Thursday, April 29, 2010


I saw quite a bit of Tina yesterday. Other than her methadone, she continues to stay clean. It's been months since she nodded out at YANA. She seems to be making friends. She has even begun to take on expression in her face and voice so that she matches her own words, laughing, frowning, and smiling as she speaks. It's really sort of wonderful to be near her, and, still, sort of horrifying as well. The story of her life hasn't changed much.

Her sister has been in the hospital, very seriously ill, for more than 30 days now. Tina makes the daily pilgrimage to visit her. Because the sister had served as a buffer between her and her mother, Tina has also made the entirely reasonable decision to live in a shelter while her sister is gone (see some of the previous posts on Tina to find out what a piece of work that mother of hers is). Tina believes, also entirely reasonably, that her own health has dangerously deteriorated, but she won't get medical care herself. She wants to wait until her sister is home, with her children, not waiting on Tina's daily visits.

In the shelter, Tina met up with up with one of our old clients who's come back to town. Tina brought her in and begged a blanket for her as diligently as she begs for herself and her sister. A grad. student who comes with the professors gave the woman a beautiful, embroidered blanket that she kept in her car. Tina also brought another woman from the shelter, an older woman with what to me was a fascinating appearance. She was slightly built, hair completely covered by a red bandanna. She was wearing a jacket with a skull and cross bones motif (see superstition post for how common something like that is at YANA). She moved with the slow, hesitant gait of many of our women over fifty, and she had a face that reminded me of a turtle's -- bony, with a blunt nose and chin that protruded out at about an equal distance. Tina and this new woman, Marcy, are friends now, but apparently Marcy had previously avoided Tina. Tina explained that she had originally planned to beat Marcy up in retaliation for something a childhood friend claimed Marcy did. Marcy knowing how Tina fights ("I never stop," Tina explained) kept her distance. Tina considered, however, Marcy's age and the fact of her pace maker and decided not to. Then she found out that her childhood friend had lied, and she and Marcy are friends.

"How did Marcy know how you fight?" I asked Tina.
"She's seen me," Tina answered.

That was what I'd figured. It's hard to know what to say to any of that. For one thing, Tina weighs about 11 pounds and has one tooth (o.k., maybe a few more pounds and a few more teeth, but still, she looks like a sweet, little gap-toothed 8 year old, or possibly a wizened little, almost toothless 100 year old.) For another, Tina will sometimes stop in a fight. She's stopped before when she and the other women both ran completely out of breath. For a third thing, though, if someone hadn't intervened, she really probably would have started back up once she could breathe again. Sweet, serious, horrifically sick and abused little Tina is long on ideals and short on pragmatism. And somehow she still has the fight left in her to carry out the family ideal of retaliation. Little Tina is nothing if not loyal.

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