Pearl Williams part-two


Disclaimer: Pearl Williams is not a real person although she is based off of people I have worked with over the years in my job as social worker. A few years ago, I was talking with Micheal Galinsky about creating a book that included some of the clients I have worked with and having Mike take photo-graphs, but we have never gotten around too it. I created Pearl to give light to so many of the impoverished women I have worked with over the years, whose lives are sad reminders of those in society whom we don’t care to look at. I have always been amazed at the fortitude and resilience of these women. This is a work in progress.

 

Pearl stared at the white lady playing with her grandbaby, the child was smiling, big brown wet eyes that gathered in the room, and she breathed deeply and pointed to a black and white picture of a group of Native-Americans on the wall, their faces haggard, clothes constructed of leather and long feathers hanging from belts and it said, “Real Homeland Security.” The little girl poked a tiny brown finger up at the picture, “Who are do’s people?” The white woman smiled and said, “Oh, they are Indians, they used to live here but they had to move away.” Eyes growing bigger, “They lived in this office? All those men, lived here? Where did the sleep?” With laughter erupting, Pearl scooped up her grand-daughter, “Child, you causing trouble?” and kissed her on the cheek. “No mami, they have candy here. Right there in that drawer.” The white lady said, “she’s adorable, she’s fine. Are you done already?” Pearl grimaced, “no, ‘fraid not, still got some more to tell that man.” turning the little girl, “hey, grandma will be back soon, ok?” “Yes mame. It’s neat here.”

Pearl sauntered through the courtroom, she eyed the man she used to know as he sat with his felt hat on his lap, his carefully pleated black trousers, pressed dark shirt and white tie in stark contrast to the young man sitting next to him, who was playing with his tiny tight dread locks with one hand and bouncing the other hand off of his knee as if he were playing drums to some song in his head. Tap-tap, tappitty-tap. Tap-tap, tappitty-tap. It went across the entire courtroom, her old friend leaned over and whispered a loud, “son, you need to cut that out, you in big trouble here. This judge may not like that commotion in his courtroom, and why did you wear that ugly ole shirt?” Tap-tap, tappitty-tap. Pearl shook her head, was it at the boy or more at herself? The courtroom was full now, the Judge was on the bench, his gray haired pulled back, he was holding onto a croquet mallet, gesturing to an attorney in front of him he smirked and said, “now Kevin, I’m not afraid to use this.” There was an entire flock of attorney crowded around him, most of them smiling and joking, a stark contrast to the folks who were sitting in the chairs and the smooth wooden jury box that curved in front of the judge. Here were the great unwashed, a litany of the poor and impaired, some by mental illness, others by intoxicants and every one by unfortunate incidents, somewhere, somehow that lead to being in the courtroom today. Next to her old friend and his grandson, was a young scrawny white girl, her face so taunt that it looked as if it were pulled over her face with pliers. Her eyes hung low and dark, deep into their sockets they were tired. Not just from the dope , whose faint echo in her veins was turning into nausea but from what she they had witnessed. Rapes, countless backhands to her face, two screaming children and the grim of dope houses, sleeping on couches and eating cold Dinty Moore stew from a can.

The man appeared again, he was holding a bottle of water, extending it he offered, “you ready to start again?” “thank you, sure I am.”

Pearl wiped her mouth, looked up at all the certificates and diploma’s adorning his walls, “you sure is a smart man.”

“Aw, not really, these just prove if you pay someone enough money they will give you anything.” She liked his self-deprecation.

“That one there, you went to Case Western Reserve in Cleveland?” She pointed to a large framed diploma.

“Yes, I did. I got my Master’s degree there. I was expensive!”

“Well, I lived there. In Cleveland for a while after my first baby. My cousin lived there, just near the University, I moved up there when I was 18, my boyfriend had family up there so I figured, hell, why not?”

“When was that?”

