Walk Down Misery Street

I may have too. I was still very green. I watched Cynthia with contentment as she walked happily down the corridor of the clinic with her “good letter” in hand. To be honest, I also found myself glancing at the hips she swayed so seductively.

Neither she nor I had any idea what lay ahead.

A few weeks later, she called me and gleefully reported that, thanks to my letter, the judge ruled in her favor. They would allow her to see her son with hardly any restrictions! Now she could completely change her life. She had a whole set of positive plans and goals: to get her GED, to give up stripping and find a more dignified job—like working as a saleswoman at a store, to go to cosmetology school, and then to win back her son so he could live with her.

I wished her good luck.

The last time I heard about Cynthia was a few years later. There was a detox unit in our hospital where the drug users/alcoholics wound up when they were in alcohol withdrawals or dope-sick. The outpatient clinic and detox were connected by a common electronic system; each clinician had access to the data in both divisions.

I once saw Cynthia’s first and last name on the list of newly admitted patients to detox. I called there to make sure it was really Cynthia, and not someone else with the same name.

There are no miracles. It was that same Cynthia. I spoke on the phone with the counselor from detox and asked about her. I said she was my former patient. I even mentioned her unforgettable charm.

“I’ll try to stop by detox tomorrow to see her,” I said.

“Why do you want to see her?” my colleague asked coldly. “She’s lying in bed; she’s scrawny and covered in acne. Nothing charming about her. Just a common, used-up whore.”