by Justin Mulwee
One snowy night, while on his regular patrol, Sean found a girl. She was sitting on a trash bag full of clothes next to the dumpster on the frozen pavement, hugging her knees and sobbing. “Are you alright?” he asked, faithful to his job as a security guard for the apartment complex. The girl shook her head.
“Do you have a place to stay?” It was one in the morning.
“No,” she said. “I’m homeless.” She continued sobbing. In the harsh florescent streetlight, he could see that her face was red and beginning to swell. Someone had hit her in the face, hard, probably in the last few minutes. There was a strict policy against non-residents loitering in the parking lot, but Sean could not bring himself to enforce it.
“I hope your night gets better,” he said. He lingered a moment, then continued his patrol.
A few hours later, Sean returned to his apartment to find two of his roommates still awake at five in the morning.
“There was this homeless girl outside, crying by the dumpster.” He said, frowning. “It was horrible.”
“I know.” I whispered. “She’s sleeping.” I nodded at the couch, and the bony frame breathing quietly upon it. “Lock the door,” I said.
I met her about twelve hours earlier. Two women were sitting on the floor in the hallway outside my apartment. When I realized they’d been sitting there for an hour, I stepped out. “Waiting for someone?” I said.
“Yeah, Chad.” Said one. All I knew about Chad was that he liked both alcohol and women.
I asked if they wanted to wait inside. “There’s couches,” I said.
They looked at each other as if they were thinking about it, then one of them said, “No thanks.” Determined not to be a creep, I said okay and went back inside.
I came back half an hour later and they were right where I left them. “Hey, you guys needs a ride somewhere?” I asked.
“Uh, yeah.” One of them said. “The store.”
“Come on.” I said.
“Uh, can he come?” said Morgan, indicating the dog.
“Sure.” In the car, the one named Morgan said she was an artist, and talked about how much she loved dogs and how she nursed them back to health from the brink of death Later I would wonder how someone could be so kind to dogs yet so cruel to humans. The whole time, the other girl, Jade, sat quietly in the backseat. She eyed me and her companion back and forth, simply watching. She cradled a big white puppy in her arms like baby.
Jade stepped out of the car and into a crappy place called Muncho Mart. Soon she returned with a collection of convenient store foods: jerky, chips, pop.
“I’m a lesbian,” said Morgan on the way back, out of nowhere. I hadn’t expected that but I wasn’t surprised, either. I wondered, though, why she said it out of the blue like that. I saw two possibilities. Either she was used to being judged for this and wanted to gauge my reaction, or she was telling me not to get any ideas. Either way, I only nodded. I then wondered about Jade in the back. Morgan didn’t say whether she and Jade were a couple. Nor did Jade speak for herself. She only looked at me from behind the dog in her lap, waiting.
When we came back, Chad was still gone and his door still locked. I invited them in to my apartment once more, and this time, they accepted.
“We’re not really this thick,” Morgan said. It took me a second to realize she was referring to their figures which were obscured by several coats. It seemed like a jarringly irrelevant thing to say.
Morgan was short, with a plain face. She wore a gray hoodie and was very talkative. It took one a few seconds to realize she was a girl.
Jade, by contrast, was a docile and feminine creature. Though her face was weathered by too much time in a Michigan winter, she had soft features if you really looked at them. Kind of pretty, even. She had a small nose ring and olive green eyes permanently glazed with tears. She seemed to listen intently to what others said, but never spoke herself or even moved much.
Morgan talked constantly, and clearly liked to say very personal and shocking things. “People usually kick us out when we won't have sex in front of them.” I told them I thought this was horrible, in hopes of conveying that I would neither demand nor accept such a spectacle.
“Do you believe in a higher power?” Morgan asked next.
“Oh! You’ll like my tattoos then.” She showed me many ugly tattoos of Jesus’ face and name on her neck and arms.
Jade spoke up for the first time. “What are we going to do all weekend?”
“Each other.” Morgan said.
That silenced her again. Jade looked not at all pleased with this comment, but nor did she protest. In general, Morgan seemed very proud of her sexuality, while Jade seemed ashamed.
