My macho United States Marine Corps neighbor came over early one morning. I had just poured the first cup of Community Coffee, still in my pajamas, about to read the Sunday paper. I could not imagine what he was doing over so early, perhaps he needed to borrow a cup of coffee.
"LinMarie, now don't get mad, but look out your front window and check out the hooker."
Scot, went back home, leaving me to watch the act taking place outside my window.
When I first moved to my old house, I was a seamstress. I had a sewing and alterations business. I had erected a sign on my corner with the name of my company, "Yes I Can" and in smaller letters it read Sewing, Alterations and Classes.
Cathy was standing on my corner under the sign. Anyone in their right mind could tell she was high as a kite in a March wind. I did not know, at the time, which choice of high she was on - crack cocaine, marijuana, booze or perhaps a mixture of all. I did know for her to be out this early in the morning, that she'd never been to bed. Street girls mainly do their thing at night - thinking no one will see them.
At first sight, I was furious. But, after standing by the window watching her, I began to laugh. I watched her for a long time, as she would wriggle her butt in a circular fashion, raise her pleated mini skirt up over her white tee-shirt, point to the sign, and holler, "YES, I CAN!" She never had any "takers" or "johns" stop.
I watched as she began walking up the street, I figured Cathy had tired of her aerobics and cheerleading. Cathy headed for the middle of the street to play her version of dodge ball with her body and cars and trucks being the ball.
All of a sudden Cathy hit the ground. I could tell from my view point that she was either having a seizure or was in DT's from the drugs. I flew out my front door as fast as I could, down the stairs, one foot on top of a tree stump and over the fence I was. When I got to her she was as limp as a wet dish rag.
"What is it, Cathy? Talk to me. Don't you die on me." I yelled to the semi-conscious girl. I knew from the look of her that the attack wasn't a seizure.
She panicked, I suppose thinking I was going to beat the tar out of her for prostituting in front of my house, and began screaming - not in words just noise!
"Shut up screaming," I said. "I ain't going to hurt you. But, I am going to get off this street before you get both of us killed."
I threw that 95 pound girl over my shoulder like a sack of potatoes. I had no choice but to get us out of the road. Instinct, I was headed to my house. Street folk were watching. A group of thugs were piled together on the side walk. No one said a word for a long time. After I passed the group of thugs, one said, just loud enough for me to hear, "That crazy white bitch that stays in the big blue house gonna beat the crap outta that ho..." I ignored him.
The thoughts and opinions of the street people did not matter to me right then. I had other thoughts and other things to think about, like what was I going to do with Cathy. My main concern was to get her cleaned up, let her sleep off whatever she was on, and maybe try to talk some sense into her.
"Please don't call the po-po on me, just help me." she whispered before we ever got to my gate.
All I could do was pray. "God, just help me understand this girl. Maybe if I can understand her, I can help her."
I took Cathy in that day. she soaked for over two hours in a hot tub of water. She was like a kid that didn't want to get out. I brought her a robe and gown that swallowed her - it made her appear to be even more tiny than what she was - but they were clean.
"Can I sleep for just a little while?" she asked.
"Sure, take the bed in the back room."
I sat by the bed off and on the entire 17 hours that Cathy slept. I had heard from street talk that she was seizure prone and I suspected that she may have already had one. If that were the case, then I knew that she needed uninterrupted rest without a john or pimp pushing her to be back out on the streets. And, I knew none of them were brave or crazy enough to come to my house.
Around nine the next morning, Cathy began to stir. Being raise a good portion of my life by a grandmother, I could hear her saying, "Breakfast is your main meal of the day." I wondered if Cathy had a family and a place to go eat breakfast.
"Oh what the heck?" I thought.
On examining the fridge, I only found one egg and some really old milk. I think penicillin could be made with it or something of that nature. The bread was old, too, but I did know how to make biscuits from scratch. Okay, perhaps I secretly wanted to impress my house guest.
By the time Cathy got up, her clothes had been washed and pressed and a good breakfast of egg, sausage gravy and home made biscuits awaited her in my kitchen.
"You did this for me?" she asked suspiciously.
"No, for us. I plan to eat too." I said.
"You mean we eating together? We gonna sit here together?"
