Death of her inner voice



August 13, 1988

            Peggy looked bad, bad in that way all cocaine people look bad, as tightly strung as a too-tight guitar string just on the verge of breaking as she sat among the boys laughing too loudly in her usual routine.

            To others, her laugh seemed hearty enough, but I recognize it as the laugh that lures suckers into becoming her next temporary sugar daddy.

            My mistake was believing that this was all a game with her, when this is not a game at all, she is always in desperate earnest, her whole life depending upon weaving her spell around some man the way a spider does a fly.

            Peggy always needs to feed.

            Which explains why she’s back. She can live without the trappings of the bar, the place where her suckers settled and where she can weave her web.

            This part of her life is as vital to her as the straight job she works in Bogota.

            Seeing her again, hearing her laugh again, gave me a whole new insight into her that I lacked when I was very closely involved.

            Peggy Yacyniak has no sense of humor – at least not what most people would consider humor.

            It is all an act, the jokes, the laughing, all part of a very serious routine she has developed to fool us “marks,” “johns” or pond scum toads, into believing she is just like us.

            Her humor is as calculated as a surgeon’s knife, deliberate, designed to slice a man open to extract from him what she needs – if not cocaine, then a car or a drink or a ride or check to cover rent or cash to bribe a cop.

            I don’t know why she looked so terrible on this night, perhaps the cocaine and drinking has worn her down, or pushing her closer to the edge, maybe my staying out of the bar scene for a long time has cleared my vision to allow me a fresh look at her and the other people in inhabit this world of the living dead.

            And I don’t think she looked so stressed simply because I happened to show up.

            But it could be.

            Tom claimed last year when I talked to him about her that Peggy had an inner voice that responded to things that I said and did to her, something that echoed inside her after I stopped reacting, an inner voice of truth that tells her exactly where she is and what she is doing and how bad things really are, when her surface self tries to pretend everything is cool.

            The voice was there before I came along, but I made it stronger.

            She has been trying to kill that voice for years, well before I showed up, using every means possible, especially drugs and alcohol.

            Tom said that each time I show up, I give the voice strength, emphasizing its signs and symbols so that she has to drown them out with more drugs and more booze, and a louder fake laugh.

            It is all a strange balancing act with this foolish woman/girl/child struggling to maintain herself in a world where women can’t, where everything is stacked against them, where they are not the strong players, but the objects of men’s delight that get tossed away when they cease to be amusing.

            She wants to keep the status quo in a world where there is no such thing, only deterioration or recovery.

            She lives with the same illusion that many street people have, that their life is somehow freer than those of us in the straight world, while they labor with addictions and human tragedy that enslave them even more than straight jobs and typical romance would.

            In the end, people like Peggy claw to keep where they are as they are dragged down into total annihilation

            Peggy is a mask of self-delusion, believing she can forever straddle both the straight and street worlds, that she will never get sucked down, used and abused by the dark side, and can some how avoid the fate that all street people are destined to suffer.

            She believes that because she has a straight gig in Bogota or Verona or wherever else that she has her foot firmly planted there and can’t be dragged over the edge into the dark, or eventually settle for the profession most of her kind usually end up doing.

            Last year, I wrote her mother about the danger of Peggy falling into prostitution. But it was already too late. Peggy was already there. She simply doesn’t realize it yet.


Sept. 18, 1988

            Stay out of the strip clubs long enough, and people start seeing you as an outsider – which is sort of what happened when I went into the My Way last night.

            A year ago, many said Peggy would never change, including Mary the bartender, who claimed “She’s just no damned good,” at the time.

            After many moons away from this place, I’m suddenly the bad guy with Mary, who tells me Peggy’s straightened up her act.

            “She’s going to marry a friend of mine,” Mary said when I stopped in for the first time in a while and got a heavy dose of  hostility even from Mary, who I guess has taken Peggy’s side in the old war because of the sudden close connection with someone she knows and likes.

            Mary doesn’t understand why I persist in “bothering” Peggy when she’s move on with her life.

            “Is this how you get your kicks?” she asked.

            Mary was honestly puzzled since unlike most people in this scene who have simple wants such as sex and lust, I’m an aberration to her, with motivations that can’t be described in one or two words if they can be described at all.

            Why do I keep sending Peggy post cards about giving up drugs, Mary wants to know, why it is clear that Peggy doesn’t want to have anything to do with me?

            “Do you hate her that much?” Mary asked.

            “Actually, I don’t have her at all,” I said, imagining the long conversations Mary had had with Peggy or Peggy’s future husband, all of them trying to work out why I persist, concluding that I must be some kind of pervert.

