Miranda's Dance

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Chapter Twenty-Seven

God, this whole fucking night is like a lesson in how I don’t have control over jack shit! I certainly haven’t been calling the plays so far. And the ones I did call all ended up going to shit. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. That’s pretty typical of me. I’ve called a shitload of bad plays in my life. Dear God, none of this was supposed to happen tonight. I had it all planned out perfectly. It was all going to be so easy. One last sunset. One last look at the sun. Then I’d wander around the old places and try to get some final sense of it all. Maybe it would help when I have to explain myself up there? I’d see a few people and wave to them one last time. Laugh with a few of the old timers. Remember something ridiculous that was so funny it made us all forget we were homeless and broke and living like rats. I’d look at some of the places that just blew me away and think about how they’ll still be here years after I’m gone. Then I’d go see Charlie and tell him that I can’t go on any longer. Tonight’s the night. He’d be disappointed, but he’d understand because he always understands everything. Then he’d say something brilliant that would make me feel a whole lot better and we’d hang out for the rest of the night. Then we’d say goodbye and that would be it. I’d go back to Miranda’s Place and stare at the Emerald City one last time. I’d make sure I had one last beautiful vision in my head when I go. I’d wait until just before sunrise. Just before the light broke over the horizon. Then I’d jump off of the roof. I figured it would take about three seconds to hit the pavement. Three seconds. I can hold it together for three seconds. One, two, three. See? I can do that.

But it didn’t happen that way. Nothing went right. Tonight’s been nothing but fucking hell. And you know something? I should’ve seen it coming. Not just because I’ve been cursed for most of my life and everything I touch turns to shit. No, I should’ve known I was headed for a fucking disaster the minute I heard Charlie was sick in the hospital. The second I heard that, I should’ve slit my fucking throat because that meant I was in for a load of shit the size of Mount Everest. I know because it’s happened before. It has. Oh, this isn’t the first time. Not by a long shot. That’s the way it works for me: Charlie gets really sick and life takes a ten-ton shit right on my fucking face. God, if I wasn’t so angry with myself for kicking the crap out of T.C., I’d probably be furious with Charlie for getting sick and putting me through all of this shit. I’d want to strangle him. I’d want to kill him for doing this to me. No, I wouldn’t. Well, not exactly. I’d be furious, but that’s not why. The truth is, I’d be furious because him being really sick makes me remember something I’ve worked long and hard to forget. The nightmare of all nightmares. Yeah, it’s that one I hinted at earlier. It’s the one time where I crossed the line. My line. The one I said I’d never cross. It happened when Charlie got really sick once before. Believe me, this was one memory I had no intention of revisiting, but here I am and it’s staring me right in the face. Why did I think I could dodge that bullet? I should have known better. I wasn’t going to tell you about it. I wasn’t ever going to tell anyone about it. I was going to take that one with me to the grave. It’s always been too painful to think about; let alone to talk about it. I never told anyone about this. Not even Charlie. But I said I’d tell you everything, right? No secrets. I said I’d tell you everything this fucking place ever did to me so you’d understand. Fair enough. Here it is. If I get stuck, just bear with me, OK? This isn’t going to be easy for me.

About a month after I got the room at the SRO, Charlie got really sick. Dangerously sick. The weather was hell and he got pneumonia, just like tonight. He was in bad shape – seriously bad shape. I mean, I’ve seen him fucked up before, but never like that. I found him lying at the far end of the Narrow Alley and I thought he was going to die right there. He had shit like mucous coming out of his mouth, and he could barely breathe. He was dying; I’m sure of it. Needless to say, no one would lift a finger to help him. No one helps anyone out here – well, except for Charlie. He helps you. But even though everyone knows him and respects him and everything, they just figured his time was up and he was better off dead, like everyone else out here. It was really cold and raining like hell and the missions were packed to the gills. He couldn’t get a cot. The clinic didn’t do anything for him except give him a bottle of pills. They could’ve been sugar pills for all I knew. Whatever they were, they didn’t do him a damned bit of good. No, when you get pneumonia, about the only thing that’ll save your ass is bed rest in a warm room. Sticking him in an abandoned building wouldn’t do him any good. He might have stayed dry, but that wasn’t enough. He just would’ve died slower. And the hospital wouldn’t admit him because he’s homeless and they don’t want us unless they’re forced to take us. There was just no place for Charlie to go, and he knew it. He told me he was sure this was it. He was going to die. And I believed him.

