Juxtapose

She was broke again. Rent was due in almost twenty-four hours, and hot water and gas had been cut off the day before. The room, though small and equipped with a small electric heater, felt like an ice box, for besides being cold, it was dark. Somewhere in the cold, dark room, there lay a body, a girl. She lay flat on the tiled floor, staring up at the ceiling, watching shadows and darkness. Her lips were blue and she would have been phased by it, however enough heroine was in her blood that her mind was numb to almost everything. The cool sensation beneath her naked skin seemed, to her, a welcome feeling. In fact, she lay sprawled on half- frozen tiles of the floor just to feel anything at all.

Most of the time it seemed she was numb. Perhaps this lack of feeling was caused by some personal choice within her, or perhaps it was hereditary, but either way she did not care. Now especially it was a blessing she was numb, for the grimy, disgusting things she had to do to get money made her want to retch, and to feel them would only make things worse.

Prostitution; it seemed like such a disdained word when she thought about it clearly. Of course, she never remained sober enough to think before she was jabbing another needle in, before she didn't feel numb anymore. The act, however perverse, was the only thing that kept her body sustained. No one really understood it this way, that prostitution was a forced occupation. Most people stuck up their noses or glared at her as she stood out in the street in nothing but undergarments. Even the johns thought themselves better than her, just because she was a whore and they were not. She bet if one looked deeper, they would see that they were no better than she, only better at not being so blatantly obvious in their ugliness.

There was also the addiction. Heroine seemed to keep her alive, and after awhile she began to believe that little lie. First she had tried pot, then a little of this and a little of that, and a myriad of different drugs until Heroine had reached out and jabbed her in the arm, keeping her lucid enough to feel again. She craved feeling. No one understood that, especially her father.

She half-smiled with bitterness into the musty dark. Whenever she thought of the man she called 'Father' she could only conjure up the bad memories, what little of them were left. He had been no more a father to her than the T.V. he had purchased to keep her company whenever he was gone, which was more often than not. She'd run away at age thirteen and was never reported missing until a week later. Her punishment had been the removal of her T.V. and no association with friends. However her father hadn't stayed long enough to see the punishment through and she ended up at a party only three days after getting home. He didn't speak, he didn't seem to eat or sleep, and he was always on his computer. Perhaps he was numb as well, but she hadn't cared enough to think of it. He was even too stupid to see that his mini bar had been cleaned out.

The only time he every really showed true emotion was when she had finally come home high. He actually raised his voice, something he'd never done, not even when she'd run away. To awaken from his comatose state only when she was barely coherent made her enraged, and she had ended up trashing the house. Her father had stood there, motionless and stony, not saying another word. She'd gone to bed and run away sometime in the middle of the night, making enough of a racket so her father could hear. No one came after her. No one cared.

Days of wandering the streets and needing a fix left her half-mad and desperate. She never chose her profession or her addiction, it just happened.

A knock on the door went unnoticed through her hazy thoughts. She imagined it as part of the world she saw before her in her mind. The knock sounded once more, and she vaguely heard, but not enough to move.

"Open up, it's me!" a voice called from behind the door.

She moaned and looked up at the ceiling.

Another knock, this time more urgent, and more of a pounding than a civilized knocking now. "If you don't open this door, I'm breaking it down," the voice, warbled in her mind, shouted now.

After a long minute she stood slowly and stumbled towards three doors. Only the second door really unlocked, but it took her four tries before she remembered her state of being. The locks were clumsily opened and the door flung open.

~*~

"My God," the voice belonged to Maj, one of her only true friends that still made contact at least once a month. He hated the addiction, hated what it did to her. The sight of her naked body was not new to him, and he simply pushed her back into the room and closed the door behind them. "It's freezing in here and you're lying on the floor. Why do you keep doing this to yourself?" There was no response, and he expected none as he wrapped the tiny body with a blanket.