“Oh, I don’t know, early 80’s or so. Right before that crack-cocaine blew the lid off everything. My boyfriend got caught up in that, I had no idea, I was naive. I mean they called it free-basing back then. That was just after Richard Pryor got his-self on fire doing that free-basing, well shit, they just figured out how to sell it to the ghetto.”

She shook her head at the memory, “yeah, that’s when shit hit the fan….” Her voice trailed off and she took another drink of water. Breathing deep she explained, “he’s the one who got me into it. I was mad, I had three babies by the time I was 21 and I was working as a maid in the Cleveland Clinic. He wasn’t really doing shit except not coming home. I told him one day, he had been gone for like a week. ‘What the hell are you doing all the time’?”

Nodding, he asked, “and what happened?”

Laughing and putting her bottle on the desk, “well, that son-of-a-bitch took me over to  93rd and Chester, or somewhere around there. Do you know where I’m talking about?            Anyway, he took me to a crack house. Although, I don’t even know if that was a term  back then, we just went to a party-house. That’s what we called it. So, I smoked it. I didn’t     leave that damn house for three days.” She shuddered a little, “I left my three babies at  home. I just forgot about them, my oldest must have been eight or nine and he got the       neighbor after we didn’t come home. She watched them. After that though, I was gone. I  mean, there wasn’t nothing that was going to stop me. Eventually, my Auntie took the kids, someone called Children’s Services on me and I told them I was sick, you know like  I had diabetes or something. I was a crazy person. I lost those kids inside of four months of using crack. My man got arrested for manslaughter, and went to prison. He done killed this man on the corner, over nuthin’ really. I think it was drugs but he was gone and then we lost the apartment and I was homeless. It just happened so fast, I wanted to die when they took my babies.”

“That must have been tough, working so hard and then losing your children?”

“Well, it was but you know what? It didn’t stop me from using drugs. Not a bit. I knew something was going on with my mind as well, it had been since I was a girl. I’d hear         things, just little things, like a whisper or someone murmuring but there wasn’t anyone shut it out, I didn’t mind being poor and black or what-have-you but I did not want to be   crazy.” She paused, sighed and looked at him straight in the eyes.

“I was good looking to, one thing I can tell you about crack, it takes the weight off of you. I had three babies and I still wasn’t big like I am now but I did that crack and the         pounds just melted off, I figured, why not use what the good-Lord-gave you and started walking the streets. I had a girl-friend who said I could earn good money doing it, so I  just started doing it, I thought nothing of it. But it got weird and scary real fast.”

He looked at her, his eyes casting over her, and he could not imagine this woman selling herself on the street. Her purple coat bunched up around her, enveloping her and her horrible memories that were burping out of her like pop-corn popping. There was no stopping her.

“It got real strange at that time, mid to late eighties. Hustling the streets, one time I was  out there, it was cold, there were icicles hanging from the gutters almost all the way to the ground, the wind would literally cut you. It felt like a knife, that wind did.. and this limo pulls up and the tinted window rolls down. I walk up to the car  and this man with glasses points at me and my girlfriend and we laugh and jump in. He  was with one of the sports teams, a general manager or something, a rich white guy. He didn’t say nothing but his body-guard or whoever the hell he was did.”

She grew quiet. “That was some fucked up shit” she took a drink from her cold coffee cup and stared a head.

“That fuckin weirdo took us back to one of the fancy hotels downtown, and ordered up all  this seafood, you know those black shell-fish, mussels they call them. He had ordered hundreds of them and he had me and my girlfriend take off all our clothes and he made us     put them things all around our coochies, and he just mumbled some shit about pussies       and mussels. He got us high alright, that made it better but we were there for hours, into  the next day with these fucking little fish that look like tiny pussies up around our legs. I can’t stand the smell of fish to this day, and he never even wanted to fuck us or nothing. I  cut my big toe going to the bathroom on one of the shells they were scattered all over the          floor like as if a big ole chunk of wind just gathered them up and set ’em down.  That crack put me in some weird spots.”

 

 

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