And here I was with a reasonably clean, warm room for the first time in years. I mean, it isn’t great. It’s a shoebox with a window and one lightbulb on the ceiling, but it’s warm and it has a bed and compared to how I’d been living, it was the fucking Taj Mahal. So I had just what he needed. I knew enough about living on the street by then to know that his only chance was to get him into my room. He could sleep in my bed and I’d sleep on the floor. Hey, it’s a little bed and he’s a pretty fat guy. Anyway, no problem, right? Just drag his fat ass back to the room and tuck him in. Wrong! You see, the rules restrict visitors in the rooms during the day, and they say absolutely, positively no overnight visitors. No exceptions. They’re not kidding, either. These places take their rules very seriously. I’ve seen people get evicted just for lighting up a cigarette in the lobby. There was no way I could sneak a sick old man past the asshole who ran the place. Back then, it was this fat, nasty, disgusting motherfucker named Phil who hated everybody and really got off on watching people suffer. He was a lot like Ricky, but without the charm and the cowboy boots. Just the sort of guy you want running the front desk at a rooming house for desperate people, huh? I thought about trying to bribe him, but I knew other people who tried that and he told them to fuck off. He said he wouldn’t risk his job for a few bucks. Yeah, right! The only reason he didn’t need the money was because he was dealing crack out of the front desk! Everybody knew it. I guess that was the one rule they didn’t enforce. Besides, I didn’t have any money and he didn’t need my dope. So paying off the motherfucker wasn’t an option.

But I had another option. You see, I was the only woman under sixty living in the place. Since I’d gotten off of the street and got my hair cut and started taking a bath on a regular basis, Phil decided I looked pretty good. He was always coming on to me and I always told him to get lost. The thought of that fucking pig touching me was enough to make me puke. But I had to get Charlie inside or he was going to die. The way I saw it, I didn’t have a choice. I went to Phil and told him that Charlie was sick and I needed him to stay in my room for a few days. I didn’t say anything more. I didn’t have to. I knew exactly what would happen next. True to form, Phil got right around to business. He quoted the rules and said he’d be risking his job and what was in it for him? I said what do you want? Yeah, as if I didn’t already know! So he said he’d let Charlie stay if I’d blow him. Not once, but every day that Charlie was there. What could I do? It was either that or let Charlie die. Besides, it was no big deal, right? I’ve done lots of guys in my day. What’s one more, right? So I said OK. Then right there, he said I had to prove I was serious. He called it an audition. He brought me around behind the front desk and dropped his pants. Jesus! There were people in the lobby! But he didn’t care. He told me to start sucking or forget it. God, I just wanted to die right then and there! But I couldn’t let Charlie down. I just couldn’t. So I got down on my knees, took a deep breath, grabbed his filthy dick and sucked him dry. He made these groaning noises the whole time that made me feel like someone was slicing me open with a fucking razor blade. It seemed like I was back there forever, sucking away on this filthy pig’s dick. When he finally came, he blew his load all over my face like a fucking fire hose. He smiled and said I passed the audition. Gee, I guess it’s nice to know I’m still good at something.

I went into the bathroom and brushed my teeth until my fucking gums bled. Then I turned the water on in the tub and scrubbed my face and hair until my skin was nearly raw. I must’ve been in there for an hour, trying to scrub every fucking speck of that piece of shit off of my face. I told myself I didn’t have time to dwell on it. I needed to go get Charlie. I knew every minute he was out there was another minute closer to death. But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t move. I literally couldn’t move an inch. The harder I tried, the worse it got. Finally, I fell down on the bathroom floor. I just fucking collapsed. It was like I was paralyzed or something. I couldn’t even stand up. I tried, but my legs wouldn’t move. I was shaking all over. I was shaking so hard it hurt. It scared me. Then I just broke down and cried. I couldn’t stop crying no matter how hard I tried. I had this pain inside me that was a million times worse than anything I’d ever felt before. I didn’t think it was possible to feel worse than I had for the last six years, but I did. I wanted to die. Even worse than tonight, I wanted to die right then and there. If I could’ve moved my arms, I think I would’ve slit my wrists. But I couldn’t. I couldn’t do anything. I begged God to kill me right there, but he didn’t. And that’s when I knew I was finished. The last piece of the old me was gone. I’d thrown it away, and there was no getting it back.

You see, even after everything I’d been through, there was one thing I hadn’t done. There was one line I’d never crossed. Even after I wound up out on the street, even after I became a lowlife junkie, I swore I’d never be a whore. I told you about that already. I swore I’d never sell my body to some pig to do with as he pleased just because I needed the money. I know a lot of women out here do that. Like I said before, I’m not ragging on them or anything. People do what they have to do. If they can live with it, then so be it. They’re stronger than me. But I just couldn’t bring myself to do it, no matter how bad things got. It was like that last piece of my old self that I’d managed to hang onto after all of the pain and failure and degradation in my life. I swore I would never, ever let go of it. That last sliver of the little girl that I used to be before I learned about mental illness and insanity and humiliation and heroin and this God-awful place. I was sure it was the only thing that kept my soul inside my body. Without it, I’d lose my soul. I wouldn’t be even remotely human anymore. Without it, the little girl who used to climb trees and smile all the time and didn’t have a care in the world would be dead forever. It would kill her. I would kill her. I’d never be able to get her back; not even in a dream. Maybe it sounds corny to you, but it was all I had left. It meant everything to me. And now it was gone.

