Walk Down Misery Street

Sylvia, the Lioness


Of the whole group of twenty people, only three, including me, were not in recovery.1 Now I’ll introduce you to several students in recovery.

I’ll start with Sylvia, as I found myself sharing a desk with her the very first day of school.

She was an American of Italian descent, about fifty, with luxurious black hair and in good shape for her age. I was soon surprised to learn that she wasn’t fifty, but . . . thirty-nine! Sylvia retained some charm, but her beauty was obviously fading. It struck me that, had she not picked up the syringe twenty years earlier, Sylvia would have escaped misfortune and still be driving herds of lustful men crazy. But in life, unfortunately, “coulda, shoulda, woulda” don’t exist, and we can only speak of what we have now, not of what could have been.

Still, Sylvia tried to maintain her image as a lioness, portraying herself as a sort of socialite. She dressed provocatively: short skirts and tight blouses.

The second day of classes, during break, this lioness went on the hunt, and I was her intended prey. When we were left alone in the auditorium, Sylvia began to inquire about who I was and where was I from. She talked about herself, intriguingly raising her eyelids and leaning toward me so closely that our foreheads almost touched. I didn’t even notice how she had caught hold of my hand—whether to shake it or to press it to her chest. By the second break, I already knew that Sylvia was single and lived in a studio apartment in Brooklyn. Her thirteen-year-old daughter was living with her mother in New Jersey and she had divorced her husband a while ago. And . . . she was completely free this evening after school!

I wasn’t prepared for such rapid development in a relationship. All I knew was I had to rush to the other side of the city to patrol the supermarket in the Time Warner building.

Sylvia found my excuses unconvincing, especially when she learned I was a bachelor. She continued her hunt for the next several days. She would move close to me for any reason. She played with the button on her shirt and invited me to her place “for coffee.”