Carol Junior

September 25, 2019 at 11:11 am (Cussed Dumbers, Sweet sticky things, That's not funny...)

I have met and known a lot of interesting people at work over the years. One of my favorites was Crazy Cat Woman Carol, a fixture of the night who, despite being filthy-mouthed, unwashed and potentially violent, gave me untold hours of entertainment and companionship. Carol disappeared a few years ago, likely the happy hunting ground, but we like to think she decided to start taking her meds and live indoors again. That’s what we tell ourselves.

But who is gonna pick up the slack, the huge gap where Carol filled our nights with filthy nonsense and inspired curses?

Carol Junior, of course.

Of course her name isn’t Carol, but since schizophrenic street people don’t always come with name tags, we give them descriptive nicknames. Carol Junior was a no-brainer.

New Carol was younger by about thirty years, though older Carol would have been equally as attractive at the same age. Both beautiful women, but something in their wiring left them in mental states ranging from funny-as-fuck to horribly depressed. On a good day, they would be a joy to deal with. Most of the time, however, they would be cussing and swearing and discoursing on subjects far and wide with no discernible connection. No thieving, but angry outbursts at imaginary companions tended to freak out cashiers and cussed-dumbers, and soon it’d be “You gots to go.”

I’d let them talk, this is America, freedom of speech, etc… Goddamn Patriots always preaching, shut up and let someone else say something. The ladies appreciated that I would let them say their piece.

I started noticing Carol Junior around 2010, I’d guess. The elder Carol had a catch-phrase, involving rape with a nightstick. Carol Junior is much more to the point. “FAWCK YEW-OO!”

I’d hear that in the middle of the night while hanging outside the Waterfront Store, and know she was okay.

One day inside the store, when nobody was around and I’d given her a small coffee, she motioned me over. She rubbed up against me, ran her hand down my chest and tried to kiss me. I evaded her move gently, partly out of surprise, and partly because Rain was outside smoking a cigarette and I didn’t want to have some ‘splainin’ to do. Junior then handed me a silver band, which fit my wedding finger perfectly.

“Oh hon, you don’t have to do that!” I was admiring the perfect fit, though.

She looked me square in the eye and said, “I feel safe when I know you’re wearing that.” It was the most coherent sentence I’d heard her say.

Fuck. Who am I to argue? It didn’t hurt that Rain didn’t mind. She always wore a fake wedding ring, so it almost looked normal.

The ring was silver, and worth $65 at the time. Probably about twenty times her net worth.

Junior has a boyfriend, maybe her husband. His name is Marshall, and he’s a good-hearted hobo who will crawl through broken glass for Carol Junior. He’s always asking me if I’ve seen her, followed by his itinerary for the day in case I do. “I’ll leave five bucks at the Mead Building and be sleeping at my spot by the bridge. Please tell her if you see her?” I assure him I will, and I do convey the messages if they are within a few hours.

About three years back, Marshall came by the store, and was in a sober, talkative mood. “Junior is in a home now, down in southern Oregon. They have her on meds, and she’s doing great. We actually talked on the phone for an hour and a half, she’s normal! I miss her, though.” Marshall went through a down period, but eventually he was back to his usual beer-livin’, meth-smokin’ self. I didn’t forget Carol Junior, but like the original Carol, I imagined her to be in a safe, happy place.

A few weeks back, I was at work, staring stupidly into space, when I saw a smiling face outside the store. “Junior!” I ran out and gave Carol Junior the biggest hug. She’s always been bone-skinny, I was careful not to snap her in half. She looked good, but obviously had been living outside for a while.

I pulled back from the hug, and looked into her eyes. She was twinkling and smiling. “Sorry, I’ve been rolling in dead animals a lot lately.”

“Honey, you smell like roses to me. How you doing?”

Conversation was pointless. Her meds had stopped, and she was back on the crazy train. I suppose she could be a druggie, but I never caught that vibe. I bought a pack of cigarettes, and started giving her a few at a time. It kept her coming around. I showed her I was still wearing her ring after five years, and she cried with happiness. “My street husband!”

She kept coming around. I noticed more self-deprecating comments from her. I gleaned bits and pieces of information. She was 47, she told me her real first name. She’d see me at work, and get all flustered and take off the other direction. It took me a bit, but I realized she was embarrassed to be dirty around me.