I tried to tell myself it wasn’t like that. You know, that I wasn’t really a whore. I tried to tell myself that I wasn’t some fucking strawberry who sold her body for a few bucks or a deck of smack or something. I tried to tell myself that I let that filthy pig come all over my face like he was pissing in a toilet because it was the only way to save the one person out here who gave a shit about me. I did everything I could to convince myself of that. But it didn’t work. I mean, I knew it was true, but it didn’t make any difference. I guess…I don’t know. I felt like…I felt like I’d been raped. I felt worse than if I’d been raped. I felt worse because a woman doesn’t consent to be raped. But I did. It was my idea, remember? I thought it up. I consented to it. I approached him first. I did this to myself. I knew what he was going to do and I went along with it anyway. I let that fucking pig use me for a sex toy and it was my idea and I could never take it back. Not only that, but I knew that he was going to do it again and again and again and I was going to let him. And look how I ended up: Charlie was out there in the pouring rain, dying of pneumonia and I had a way to save him. Time was of the essence. But there I was, sitting on the bathroom floor and crying my eyes out like a fucking baby and wishing I was the one with pneumonia so that I could die and never have to think about it again. God, I hated myself for that! I hated myself for what I let that son of a bitch do to me and I hated myself for being so fucking selfish that I was lying there feeling sorry for myself instead of out there saving Charlie’s life. I just wanted to drown myself in the tub. I think I actually filled it up with water so I could do it. I’m not sure. I don’t know why I didn’t do it. Yes, I do. Because I’m a worthless piece of shit, that’s why. Anyway, I don’t know how long I just sat there. An hour maybe? Maybe more? I finally pulled myself together and went to get Charlie. The look that fucking pig Phil gave me on the way out the door made me hate him more than I’ve ever hated anyone in my life! I was pretty sure I was going to kill him when it was over. I know I told myself I’d do it. But who was I kidding? I didn’t have the guts to go through with it. If I were that strong, I never would’ve made a deal with that pig to blow him. No, I was a whore and a fucking coward and Phil knew it and so did I. He knew he had me right where he wanted me, and he didn’t even have to lift a finger to get me there. I did it all for him. Wasn’t that accommodating of me? Serving myself up to him on a silver platter? What a fucking idiot! Christ, I deserved whatever I got!

Charlie nearly died the first night. I didn’t know what the fuck to do. Maybe there was nothing I could do? He made these horrible gurgling sounds when he breathed, you know, like he was drowning. That’s what pneumonia is: it’s drowning without the water. Your lungs fill with fluid and you drown. Even if it doesn’t kill you, it scars your lungs so that if you get it again, it’s a lot worse. The scarring can fuck you up big time. Charlie’s had pneumonia lots of times, so this time was worse than ever for him. He could barely swallow the pills he got from the clinic. I was afraid he was going to choke on them. He was so sick that he actually started hallucinating. He was delirious. I felt helpless. At least my timing was good. As if the fucking downpour wasn’t bad enough, the temperature dropped into the basement that night. I couldn’t believe how cold it got. I halfway expected it to start snowing. If Charlie had been outside, he would have died for sure. God, he was a mess! I’ve never seen anyone that sick in my life. In the normal world, people that sick go to the hospital. But not here. Out here, you have to tough it out. You live or you die. It’s that simple. I stayed up with him all night. Hey, it wasn’t like I had to go to work in the morning, right? I wanted to make sure I was there for him when he died. I’d pretty much decided he wasn’t going to make it, but somehow he did. Charlie’s got a strength I can’t explain. I don’t know where it comes from. I honestly believe anyone else would have croaked in ten seconds if they’d been that sick; even if they hadn’t lived on the street for fifty years or so. But the motherfucker pulled through. He sort of came around late the next day. I read to him when he was awake. Hemingway. The Old Man and the Sea. It was the only book I had. Charlie told me a long time ago that I had to read it, and I found a copy at the Salvation Army store for ten cents. I only had five cents, but the old lady there said she’d sell it to me for that as long as I promised to read it. I gave her my word, and I kept it. I’m not sure why Charlie wanted me to read it. Maybe he thought I’d draw strength from Santiago’s example? After all, Santiago never gave up; even after the sharks ate his prized marlin. The one he worked so hard to bring in. His life was simple and he didn’t have two nickels to rub together and call a dime, but it was enough because he was proud of the man that he was. Maybe Charlie was hoping that somehow I might learn to be satisfied with the woman I was? Yeah, right! I wonder how satisfied Charlie would expect me to be if he knew I’d become a goddamned whore?