A little later Morgan asked me, “hey, you want to go out back with me?” I didn't know what she meant by that question as there was nothing “out back” but ten degrees and a snowstorm.
“For what purpose?” I said.
She looked at me, evaluating me. “Nevermind.” She sunk into the chair.
I changed the subject. “How do you know Chad?”
“He used to be in love with me,” said Morgan. “Or in lust, whatever you call it.”
“Those are two different things,” I said.
“Maybe he just wanted me to be his whore.” She concluded.
While Morgan was talking, Jade held the white dog on the leash. I bent down and played with the dog, and the dog licked me affectionately. Jade still did not move, but she seemed to accept affection through the dog and smiled a little.
Eventually my neighbor returned, and the two girls gathered their things and headed next door. I told them if things got dicey with Chad, they could come here.
A few minutes later, they knocked on my door and Jade asked me--the first time she spoke to me herself--if I would take her to get some cigarettes. I said yes.
“How’s Chad?” I asked.
“A liar,” Morgan whispered.
“Do you need to stay here?” I said.
“No.” said Morgan.
I gave them a look to ask if they were sure.
“We’ll let you know,” said Jade.
A few minutes later I knocked at Chad’s. Morgan answered. “Did you still need those cigarettes?” I asked. “Can you go for me?” Jade said. “I can’t.” She gestured with her last cigarette to her legs, which had a space heater pointed at them. I don't know if she meant she couldn't walk, but in any case she wasn't willing to go back outside. Chad was next to her on the couch, watching TV.
When I came back with the cigarettes and their change, Morgan could not understand why I did not want the two dollars they had given me for gas. I left, reluctantly. I hoped I would see them again.
An hour or two later, I heard a knock on the door. It was soft enough that I wasn’t sure I had heard it. I looked through the peephole and then opened the door. It was Jade. Morgan was nowhere to be seen.
"Get tired of Chad?" I said.
"More tired of Morgan, actually." she said. "Can I sleep here tonight?"
After a while, Morgan came knocking and yelling something unintelligible through the door. After a few moments of this Jade said “I’m just going to go. She won’t stop. I don’t want to put you in the middle of this.” She left again. I sat there looking at the empty couch and was suddenly depressed. I wandered my own apartment restlessly for half an hour, unwilling to sleep.
Then something, perhaps the cold, perhaps a well-wishing security guard, made her come back.
When I opened the door again, Jade stood in the doorway alone. She had swollen marks on her face in the clear shape of Morgan’s clenched fist. As I ushered Jade in, Morgan came up and starting yelling. Jade was hiding around the corner, but Morgan kept yelling. She was inches from my face, though her rage was directed at the unseen Jade.
“Goodnight,” I said to Morgan, and shut and locked the door in her face.
I could hear Morgan on the other side of the wall, first yelling, then crying loudly. “What just happened?” I asked.
“Do you see?” she said, pointing to her face. I could make out the imprint of each knuckle.
Before long, Morgan returned and started banging on the door again. “Don’t answer it,” Jade said, horrified.
“It’s after 2am.” I said. “It’s perfectly reasonable to not answer my door.”
After a while she went away and it was quiet again. Then Jade and I got to talking. She laid on the couch, stared at the ceiling and told me a lot of stories.
Story 1 “One time when I was pregnant with my twins, Morgan had me in a headlock. She was choking me and face and tongue turned purple. My cousin made her let me go.”
Story 2 “I have twins, a boy and a girl. Their daddy always beat me. He knocked me down and kicked me and stomped on my stomach while I was pregnant.”
Story 3 “I had sex with my baby daddy once while I was with Morgan. I said no, but he raped me.”
“Did you press charges?" I asked.
"No I didn't press charges. I have two kids with him, I'd been with him for four years and just broke up with him. No judge would believe me.”
"Yeah." I said.
Story 4 "I am so tired of getting hit in the head." she said in pure exasperation, touching her swollen forhead. “One time Morgan beat me so bad the whole side of my head was swollen. I told everybody it wasn’t her. She always acts like I’m stupid, but I’m not.” She teared up. “I’m smart.”
