In one sense Lilian seems to be doing better -- she is more talkative and more vibrant than she once was. I suspect that this is the result of some change in medication. Either she's sober now after taking some street drug that numbed her, or she's on some different combination of medicines prescribed for her. Maybe she's taking fewer meds, or maybe she's on a good antidepressant (we had a client the other day who announced, "I'm feeling good! That antidepressant is working!"). I don't get the impression that she's coming to YANA wound up on crack or the like, but, then, drugs affect people in different ways, and I'm no expert. At any rate, she is increasingly charming and fun to be around, while just as oblivious as she ever was to the larger issues in her life.
This week she showed us the two or three large bruises on her arm and complained about having 18 vials of blood taken from her. She said it was because the doctors believed she'd had a mild stroke the week before. "They think that's why I'm leaning to the right and drooling," she told the room. And then "Look at those bruises!". But before anyone could express any sympathy, for her, she triumphantly delivered the punch line, "But guess what?! They took so much blood they gave me a $10.00 Walmart Gift Card. That's a Christmas present right there!" Lilian burst into gleeful laughter over having been given a present by her doctor and seemed finished with the conversation.
I asked her to look directly at me for a second and confirmed that one side of her mouth was sagging. I fell completely into Lilian mode in telling her this. "Not much!" I assured her. "I never would have noticed if you hadn't told me about it!" She had a follow up appointment with her doc. -- I didn't feel required to say anything more than that. Besides, I don't feel capable of battering down that weirdly powerful invisible shield she's managed to erect between herself and the horrors that seem to lie in wait.
As Lilian was leaving later, she stopped to tell the other ladies the latest bit of gossip. "You know that 14 year old boy that got raped and then the guy cut his throat?" Everyone but me seemed to know quite a bit about it. One woman wasn't sure whether the killer had been caught and the rest quickly told her that he'd been caught the next day at a 7-11. "Well, his grandmother is in my house," Lilian said. "She was holding up well until the funeral yesterday. Then she fell apart." Lilian delivered this news kindly, the way one woman will tell the others about the well being of someone else from the church or the neighborhood. Grandmothers in rehab, people whose children get killed, women like our women so often know one another. It was community news for them. And the reaction was a community reaction. Even after Lilian was out the door, the clients were still reassuring me and each other of the tortures that would befall the child killer in prison.
"They're going to do to him worse than what he did to that child," a woman said.
The rest nodded like they were in church, hearing hearing the God's honest truth.
"That's right. That's right," the women affirmed.
"That's what we always did!" Jessie said.
"You don't know how fast news travels in prison," one woman told me. "They're going to know before anyone. They're going to be waiting for him."
This prompted another round of "that's rights."
Then one of the women made the mistake of telling us what she personally would do to the man if the 14 year old had been her son. I didn't think anything of that. Most parents I've known would be talking about dismemberment if they imagined their children raped and murdered. Unfortunately, Jessie took the opportunity to point out that while she used to think the same way, she had been "working on her spiritual side." One's spiritual side is very, very important to our women, especially once they get into rehab. Embarrassed, the speaker began a rapid fire explanation of just how important her own spiritual side was to her and how much she was learning in her bible class.
"For example, did you know that when you're asleep you're dead?" She smiled proudly delivering this bit of knowledge to people who obviously had no idea. "That's right! Your pores open up, and your immune system doesn't work, and everything goes in and out of you. You're dead! King James is the truth!" There wasn't a woman in the room foolish enough to touch any of that, and in a minute or two we were all restored to the usual low hum of conversation. Sad stories. Small victories. A nearly endless supply of improvised strategies so everyone could get by.