One of our relatively new clients, Kimberly, has a lot to say. Apparently, she also makes cakes in a cast iron skillet. I'm supposed to get a peach cake one of these days. I'll let you know if I ever do. Anyway, those of you who have been reading this blog for a while know about Liz, one of our sicker, more troubled, and, in many ways, more endearing clients. Liz lives with a sister named Samantha. None of us have ever seen Samantha, but we hear a great deal about her. Samantha steals from Liz. Samantha spends all her money on drugs, then takes to her bed, demanding care from beleaguered, overwhelmed Liz. Samantha takes Liz's money, then throws her out of the house, not even giving her time to get her heart medication. Samantha has been married to a bipolar man in the suburbs for decades, taking his money and living with a series of boyfriends in the city while pretending to be faithful.
These damaged, complex relationships aren't unusual for our clients, but the stories Liz tells about Samantha can't possibly all be true. Years ago, Samantha kidnapped somebody, and Liz rode in the car afterward with her sister and the victim. Liz was sentenced to more time than Samantha, the judge having explained that being an unknowing accessory after the fact was worse than committing the underlying crime. Samantha also gave Liz syphilis by taking a bath in the same tub that Liz later used. Apparently, the 13 years of stripping and the 17 arrests for prostitution had nothing at all to do with Liz's catching a venereal disease.
I believe that Liz is a reasonably honest person. I don't think she has either the inclination or the self discipline needed to concoct elaborate stories or to prevent herself from blurting out pretty much every single thing she has ever done or thought. Still, the Samantha stories got so over the top that I sometimes flirted with the notion that Samantha didn't even exist. She seemed to be taking on the mythical qualities of an evil twin in the ongoing Gothic horror movie that was pretty much Liz's life.
Then we learned that Kimberly lives right next door to Liz and Samantha. In a cheap Baltimore row house, right next door is really right next door. Kimberly seemed to know everything about the two sisters and to have no compunction at all about sharing. According to Kimberly, Samantha exists all right. She exists, and, if anything, she's even more horrible than Liz ever told us. In Liz's presence, Kimberly reported the continual bedlam Samantha and her array of strange men produced. She repeated language so vulgar that even in Jr. High I wouldn't have wanted to hear it (at least, not all that often in the middle of the night). She emphatically stated that Samantha regularly took Liz's money and then threw her out of the house. She even told us that Samantha had thrown Liz out naked once, and that Kimberly had brought her in and given her clothes. Liz didn't seem to like being reminded of that particular incident, but she nodded grimly when Kimberly looked to her for confirmation.
"And Liz is sweet as gold," Kimberly told us several times. "Nothing at all like her sister. Sweet as gold." At YANA Liz is, well, something of a pain in the ass. But then, YANA is the place for abused people to strut their stuff a bit, act entitled, burst into tears and then luxuriate a bit in all the hugs and kisses that follow. Liz outside of YANA, is just a dying 48 year old woman, still prostituting, still getting fall-down drunk nearly every day, still under the power of a sister she loves.