Jade says she now stutters and has trouble keeping balance as a result of repeated head trauma. She’s now deaf in one ear because of a childhood injury aggravated by Morgan’s beatings. The upside, she says, is that she can sleep on her good ear and hear nothing.
“I am 25 years old,” she said. “I am too old to play her childish games.” Though she seemed to be talking about maturity, the way Jade said it made her sound like an old woman at the end of her life.
She asked to borrow my phone. Unknown to me, she texted Morgan to tell her that she wasn’t sleeping with me, and that she was going to catch a bus and leave in the morning, alone.
And that’s how a psychotic homeless lesbian got my phone number.
Telling me her stories seemed to calm her down, and her anxiety soon have way to exhaustion. She curled up on the couch and turned out the light.
"I know we’re strangers, but you're safe here." I said.
"Thank you," she said sweetly in the dark, her head poking out of the blanket I brought her. I guess she believed me because in just a few minutes she was sound asleep. Though that might have had a lot to do with the fact that she hadn't slept in days.
My phone rang, and I quietly retrieved the phone from the table in front of Jade. Thankfully, it didn’t wake her. It was Morgan, and I didn’t answer. She called again and left a voicemail. Morbid curiosity got the better of me:
“Hey there.” She was crying. “If Jade doesn’t come back here, tonight, as in like in the next fifteen minutes, tell her I want nothing to do with her anymore. And you know what, everything’s gonna be translated from you differently because you obviously had like something for her from the beginning. Well, it’s all good, because…whatever.”
In two seconds her tone switched from calm to psycho.
“She’s got fifteen minutes to be over here, because I’m going instantly to Cass County. I’m not even bullshiting. Because you know what, motherfuckers like you need to stay out of our business, and we need to be able to fucking talk, but now that you’re in the bidness, you can go ahead and relate the message that she’s going to lose everything that she ever had, because of the fact that we couldn’t talk things out, because of YOU. Comprende?”
And another a few minutes later.
“You better stop fucking my girlfriend or we're going to have a huge fucking issue.”
There were also a bunch of incoherent text messages. The gist was she was convinced I was sleeping with Jade and thus she wanted to castrate me and ruin Jade's life. I’ve copied them, in order and unedited.
but urs is comin to u from god himself i hope u enjoy separating good couples. Oh frickin well tell that bi*** that i said she can have fun goodnight bye
house, her purrole her everythings guna get fuct cuz u wanted pussy...... Hmmmm have it ill just find a non money grubbin bitch. Oh tell her i am in
going to the stars with this shes guna have charges to the milky way, hope u had a fun night cuz well we just guna say u fuct ip our family, our love, our
homereckers get. Uur burned fo life nigga
love with her but my pyscological statis iis shaky n i wanna clip ur balls!!!I kno u fuct her n u kno wat hahaha u got burned bitch thhats wat
Let me tell u something big boy u got her for life now.... Im not takin back ya'lls 1 night stand! U guys royally fuct her life up im sure u dnt care
bye bye! N yeah im loco so imma walk away if she was that easy n quick im not down for her to be my wife!!! Hope u got them greenbacks boy cuz if were
Shes a carrier n u got wat god punished u w. U got a couple n its for life nigga......hahaha be a homerecker again
As Jade slept, I slipped behind her to the sliding glass side door. I peeked into the dark for a few seconds and then placed a wooden plank in the door to wedge it closed. I didn't want her "lover" to get in while she was sleeping on account of our faulty lock. I was careful not to wake the girl. After the day she'd been through, I didn't want her to wake up to a strange man standing over her in the dark.
My roommate and I kept watch in shifts. I wouldn't put it past Morgan to break through the glass just for a chance at strangling the girl. Never were we both totally asleep. In the morning, I came out and saw that she had woken up. Her eyes were open, but she laid perfectly still. “Did she ever call back?” Jade said.
“What did she say?”
I offered breakfast, but she said she couldn’t stay here any longer knowing who was next door. I could see her anxiety rising again. I nodded and walked her to my car.
I took her to the homeless shelter she requested. We talked a little, but most of the ride was silent. When we arrived, I said, "you going to stay away from her?"
"I don't know. I tried once." She stepped out into the snowy street, grabbed her trash bag of possessions and said, "It was nice meeting you."