"If you plan to eat, we are. Trust me, I ain't going to try to poison you. You're not ....." damned my mouth. I started to tell her she wasn't worth me going to jail over her, but I retreated and said, "You're not going to get out of eating my cooking that easy. Sit down and eat."
I could tell she was hesitant. Even if I do say so myself, the smell was pretty appealing. We both dived into eating. No words were spoken for a long time. I could tell from the way she went after the gravy and biscuits she hadn't eaten for a while.
"What you got in this gravy?" she asked.
"I make mine with Cremora Coffee Creamer, it's cheaper and I'm allergic to milk sometimes."
"Get out of here! Are you for real? Coffee creamer?"
"Yes, why is it that bad?"
"NO, it's the best sausage gravy I've ever eaten."
We ate in silence for a while and of course, I found that I just could not sit there and wonder about the things I was thinking.
"Cathy, why do you sell yourself?"
"For rocks mostly."
"How much do you make?"
"What's with all these questions?"
"Just curious, that's all"
"You the police?"
"No, if I were, I would have hauled you in long before now."
"Then, what's it to you?"
"Nothing I just was trying to better understand you. That's all. Don't get your panties in a wad." Then I laughed because I realized she didn't have any on. All of a sudden, with the shock wiped off her face, she started laughing, too!
We ate more food. I served us more coffee and juice.
"No thank you," she said, "I've had enough. I wouldn't want to lose my girlie figure."
"Well," I thought to myself, "At least the little lady has been taught some manners, so I know somebody has raised her right."
"I make between $1.50 and $3.00 for each trick. Well, you, being a white lady would call it a blow job. My man gets the rest."
"What do you mean, 'your man gets the rest'?"
"Well, I charge between $10-$20 each time. They (the "date") rides around and I do my thing to 'em. Then I have to give the money to my john who been following us or he be where I'm to be dropped off."
"You mean "john" as in "pimp"?"
"Whatever you wanna call him - I just know I ain't messing with him and his money."
"Is he the one in that black car that follows not far behind you when you are on the streets?"
"How'd you know that?"
"Cathy, I may be white, I may not understand your life style, but I am not blind. I've seen you beat up and bruised. I cannot understand why someone with your education and personality would do something like that. Please get off the street."
"How you know I got a degree from Lamar?"
"I've done my homework too."
"Well I plan to get off the streets, they ain't nothing nice."
"One day soon. I gotta go or he's gonna be on the streets looking for me. Thanks for helping me and for the breakfast."
"Cathy, before you go, if you ever need my help, I am not the law, but I can help you or will try, when you are ready."
Cathy hugged my neck and said, "You know you really ain't such a bad white bitch like they say. Thank you for your help."
I thought of Cathy often after that. Every time she would pass the house, she would wave. Sometimes if other girls were working in front of the house, she'd holler at them to get to another street, because "a real lady stays in that house" She also passed the word that my place was a place to find solace and peace and that I would keep their lives and secrets safe within my walls.
I came to the conclusion that sharing the heart warming events that led to me cleaning up my neighborhood, winning a Jefferson Award for my efforts, may help someone else along the way.
Later that same year, Cathy was found murdered in a park in South Beaumont. She was having oral sex, got angry at the guy and bit him. He in turn, slit her throat.
It seemed like a senseless murder. She was so sweet, although confused. I learned her degree was an accountant. She was just that smart before the cocaine took over her body. I'm told that the first high from crack cocaine is unmeasureable. I'm told the body craves more and more. The craving will go to sleep, like a sleeping tiger, but when he awakes, raises his head and roars, he has to be fed.
Perhaps in her death, Cathy had found the peace that she really wanted all along. Over the course of the months after her death, I realized that Cathy was worthy of any one's attention, love and care. And, I regretted the day that I thought she wasn't.
I also thought that she was some one's child and that they would miss her. I knew that she had touched my heart and opened my eyes in a way that no one else had ever done nor any amount of schooling had ever come close to doing. She also had opened the communications line between others like her, the street girls, and myself.
I know Cathy was someone very special, because I know God doesn't make junk. It's been almost twenty years since Cathy and I had our first interaction - my streets and neighborhood are safe and clean - but I still miss seeing her and her beautiful smile...