To be honest, I knew he never would’ve let me do it. He’d rather die than stand by and let me sell myself to some piece of shit. He would’ve slit his own throat just to make sure I didn’t do it. Needless to say, I didn’t tell him about it. I never told him. Charlie was there for five days before he was well enough to get around on his own. Those were the five worst days of my life. Every time I left the room, that fucking asshole Phil was waiting for me. I couldn’t stay away because Charlie needed me. Phil would drag me into an empty room with his hand up my shirt and relish every moment of it. Once inside, he’d order me to strip. It was just like they do when they throw you in jail. Strip your clothes off, honey. Bend over and grab your ankles. Do it. He’d run his fat hands all over me while I sucked him off and after he came, I’d have to tell him how great he was and how much I liked sucking his filthy fucking dick. At first, I thought I was lucky it didn’t go any further than that, but that didn’t last. The morning of the third day, Phil let me know that getting blown wasn’t enough. The price was going up. I’d just sucked him dry and I was wiping my face off and trying not to puke, but he didn’t put his pants on. When I reached for my clothes, he told me we weren’t done yet. I asked him what he meant, and he pushed me onto the bed and got on top of me. He squeezed my tit so hard I thought he was going to tear it off. That’s when he said he was going to fuck me. I said that wasn’t part of the deal, but Charlie was still really sick and he said he’d throw us both out on the street if I didn’t fuck him. I thought it couldn’t get any worse than when I dropped to my knees and blew that piece of shit, but I swear to God, this hit me a thousand times harder. I don’t know what to compare it to. Rape? It was worse than that. I guess I saw it coming. I mean, I kind of thought it would come to this eventually, but when it did, it completely blindsided me. Anyway, what could I do? I started this shit. I wanted something from him and he wanted something from me, so I said OK. The prick smiled and dragged his tongue across my face. Then he pushed my legs apart and shoved his dick into me. He grabbed me by my tits and just kept shoving himself into me. He squeezed so hard his fingers left bruises. And it hurt! God, it hurt so much! I closed my eyes and tried to hold my breath, but I couldn’t get away from it. I could feel him. I could smell him. I could hear him. He pressed down on me so hard that I almost couldn’t breathe. When he saw I had my eyes closed, he smacked me across the face and made me open them. He said he didn’t want me to miss anything. Then he grabbed me by the throat. It felt like he was choking me. Maybe he was? I guess he liked it rough. For some reason, I thought that all of a sudden I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I felt like I had ants crawling all over me and my head felt like it was going to explode. I got these terrible muscle spasms in my gut. At least, I think I did. I don’t know what it was. And all the while, I felt everything he did to me. Every fucking thing. Every push, every touch, every breath, every grunt and groan. It seemed like it went on for hours. I don’t know how long it really went on for. Anyway, when he finally finished, he wiped his dick with my shirt and told me I had better be a lot more enthusiastic the next time. Apparently, he didn’t like the fact that I just laid there and prayed for it to be over. Gee, sorry to disappoint you, motherfucker!

The next thing I knew, I was stretched out on the floor again, completely losing it. I just sat there, naked and covered with his filthy fucking sweat and crying my eyes out. I held my arms together so tight, I damn near popped them out of the sockets. It was like I was holding onto a rope for dear life. For a minute, I thought I was really going to die. I got all spastic when I tried to breathe, and I couldn’t get any air in. The harder I tried to breathe, the worse it got. I could exhale, but for some reason I couldn’t inhale. The air wouldn’t go in. I started choking. It scared the shit out of me. Maybe it was because of the way he roughed me up? I don’t know. God, I thought it couldn’t get any worse, but it did. Oh, did it ever! I was crying so hard my eyes felt like they were burning. I had so much snot coming out of my nose, it was dripping on the floor. I thought I was going to piss on myself. It was like I lost control of every part of my body at once. It was all I could do to put my clothes back on. I didn’t even want to touch myself because I felt so goddamned disgusting. Jesus, I couldn’t even wash myself off first, and I told you what he did with my shirt. Yeah, putting my shirt back on after he’d used it for a fucking cum rag was a blast! But you know what the worst part of it was? I was furious at myself for coming unglued because of it! I hated myself for being such a fucking crybaby! I mean, what was the big deal? It was just sex. I sure as hell wasn’t a virgin. I told you that when I was a teenager, I wasn’t exactly choosy about who I slept with. I’d had sex with guys that I wasn’t particularly crazy about. Hell, I’d fucked guys I didn’t even really like. Why was this any different? Besides, I wasn’t some stupid little schoolgirl. I wasn’t naive. I was a homeless junkie. I was street scum. I knew how things worked out here. Phil was a monster, but so was everyone else. Even me. So what was the big deal? Why was I being such a fucking crybaby about it? I was getting something I needed, and he was getting something he wanted. That’s par for the course out here. And it wasn’t like it cost me anything, right? Why was I acting like this? What the fuck was wrong with me? I was like, Christ, get over it Miranda! This is your life! Deal with it! You’re a woman. You’re a young woman in a fucking snake pit where women aren’t easy to find. What did you expect? Did you really think you were going to get through life in this shithole without having to use sex as a tool? Were you really that fucking stupid? Come on! Get your shit together, girl! He’s not using you! You’re using him! Get over it! Yeah, that’s what I kept telling myself. I mean, it all made sense. And after what I’d been through on the street, it shouldn’t have been so bad. So how come it never sank in? How come it never made me feel any better? I mean, it was all true, wasn’t it? Wasn’t it?

