I'm not sure if Corky really existed.
I never met her. I heard her voice and it was enough to cause her memory to smolder, even now, all these cold years later. She
was one of the secret stories I never shared. It was mine to dig out along with old slow
songs and memories of Wacker Drive and Ed Debevic beer.
A radio station's hot line at two in the morning is a good place
to meet Everyman. After weeding out the drunk and disappointed, the lonely
are left to spill out their essence like thin, wood perfume. Corky called
one Friday night at two in the morning. She said the right things to keep
me listening. She seemed interested, interesting, and, I imagined, smelled
of wood perfume. I once professed the ability to sense vulnerability in a
voice. Of course, I couldn't. It's just that when someone calls a hot line
after midnight and confesses or reveals secrets, chances are they are vulnerable.
Corky was careful. We spoke for nearly four hours when she asked me if she
could call the next night. I wonder if she thought me vulnerable when I rushed
The next night, three hours into the conversation, Corky told
me she had just been released from prison. The privilege of talking on the
phone at night was something she missed. I remember I could hear her sigh
as we talked—like someone enjoying a feast. (I knew I was not that interesting,
but reeking of my own wood perfume, I bagged the feeling.)
She was paroled after serving three years of a five sentence
for felony possession of the white powder and for a theft conviction while
on probation. She was guilty she said. She went in an addict and came out
clean and without a family. She told me she was an ex-convict, ex-heroin addict,
ex-wife of a madman the same way she would have told me she liked cremesicles
better than fudgesicles.
She called back nearly every night I worked the overnight shift.
I was her friend, she would say. If I could keep her sane, she could start
over again. Prison changed her; it helped her get rid of the old Corky. However,
it did not leave a new one in its place. I guess that's not what prisons are
for, she would always say.
It took weeks before she told me of the old Corky. I was patient
and actually, it was revealed right on time. (She had good timing.) She always
recognized her selfishness. It embarrassed her. But it was like stubby fingers
or crooked teeth, she easily compensated.
Corky told me she probably could have reeled it all in had she
not met "The Madman". She believed that her self-destruction would have eventually
burned out had she stayed around good people. But she chose to be with Madman.
She eventually married him. Heroin and larceny soon followed.
If only she could have met his parents before she married him,
Corky would admit, she probably could have thrown him away. But she didn't.
When she finally met them, it was too late.
Here is what I remember about Corky and Madman: She loved him.
She knew what kind of man he was and she still loved him. She knew what kind
of woman he made her and she still loved him.
Here is what I remember about Corky and Madman's parents: She
hated them. Madman had no chance of being decent. He was a creation of two
selfish people. They were two humans that should have not had children. She
once said, and I quote from memory, "I don't care if they fuck, but they should
never have had kids." Corky didn't have kids. Madman wanted them, but Corky
knew who he was and who she was. And she knew how unfair it would have been.
So she loved him, she fucked him, but she didn't continue the gene pool. It
was the only good decision, she admitted, she made in those pre-incarceration
At the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River, I was able to watch
the salmon running upstream from an underwater viewing station. I saw a wall
of white-bellied fish bouncing off the rushing water of the concrete steps.
Only occasionally did a lone jumper successfully scale the rung and victoriously
swim toward the next obstacle. How cruel, I thought then, to leave so many
mothers and fathers back at the churning slag at the bottom of the steps.
But it was correct. Those steps and the rock waterfalls before the dam, weeded
out the weak and those unworthy of carrying on the species.
Where were the steps for Madman's parents? Should the ability
to produce sperm or an egg be the only prerequisites for procreation? I'm
not sure why I care. I'm just another dog trying to get a bone. And everywhere
I look stupid dogs are getting all the good bones.
Corky once told me that human is not the only animal that masturbates,
but they are the only one who feels guilty about it. I heard that, I say hiding
my guilt. My thoughts to Corky, who I hope is finding happiness in an interested,
interesting, wood perfumed filled life.