She walked into the room in the basement of Christ’s church where we met every second and fourth Saturday of the month praying for salvation. The world under the street, as Traci called it, stopped to stare in her direction. The tall thin girl in a shabby maroon skirt swept the floor as she trod barefoot across the wet tile. She had on a mousy brown sweater and a tattered purple scarf that found its way off one of the throw away racks at the neighborhood Goodwill store. She waited for the silence that followed the last echo of the scraping of metal and withering voices before introducing herself.
“I’m Candy.” Her voice soft but nasal like a gay male. Each word carefully chewed and swallowed before trailing out through her nostrils. It was not her real name. Not the one she was born with nor even the one on her driver’s license but it’s what she told us to call her that first day.
“Welcome, Candy,” Jennifer said. “Take a seat.” She pointed at a folding chair beside me. I was anxious. Strangers made me nervous. She smiled and I relaxed. It wasn’t long before we were being hushed by Jennifer and told to leave the imperfect circle of chairs and go to the back of the room if we wanted to talk.
Candy was from New York City a place we suburbanites simply referred to as the City. She lived in an apartment on the East side near the village where she worked. She didn’t say what she did but I assumed the worse. Employment was limited in 1979 for one of the shadow people. Her kind usually stood on street corners waiting for the next interested John to come along. We talked through the entire meeting and the next and the next until one day she invited me down to the city. But she made me promise that no matter what I learned about her that I would tell no one. I didn’t know then that chasing Candy was like trying to catch the sun before it set.
It was cold on the train down. My leather skirt and torn fishnets did little to keep out the December cold and I sat on a newspaper for a little more insulation between me and the hard plastic seat. Grand Central bustled with activity. People bumped and shoved me off the platform into the tunnel that let up to the great hall, up the four granite steps and out through the doors onto 42nd Street. I found my way to the Factory where she told me to meet. There was a crowd on the street when I arrived. People were gathered around a naked purple body on the ground. Just as I got close and looked down some painted woman with a man’s voice bellowed: “Poor, Rachel.”
I turned around and went home.