            I am damaged in their minds partly because I tend to avoid coming into these bars on any regular basis, losing my claim on their loyalty.

            Familiarity may breed contempt, but absence here does not make their hearts grow fonder either.

            But I’m still operating on that theory Tom put forth last year about Peggy’s inner voice, and attempting to reach it so that she can convince herself that she is on the wrong road and needs to straighten herself out.

            It is a ludicrous campaign that has been creating cartoons on the back of post cards with using her as a fairy princess in need of rescue and me at a toad sending trying to save her from her self.

            I decided to use post cards for several reasons.

            First, she has to see what is there even if she throws the damned thing out – unlike a letter which is sealed and she can dispose of without any of it reaching her.

            More importantly, I want her family and others to know that she has a drug problem and more, that other people outside the family know it, too.

            While Peggy’s mother suspects her of drinking too much, I want to make it perfectly clear that the problem isn’t a few inches out of the bottle, and once on notice, her family can’t keep shoving the issue under the rug and pretend like it doesn’t exist.

            All this said, the cards are also humorous, cartoons with a message, but also with a joke.

            Down here in the underworld such attempts are seen as wrong, and I have become either “a do-gooder” or worse, the narc Tom once thought I was when we first met.

            And I know how I look in their eyes, how I seem like a stalker to them, and even Mary wouldn’t understand the idea that I am trying to reach an inner voice nobody but me and Tom believes exists in Peggy.

            I also know it is like rowing against the current.

            What stuns me most is Peggy’s ability to patch up her dark world and to maintain that support network that keeps her from any threat of positive change.

            She also must feel betrayed by me, since I am perfectly willing to betray my trust of the past to make her problems obvious to the world, with the hopes that by denying her cover, she might be forced out into the open and to openly deal with them.

            But she has managed to regroup and to rebuild herself in the same dark world, and now paints herself as persecuted so as to win over people formerly allied to me such as Mary.

            As long as Peggy can do this, and people like her family continue to support her bad habits, I don’t see much of a future for Peggy, no matter how many messages I send trying to reach her inner voice.


December 29, 2010

            I didn’t write a lot about Peggy in my journal, simply because I had no reason to. I largely stopped going to strip clubs, and began focusing on my writing – especially when I got a job as a part time reporter covering for the Passaic Valley Today newspaper, a twice-a-week newspaper that was distributed to every house in the Totowa section of Paterson, West Paterson, Totowa and ironically, Little Falls, where she had moved.

            Since my ultimate aim in my cartoon campaign was to continue to remind her that I existed – thus forcing her to confront inside herself some of the issues I raised – I no longer needed my cartoon postcard campaign since my name was on her doorstep on the front page of the newspaper twice a week.

            Her move to her sister’s house on Lincoln Avenue in Little Falls appears to have coincided with a job change and she went the Bogota packaging company where she said she worked as an accountant to Bank of New York in Verona as a teller, where she would eventually become assistant head teller before transferring to the Lakewood Branch at some point after her grandmother’s death in 1995.

            When I started with another newspaper chain out of the area in late 1992, I mailed copies to Lincoln Avenue in Little Falls, partly to let her know that I was still kicking. But she moved several times during that period, from Little Falls to the Totowa section of Paterson, then to Fair Lawn, then back to her father’s house in Garfield, and finally to the Toms River area when her mother  -- who had married Charlie – moved there.

            By the time 1989 ended, I thought I would never see Peggy again, that we had taken different roads that were destined never to merge again. I was wrong.


Jan. 1, 1990

            Peggy’s back – popping back into my life just when I thought I would never see her again.

            I thought she would be dead or in jail, not shopping in the Little Falls Quick Chek.

            I’d come in to buy a local newspaper when I saw a young dude hanging out at the counter, staring dreamily at some woman who to my shock was Peggy.

            I didn’t realize it was her until I reached the counter. But she wasn’t a customer, she was working there as a clerk, dressed like the young dude was, moving around on the inside the air of efficiency.

            But she did not recognize me.

            Her eyes were clear enough, she just didn’t know me, and in some ways that hurt more deeply than if she had yelled at me. I had faded into that twilight of forgetfulness, perhaps never really anyone to her at all, just one more jigsaw piece in her life.

            It hurt like hell.

            I hurried out to my car, and did not look back. What was the point? I knew she would not be looking back after me, a ghost, a figment of her past imagination, an echo of her inner voice that she had finally managed to silence.




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