July 11, 2016
“I was never really loved. I guess that’s where it began. My mother wasn’t a mother, more like someone who just used me when it was convenient for her. I wasn’t wanted so what did it matter?” Ava thought about how her mother used to leave her at the Hannaford when she was little. She’d just walk in, take Ava to the bakery section for a free cookie then leave. The lady at the bakery never called the police on her mother. Or anyone else. And after a while, she took Ava in-kinda-sorta. Ava would go behind the counter, have all the free cookies she wanted and watch as Big Peggy whipped up treats for the display cases.
“Go on,” Dr. White urged.
“I’m not a slug you know. I would have worked more, but it’s hard to get a work permit signed by your parent when you haven’t seen them. I tried to do better. I tried to help out.”
“Where was your mother?” he asked.
“Who knows? Strung out somewhere is my guess. I haven’t seen her in almost a year.”
“So you tried to help out at home but it wasn’t enough,” he restated.
Ava rolled her eyes and twirled her hair. “Yeah, and eventually I got too cold, too hungry and too fed up. I thought if I just took the easy way out the world would be a burden short finally.”
Dr. White, didn’t take the baited statement and moved on. “What happened when they released you from Stonehurst?”
Ava didn’t want to rehash the recent past. She was bone tired from sleeping with one eye open for the last month. What she wanted was a hot shower, a warm meal and a bed. Scratch that, what she really wanted was a family. One that counted. One that loved her.
“I went home,” she said.
“Ava, I’m trying here. You’ve got to help me out.” Dr. White looked irritated with her simple answers. Ava rolled her shoulders but she knew if she wanted this visit to end she needed to play the game.
“I went back to the studio apartment but the building had been condemned. Which was probably my fault. The EMT’s probably reported it when they picked me up. I tried to sneak in but I couldn’t. It was like our lives were just a pile of crumbs on a table, and someone came along with a rag and wiped them away. But that’s life, right? You think a place is a possession, but it isn’t.” Ava looked out the barred window. The sun was blazing and the sky was bright blue. She wondered if life would ever feel as beautiful as the sky looked. A slew of people were now interested in her. People, she decided, were curious creatures. No one noticed her before. But now, now everyone noticed her.
“Why didn’t you reach out to one of your State-appointed counselors or try to find your mother or other family?”
“For what? So I could stay in a shelter and feel even worse about my life? Or find my mom only to find her passed out on some dudes bed? Or end up dead from drinking because rural Maine is a wasteland? I figured I was better off homeless. I know that I have nothing to look forward to outside of being a retail person, or possibly taking out student loans for college. And why? I ask myself that question hundreds of times, and the only answer I ever get is to land a job that I would probably hate, and spend years of my life staring out a window wishing for more. I don’t want that kind of life. A kid like me doesn’t really have options.” Her voice caught between anger and panic. Goals receded into the distance while reality stretched on, until it became only natural to desire something beyond oneself. Maybe it was just some TV or time on Facebook or window shopping. Maybe a sleeping pill to ease her to sleep. Maybe a narcotic to tame the physical and psychological pain. Maybe just simple love and affection. Maybe there was a cure for what ailed her. She wouldn’t know until she exhausted all avenues.
Ava adjusted herself in her chair. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and continued. “I went looking for Gary instead. He might have been a heroin addict but he was about the only thing in life that showed any sort of affection toward me.”
“Did you find him?” Dr. White asked.
“Yeah. At Howie’s bar near the tracks. You know it? It’s a little hole-in-the-wall craptastic place.”
Dr. White shook his head. “Can’t say I have.”
“Well it was Gary’s favorite hang out. He bought me a soda and let me hang with him for the night.”
“Where did Gary live then?”
Ava laughed. “Gary didn’t live. Gary only survived for his next hit. After Howie’s booted him out he took me to his friends place with him.”
“What time was that?” Dr. White asked.
Ava thought it over. She never was good at details. “I dunno, maybe like eleven or so?”
“So you went to whose house then?”
“Some guy they call Fat Mike, which is dumb because the dude is stupid skinny. He squats in a shit hole building near Exchange Street.”
“Go on,” Dr. White said.
“So we get there and Gary and Fat Mike go into another room. I sit on the couch for a while with my backpack just waiting. Fat Mike comes back out and says Gary is passed out. So I get up to leave but Fat Mike says I can stay until he wakes up. Says I can sleep on the couch.”
“Anyway I don’t know this dude so I don’t want to sleep out in the open. I tell him it’s cool- I’ll just sleep with Gary. I mean, Gary was more like a dad to me. He is like fifty or something and even though he is a hopeless addict, he is always kind to me in his own way. Watched out for me and stuff.” Ava shrugged and twirled a clump of hair around her finger.
“Yes, Gary was very concerned when you were found.”
“Yeah. I talked to him. We’re okay.” Ava smiled. Gary was strange and a hot mess but reliable when it came to her. Dr. White made notes on his legal pad. His pen made a scratching sound on the paper. So many notes. She shook her head. Ava wondered how any of this was pertinent information to the case.
©2016 K. Larsen
Leave a comment if you like what you read!