I had been at a concert in San Francisco when I found myself out of cigarettes, an affliction I suffered perhaps every other day, my habit being less severe than those that had taken the lives of so many people I’d known. My friend and I had met at the theater, and we had split up after the performance, so I was alone in my truck when she approached me.
My new pack was in my hands, and I was fiddling with the wrapper when she appeared, silhouetted against the bright lights of the corner liquor store.
She said, “Hey, handsome, do you want a date?”
She was a pretty black woman of about 30, but her eyes were distant, as if she too had recently satisfied an addiction. My first thought was heroin. My second thought was of my girlfriend safe and warm in my bed. I took the plastic wrap off of my fresh pack.
She had no way of knowing who I was, or that I worked as a psychologist at a mother and children’s drug treatment facility in Oakland. Only a few nights before, I had stayed late and listened to the story of Patrice, one of my adult clients: how her daughter had recently turned six, and how this was bringing up issues for her, as six was the age at which her own mother’s boyfriend had started sexually abusing her.
Patrice had explained how she didn’t want to be like her mother, who had sometimes been in the same bed when the abuse took place, doing nothing, and how little bits and pieces of long-repressed memory were returning to her, seeing in her daughter a young an innocent version of herself. My client was always laughing and joking around, and this was the first time I’d seen her cry.
I said, “No, I have to get home.”
The woman lingered at my open window, and I looked again at her face. She was attractive, and quietly wasted at first, but then she started to get fidgety, which made me feel a little nervous as well. My motor was running, but I didn’t pull away.
I wondered who this young woman was, and what she had done before she...
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