Pisces' Companions (Summer 2009)
Piscina Nadya; August 4, 2009
Pisces spends time with Javê, Lydia, Sophie, and Hector. Not so much bonding time, she is actually takes pains to become a little emotionally distant from each of them. Less involved in their lives. Not suddenly, but over time. It's a long summer.
It's practical, learning time. If she can get them interested she takes them places, like to meet some of her industry, health and bureaucracy contacts. Gives them an idea of what life is like with a job and inside of the system, and what options are available to them. This is mostly for Lydia, but also for the other three, if they're interested. She keeps a careful eye on Hector and he is disallowed to come if he steals things.
She tries to find Hector a mentor who isn't her. Combs the shelters and teen support groups for someone who could help him deal with his kleptomania and abandonment issues.
She uses telepathy on Sophie to figure out what the hell is up with her.
Eh, she probably uses telepathy on Hector too. To get a better sense of how irrevocably damaged he is.
You spend time with your assortment of misfits, trying to simultaneously get them a leg up out of street life and trying to somehow consign yourself to the fact they might not end up okay.
Javê and Lydia:
It's easiest with Lydia.
While she still pulls off the change-making scam on a few clerks for pocket change and rips off store items for necessities, you get the impression that she's actually putting what she's been scrounging into some manner of savings. She also seems serious about the whole G.E.D. thing and goes over a few cursory courses at the library.
You get her a temp job at a PreLife intake office as an administrative assistant. It's easy stuff - a little bit of filing and managing some databases. She admittedly isn't perfect at it (her typing speed is abysmal and she makes more than a few clerical goofs) but she at least seems to take it seriously. By the end of the summer she's living largely off of accumulated wages and to have largely cut out larceny as a means of income. She puts down a solid grand buying a beaten-up '89 Ford -------, which she's decided gives her more stable living accommodations than the squats. As PreLife is still a struggling non-profit, though, and they can't really hold onto her for more than a summer.
Talking to the administrator you set things up with, you're told that Lydia's a hard worker, although a bit tense. He mentions her attitude was sometimes a bit cold.
When she's not being industrious, she still makes time to hang out with you and the rest of the group. You notice that her friendship with Javê seems to have cooled to a point where her interactions with him seem motivated primarily out of politeness and perhaps even something akin to pity. While they still speak casually and occasionally are found in the same flop-house shows and meetings, you are keenly aware that Lydia seems to have outgrown her former companion.
Javê takes it relatively well, although you can intuit that he still holds out some sort of hope when he's around her. What he's hoping for from her, you aren't entirely sure, but as the months drag on it becomes more evident that he won't find it. He continues to lead a lackadaisical life - getting his food via panhandling and con money and floating from squat to squat. He remains charmingly unambitious as ever.
You catch him a few times in June with some beer or a little bit of weed, and after what is probably a stern lecture on your part and several assurances on his part that he knows how to handle himself and isn't going to have a repeat of his March lock-up, you find that any visible substance use on his part ceases.
He spends two weeks in July doing work for a social security office that's switching locations - moving boxes and painting shelves and such. While most of the women about the office make coy comments at to what a handsome young handyman you've found for them, he doesn't seem especially driven to look for more or once his time is up. You haven't a clue what he does with the money.
He thanks you for the help.
Sophie is (as usual) hard to track down. Once you find her, she seems relatively okay - or at least as okay as Sophie gets - and explains she's been over in Brooklyn spending a lot of time with an old acquaintance of hers. When asked about a job, she bluntly tells you she's not risking any over-the-table work where she has to give a real name and SS#. You do your best to hook her up with a few odd gigs cleaning various bureaucrat's houses, but things fall through after one of them accuses her of being responsible for $40 which went missing from his wife's purse.
Telepathy reveals a lot that you could probably already intuit. Sophie is severely fucked up.
The most striking thing you encounter as you delve into her thoughts is that her worldview is devoid of emotional connection. She tries to hide it as best she can, but she doesn't feel any sense of fellowship with those around her - only a sense of utility. Her vision is starkly divided between people who are 'users' and people who are 'used', and she desires to avoid falling into the latter category.
With regards to yourself, you're in the 'used' pile. She sees you as somebody with a naïve view of the world, somebody who can help themselves to sleep at night if they thing they're out 'doing good.' She doesn't have anything against you personally, but the sum total of your worth to her is a place to stay, a plate of food and a warm jacket - and if she has to throw around some clay to be 'creative' and lie about the smack habit she still can't quite entirely kick and play nice with the Sacarens to get that, she figures she's not getting a raw deal. You're not either, really. You get to feel like you're a good person, and that's fine with her if that's what you really need.
When you look into it, you find that she does have a grudging respect for Helga - she doesn't fuck around on the whole self defense thing and even if she doesn't know how she sliced up Jake, Sophie has the impression that she'd probably approve. You get a clear picture of both of them mid-struggle at the South Shore YWCA, with Helga saying in a frank monotone, "Don't ever think there's 'dirty' fighting. Gouge an eye. Punch a kidney. Rip his goddamn balls off it it gets you out of being killed." There's a scent of sweat and Sophie bites at her lip as she gets taken into a lock. She knows that what's going on is something true.
But anyway... back to the smack... you probably want to dig up something on the smack, and Sophie is hesitant to think of that. She's not going to lose herself to it and she's not going to think of it if she can help it, because if she thinks of it too hard and if she thinks that she might not kick it for good then she's stuck thinking of Jake - and the more she thinks of him the more he's got her all over again - the sick fuck.
No. She's not as bad as she used to be. Not by a long shot. She's not like Candi who has to use the veins between her fingers because her arms are shot. Before July she only had a week long run back in May and the one before that was way back in December. It has to be a really fucking bad day for her to want to do the things she has to do to score a hit, and that's more shit to make her think of Jake. Fuck Jake. Even if it kills her she's not going to keep giving into the smack, because when she's clean she's free - and that's glorious - it's like twisting the razor into Jake's neck all over again, when he's aspirating blood onto the pale yellow sheets of his cheap run down apartment that he never vacuumed and she's looking down and watching while he's trying to scream out of his sawn-apart windpipe. Fuck Jake.
And before you can pry, thoughts of Jake flood her mind - violent and unbidden. She's on the floor and his boot's between her thighs and she can feel her pelvic bone slam into the heel of his foot. "Don't give me shit or I'll fix your cunt so nobody else'll be able to fuck it!" Fuck Jake. Her teeth are distinct in her mouth, throbbing around the rivulets of blood she's spitting down chin. Fuck Jake. The sex is routine. She tries to hold still. She has the junk-nausea really bad though. She feels like her stomach is about to swell upward and rise out of her throat like some sort of grotesque balloon - she goes into dry heaves that don't stop after he's done. Fuck Jake. She thinks of how Jake told her that she wouldn't have to use a needle - she was scared of needles - that it would just help take the edge of and that Candi was on the needle because she liked it that way. Fuck Jake. Fuck the way he called me 'his girlfriend' at first. F*ck the way he didn't tell me that I'd been rented out to Jorge on zero notice and how he told the bastard that she was okay with his 'thing'. Fuck Jake. Fuck the bite marks that used to show on my collar bone and my fractured wrist that never healed right and the scar on my back from the curling iron. Fuck Jake to hell. Fuck him and fuck Jorge and fuck my Dad who used to sit me on his lap and tell me 'bedtime stories' and fuck Candi for going along with all this shit.
Her thoughts of Jake don't disperse for a while, but swirl around one another - snowballing and returning again and again to the same lurid sets of images. Wherever you are, she leaves the room and goes for a long walk into the New York night.
It's evident with your level of Psychology that Sophie is suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and that she's struggling with a lot of relapses into addict behavior. While Sophie hasn't hit rock bottom with regards to her heroin use recently, she obviously doesn't have much of a support structure to help her with it. It's actually fairly impressive that she's managed to largely kick what seems to have previously been a much worse addiction.
You know that Sophie's probably not going to get much better without serious professional help - and that this is nearly impossible for her to manage without doing prison time. While a support group or even a good counselor might be able to help her a little with the drug problem, it's nearly impossible to address the underlying issues that have made her who she is without having her admit to somebody that she willfully drove a box-cutter into somebody's throat and seriously enjoyed it.
You see her off and on throughout the summer after the initial Telepathy session - and occasionally make mental contact again to check up. She doesn't have any drug-related episodes after June, and she was truthful with regards to her off and on absences - she actually visits Candi out in Brooklyn a fair amount when she doesn't feel comfortable with the people around Staten. She's not close to the other girl but any means - but Sophie feels Candi owes her, and Candi obviously feels enough of the same to let Sophie drive into her buildings parking lot to crash.
You also find out, consequentially and much to your relief, that she didn't take the $40 from the one cleaning job. She was on cold terms with the missus of the house, though, and had a feeling before she was booted that the bitch had it in for her.
Hector continues to be quiet and a little unnerving. He solemnly agrees to cease stealing once you talk to him about it, and tries to throw more of his energy in to the weird little art projects he composes out of dumpster-dived material and the kipple that litters the squats he stays in. You aren't able to catch him at lifting anything for most of the summer.
You try to look around for someone to take on Hector, but find that a lot of the charities are overburdened and a lot of your street contacts are less-than-ideal role models. While Zahid would probably do a good job of protecting him, it does occur to you that he is a still gang leader and drug trafficker, and that that might not be the best career track to set the boy onto. Javê can't be bothered with much in the way of responsibility. Sophie is not even worthy of consideration. You think that Lydia might be willing to help out to some degree, given how she managed to get him to a shelter earlier during the bombings.
Talking to her you find her surprisingly uneasy at the idea of taking on somebody Hector's age. While the boy's only two years young than her, she indicates that tries to explain doesn't feel right trying to babysit a 'kid'. She jokes awkwardly that her set of maternal instincts seemed to have been left at the factory.
Still, she's willing to at least check up on him every few weeks, which is better than nothing. In the meantime you manage to get an art therapist who does some volunteer work at the local free clinic to see him on a monthly basis and to not ask for too much paperwork as to his legal guardian(s). It's not ideal, but you've at least gotten somebody to regularly make sure he's alive and somebody else to give him a modicum of direction.
