She preps students for SATs, tells them that for some extra cash she can get them into the college of their choice.
“But that’s a lie,” I say.
“I’m playing the odds,” she says. “Some will get in, some won’t. But if they do I tell them it was me and then keep the money.”
“But what if they don’t get in?”
“I return their money. I’m no shyster, Fernando. I run an honest racket here.”
I don’t argue, she’s my girlfriend, the love of my life, we share everything, even our dishonesty, so I don’t say anything.
“I’m not a bad person,” she says. “I give them hope, which is the most precious thing in the world.”
“By the way,” she adds, pointing her finger at me, “you too need to get your act together; become somebody, move ahead in life.”
“I was born on the wrong side of capitalism,” I say. “I’ll never amount to anything.”
“DON’T SAY THAT! DON’T YOU EVER SAY THAT, FERNANDO! PROMISE ME YOU’LL BE SOMEBODY SOMEDAY! PROMISE ME!”
“Okay, okay,” I say, scared by her tone. “I promise.”
“We’re good people. We both deserve a good life.”
I kiss her goodbye, leave for work.
I’m a substance abuse counselor, it’s my full time job, which means I’ll always be poor. But I enjoy talking to clients. One tells me she uses Meth to outrun the voices; another one that she got referred to the program by her dealer. (I guess dealers also have to keep customers alive.) Another one that he carries a .45, but then always goes to his anger management classes.
I also have a youth, a notorious thirteen-year-old weed dealer whose urine samples are always positive for THC.
I tell him his UA is positive, and he thinks positive means a good thing.
“No,” I say. “Positive means it’s dirty, that you’re going to Juvie.”
“Juvie…” he says in that calm, pothead voice. “Yeah… I ain’t tripping…”
He must be high right now.
I call his mom, tell her about the kid’s dirty tests, ask her if he might be having access to marijuana at home.
“Well, he ain’t getting any of mine,” the mom says.
I try hard not to laugh, but right then I realize the kid’s never going to stop smoking. He’ll go to the Hall, come back, go back to the Hall, round and round, until the end of time (or until he turns 18 and gets his marijuana card).
I never argue with clients. No one listens to me anyway. I just always write the same note: Client appears to make no progress, over and over, until the end of time.
I close my files, let the kid go, punch out.
It’s 5 pm.
When I get home I find my girlfriend waiting for me. She’s cleaned up the whole place, inch by inch, always a bad sign.
“I want a baby,” she says.
“But we can’t even afford to feed ourselves.”
“I wanna baby! And you promised, you promised you’ll make something of yourself!”
It goes on for hours.
“We’re good people,” she says, “you and I. We deserve some happiness.”
I stand there, my mind drifting towards eternal, sad places that still don’t have a name.
“You have to become somebody!” she keeps saying. “You promised!”
I stare at the floor, letting her words float, glide through my mind, all empty and crazy, like the universe.
I wait and I wait. I think of the emptiness of it all, think of my soul dying and never coming back. I wait and wait, and imagine me writing the same prognote over and over again: client appears to make no progress; no progress: no progress at all, writing it over and over again, until the end of time.
Image – Pixabay