been working out here a long time. I’ve seen a lot of shit. I know an ass-kicking when I see one. Look, I got a phone. I can call an ambulance. It’s no problem.”
“I wish I could, but I can’t.”
“How come? You got the cops on your ass?”
Actually, yes. And I don’t want to risk them finding me. But that’s clearly why I’m not going to any hospital tonight. They probably wouldn’t let me out in time to finish this thing tonight. I can’t risk that.
“No, it’s nothing like that. Could you just do that for me? Make sure I don’t pass out?”
“OK, I can do that. So what do I do if you do pass out?”
“I don’t know. Throw some water in my face. That ought to do it.”
“What if it doesn’t?”
“In that case, just kick me real hard. It seems to be the thing to do tonight.”
Yeah, I wish I could say it was a first for me. Not by a long shot.
So here it is: the moment of truth. Time to write my final goodbye. What do I say? How do I say goodbye to Charlie and explain to him that I had to kill myself before he got out of the hospital? How do I do that to him? Charlie always says when you can’t find the words, don’t look for them. Just use the ones you’ve got, and maybe the rest of them will come to you. And if they don’t, well, it won’t be poetry, but it’ll be enough. That’s what life out here is, you know. It’s about what’s enough. Out here, we don’t have more than enough of anything. Well, anything except pain, that is. We’ve got that shit in spades. But the rest of it is about what’s enough. That’s what living on the street comes down to. It’s about settling for less. It’s about accepting things. You accept that this is it. Shit happens to you; you accept that that’s how it’s got to be. You accept that some asshole’s going to beat the living shit out of you just because he can and because he gets off on it. You accept that you’re going to die tonight and that it’s the best thing that ever happened to you. You accept that Charlie’s not here and you can’t get to him and there isn’t a damned thing you can do about it. You accept that all you can do is write him a letter, even though you can’t find the right words. You just say what you feel and what you know and you don’t overthink it and you don’t hold back. Tell it like it is; not like how you want it to be. That’s what I’m going to do. It’s all I can do. I’ll say what I feel. It probably won’t make a fucking bit of sense when it’s done, but that’s OK. Charlie will make sense of it. Charlie can make sense out of anything. Even me. How’s that for working a miracle? God, I wish he was here. All of this would be worth it if he was here.
It’s finished. And I didn’t even pass out, though I felt like I was going to start puking again. And it wasn’t easy to write when I was fighting back tears the whole time. But I did it. So there it is: my last testament. It’s not my last will, seeing as I don’t have shit to leave anyone. Even if I did, I’d leave it all to Charlie. Damn! My fingers are fucking killing me! I haven’t written that much since high school. Would you look at this? I’ve got a fucking blister on my finger from this goddamned pen! God, when was the last time that happened? I used to get those a lot in school. I’d wrap a piece of tape around my finger before a big test so I could keep writing without having to scream out loud. I don’t know why, but that spot on my finger never toughened up. I guess none of me ever toughened up enough. Anyway, it’s done. Six pages. Six pages to tell the only friend I’ve got in the world that I can’t do it anymore and this is how it has to be. This is how it has to end. Six pages to say goodbye and thanks for everything and I love you. Six pages to put the last fucking word on my whole life. It really doesn’t seem like much. How do you sum up a person’s whole life in six fucking pages? How do you even end it with that? People should be worth more than six pages. Even a piece of shit like me. Even a useless, worthless, no-good piece of fucking shit like me.
Don’t think for a minute that I’m being melodramatic. I’m not. Sitting there and writing this letter, I kept thinking about what happened. About getting my fucking ass kicked, that is. It suddenly hit me that all of that tough talk I was giving you was bullshit. What I did to T.C. does bother me. In fact, it makes me feel like total shit. Ricky beat me black and blue because he’s an evil fucking asshole and he could do it. He knew I couldn’t fight back. Not against him. Not even if I had a fucking machine gun. He did it because he knew he could do it and I’d just sit there and take it. He got off on that. So what did I do? I beat the shit out of T.C. because I could and it made me feel better. I knew he couldn’t fight back, just like I couldn’t fight back. I knew I could do whatever I wanted to him. Yeah, he set me up and I got beat to shit because of it. So maybe he deserved it. But that didn’t mean I had to be the one to give it to him. But I did. I gave it to him in spades. I heard him scream and cry and beg me to stop, and I did it anyway, just like Ricky did it to me. I got off on his fear and his pain and watching him cry just like Ricky got off on mine. I guess that means that Ricky and I are pretty much the same. We’re assholes. We’re evil. We don’t give a shit about anybody but ourselves. We do what we do and we don’t give a shit about how it affects anyone else. Ricky’s just a lot more honest about it than I am. He probably doesn’t feel bad about it later, but does that really make me any better than him? I told you before: this place is about results. It’s not about the cause; it’s about the effect. T.C.’s probably hiding in an alcove right now, crying his eyes out and trying to wipe the blood off of his face. He’s probably screaming in agony from that gash I cut across his face. He’s probably scared out of his mind, too. Scared to death. I’ll bet he thinks I’m going to snitch him off to Ricky. He’s out here somewhere, alone and in pain and scared out of his fucking mind just like me, and it’s all because of me. That’s the effect. That’s all that counts. Yeah, he fucked me over. But look what I did to him. I did to him what Ricky did to me. And if there was anyone out here weaker than T.C., then he’d do the same shit to them. The strong prey on the weak. They get off on the pain they inflict. We all do it and we’re all as guilty as hell and we’ll probably burn there for it. And that’s what I’m going to take to the grave with me tonight. I’m sorry, T.C. I really am. I’m sorry I kicked your ass and I’m sorry I cut you and I’m sorry I scared you. I’m sorry I made you feel the same shit Ricky made me feel. I’m sorry I broke you like he broke me. Nobody should have to go through that. If I had the time, I’d go looking for you so that I could tell you in person. But I don’t. That’s on me. I hope someday you can forgive me. And I’ll understand if you don’t. But at least after tonight, you’ll never have to be afraid of me again.
