It Is So Sad....
“I just wanna find me a rich husband to take care of me and my baby girl.” Gold digger Teen giggles, fiddling with her lavender bra strap.
“How old’s your baby now?” her friend asks, tossing a long brunette braid out of her face.
“She’s gonna be a year in 3 months! Can you believe it?”
“No, wow. It beena year?”
“Yeah.....how much do you weigh?”
“I’m 128. Can you believe I was 161 when I was pregnant? I was hella fat.”
They both giggle. Penelope closes her eyes, soaking in the sauna’s heat and eavesdropping. How old are these girls she wonders? And one of them has a baby? Shit. They seem like babies themselves.
The door of the sauna creaks open. Penelope opens one eye, turning her head toward the door. Water Walker Night Nurse floats gently in, sighing softly, and plops down in the dark corner next to the girls. Penelope smiles over at her, but isn’t sure Night Nurse sees.
“You still have that restraining order 'gainst Alfonzo?”
“Yeah, he beat me something awful,” Gold digger Teen sighs loudly. “I know he don’t mean nothing by it, but I just couldn’t take it. And my baby girl. I can’t let her grow up round him.”
“Did you hear about how Rosa hadda leave her grandma’s house cuz Jimmy raped her?”
“Yeah, it wasn’t her fault. I think she just was in the wrong place at the wrong time, you know?”
”Oh I do,” Gold digger Teen exclaims. And Penelope thinks again, how old are these girls? And the lives they live. Beaten and raped and then shrugging it off in the Sauna at the Y.
It was way too much for Penelope to process, so she closed her ears. She has this ability if she really puts her mind to it. She has to think of something else. If she thinks of nothing, then she just goes back to eavesdropping and frankly who wouldn’t with this conversation going on in such an intimate space.
And it went on for awhile. There was talk of grandma’s house being robbed. “I don’t know how anyone could do that to an old lady. Now she really paranoid and don’t wanna answer the door or nothin’.”
There was more talk of domestic abuse, but Penelope really couldn’t handle this. Exposure to such violence at such a tender age upset her, esp. since she was so tired and hungry after her late night swim. Her defenses were down. She felt like she should say something, interject some words of solace or advice, but what the hell could she contribute to such a conversation? Her overwhelming disbelief?
How would that help? Should she suggest they seek professional help? Social services or.....?
Penelope had no clue.
And so she kept silent. The girls got too hot, and giggling, head out. “I need a shower hella bad!” Gold digger Teen announces, pushing open the door.
“Yeah you do!” her friend agrees, following her out.
Penelope sighs audibly in the now quiet Hilltopia.
“Did you hear that?” Night Nurse asks, sitting up on the edge of the bench at the opposite side of the sauna from Penelope. “Well, how could you not?” she laughs softly.
“Yeah, it was pretty upsetting,” Penelope sits up too, shaking her head.
“It is so sad,” NN stares down at the dark cement floor. “They are so young. To have that kind of abuse in their lives. I don’t know what to say.”
“Yeah, they were really young. And one of them has a baby. Were you here when they were talking about that?”
”A baby!?” NN cries, stricken. “Oh no. That makes it even worse. For a little baby to grow up in that kind of atmosphere. It is so sad....” She shakes her head again. “The times have changed since we were that age,” she continues. “Why we would never have such things happen to us in my family. But I know that things are different today. Kids today experience such sadness.....”
Her voice trails off and Penelope thinks about NN and how she has a daughter of her own. Maybe her sadness wasn’t just for these girls, but for her own daughter? Why Penelope thought this she couldn’t say. But it seemed like NN was just so so sad; that her emotion was caused by something deeper than overhearing these girls' nonchalant narration of their abuse. For Penelope, it was just this nonchalance that was so chilling. Like being raped and abused was just part of life, part of being a young girl in a world of violent men. And for these girls, this could be true.
Penelope shivered in spite of the 120-degree surroundings.
“They were talking about rape and killings. People shooting each other!” NN exclaims. “Did you hear that?”
Actually Penelope hadn’t heard that part and was glad she hadn’t. Was this the part she’d tuned out? Or was it something that NN thought she heard?
Nodding, Penelope ventures, “You must see life and death all the time in your line of work.”
”Oh, yes, I do. But it is different. People come to hospital and they are sick or they are old and we try to help them, but if they die then it is their time. We tried to save them. But these girls......” Her voice trailed off. “It is so different......they are so young.....”
Suddenly, Penelope feels an overwhelming need to get out of here. Her heart is pounding and she’s feeling lightheaded.
“It is so sad.....” NN says again.
Penelope agrees. Says she has to leave. Has to eat.
“Oh, yes, of course,” NN smiles, waving her out. “It is late. I need to go too.”
“See you in the pool next time,” Penelope murmurs as she opens the sauna door.
“Yes....” NN says vaguely, staring into space now, the giggles of two teenage girls drifting in softly through the open door.