In the previous installment, we learn a bit more about The Monk and his background. He’s a legendary figure in the city and, despite his best attempts, he’s been struggling to get Louie and Tammy sober. Though he’s an odd character, people love him.
Let’s jump into Part 3, where we meet Tammy and learn of her struggles and the odds against her.
Tammy gathered the cash on the hotel room nightstand, counting it slowly. “Pierce,” she said. “You’re $100 short.”
Pierce laid on the bed, ignoring her. He turned up the volume on the TV as he channel-surfed, and Tammy felt herself getting angry.
“Did you hear me?” she asked, annoyed.
“You’re lucky you got that much.”
She stuffed the cash in her tattered purse, lit a cigarette with her shaking hands. She always had to get high before tricking; she hated doing it so much, and, by being high, she felt she was somewhat out of her body.
“Can I get a ride home?”
Pierce scornfully laughed. “What? To the riverside, and your tent? Hell no. I’m surprised you even asked.”
Tammy hated Pierce, and she suspected Pierce hated her just as much. But in a sick kind of way, they needed each other. Tammy was caught in the vicious cycle of prostitution paying for her drug addiction; she needed the money badly, and Pierce was the only well-paying john she had left.
Pierce, on the other hand, was just an asshole. He was a wealthy executive at a big pharmaceutical company in the city. The bitter irony of their situation – which neither of them spoke of – is that Pierce worked for a company that flooded America’s cities with the pain pills that turned Tammy first into an addict and then, desperately, into a prostitute.
But Pierce had not an ounce of compassion for her or, seemingly, anyone else. On the contrary, he felt that whoever got hooked on the pills his company peddled was a mental midget and deserved what they got.
“Well, I’m getting out of here, then,” Tammy said, knowing Pierce could give two shits, but saying it anyway.
“Hasta la vista, baby.” He turned the TV to the football game and drank from his glass of bourbon. Tammy felt so angry at him that she wanted to claw his eyes out. But she refrained.
Pierce was actually quite handsome for a middle-aged man, she thought, but he was so intolerably arrogant and mean that it spoiled his good looks. He had jet-black hair that was always slicked back, and he wore the finest tailored suits. He smelled of expensive cologne and had a perfect set of white teeth.
But externals can be very deceiving. Inside, he was a devil.
Tammy sorted through her tattered purse for her flip phone and began calling friends, seeing if she could hitch a ride. She went down the list of contacts, but no one was picking up. Most of her friends were junkies by the riverside, so it’s not like any of them had cars.
She lit another cigarette, her hands trembling.
Then she took out the hand mirror in her purse and looked at herself. Her face was gaunt, and her black eyeliner smeared. She had trouble applying lipstick now because of her hand tremors, so even that was a bit off.
In moments like this, Tammy wondered how she ended up with this life. What a life it was. She was born into class and privilege, but she crashed hard after college. Her family disowned her after repeated attempts to get her sober.
She wondered how much longer she could hold out. In the Narcotics Anonymous meetings she went to, they’d say, “Don’t quit before the miracle happens.” But she felt like quitting. She often felt like walking to the bridge overlooking the Delaware River and nosediving to her death.
The Monk frequently told her God works in mysterious ways and that her life could turn around at any moment. She loved The Monk, but she didn’t believe him in the least bit. Instead, she felt more like she was on an elevator that continued to descend into the underworld, and each floor she got off at was dirtier, grimier, and more sinister.
She walked to the highway and stuck her thumb out. She knew hitchhiking was dangerous, but, shit, the rest of her life was misery anyway. The cars zoomed by in the dark city night, and she hoped to God that if someone picked her up, it wouldn’t be some serial killer or sicko.
Tammy felt like crying, but she held in the tears. She pressed them deep down inside, that lonely place where The Monk said only God could access. She said a little prayer, the Serenity Prayer, as a car slowed down by the side of the road.
She hopped in the car with the man in the black trucker hat and told him to take her to the riverside. He smiled and put his hand on her leg. She didn’t have the strength to stop him, so she let his hand wander.
Tammy closed her eyes and went to the quiet place. She thought that there must be a heaven and a hell, and all these men and monsters had certainly reserved a spot in the depths of hell.
To be continued
Check the following links to see previous installments of The Monk and the City that Loves Him: