Thirteen, fourteen, fifteen… tear. I have rolled at least a million rolls of toilet paper by now. I have filled boxes and boxes. Pilar says she doesn’t give the job to anyone else because I’m just so good at it. Lucky me.
“Keep at it the way you’re going. They just might give ju a paying job when jor done with jor community service hours.” I keep my thoughts to myself on how that makes me feel. Professional toilet paper roller. I guess that’s the kind of job you get with a felony on your record. I need to make a living somehow while on probation for the next three years. Maybe when I’m done some other state with more support for midwives will allow me to catch babies again. Or maybe I can go to the mission field. But for now, we’re paying homage to Charmin and praying the last pay check that came in right after sentencing doesn’t run out before these hours do.
“What ju do to get a felony?” Pilar asks during break.
I tell her the whole story, start to finish, book report style. She gets more shocked as I do.
“Seriously? They don’t got better things to do than come after a midwife? Sheet. They can come down here and scoop up a dealer any day.” She laughs.
Jeremy pokes his head in the door. “Hey, McCall, you gots a visitor at the gate.”
Jimmy had texted right before my shift. A friend of a friend, we’d never actually met in person. He lives out of state. But he happened to be in town and had been following my situation, so he asked if he could bring me lunch.
Jeremy let him in with a distrusting glance. We sat right inside where he could see us. People don’t trust felons. That’s just how it is. And this felon had a guy on a motorcycle visiting her after the gate was closed.
Jimmy was a breath of fresh air. He brought me a sandwich, some water, some juice, and best of all… some much needed encouragement. I wasn’t very hungry. My system was all upside down from staying awake all night, sleeping in my car in the early morning, working at my old midwifery office doing desk work and then watching my kids before going back to skid row for more. The only things I physically felt were exhaustion and nausea.
After Jimmy left, a woman out on the street started screaming. And she never stopped. It was a wild animal kind of scream, broken only by the typical sirens that blared every hour or so.
In the morning, one of the resident vets made a point of complimenting me for my cleaning of the men’s bathroom: “Dis here’s the cleanest place in da neighbahood. Makes da otha places look like sheyit. Dis here place is clean like a hospital.”
A hospital for hearts and souls. Yeah, that’s kind of what it is. The folks down here weren’t born this way. They got sick somehow, somewhere and came to this street to die. Some of them reach out at the last minute when they’ve had enough.