We were working in a well known, heavy crime area known for drug sales and violent crime when we saw her.
We drove closer to the corner she was standing on, I knew this one by name on account of we had shared many encounters before, her and I.
I had learned her story, knew of her history. And I knew what kept her out on the streets past midnight, late into the dark.
On this night, however, she was the worst I had ever seen her. Black under fingernails, finger's palms calloused from a hot glass pipe held too much for much too long. She was on a binge.
It was only late teen years when crack introduced it's inhale sweet like honey and now, like most of the females out at this hour, she offered the only thing she had left to offer to feed a fix. Crack is a "busy drug" and I could see in her eyes she had been awake for days as her body jerked.
Sweat rolled down a chest exposed, her eyes were wide and glassy. Her feet, unable to plant still. The streets call it dancing, better known as tweaking. Back and forth, shakes and jerks, her hands and legs jolted.
I knew the crack was calling, throwing dart like demands and she had to serve them soon.
I couldn't take my focus away from what was really reaching out to me though. It was a humid night and a large jacket covered a belly protruding round. I guessed eight months along, she told me seven.
I stared in groaning silence as I watched her body jerk and twitch. As if she had caught one of the thousand daunting questions escaping from my eyes she told me her plan for beating the system.
She would go to rehab the last month of pregnancy so that the infant she carried wouldn't test positive for crack cocaine by the time of birth and CPS wouldn't be called to the hospital.
I heard desperate in her voice, perturbed for the hindrance I was causing her, standing before her with blue and red lights and a badge.
I deterred the passerbys from stopping, I alerted eyes that snuck out in the dark of my presence. Her potential customers I diffused, the longer I stood before her--I was messing with her money, you see. Messing with her means to take a hit, I was the only culprit here.
She told me it had been awhile since her last hit,
"Please, I'll go in soon just need this one".
Time frame for a drug user is a time zone distorted, crooked and perfect sense out of nonsense, no one sober can understand. 'Awhile' meant only but an hour for her.
A sweat drop rolled from her hairline crossing over her temple and I watched her trembling hand reach up to smear it down her cheek before soaking it into the lace skirt that had once been white, now faded brown. I don't know how many times she had already been picked up within the hours from an evening before. How many men had already overlooked a seven month bump wrapped around a defenseless life, a girl lost in addiction, for the sake of their own fix?
I fought her with words. The only ones I could muster into the thick air between us. Words cutting into a black night to dwindle away the silent, I so wanted them to cut into her heart just above the smaller beating one within her. But my words by themselves don't have edges like that.
Surely, I alerted the look out boys on watch of their dope houses around the corner and blocks down. Our lights had already cleared out the rest of the girls and pimps like cockroaches, and we were being watched.
She demanded I leave and I told her too late.
She cried with angry pleas, slurred and delayed speech, and they met and fought with the angry pleas from my lips too. I raised my voice when she spouted overriding statements of refusal, annoyance and resistance--she had to know by now, I was only fighting for her, and for the other life beyond her ribs. Surely, the life inside her flesh heard my cries for them too.
My partner stayed quiet as he watched two women, same grounds--eyes to eyes, face to face--both pleading angry, same desperation, different causes.
He watched while being the other set of eyes as hard cover, he kept watch.
I wanted her to know her eyes and mind were too cloudy, she couldn't see what I was seeing.
She said no to help, she had it handled.
So I looked at my partner and gave him the signal. And clasp went steel around tense, flesh wrists as she yelled and cried for the hit she knew wasn't coming for her that night.
We rode quiet. From years worth, my partner lingers in silent after emotional hits, he knows I'm one who needs it to get a grip again after a fight filled with anger and heavy sorrow too. And I do the same for him. He always waits for me to speak again first. Then he tries to throw in something funny or lighthearted for the sake of sanity.
We rode out listening to the soft whimpers behind our heads in a caged back seat meshed with radio transmissions from other incidents, carrying on and on in each badge pinned world amidst our own.
We booked her in and we were off riding back to our area and onto more work. I prayed between gradual discussion which rose again between my partner and I.
I prayed she would look back one day with eyes to see. I hoped she would look back and remember another standing before her and remember it by His love for her. I prayed she would recognize something greater here: that this piece of her life (and mine) tonight played out in an attempt to rescue.
But for now, she would be locked away and then released just twelve hours later.
Probably make her way back to the same corner where I found her. And I would go looking for her again when I could.
But at least there were twelve hours.
An onlooker may say I did nothing but lock away. And without a story told, I suppose it only looks like someone in blue, with a badge and a gun who stopped a girl clothed rich in melanin beautiful for merely standing on a sidewalk, minding her own business.
But I would say, again--I know her name. I would say, I have learned her. I would say, I have learned what it means when she walks up and down this sidewalk after a certain hour. I have learned what it means to mingle at the corner of two streets for a moment too long in these parts.
I would say, I have walked head to head with her tired, out here in the dark. A dark that only comes while the rest of the world sleeps. I would say, I have entered into her world to find, that what grips her ankles and wrists far exceed the strength of any steel handcuff.
I would say, I have learned what it looks like for her body to thirst for crack rock and, too, what it looks like just moments to an hour after it's been inhaled. It has been many conversations under stars, her and I.
It has been laughter and chatter, between her and I. And then it has also been tears and strife, like tonight, between her and I. I would say, my boots are worn and her wounds are deep and I long for her worth to exude another stranger's passenger seat; a touch in exchange for $10, a poisonous inhale which so easily entangles--because her worth does. Oh, it does. I love this girl. And I'm only just learning what that really means, what it looks like.
I would say, I wrestle over feeling like the broken record I have become opening my mouth to tell her, "You got a lot of value, girl" and then wondering if she catches that or are they merely words to drop flat on the ground beneath us, or float into a sky just over our heads until they disappear forever.
I would say, maybe you just don't know, but her and I do.
I would say, I long for the day she is weary enough to know she's too weary to carry on alone. I would say, it is my heart to protect this girl, and to protect the one now inside of her.
And then I would say, at least there were twelve hours. Twelve hours for the cause of love to have won.
Twelve hours; breathing freedom for two while locked in a jail cell.