He did me eight times before it was over. Eight fucking times. I remember every second of each one of them. Each one was worse than the time before it. The last time the fucking pig did me was in the bathroom, about an hour before Charlie left. I made the mistake of telling Phil that Charlie would be leaving that afternoon, so I guess he figured he had to grab one more fuck before the deal was off. Hey, wouldn’t anybody? It didn’t cost him anything, so why not? I was in there taking a shower and he unlocked the door. Being the manager, he had a key. He shut the door and took off his clothes like it was nothing. Then he got in the tub and told me that this was the last one so I should make it count. I wasn’t really sure what he meant by that, but it wasn’t long before I found out. I thought the other times were hell, but they were nothing compared to this one. This time he nearly fucked me to death. I mean it. He damn near killed me. Part of it was that it happened in the bathroom, and I always felt really scared taking a shower in there. You see, the bathrooms in the SRO are all common bathrooms. They’re small and there’s just one on every floor. The lock on the door isn’t much, and I was always afraid of someone walking in on me while I was in there. Maybe I was being ridiculous? I mean, I’m not what you’d call modest. But for whatever reason, the thought of someone walking in on me when I was standing there naked in the shower always terrified me. It was like a little voice in my head told me that if someone were going to get me, that’s where it would happen. And here it was, happening right now. My own private nightmare was coming true and there wasn’t a damned thing I could do about it. I mean, this was my idea, remember? Whatever I got; I asked for it. It was my own fucking fault.

Anyway, he got behind me and grabbed my hips. He spread my legs with his knee and grabbed me by the neck and leaned me forward. I was spread-eagle against the shower wall like a cop was searching me in an alley. The water was pouring down my back. Then he pushed forward and shoved his dick in me. I could feel him inside me. He shoved himself into me harder than ever before. Maybe it had something to do with the shower, but he really got into it this time. It hurt like you can’t imagine. He grabbed my hair and pulled my head back really hard. For a minute there, I thought he was going to snap my neck. The water was pouring down on my face and I couldn’t turn away because he had my hair in his fist and he wouldn’t let me go. I tried to pull away just so I could breathe. I guess he thought I was struggling. That really got him excited. He pulled my head back even harder. Then he jammed himself into me so hard I hit my face against the wall. Every thrust slammed my face against the wall. Over and over again. I think that just turned him on even more. The floor of the tub was slippery and there wasn’t anything to hold onto and he was jerking me up and down and back and forth like a fucking rag doll. I could hear him grunting and groaning the whole time. He was having the time of his fucking life. There was no way I could just zone out and detach myself from what was happening. I was feeling every goddamned second of it. I wasn’t going anywhere until he was done. It seemed like it took him forever to come. Like he said, this one had to count. I never would have imagined that sex could be so painful, but this was sheer fucking agony. Like I said, I really thought it was going to kill me that time.

After what seemed like a couple of years, it was over. When he finished, he let go of me like I was a bag of garbage or something. It was like he just dropped me. I nearly lost my footing. It was all I could do to keep from falling onto the floor. I was shaking. I was freezing cold, but it wasn’t the water or anything. It was like all the blood had run out of me or something. Every inch of my body ached. I felt like I’d been hit by a car. It hurt that much. He’d slammed my face against the wall so hard that it was amazing he didn’t break a bone. I remember I actually checked to make sure he hadn’t knocked out any of my teeth. I was still gasping for breath because when he wrenched my head back I swallowed a bunch of water. It went down the wrong pipe and I was coughing it up. I was fumbling to turn the water off. For some reason, I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t steady my brain enough to turn a fucking knob. Pretty damned pathetic, huh? Anyway, I kept telling myself that it was over and I’d never ever touch that fucking pig again and if he ever so much as laid a finger on me, I’d cut his fucking dick off and stuff it down his throat. I meant it, too. Oh, and he wasn’t done humiliating me yet. Hell, no! The son of a bitch got out of the tub and dried himself off with the only towel I had, and then he walked out like it was nothing. He took my towel with him. I guess he thought it would be funny to make me walk through the hallway naked and soaking wet. Give all the guys a show. Maybe give them a few ideas, too. Hey, everybody! She’s a free fuck! Well, I didn’t think about that. I couldn’t think about it. I could hardly think at all. Since I was in the shower already, I turned the water back on and started scrubbing myself down to make sure there wasn’t a trace of him left on me. I actually scrubbed myself with a toilet brush they kept beside the bowl. Can you believe it? I didn’t care. I just wanted the roughest, coarsest thing I could find to scrape his shit off of me. It wasn’t like the toilet was any more disgusting than he was. I scrubbed myself raw with that thing. I checked between my legs to see if I was bleeding, seeing as how hard he’d fucked me. I thought for sure that he’d done some permanent damage. I was relieved to see that I wasn’t. Thank heaven for small miracles, right?

I made it back to my room without anybody seeing me. I guess all the drunks in the place were still sleeping last night’s bender off. Thank God Charlie was asleep so I didn’t have to explain why I was walking in on him naked. I got dressed and I sat in a corner on the floor and cried. I buried my head in my coat so Charlie wouldn’t hear me. I hated the whole world and everyone in it. I had to bang my fists against the floor to remind myself that I wasn’t still in that shower and that asshole wasn’t still fucking my brains out and choking the life out of me at the same time. And that’s when it hit me. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before, but I didn’t. And now I just came unglued! Oh, my God! The son of a bitch never used a fucking rubber! He’d been fucking my brains out day and night for three days and he never once used a rubber! Jesus Christ! What if I was pregnant? What if that piece of shit got me pregnant? I wasn’t on the pill. They don’t hand out birth control pills at the missions. And since I wasn’t out fucking guys, I didn’t think to go to the clinic and ask for them. Oh, my fucking God! What do I do now? What am I going to do if that filthy fucking pig knocked me up? The thought of that asshole getting me pregnant was too much to take. I just lost it. I ran down the hall and shut myself in the broom closet. I stabbed at the door with my knife. I stabbed at it over and over again. I was tearing chunks of it out, I was hitting it so hard. Maybe I was pretending it was that piece of shit Phil? Then I started screaming. I’m not sure why I did that. I just did. I don’t know how long I was in there. I just know I screamed as loud as I could for as long as I could. How the hell no one heard it is beyond me, but apparently they didn’t. Nobody came to see what was going on. I guess that’s not surprising. The SRO isn’t what you’d call a particularly classy place. People scream in there all the time.

