By Rosalie Tirella
… and I feel the loss.
Kara wasn’t a friend of mine, but I knew of her through folks, folks who saw her make her way through South Worcester, Piedmont and Main South. She was pretty, in her late 30s, a slip of a woman who saw herself as a slinky, sexy dancer, a soulful singer, a soon to be Las Vegas show girl. But really Kara was just a Worcester street girl, braving the elements and exploitative men, eating dinner at the Mustard Seed soup kitchen on Piedmont Street, craddling a bottle of vodka inside her coat – her real “steady,” her true love, the stuff that made her dreams come true. The poison which let her see herself as pretty (which she was), a good singer (which she was), a dancer (which she was), an actress (had to be to survive the streets!!!), a savvy traveler, a STAR.
A petite woman like Kara can’t keep drinking a hefty bottle of vodka a day,without tempting fate. But Kara, who wasn’t hooked on heroin or didn’t do coke – was hooked on her beloved vodka. Straight, mixed in large paper cups filled with Coca Cola. Any way would do and really, it kept her going … going …. going….going…
How do street women survive? On dreams of … a loving boyfriend (in reality an unscrupulous pimp, sometimes a herion addict male pal who sends his girl out to give guys blow jobs and more and then turns around and uses the money she earned to buy heroin for himself – we knew of just such a relatonship. Not only was this asshole using his “girlfriend” – sometimes he would beat her up when she came home in the early afternoon, drunk, a cab driver hauling her out of his cab like a sack of potatoes and dumping her on the back porch … Honey, I’m home!!
These girls have ideas, have opinions but society squelches their intelligence. Heaven forbid they share their thoughts with their johns who hate themselves for visiting a Worcester whore and take out their self-loathing/shame on the girl. I was told of one neighborhood girl who, after giving a blow job to her john on a back porch, commented on all the pigeon shit on the porch railing – greeny white little splotches everywhere. She told her john: pigeons can be so dirty. And that’s a fact! The john took an empty beer bottle and konked her over the head with it.
How do “neighborhood girls” like Kara survive it all?
Vodka of course. Heroin of course. Cocaine of course. Saints who used to staff the PIP wet shelter in Main South – now gone, which spells trouble for girls like Kara who lose access to the old PIP’s loving social workers and the old PIP’s Dr. Garcia, a Latino physician who was GOD’S GIFT TO WOMEN (AND MEN) LIKE KARA.
But I digress. A total numbing of all the senses is what is needed to survive the streets in summer, winter, springtime or fall … And when you come out of your self-induced dream, you walk over to the Mustard Seed for a good home-cooked meal served by the tough/loving/profane/spiritual/jagged/ephemeral/tired as hell Donna Domiziano, the ex-nun who runs the Mustard Seed. We LOVE Donna!
And sometimes, like Kara, you go out with a “friend” who fucks you but who doesn’t hurt you. He gives you a bit of money and feeds you and sends you on your way with ten or twenty bucks in your sweat shirt pocket. He helps fuel your dreams for another day or two. And maybe you take the money to catch a bus to New York City, like Kara did. And you see if you can make it there! Kara used to say she wanted to meet Robert DeNiro, that she would sing and dance for him when she saw him. She said she had gone to Las Vegas one time, after hopping on a Greyhound Bus in Worcester, and won second place in a keroke contest out there. $50! She should have won first prize! But it was enough …. enough dough, enough recognition to make her believe in her gifts… for a little while.
There is something beautiful in a street girl … something in her that makes you want to rescue her because you see yourself in her. She – like you, like all women – wants to star in her very own special movie, a flick in which she/you are loved, feted for your talent, made to feel safe by your husband, showered with love and praise and love and praise and warmth, warmth, warmth.
Kara was always cold.
So you (me, actually) call a pal and say: I am worried about Kara!!! She is going to die! Drinking like that! At St. Vincen’t hospital because she was sick from booze! SHE NEEDS TO BE DETOXED! LET’S TAKE HER TO GET DETOXED! I WILL PUT HER IN THE CAR AND DRIVE HER TO ADCARE OR COMMUNITY HEALTH LINK! LET’S DO IT TODAY!
I said this twice on two different days. Answer was: Kara doesn’t want help. She is not going to change. Let her be the way she has been …
And I did.
Then the news: A few weeks ago my Kara, the singer, the dancer, the actress, the lover of Robert DiNiro and twirling, colored stage lights, died at the Mustard Seed. She was there with a gal pal. She was eating dinner with her. She turned to her friend and said: I’m cold. Her gal pal hugged her and began rubbing her arms up and down Kara’s back to warm her up. Then Kara threw up and died in her friend’s arms. People said she never chewed her food, gulped it down. They said the Mustard Seed clients tried to do the Heimlach Maneuver on Kara but to no avail.
Donna went to Kara’s funeral. In Ware, I think. She was cremated. Now she sleeps in the country … away from Worcester’s streets.
A SONG FOR KARA: