“I have to work twice as hard, be twice as tough.” – Charlie
Charlie, 41, lost her mother at thirteen. Her father, an “ass,” was never much in her life, before he fled for good when she was ten. She took to the streets, selling drugs, boosting from stores, and stealing cars. Eventually she turned to pimping. “On a scale of one to ten, my girls be eights. I nurture them, make them track stars. I try to ask them where they see themselves in three years. If I hear they want to go to school or something, I like to hear that. I don’t hold them back.”
In her many years on the streets she has cut, been cut, beat, been beat, knifed, been knifed, and jailed. “I am a women in a man’s world. I got to prove myself twice as much.”
Two weeks ago a minor altercation turned ugly. Eight men jumped and beat her and her girlfriend with clubs in a laundromat. She suffered four cracked ribs and a ruptured spleen. She was out of the hospital and on the streets in a week.
“It’s all about the money out here. And I’m all about the money. I want to get out.”
Four years ago I never could have imagined having any understanding of a pimp. Four years ago I had never met a woman who lost her parents early, who was thrown on the streets, addicted. A lesbian fighting in a hyper macho world, stuck in the hell of poverty and pain that is often Hunts Point.
The first call came Friday afternoon. “Where are you? Please! I just got out of Jail. The cops picked up me and Neesa Thursday. I want out of this place.”
Three missed calls from ‘Unknown Number’ when I woke Saturday morning and four more by Sunday morning.
I know the pattern. Desperate pleas, allusions to drama, finishing with, “I need to get out of here.” Then in person it is about money.
Michael was, by her standards, at the end of a good three-month run. The trap was a safe place to bring dates, made her good money, and had a sometimes-working bath. It also provided plenty of drugs.
Now she was truly homeless again, wandering the streets and “taking birdbaths.”
I finally talked to Michael at 3 am and promised to meet her Sunday afternoon. “I am desperate. I need you to drive me out of here.” The sound of dope sickness.
Before I could finish parking Michael and Neesa were at my van. They were carrying a litter bottle of pepsi and two bags. “Quick. We just lifted some stuff from the store. Drive anywhere.” Both looked awful. Dirty and smelling of perfume.
I drove towards the McDonalds passing four police vans. “It is so hot our here.”
Lisa, working Tiffany Street and clearly high, waved me down. “Don’t stop. She is crazy. Dirty whore. In the middle of the road with this many cops around.”
We followed a police van into the parking lot. It went into the drive-through. I gave Michael and Neesa the $7 in my pocket. They started to strip and exchange clothes.
Michael handed me his Rosary and left to clean up in the bathroom.
Neesa spotted a date eating in his car. She jumped in and drove off. “Tell Michael I will be back in an hour.”
Michael came back a half-hour later washed and with two ice cream cones and two bags of food. I handed back the Rosary. She nervously fingered it.
“It is a symbol of peace and tranquility. It gives me safety and protection. Mostly it is a reminder that there is something greater than this earth and people.”
She paused and made a crude joke about licking the ice cream cone.
“It is also a reminder that there is something better than all of this.”
She looked around and then whispered.
“There better be. There really better be.”