Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Story of Someone Else's Labyrinth

This is about a Patty I knew, whose last name is lost to me, but I do remember the day she was standing in my office door, hanging around, chatting me up about the possibility of us getting together outside of school, getting it on, and she checked the hallway quickly and exposed her breasts. "What do you think?" she asked, holding her bra up. Caught by surprise, I could only agree, "Those are breasts, all right."

She was trouble. She was danger. She was a bottomless pit. She was an aspiring actress and stand-up comic, involved in theater at PCC, and apparently not bad, since the faculty directors both wanted her in their plays. She was attractive enough, but had to be slenderer, she thought, so she had liposuction and got infected. She showed me the bandaged staples in her sides.

She was very bright in class, but a labyrinth inside. I lost track of her until a year or so later, when she called me at school, not in Pasadena, but in Detroit, when I was still teaching at the Center for Creative Studies (now called the College for Creative Studies). She wanted to meet for lunch. We met at a restaurant somewhere near where the Mexican restaurants were located. We ate, she said she was pregnant, living with a man--an ex-con--who abused her, and related that she needed $700 for an abortion. I told her I'd be glad to help, but there was no way I could put my hands on that kind of money, to which she replied that she had a lawyer friend who could help. She also revealed that this was not the first time she had been in an abusive relationship. Her life was a mess and heading downhill.

She called me because she needed money, certainly, but also because she must have been lonely and needed a sane person to confide in.

I had to get back for afternoon classes, so I dropped her off near where she was living. She could not be seen getting out of another man's car, I guess, so we were several blocks away from the actual apartment. It was a chilly day in November. She wore a long dark coat. She was still attractive, but she seemed to have lost the high and hopeful spirit of her Pasadena existence--it takes some crazy, bizarre energy to bare your breasts in public, even if it also reveals a troubled mind.

The neighborhood was the new Patty: one of those spiritless and desolate working-class areas where many of the buildings have been bulldozed, and the ones left aren't reassuring among the dry, weedy vacant lots. The cold and snow left cracks in the sidewalks, potholes in the street--everywhere in Detroit there seemed to be potholes in the streets. Trash stuck in the broken down fenceposts, and cans and bottles lay in the dirt.

She turned a corner and disappeared.


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