Quickly he went about the kitchen and tried to conjure up a pot of coffee. There was barely anything in the cupboards. The only cups he could find were chipped and old, and the coffee pot was dusty as well as dirty. Once he got coffee going he went back to her. She lay sprawled once again on the cool tile, face down.

"Look, you're not going to get warm if you don't get up. Come on," he picked her up and placed her on the cot that she called a bed. She stared up at him, glassy-eyed and half-coherent.

There was so much he wanted to do for her, to make her better. Every time he looked at her he wanted to take her away from the life that she led, but finances and her own addiction prevented any of that. For now all he could do was stare at her pitiful face and brush back the tangled hair.

"I'm sorry," she said finally. "Father didn't care.but you do."

He lay her down on the cot and tugged the blankets around her cold skin. "He cared."

"Shut-up!" she spat and rolled onto her side. Tears began forming in her once bright blue eyes. "I tried to get out.honest I tried. I can't, I just. I'm not as bad as him, you know," she muttered. "He didn't love me - h-he didn't even care I was gone! Ah, screw it, you don't care either."

"I care," Maj argued, struggling with the urge to leave. Every time he came, he wanted to get out, for the suffocating feeling came over him every time he entered the door; it was a feeling he couldn't place.

"You know." she stared at the ceiling for a moment before letting her head roll sideways quickly to look at him. "You're not too different from me - no one is."

Maj didn't say anything.

"You, and my customers, and my father are just as bad as anyone else. like me." She didn't understand the implications of her words because of her intoxication, he thought with a resolute nod. The feeling he couldn't place pushed down heavier on him now. "Or maybe not my father. He was a." she laughed, a haunting, spine-chilling laugh. "He was a robot," she giggled. "A funny little man like me." A minute of silence, sustained only by the coffee pot brewing, ticked by like the slow ramblings of the girl lying on the cot.

How could he possibly be an equal to her, he wondered as he looked down at the young woman who seemed barely that. Her eyes eerily stared at the ceiling, in her own world for the moment, thinking about unearthly things. She was possessed by the ache for drugs, and they alone sustained her. Maj had never done drugs. He was highly unlikely to be around these parts if it hadn't been for her. Never had he been tempted by drugs either, and likely never would be, for he had seen the abnormal, inhumane woman that Heroine had created. No, nothing in him could have even been compared to her.

Her profession was also something to cringe at. Prostitution was not something you were proud of, and neither was he proud of what his friend did. Her occupation made him sick with just the thought of her standing on the street, attempting to get the attention of immoral men, performing sexual acts for money. And she believed herself better than her father, someone who was a respected businessman with a reputable company. All her father had done was not show his love. She had sold herself to the Devil.

"I'm going to die," she said softly and abruptly enough that Maj started.

He touched her ice cold cheek. She deserved to die. All she posed was a wasted life, yet something in him wanted to hold her, to make her live, and at the same time his very being twisted just to touch her. How could he even compare himself to her? What had made her say that? What had been running through her mind? True, she was high, but in everything she said there was some truth behind it, a method to her madness. He wanted to agree with her statement, that she was just as bad as he was, but the words became clogged in his throat and he couldn't speak.

A sob stung the silence once again as her body writhed on the cot. "I didn't want to be this, Maj." Tears streamed down her face as she reached up into the air. "I don't want to die! I just want.something else. I want to.escape. I want live a life better than this - I deserve it, don't I? Why?" she whispered her question calmly and lifted her eyes towards the ceiling as though a blank calm had enraptured her.

Maj stared into her eyes and saw the life ebbing away from them. Perhaps she had made some wrong choices. If she had been shown love, would she have lived any differently? All men deserved love. No one could dispute that. Maybe if he'd known her before it was too late, if he could have shown her love, maybe, just maybe, she could have been different somehow. She did deserve to live, just like anyone else. She deserved everything everyone else deserved in life. She was human too.

He kissed her forehead and closed her eyes. "Rest in peace, little one."