After Charlie left, I went to the clinic and asked for that “morning after” pill that keeps you from getting pregnant after you’ve had sex. Of course, that pig had been fucking me left and right for days. The “morning after” was three days ago. Was it too late for the pill to work? I didn’t know. And as it turned out, it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter because they wouldn’t give it to me. The woman at the clinic took one look at the bruises on me and said I had to file a police report. She was sure I’d been raped. She said he wasn’t allowed to give me anything until I talked to the cops. I didn’t know if that was true – you’d be amazed at some of the ridiculous shit people at those clinics tell you – but I wasn’t about to argue with her. I mean, what was I going to tell her? Yeah, I agreed to fuck a sadist for a few days while this sick old junkie convalesces in my bed in violation of the SRO’s occupancy rules? Oh, sure! That would’ve gone over well! She’d have called me a fucking whore, laughed me out of the clinic, and probably reported me. I’d have been thrown out of my room in a fucking heartbeat and they’d have given Phil a high-five for getting away with it. No, I definitely wasn’t going to risk that. What’s done is done, right? So then the woman starts really pressing me about reporting it to the cops. I told her I wasn’t raped and I didn’t want to file any fucking report. Well, half of me wanted to, but I knew it was pointless. I mean, I knew what I was doing and I knew it would come to that even before I approached Phil about letting Charlie stay there. Hey, I’m crazy; not stupid. Well, obviously I am stupid, but I wasn’t that stupid. I was a big girl. I knew what I was getting into. I couldn’t very well claim he forced me to do it. Circumstances forced me to do it. My own stupid, fucked-up excuse for a conscience forced me to do it. If I’d been willing to let Charlie die, it never would have happened. Did that make it Charlie’s fault? Hell, no! He had nothing to do with it. He didn’t ask for my help and I practically had to drag him into my room because he knew it was against the rules and I was risking being kicked out. No, it was my fault. I made a choice, and now I had to live with it. And I had to live with the fact that I might be pregnant because I was too fucking stupid to tell the bastard to slide a fucking glove over his dick before I let him shove it into me. And so there it was: I’d whored myself out and got my ass thoroughly used and abused for it and it was all my fault. I had no one to blame but myself. Way to go, Miranda! I always knew you’d end up like this. Serves you fucking right!

So not only was I a whore, but I was a really stupid whore. And now I might be pregnant because I was such a stupid whore. The next few weeks were pure hell. Not only did I have to look at that fucking pig Phil every day and watch him smile and pretend he was jacking off all over my face, but he constantly insisted that he could make it worth my while to continue our “relationship.” Christ, every time he called what he did to me our “relationship,” I wanted to rip his fucking eyes out with my bare hands and then cut my stomach open like those Japanese Samurai used to do! The thought of that pig’s devil spawn growing inside me was more than I could stand. I ripped off an anatomy book from the library and got a bunch of coat hangers just in case. The thought of lying on the floor, jamming a wire hook into my cunt, twisting it around and about and possibly pulling out my intestines along with that fucking thing didn’t particularly appeal to me, but I’d have done it. I was perfectly ready to do it. I don’t know why I didn’t think about going to a clinic for an abortion, but I didn’t. My mind wasn’t exactly working at maximum efficiency right then. I think I had PTSD or something. Fortunately, it didn’t come to that. After a couple of weeks, I managed to talk the clinic into giving me a pregnancy test. I wouldn’t ask them for an abortion, but a pregnancy test was OK. God, am I fucking crazy or what? Anyway, the results were negative. I wasn’t pregnant. I wasn’t carrying that fucking asshole’s hell spawn. So I guess I dodged that bullet. Hooray for me.

