Lost and Found

Baby Girl has one last chance at a new life.

There's a lot of love in Baby G. When she's out, everyone gives her love when they see her. She never knows if it's real love or dope love, but she gives out lots of hugs, anyway.

"I love my life," she said one day, walking toward Colfax from Empowerment, as people up and down the block said hi to her.

She loves her oldest child. She loves that child's father. She loves a boyfriend down in Florida, where she contemplates running. She loves a boyfriend here in Denver, though she knows he's no good for her. She loves her grandparents. She loves her little brother, who's in prison. She loves Clayton. She loves some of the women in Chrysalis. She loves her mother. Maybe she could live with her mother, she thinks. But then she couldn't get to her classes and treatment at Empowerment.

Mark Manger
Lois Clayton, manager of the Chrysalis Project, is on 
call 24/7.
John Johnston
Lois Clayton, manager of the Chrysalis Project, is on call 24/7.

In jail, Baby G ate breakfast and slept and ate lunch and slept and ate dinner and then watched television and then slept, every day. She didn't know her son was in the fifth grade until she met a woman in jail whose kid was in his class.

Ann was in jail, too, and talked mean to Baby Girl about how many chances she'd gotten, how ungrateful she is. Baby G caught a lot of heat from other women in jail, as well.

She got another chance the next time she went to court. Waiting to see Marcucci, Baby G looked nervous. Her braids were done smaller and tighter, and a lock of hair hung down on either side of her face.

The judge decided to let her out in a week, on May 26.

"My guess is that you've done some things out there that I don't know about, but I guess that comes with the territory," he told Baby Girl. "I'm not going to punish you for things I'm guessing may have happened. But if you get involved in the drug traffic or prostitution, I really am going to have to give you the whole sentence. You follow me?"

"I understand," Baby G said.

"I can work with you," Marcucci continued. "But if you don't show me over the next six weeks that I can trust you, it's over."

The judge reminded Baby Girl that she'd get credit toward the sentence hanging over her head for the days she served in jail, but not for the days she gets out early for good behavior. "If you mess up, you're going to get every day you owe me," he said.

Baby G tried to figure out how many days she'd have to just lie down in jail to be done with it all. She asked the judge if she got credit for the days she was in Chrysalis.

No, he told her.

"See, now you've got those wheels turning," he said. "What you need to be thinking about is how you're going to survive on the street without doing coke and being a prostitute. That's what you need to be worried about."

The lord will always be there, the devil will too.

Just remember, the devil will screw you as many times as you let him, you fool.
Choice is yours, I hope you make the right one, because the dance with the devil doesn't end up very fun.

Last Thursday, Clayton drove from Empowerment out to Smith Road to pick up Baby Girl. But first she had to deal with one 37-year-old Chrysalis participant who lost it while talking about the men who'd preyed on her when she was a young girl. The woman crawled under a table and refused to come out; Clayton had to call the paramedics. And then another Chrysalis woman nearly came to blows with a woman in a different Empowerment program; an Empowerment worker got hit in the face during that fracas.

By the time Clayton made it to the county jail, Baby Girl and a new Chrysalis participant had been waiting a few hours. As soon as Baby G was released, out came the rings, bracelets and jewelry. She was dressed like a boy, with baggy red warmups and a black shirt, with a hat broke to the side on her head.

She was scared.

Baby Girl knows that she's going to jail for a year if she messes up just one more time. She prays God won't let her screw up. She says she's going to pick herself up and try again. She says addiction sucks. She says she doesn't want to kill Baby Girl; she just wants Baby Girl to leave her alone. But that will be like losing her best friend.

Clayton took the women to the safehouse where six Chrysalis participants now stay, sharing a unit between them. Gunshots rang out as they were read the rules of the house -- "home sweet home," Baby Girl said. Although the safehouse is more than a mile from Colfax, Baby G spotted three drug dealers she knew right outside. Balancing them out were two cop cars.

"That's what I see right now, that bling-bling," she said. "I need a job, that's all. I need a motherfuckin' job to preoccupy my time, because I wouldn't even have to leave, I wouldn't even have to go to Colfax, because this right here, it's crack lane. Why are they doing this?"

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