I guess I’d better give this shit back to the roach coach guy. I don’t need it anymore. I got what I needed. And it’s still useful. Out here at night, we learn never to waste anything. Anything but ourselves, that is.
“Hey, I’m done. Thanks for watching out for me.”
“Jesus, honey! What? Were you writing a goddamned novel?”
“No, just a letter.”
“That must be some letter!”
“Who the fuck is worth six pages out here?”
“He must be some friend.”
“You can say that again.”
“Hey, how come you’re crying?”
“I said, how come you’re crying?”
“I’m not crying.”
“Yeah, you are. The tears on your face are a dead giveaway.”
Shit! I didn’t even notice. Of course, my face is pretty banged up right now. It hurts a little too much to notice the tears.
“Oh, sorry. I didn’t…It’s just been a really bad night.”
“Yeah, I can see that. You want to sit here for a while? I mean, I’m just saying, you don’t look like you should be alone right now.”
“I’ll be OK. Listen, I want to thank you again. You know, for the help.”
“Don’t mention it. Honey, I swear! If I thought you were gonna do something that fucking crazy…”
“I know. And it wasn’t your fault. Like I said, I didn’t see this coming.”
“I still feel like shit about it. All that for a goddamned notebook and a pen.”
“Don’t feel bad. It’s not like it’s never happened to me before.”
“Out here at night? I can believe it. Hey, you want something to eat? On the house.”
“Thanks, but right now, I couldn’t keep it down. I already puked my guts out back there.”
“Yeah, I know. You got puke all over your jacket.”
“Sorry about that. I’ll bet it stinks like hell. I tried to wipe it off. I guess I missed some of it.”
“You know that means you probably got a concussion, right?”
You’ll notice how everybody out here knows about the signs of a concussion. That should tell you how many people get their asses beat to shit every fucking night on skid row. I mean, most of us couldn’t even spell “concussion,” but we can tell you as much about them as a neurosurgeon could. Weird, huh?
“Been there; done that. Hey, here’s your notebook and your pen. You can have them back.”
“No, you bought it. You keep it.”
“Thanks, but I don’t need it anymore. I’m sure you can use it. I tried not to get any blood on it. I think it’s OK.”
“OK, how about something else? Do you want something to drink?”
Damn! This is fucking unheard-of generosity out here! I must look more pathetic than I thought! I’d better milk it for everything I can get while it lasts.
“Yeah, now that you mention it. How much for a soda?”
“No charge. I think you paid enough already. Don’t you?”
“Yeah. Thanks. Hey, have you got any tape?”
“What? You mean like duct tape?”
“No, scotch tape.”
“Yeah, I got some. You ain’t gonna put it on that cut, are you?”
“No, I need it for something else. I just need a few strips.”
“Here you go.”
“You want some money for this?”
“No. Use what you need. What are you doing, anyway?”
“Writing down an address. See? You cover it with the tape. It’s like sealing it in plastic. It protects it. That way, it doesn’t get messed up. Think of it as a ghetto laminate.”
“Nothing. It’s something a friend taught me. He knows everything about living out here. He says if you want to preserve a piece of paper, then this is the way to do it. Thanks.”
“Don’t mention it.”
“I am mentioning it. Really, I mean it. Thank you.”
There’s no way in hell I’m not going to thank him for being so nice to me. Even if all of this shit could’ve been avoided if he’d been this nice in the first place. I’ve learned that if someone’s kind to you, it doesn’t matter if they were an asshole before. You thank them for being good to you now.
“You’re welcome. Here’s your soda, honey. Are you gonna to be able to keep it down?”
“I hope so. I just hope I can open my mouth wide enough to drink it.”
“I’ll get you a straw. Hey, are you sure you don’t want me to call you an ambulance?”
“Yeah, I’m sure. But thanks anyway.”
“OK, look: I’m gonna stay here later than usual. Try to make a little more money before I pack it in. It’s been a slow night.”
“I wish I could say the same.”
“I should be here ’till about three-thirty or four. You need anything else; you come by. I’ll see what I can do.”
“I appreciate that.”
“Honey, you took one hell of a beating. Whoever did it, they ought to be in a goddamned cage! I really think you should tell the cops. Anyone who would do that shit to you; they’re gonna do it to someone else, eventually.”
“I’ll think about it. Oh, by the way, it’s Miranda. Not honey.”
“OK, Miranda. I’m Arturo. You take care of yourself, OK? You watch your back. Stay away from those assholes. I mean it.”
I believe he does. God, I’d like to put in a good word for Arturo, here. Do something nice for him. As it turns out, he’s a pretty good guy. There’s nothing I can do for him, but you can, so I’m asking. He earned it.