My luck was really holding out that day. Not only wasn’t I knocked up, but the fucking pig hadn’t given me any diseases. That was something I hadn’t even thought of, but the clinic did. Believe me, shit like hepatitis and syphilis and VD are all over the place out here. STDs are almost par for the course when you live on the street. He could’ve given me all sorts of diseases, but he didn’t. Lucky fucking me. They still wanted me to file a report, and I still told them to fuck off. I wasn’t knocked up and I didn’t have the fucking clap and that was all I needed to know, thank you very much. Anyway, by then most of the bruises that had covered damn near every inch of my body had healed. To look at me, you wouldn’t know any of it had ever happened. But the whole experience made me hate myself and everything in the world even more than usual. I became such an evil, surly bitch that people started avoiding me, and out here that’s definitely saying something. For a while, I actually got off on it. No one had ever been afraid of me before. It somehow made me feel powerful. Of course, no one was really afraid of me. I was just being such a mean, nasty bitch that they didn’t want to deal with my bullshit. I also started losing it more often. I’d be sitting in an alley or walking down the street and all of a sudden I’d start shouting at the top of my lungs. I wouldn’t scream. I’d shout. That’s nothing new for me. I used to do that a lot when I was a kid and I still do it sometimes. Something would just get me so nervous or make my mind race or freak me out and I’d just up and shout out of nowhere. It really freaked people out when they saw me do it. For some of them, it still does. People out here who’ve seen it call it Miranda’s War Cry. Don’t ask me where that one came from. Well, this was like Miranda’s War cry, except a million times worse. After I’d shout, I’d start babbling some seriously incoherent shit. I’d string all sorts of words together into pure gibberish as loud and as fast as I could, and no matter what I did, I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t make it stop. People started calling the cops on me a lot. I began to wonder if I’d finally joined the tinfoil hat crowd. Once or twice, the cops seriously considered locking me up in the pads for a seventy-two hour hold. I guess they decided I wasn’t worth it. They were right about that. They didn’t even fuck with me too much over it. They tear gassed me once and told me to shut the fuck up and stop bothering people, but that was about it. I guess they figured the inevitable had happened: Crazy Miranda has finally lost it completely and permanently. Who’s to say they were wrong?

Charlie knew there was something seriously wrong with me and he was really worried, but there was no way in hell I could tell him what happened. If I did, he would have blamed himself and I couldn’t let him do that. It wasn’t his fault he got sick, and besides, he’s got enough baggage for ten lifetimes. I couldn’t let him carry around mine. Even worse, he’d probably never look at me the same way again. I sure as hell didn’t want that to happen. So I just fumed day and night. I started shooting dope a lot; almost as much as I did when I was on it big time. Don’t ask me how I didn’t end up getting hooked again. Maybe I did and I just didn’t realize it? I’d get sick as a fucking dog, but I wouldn’t care. I’d just lie there in my own puke and dare God to strike me dead. I spent a lot of days sleeping on the street. I didn’t want to go back to my room. It wasn’t just the thought of seeing that asshole Phil again. It was deeper than that. I hated myself too much to let myself sleep in a decent bed. I felt like I didn’t deserve a room. I felt like I was a fucking whore and I belonged on the street with the rest of the garbage. I was filthy like I used to be, but I didn’t care. I was so fucking angry. I knew I was coming apart at the seams, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it. To be honest, I didn’t want to do anything about it. I was actually looking forward to losing whatever was left of my mind. Full-blown psychosis is ignorance, and ignorance is bliss. I was looking forward to bliss. But it didn’t happen. I couldn’t get away from it. Every time I had to walk past that piece of shit Phil sitting behind his desk like a little king of the SRO and think about what he did to me and what I did to him and what I let him do to me, Jesus fucking Christ! I just about exploded! I didn’t think I’d ever get over it. I really thought it was going to consume me, body and soul.

So how did I finally manage to put this fucked-up little “episode” behind me? Well, I just sort of got over it. Time marches on. Life goes on. Even this life. I realized I couldn’t keep acting like that. It got so I could keep food down and I hated being filthy, so I needed to do something about it. I needed a wash, even if it meant going back to that shower. Actually, I ended up using the shower on the fourth floor after that. You learn to adapt. You learn to live with it. You accept what happened and move on. That’s what I did. At least, I think that’s what I did. Of course, a big part of my “recovery” was not having to see Phil again. You see, not too long after my meltdown, he kind of got removed from the picture, so to speak. Oh, I didn’t whack him or anything. I wanted to, but I’m too much of a fucking coward to do it. No, someone else took care of him. Oh, man! Did they ever take care of him! I didn’t see it, but I heard about it. A couple of guys cornered him while he was walking to the bus stop and beat the shit out of him like you wouldn’t fucking believe. They didn’t kill him, but they fucked him up good. Real good! They beat him with big pieces of steel rebar, or so the cops told me. We’re talking about steel rods that are an inch thick and three feet long. You can crush a cinder block with one of those things, so think about what they’ll do to your head. And these guys weren’t swinging for base hits, either. They were swinging for home runs! They were trying to knock his ass out of the fucking park! I heard they broke damned near every fucking bone in his body! Good! The cops kept the crime scene tape up for hours because they didn’t think he was going to live. Nobody I talked to who saw it thought he’d live. I saw the sidewalk where the cops had the tape up. There was blood everywhere. I mean everywhere! Gallons of it! It looked like somebody slaughtered a cow there. Christ, I’ve seen people who jumped off of buildings and got splattered all over the pavement and there wasn’t nearly that much blood! Seriously, this shit was beyond fucking belief. I talked to one of the paramedics who took him away, and he told me that in fifteen years, he’d never seen anyone get his ass beaten that bad. Out here, that’s saying something! Sadly, Phil survived. God knows how the fuck that happened. It must be because he’s a fucking cockroach. Like I said before, nothing kills a fucking cockroach. But at least I never saw him again. That was a fucking Godsend.

