It’s early on Saturday morning and I have to hit the road soon. So soon that the chickens are lucky they got replenished water and feed before I left and my coffee has barely had time to steep in my little French Press. The taste is not half bad though. How could it be? No matter what I do I take the time to do it right. Yes even when I am in a rush. The dogs are staring at me as if I forgot about feeding them, I have but will handle that soon. I really just wanted to put these thoughts that have been swirling around in my head down on paper before I travel. I would like to think that will not take long as well, this story has been percolating since Tuesday night. My truth is Saturday has now turned into Sunday morning. Most of this was written yesterday but the full life that I embrace today sometimes takes precedence over words-the words can be written later. Life is about living and I am going to live it-now on to the story.
Have you ever had that one person that you just meshed with from the first encounter? Like peas and carrots. Well many moons ago in another life I had that. I met her. Her name is Yolanda and that is what she goes by now, she will always be Nani to me though. No I have not changed any names for the sake of privacy and I heard someone once say, “if you don’t like what I write, you should have lived differently.” This is my story and I digress-I do that sometimes. By our second encounter, within moments she had me seated in a chair and was dying the tips of my hair blonde, I am a brunette. I remember Nani saying my hair would look, “tuff,” she was right. Boy did I look different. I usually looked out-of-place wherever I was, but I always fit right in.
We would rapidly become inseparable; her husband Jeff even let me in and I would say even trusted me. Now with the lives we were living at that time trust was abnormal. I trusted them though and they were my home, wherever I was. I would go here and there, often alone, but their door was always open to me and just a phone call away from no matter what city I was in. They did have a home when we first met, but with the choices we make their home disappeared just like mine had along with my children years earlier and hotels and motels were now a way of life. We had become nomads. I remember on one occasion where I was in a situation where Nani just happened to walk up, I was in a hotel in a rather frightful disposition that had gone all bad. There were four or five people who had come for me and maybe even a bat, little old me, all men and just one woman because-well we were equal opportunity people back then with not a care or code in the world. Someone had thought I was after her man and I was going to pay a price, well that was never the case but with my looks it was always what they thought. The truth is, if I was with your man it was because he was as crazy and willing as I was to commit a crime-no questions asked or a hesitation in the world, just go. Nani knew them, more importantly, she knew me better than that and had the clout with one word to put an end to that in an instant.
After that incident I got in the car with them and took off for a ride that would not stop for quite some time. Let’s face it, I was the only licensed driver out of all of us. There was another captive-we will call him Ed because that is his name. At times we would have another passenger in our little caravan but that was more of a burden than anything, a babysitting job if you will, so he did not travel with us often. Heroin addicts can be such a handful. That’s what everyone was but me, I was the tweaker who just dabbled here and there with THAT. Amazingly enough Ed had a beautiful mansion of a home in Truckee, California and more property in Southern California, but we never managed to make it there often and spent most of our time in hotels-we were just busy people doing a whole lot of nothing with our lives.
As much fun as all of that sounds, sometimes you get tired of the life. Well I got tired, literally tired, and instead of leaving with Ed to Truckee I grabbed the Hilton’s pillows and took off to another spot to sleep-I always had spots. I loved Truckee by the way and the house, at the time though my job was to keep Ed interested and not necessarily with scrabble; with my smile and sweet conversation-nothing more. I was good at what I did no matter what I was doing.
I would leave one way, Ed would leave another and within two hours our friends were incarcerated. That was the end of us practically. After a series of rather unfortunate events ensued and the dust had landed Nani would do 6 years in the penitentiary, Jeff would hang himself in the Amador County Jail on his way to prison, Ed would be on his own to be manipulated by others not so kind as us, and I would land in recovery one more time- not the last time.
After a few more times in and out I stayed in the rooms. It was actually Ed who was now clean and extended a helping hand to me when I finally landed thankfully and gave my life a chance. As soon as I could I found her and took care of her with all the stuff you do for a person who was in prison. I was good at that too. I had hope my friend would follow my footsteps, like I had followed hers once- that we would be peas and carrots again. She used to tell me she could no longer hang out with me because I would be the one to send her back to prison with the crazy stunts I pulled. Nani had done 10 years earlier in the penitentiary – we were not nice people. She was now the one doing time and I was out living. For some time I held myself accountable- if I had stayed, if I was driving, if I was watching him none of that would have happened. I have since made peace with all that and I know it was just not my burden to bear. It is the choices that we make that take us on the paths that we live.
Well my friend came in and out of the rooms that I stay in. For a while we were like peas and carrots again and her daughter even followed her into a different life. That meant her grandchildren would start living differently too. Nani did not stay, but her daughter did and maybe that was all that was supposed to happen. They are my gifts that I get to watch from afar. I have seen them grow up, re-unite with their mom, and continue to have beautiful lives- they are teenagers now.
My friend just got out-again. August 6, 2017 she was released after serving 6 little months. I had hopes she would want what I have- a new way to live. I sent her all those things we send people who are locked up, I even sent a few letters. I can’t drag or chase anyone in here with me, I don’t have that kind of power. I can hope and pray for them, that is all. The silent prayers that people prayed for me for so many, many times throughout the years, through their tears.
I saw Nani August 22, 2017, 15 days after her release- I had to. The description is not pretty, visible holes in her chest and legs, her voice already more raspy than normal, when she kissed me my lips still could taste the Carmex she had slathered on trying to stop the cracks, it wasn’t helping. I had called first, I knew where she was and yes I still went. When I called that kid I used to watch- her nephew who was like my brother was there and when she started crying on the phone and her voice had changed, he asked who it was. She said Christine, he didn’t even know who that was because that is not what I went by out there. When I changed, I changed everything, yes even the name I went by. As soon as he figured out who was on the phone I could hear his words, “tell her to come get us and get us into a program right now!” He meant it, she laughed, I knew it wasn’t going to happen.
When I left her on the street in front of that house, we hugged and laughed. I showed her the picture of the man I am in love with and told her of some of the adventures we had been on. I let her know my kids are good, even her god-daughter my youngest Irene. I had hopes this would spark something- it didn’t. Her boyfriend had now walked up, he was about 20 years younger than her, I knew him too. You could see the fear in his eyes. Would I take her away with me? Would he lose her? She told him to go inside, he said no and stood afar just watching us. I am sure he thought if he went in she would drive away with me and she would be gone- like I had done so many times with her in the past in my previous life. Just gone.
As we said our final goodbyes, yes laughing through the tears I noticed my glasses in her hand. With all the hugging, laughing and crying in those brief moments you would have thought we were one person, we had become enmeshed again like peas and carrots. I didn’t want to let her go and I don’t think she did either. We did though, let go, I finally let go- that is no longer my life and hasn’t been for some time. As I turned to walk away I laughed and said I need my glasses, they were still in her hand. They were hers, I pulled mine out of my pocket and they were exactly the same; little red Dollar Store glasses. What are the odds?
The Chicken Lady