Marcy Pepper was the youngest of Elizabeth’s six children. Born with Asperger’s Syndrome, she was fascinated with toys that spun and often spent countless hours alone in her own dream world. As she grew older, several other problems began to rear their heads. If there was a birthday party, she’d make sure to disappear even if it was to celebrate her birthday. She never used to look people in the eye when they spoke to her. Most thought that she was just standoffish and arrogant. Some thought she may have mental retardation. It didn’t matter, though, because she was caught up in her own private universe and that’s how she preferred it.
Her high school years were challenging at best: four years of torture and not one best friend she could count on. Elizabeth was a religious woman who used to spend hours in church praying for her youngest to come around to being normal. It appeared to all be in vain because Marcy was like a runaway locomotive, tearing itself off its assigned path and forging a new one of its own.
Because Marcy thought of herself as an outsider, she took to dressing like one. Embracing modern subversive culture, she preferred black clothes, black fingernail polish, black lipstick, black piercings, and the occasional striped tights. Her brothers and sisters thought she belonged at 1313 Mockingbird Lane with her true family, The Munsters. People on the street would glare at her like she was an extra on the Addams Family set.
As it so happened, Marcy did make a few friends in her 20’s, but they weren’t the type that would make most mothers proud. She had discovered meth at a concert by the heavy metal band Lacuna Coil. Her friend at the time, Jolene, introduced her to it. At first, she was reluctant, but after a few beers and a shot of whiskey, she was willing to give it a try.
It wasn’t long before Marcy became addicted to it. Even though she was the only one still living at home, she’d disappear for days on end. Usually she’d be up for days “tweaking” over at Jolene’s house. Sometimes she’d get “super gothy” and stay in a cemetery overnight.
I knew Marcy from a local record store where she used to work. Both of us were clerks there. Most of the time, she was pretty friendly even though she had this weird habit of never looking customers in the eye or wearing sunglasses when sunlight streamed into the store during morning hours. The boss was going to fire her one day because he thought she wasn’t approachable and not very customer-friendly. I begged him to give her a chance because I knew how hard her life had been.
One morning, I was walking towards a medical clinic for an appointment and I saw Marcy coming up the road. I hadn’t seen her in ages so I stopped to greet her.
“Hey,” I greeted her. “Long time no see.”
Stopping in her tracks, she peered at me curiously.
“It’s me, Marcy. It’s Jim. From the record store?”
“What record store?” she asked weakly, smacking her dry mouth.
“Mad Platters. This was only a year ago.”
“My memory’s shot these days,” she admitted.
“Are you okay?” I inquired, staring at her cracked lips.
“I don’t know…you seem…you want some coffee or something?”
“What time is it?”
I looked at my watch.
“9:30.” I answered.
She rubbed her hands together then rubbed her thighs. Her clothes were wrinkled and malodorous, most definitely the casualty of never being removed and washed. Her usual black lipstick and black eyeliner was non-existent. She herself looked like she’d been dragged through Guantanamo feet first.
“I have a doctor’s appointment now,” I informed her, “but we can go out later on.”
“To where?” her body started waving from side to side like a galleon listing at sea.
“My legs are on fire,” she stated, continuing to rub her thighs. “Feel ‘em.”
“I…” I was speechless.
She stooped down and pulled up her left pant leg. I almost gasped when I saw the plethora of sores and scabs all over her pale leg.
“You’re sure you’re okay?” I asked her. “Maybe you should see a doctor.”
“Don’t give me no advice!” she yelled. “I don’t need pity!”
She turned and abruptly left.
“Bye,” I told her to her back. “See ya later.”
After my appointment, I went to Mad Platters to check out the new releases. Because I was an employee, they gave me discounts. As I walked towards the store, I heard someone vomiting at the side of the building between two dumpsters.
“Someone had too much to drink,” I thought.
When I glanced to see who it was, it was none other than Marcy. I waited until she was finished upchucking before I approached her.
“Hey, Marcy,” I greeted her. “You okay?”
“I have chills, man,” she complained, shaking like a wet puppy. I touched her arms. It was a balmy 74 degrees out but she was ice cold.
“Don’t think I’m a priest or your boss, Marcy, but I think you need help.”
“I’ll be okay. Happens all the time.”
“I don’t know…you seem pale, like you’re anemic or something. Maybe you should check out a hospital.”
“People are always in my business!” she shouted.
I took out my wallet, pulled out a twenty dollar bill, and handed it to her. Staring at it momentarily, she snatched it from my hand.
“I’ll pay you back,” she insisted, leaving the area.
“It’s a gift!” I announced as she quickly walked down the street and disappeared around the corner.
I never saw her again after that. I did run into one of her brothers. He said she’d gotten cleaned up at a hospital, met someone, and now they travel around or sometimes hang out at Rainbow Gatherings. He explained she’s a pretty strong woman, and I agreed, and in the back of my mind, I hoped the little advice and attention I gave her made a world of difference.
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