One day, as I left for lunch in the evening, she was waiting on the corner. She’d showered, and was wearing lipstick. “Wow, you look nice!” I told her.

She gave me the biggest grin, and moved in close. I gave her a hug, and soon her face was rising to meet mine, then lips, then tongues were rasslin’, and after about thirty seconds I was breathless, dizzy, palpitating, and a little wet. We were on a downtown street corner in broad daylight with a sea of pedestrians milling past. I even heard one of my regulars yell “Go for it!”

I had an errand to run, to the bank. She was gone when I returned ten minutes later, and I didn’t see her again for about a week.

Not that I didn’t think about it.

She’d come around, to bum a smoke or a cup of coffee. I’d see her sleeping across from my bus stop and sneak her Little Debbie’s, quietly so as not to wake Marshall. I hurried back to the bus stop, and watched her scarf down the box in about five minutes. I blew her a kiss, and the bus whisked me away.

Last Friday night at work, lunchtime. I was bored, looking for a place to take a couple puffs without being totally obvious. The bars and bus stops were full of soccer hooligans, so I walked up 5th Avenue to a bench by where Carol Junior sleeps. She was there, I could see a bare leg sticking out of the doorway. “Hi!” she hollered, all excited. She jumped up and gave me a hug, “Can I please have a cigarette?” She’d asked me three times, this was the first time she’d spoken loud enough to be heard.

Having nothing better to do, I said, “I’ll be right back.” I rushed back to the store, made her a large coffee and grabbed the whole pack of promo American Spirits. I was almost back when I came across her trying to find me. I took her hand in mine, and we walked back to her spot.

I took inventory of her possessions. She had been pulling around a suitcase, but it was nowhere in sight. There were a pair of slip-on clogs, a sweater, and the cup of coffee I’d just given her. She was wearing nothing but a long shirt/dress. I know this because she showed me. We’re both natural redheads, at least in some places…

She sat next to me on the bench, draped her legs over my lap, rested her head on my shoulder. After a few quiet minutes she went over and laid down, trying to sleep. She gave up after a few minutes, and came back over to me.

“I need help. Can you call the hospital for me?” She rattled off a list of psych meds. “I can’t get it together enough to do it myself. I’m having a mental breakdown. SHUT THE FUCK UP!” The last sentence was to someone who wasn’t there.

I was due back to work, so I told her, “I will call Clean and Safe when I get back to work. Stay right here, and don’t freak out when they come to talk to you?”

“Yes, sir.” So humble and contrite.

I made the call, and hoped for the best.

Igor and I were killing off the night, he was off-duty but hanging out because work is more entertaining than his personal life right now.

At about 11 PM, I looked up, and it was Carol Junior. “Didn’t they come for you?” I asked her.

“They were afraid I’d freak out and wouldn’t come.”

“Oh jeezus fuckin’ Christ. Give me a minute.”

I asked Igor to watch the till for a few. I called the non-emergency line, explained everything, and the dispatcher was helpful but concerned. “Do we need to send police? Is there a chance she could become violent?”

“I think we can handle her if she gets upset.”

At that moment, she was staring over the shoulder of a young man not used to being told no. He was trying to scam a free Juul stick out of Igor, but his indignant pitch was less effective due to suppressed giggle-fits.

The words she put forth were fascinating. Monumentally deranged, a free-form flow of lunacy. She’d calmed down after eating a bunch of Little Debbie’s and coffee. I waved down the ambulance, gave the paramedics as much info as I knew, then went to get Carol Junior.

“They’re here for you, sweetheart.”

“Will you watch my sweater?” She handed it to me. “They’ll put it into a plastic bag, and I don’t want it to suffocate.”

“You might want to hang onto it. It might be cold when you get out.”

She sighed. “I won’t be getting out.”

I kissed the top of her head, and directed her to the paramedics. They walked her frail form to the ambulance, got her situated inside, and took off after a while.

It’s been about a week, and she’s still gone. I’ve been keeping an eye out for Marshall; he’s probably sick with worry. But he’s also used to her disappearing, so I will be the bearer of good news when I see him again.

And when Carol Junior comes back around?

I’ll still be wearing her ring.

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