The therapist (a sweet girl just out of grad school named Tracy) tells you what you already know: Hector is an extremely creative and imaginative young boy who has serious issues with attachment. She also indicates that he's a little immature for his age and that he has a few issues telling the difference between fantasy and reality.
Examining his head re-confirms this. Hector, while far less frightening to explore telepathically than Sophie, is more than a little disturbed.
You find in his brain a sense of perpetual impermanence which he struggles to ignore. If you ever focus on any of the nebulous flighty thoughts that storm about his head, you find that he has a definite sense that things he loves are doomed to fade and that he himself is going to die. Friends... mentors... even yourself - they all register as temporary.
This nihilism, however, is something he tries at all costs to suppress. Whenever you corner his mind dwelling on these thoughts, he immediately tries to replace them with a more palatable fantasy. He is not Hector, son of Julia and Jesus who got themselves shot through their right eyes and had their tongues pulled through slits in their throats so that some Satan's Mother would know better than to squeal on the big cocaine ring - he's Hector, a robber knight errant who lives in the shadows of every building and hunts for gold and spoils each night - where he reads robber markings on walls and lives by his robber code of honor.
He has a gypsy girl who teaches him bits of old magic and how to stay true to his words, and he has amulets to make him invisible or to make him silent. He is not a lanky delinquent sixteen year old who the cops can just scoop up, arrest and arrange to have vanish. His parents were probably not even his real parents either - he might well have been a foundling, maybe even a gypsy kid separated from his kumpania and kidnapped. Perhaps you'll find that out someday for him, knowing things the way you always seem too, and then maybe then... he thinks of you holding his hand and him bowing down to kiss your forehead... in a way that betrays a less-than-maternal-intimacy... He doesn't think on it long. Thinking thoughts like that around you...
Looking deeper into his fantasy life, you find that his intellect tells him that these musings are all false, but that this is something which he doesn't allow it to sink in - if he did, all he'd be able to do is fixate on the idea that he's a street kid with nothing save death on his plate. He can't go back to living like that.
Besides, the world really is obviously much more exciting than most people think it is. Things have to be more special than they are. They have to be more than is real. There was Lucasta, right? He was made of lightning and he saved people's lives and he was real. There's also the shadows that strangled Spike Lee and the guy dressed like a dragon who was in the papers for a while and the mad bombers who threatened his domain back in March. That was all real. Why in a world like that oughtn't he be a bandit and a hero? Why ought he not think of himself as having a gypsy princess to gain the favor of and a kingdom of the poor to protect? Why ought he not have what he desires in the world?
He thinks of the things he has hidden in the little crawlway under the leaky dank boarding near the basement of the old warehouse on 118th street. His treasures. He has a tortoiseshell comb that he pretends is carved from a gemstone and a roll of nearly twenty-five twenties he's never going to spend. He has a diamond ring from some girl's finger that he got while reading her palm. He has his little pieces of string and leather that he has ready to make into magic bags and figures. He has a stone he found in Prospect Park that has a smooth hole worn down the middle.
He's trying hard to stop his stealing for now, though... You said to. He figures it's a test. If he can be good and virtuous for you... well he shouldn't think too much about it. You're not too much older than him, but maybe you wouldn't... maybe... maybe Lydia will like him instead. If he's able to show that he can have a thief's honor she'll understand. She's good like that... she knows that she can trust a real man and he's better than Javê ever was to her.
Maybe he'll manage to get into the Sacrens someday too... even though he's not an Arab. Then maybe Zahid can help him to find... no... just no... NO. He shouldn't think of it like that. They probably weren't his real parents anyway.... Maybe he's really a lost Arab kid even... his skin's dark enough....
It doesn't take too much psychoanalysis to realize that Hector is avoiding a lot of the real world due to his parents' death. While your presentation of street life as a sort of grand narrative game probably helped him to cope with the initial shock quite a bit, he's managed in the meantime to mire himself in the fantastical, to the point that he doesn't have an appropriate grasp of how to really plan for the future. He's also developed a bit of a thing for you - unsurprisingly, given that you both seem to be nearly the same age.
While Hector isn't acutely deranged in the same manner that Sophie is, he is likely to have behavioral trouble up into adulthood unless he has a strong figure who can guide him through his accidentally extended childhood. While Lydia seems grounded enough to keep him from anything too stupid, she doesn't seem like she'd be a good surrogate parent, and things are complicated by his crush on her as well. You know that he has strong feelings about foster care agencies too.
What would help him most is probably some intense therapy and life skills training - with an emphasis on forcing him to accept the reality of his parents' murder and to realize their death didn't mean they abandoned him. Contemplating this, you hear a gruff familiar voice begin to click its tongue in the back of your head.
"You're probably not the best candidate for that sort of confrontation, ma'am. No offense. Just not the best lecturer on the topic of abandoning-your-fancies-to-face-the-reality-of-the-dead."
You tell McClin to shove it.