The whole thing happened in broad daylight, too. That took some serious balls, because this wasn’t some quick hit-and-run thing. This was on the sidewalk of a busy street, and it sure as hell took some time. These guys went to town on his ass! A couple of people said the guys beat him for at least five minutes, non-stop. They said there were like fifty people watching it go down. I wish I’d been one of them. I’d have given anything to be one of them. Of course, once the cops showed up and started asking questions, they all swore they didn’t see a goddamned thing. That’s typical. The cops call it “situational blindness.” Nobody ever sees anything out here if it can get them into trouble. I sure as hell don’t. Anyway, the guys who wailed on him did such a number on him that the cops thought it had to be some big-time drug deal gone wrong. That’s what I thought, until I heard a rumor that Charlie was behind it. That really threw me. I’d gone out of my way to keep the whole disgusting thing a secret. I thought I did a good job of it, too. Now all of a sudden I hear Charlie’s the one who put Phil in a fucking coma? I mean, I know he wasn’t one of the guys handing out the punishment. He’d have been recognized right away, and the cops said it was two younger black guys who were built like football players. That’s definitely not Charlie. But he sure as hell could’ve ordered it. Charlie’s got more than enough juice out here to line up some hardcore motherfuckers for a job like that. Plenty of people out here owe him some major favors. God knows I’m one of them. But I’m talking about serious people. The kind of people you don’t want to know about. The kind of people with half a dozen bodies to their name. The kind of people you won’t find anywhere except prison and this fucking place. A lot of those sick fucks do that kind of shit for fun, so they’d sure as hell do it for Charlie if it would zero out a debt with him. Shit, they wouldn’t think twice about it!

I never had the nerve to ask Charlie if he ordered it. On the one hand, I kind of hoped he did. But if he did, it means he knows what happened. It means he knows what I did, and I don’t want him to know that. I don’t think I could live with him knowing that. I didn’t think I could live with anyone knowing that. I sure as hell didn’t plan on telling you about it. To tell you the truth, I don’t think I’ve ever been able to live with it myself. I mean, I got over it. Sure. You get over everything out here. Everything that doesn’t kill you. That’s just how it is. Life goes on. Well, if you consider this shit a life, then it goes on. Existence goes on. How’s that? So you deal with it. Some other horror comes along and takes its place. Now you’ve got something else to worry about. Yeah, I got over it, but I never really learned to live with it. Oh, and can you imagine my parents finding out about it? Finding out what I did? People wonder why I don’t just go home and beg my parents to take me in. Can you imagine having to face them if they ever found out about this? It’s bad enough telling your parents that you’re a psycho and a lowlife junkie – not that I could ever tell mine – but how do you tell your parents that you’re a psycho and a junkie and a whore? How do you tell them that you sold your body to do a favor for a friend? How do you tell them that you got down on your knees in the middle of a boarding house lobby and sucked some filthy pig’s dick until he came all over your face like some slut in a porn film? How do you tell them he stood behind you in a shower and rode you like a horse and fucked you so hard that you damn near blacked out and you let him do it? Hey, mom? Remember how you had so much trouble telling me about sex when I was a kid? Well, look what I learned since then! Your little girl’s all grown up now, huh? Aren’t you proud of me? Yeah, right! And how the hell do you tell them it was all your idea? You don’t; that’s how. Maybe you can live with that shit out here, but not there. Not in the normal world. There’s no place for that in the normal world. And you can’t hide it from them because if your parents love you, then they can see right through you. When something that bad happens, they can read your mind. Ask any parent who loves their kids. I can’t let them do that. I can’t let them find out. The only reason I can tell you about it is because we don’t know each other from Adam and in a few hours, I’ll be dead. After that, you can tell whoever you want. Well, don’t tell my parents if you ever come across them. If they ever found out, it would kill them. It would just kill them, body and soul. They’d never, ever forgive me and God knows I’d never forgive myself. Not for doing that to them. No parents should ever know that their little girl does things like that. It’s fucking inhuman.

And to top it all off, I can’t make it go away. I can be sorry and sincere and whatever, but it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. I can’t erase the past. I can’t undo the things I’ve done. It’s not possible. So you see, there’s no way I can ever go home. No matter how much my parents love me and wish I was home with them, I can’t do it. That’s why I couldn’t make that call when Leonard handed me that phone. Even if somehow they could forgive me, I can’t forgive myself. I’m sorry, mom. I’m sorry, dad. I love you. I love you so much and look what I’ve done to myself. Look what I let that pig do to me. Look what I’ve become. Look what I’ve done to you. Look what I’ve done to your only daughter. It’s all my fault. You didn’t do this. You didn’t make me this way. It’s my fault. It’s all my fucking fault. You deserve better than me. You deserve a real daughter. Not a worthless piece of shit who shoots dope and steals food from a starving man and whores herself out to some fucking asshole. Thank God I’ll be dead tonight. I can hardly wait until dawn. God, I can hardly wait until it’s all finally over!

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