Stephanie is contorting. She is frightening at the same time that she is pitiful. She looks in so much pain. Her forehead is covered in wrinkles and veins, and pale blotches on a face already drained of color. She is angry. Her eyes are filled with tears and her nose runs. She screams she is tired of living but does not want to die – for her children. Their names are tattooed on her chest. Karina. Lamar. Jordan. Catherine. She last saw the oldest two about 2 years ago. I ask what’s keeping her from returning to Chicago to be near them. She tells me she is on parole and isn’t allowed to leave California. She tells me that if she does leave, even for a day, it is an automatic 365 days in state prison.
She twists her face into an ugly grimace and her whole body shudders. She doubles over, eyes wide and forehead covered in creased skin, her jaw tightening and relaxing and tightening. She looks in severe physical pain. She swears and cries out and spits and has difficulty standing or sitting still. She sits and pulls her white jacket over her peroxide blond head; she appears disturbed by sound and light. Her face and her eyes look terrifying, and pitiable. She cries for her children, and in the same breath she recommends adding a bit of weed (which she offers) to a “nickel” to enhance the experience. She says she’s already had that enhanced hit and that is why she is so fucked up. She says it with a certain pride. I dared not take a photo as she had already told me she’ll kill me if I did. Even when she laughs, and she occasionally does, it is with a face twisted in agony. Sherri tells me it is the heroin, the devil’s drug.