Monday, December 10, 2012

From the Empirical Archives: Hush by Mikelle Gaines

Mikelle Gaines
Originally Published in the June 2012 Issue of Empirical

Mitch took me off the street less than a year ago, gave me a place to stay that was mostly my own except for him and took my virginity as payment. But that was okay, ‘cause I wasn’t usin’ it anyway, and it was better than givin’ it up to my stepdaddy who wasn’t really my stepdaddy at all, but my mamma’s newest live-in boyfriend. At least Mitch was only in his early twenties and had all his teeth. And, he didn’t smell like beer, piss, or old sweat. When he found me huddled under the bridge in Seattle, far from home in Idaho, he promised me nothin’ but some dinner and a safe place to sleep for the night.

And I said yes, ‘cause it was late November and I was wet and cold and hungry and scared of everythin’. And so I stayed a lot of nights and days and I slept on the sofa and had food to eat, and then Mitch gave me some really pretty clothes and some makeup and told me to make myself up pretty, but to make sure that I didn’t go makin’ myself look older, ‘cause he had a client that liked ‘em young.

So I did what he told me ‘cause I didn’t see that I had a choice. I put on that little girl dress and knee highs socks and Mary Jane shoes and powdered up my face and smeared fruity pink gloss on my lips and then Mitch decided that he was gonna take me for a test drive before sendin’ me out to spend some time with his client. But, I never saw that client or any others, ‘cause Mitch kinda decided that maybe he liked what I had between my legs and so he kept it for himself instead of makin’ me work. And ‘cause I hadn’t bled yet and he knew I didn’t have any diseases, he didn’t use protection, and so now he got himself a baby that he said he didn’t want but wouldn’t let me get rid of.

Baby cried the day he came home. Hush, Baby, hush. Mitch picked us up from the home of an old woman who lived out in Granite Falls. She was some sort of back street doctor-midwife woman that owed Mitch a favor so he sent me to her the minute I started crampin’ up. He tossed me in the back of his pimped-out, purple glitter, hardtop Caddy and drove me out to her place and left me there for two days. And from the moment that Baby slid out from between my legs, he cried almost the all the time, never stoppin’ and the old woman said that he was healthy and that babies just cry sometimes.

On the afternoon of the second day of stayin’ with the old woman, Mitch showed up and he brought us home in the back seat of his Caddy and Baby cried. Hush, Baby, hush. He helped us into the apartment and pointed to a canister of infant formula on the countertop and told me to get Baby onto the formula and to get back into shape because he was done givin’ me a free ride and I had to start earnin’ my keep and nobody wants to be with a whore that’s leakin’ breast milk. But then he changed his mind and said that there were clients who prob’ly would like a whore that leaks breast milk and he took the away the infant formula and left for the day.

And Baby cried. Hush, Baby, hush.

Baby cried and cried when Mitch came home. And Mitch said he was stressed out. Hush, Baby, hush. Mitch couldn’t stand the cryin’, said he couldn’t sleep with Baby cryin’ all the time. He said that not gettin’ enough sleep could get in the way of him runnin’ his business. And did I think that drugs sold themselves? And did I think that lazy whores would work if he wasn’t out there makin’ them work? He started shovin’ me around, but only after Baby was put down in his little bassinet in the corner of the bedroom ‘cause Mitch said that he didn’t want to damage his future money maker ‘cause some clients like baby boys the way some clients like little girls.

Baby started cryin’ again. Hush, Baby, hush. At least Mitch had gone out to sell drugs at the university in Seattle and for a while I didn’t have to worry about gettin’ knocked around because I couldn’t get Baby to stop cryin’. I’d already changed his tiny little diaper and I’d offered him my breast to see if he was hungry, but he didn’t want that. I’d taken his temperature with that thermometer that the prostitute three doors down gave me after the state had taken away her toddler but he didn’t have a fever. He just kept on cryin’. Hush, Baby, hush.

Mitch was late. That meant that he stopped in for a couple drinks. He’d been drinkin’ a lot the past week, ever since Baby came home. Mitch don’t usually drink, but when he does, he gets mean. I asked him why he didn’t just use his some of his product instead of alcohol, and he said dealers don’t use their own stuff. And he said that if Baby didn’t cry all the time, he wouldn’t have to drink. And then he said that maybe I’d better figure out how to make Baby stop cryin’ if I knew what was good for me.

Baby kept cryin’. Hush, Baby, hush. Baby, what’s wrong with you? I patted him on the back as I walked the floor, wearin’ down a path in the already thin linoleum between the kitchen and the front door. Baby kept cryin’ as I walked back and forth. Hush, Baby, hush. I gently pressed Baby’s tummy against my over-full breasts that were covered in a thin tank top soggy with breast milk and held his head tucked into the crook of my neck. Step and pat. Step and pat. Step and pat. I was so tired. And the headache that I had since Mitch had hit me yesterday, and the black eye and the split lip and the broken nose, they all throbbed at the same time, too.

I wanted out of this place. I had made such a mistake runnin’ away from home. I was only thirteen when I left, and now I’m fourteen and I’ve got myself a baby. I wanted to call home, to tell my mamma that I was sorry for sayin’ what I did about my stepdaddy, and that I wouldn’t tell the cops that he’d touched me a couple of times and I wouldn’t tell them that he touched himself while he did it. I wouldn’t tell anyone, because that would have been better than this, but I couldn’t call ‘cause I didn’t have a phone. And I would have packed up Baby and me and we would have left, but we couldn’t ‘cause Mitch had locked us up in this tiny apartment with its bars on the windows and its deadbolts on the door and I couldn’t get us out if I tried. Baby kept on cryin’. Hush, Baby, hush. Upstairs, a door slammed and I jumped. Baby startled and cried even louder than before.

Hush, Baby, hush. I could hear the television of the nasty pervert next door, charged for multiple counts of sex with a minor and just released two months ago. Him and his pornography. Moanin’ and groanin’ all day and night while he touched himself. And then I heard it.

Outside the apartment door, heavy footsteps thudded on the landin’ and a heavy key ring jingled and I held my breath. Hush, Baby, hush. I held Baby to my chest as I backed away from that door. The key slid in the first lock and it snicked open. I took Baby and we scrunched down in the corner of the room between the arm chair and the loveseat and Baby kept cryin’. Hush, Baby, hush. I pulled down my tank top and milk was leakin’ from both breasts and I held Baby to my left one. Hush, Baby, hush. And he stopped cryin’ for a minute and suckled and then he coughed and kinda squirmed against me. Hush, Baby, hush. The keys jingled again and the second lock snicked open. I patted Baby’s back and pressed him to my breast again. Hush, Baby, hush. He started cryin’ louder and squirmin’ harder, and I started thinkin’ ‘bout how mean Mitch would be after drinkin’ and that if Baby and I didn’t make noise, maybe it’d be okay, maybe Mitch wouldn’t hurt me again. And I pressed Baby harder against me. Hush, Baby, hush. He squirmed some more. And then the keys jingled again and the third lock snicked open. Hush, Baby, hush. Baby stopped squirmin’ so much.

And I realized that I was cryin’ and I tried to stop. And Baby, he stopped cryin’ and then he was just sort of whimperin’ and I was too, because it was better than cryin’ and quieter, too. Baby was finally quietin’ down and it was just me whimperin’ when the keys jingled again. The milk was still leakin’ from my breasts when the fourth lock snicked open and the door flew open, crashin’ into the wall and Baby stopped doin’ anythin’ at all.

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