Between The Bars Part 1: Normal

~”It’s going to be okay John-Paul” She said, embracing her brother tight as their aunt finished talking to the police officer on the front steps of their withering shotgun house neighboring old buildings that no one had step foot in for ages. That memory is the only one Joy can remember before she started using. It was that night, in fact, that she began her jaunt with her muse, Xanax. It started as just an escape from reality, like many first times, in a moment when nothing fell into place and normal was something that she just could not cope with. Normal was, for her, in that moment, being an orphan with her older brother, John-Paul Holloway, who had Asperger syndrome. Normal was now in the care of their aunt Judy, who worried more about being a catalyst for the police officer on the front porches impending divorce than the death of her sister. Normal is the awkward looks Joy would get returning to Seneca High School the next week as she numbly floated through the last few months of her senior year. Normal was something Joy Holloway was about to alter in a dangerous way.~


“It’s going to be okay Joy” JP said from the doorway of Joys room, which was a closet by most peoples consideration. JP blocked the light coming from the kitchenette of their apartment, he was a tree, he barely was able to stand inside without rubbing his head on the ceiling. Joy wiped her eyes and tried to hide the rig she was using to shoot up her drug of choice. She was embarrassed, but JP knew it only as her medicine. “Aren’t you going to see Kareem tonight?” Joy said spiritedly to change the subject. “I am about to leave, what are you painting tonight?” JP said as he crossed her doorway replenishing light into the room as if he were the door. “You’ll have to wait until its finished” she smiled and hugged her brother tight continuing, “Text me when you get there, and tell Kareem I need some more paint”. JP nodded as he put his ram-shackled headphones on and plugged in his MP3 player, eclipsing the room again before walking out the front door. Joy didn’t need any paint, it was a code she used to get word to Keenan King, Kareem’s brother, that she would need a re-up soon. The King brothers were partners in slinging dope around the 19th Ward, their piece of the metropolitan area of Rochester, NY. She had enough paint, of all colors and consistency, to complete her masterpiece tonight. Joy has been artistic since she was a little girl, constantly creating things, with a keen eye for color and detail that was expressed through her abstract expressionism paintings. Since the introduction of her new vice though, Joy has been struggling to appreciate her own work, always reliving, like tonight, the tragic event that occurred just four years prior. The memories chilled her, the needle thawed her, and her emotions melted onto the canvas with every stroke of the brush. Joy waited to hear the squeaky tires of JP’s bicycle before finishing her fix and beginning to paint. Joy reached for her easel tray and retrieved a thick handled green paint brush that reminded her of her ex-boyfriend, Jason, and began to layer.


~Jason Bronson was two years older than Joy, already graduated high school and working as a dishwasher at his family’s restaurant when Joy left her brother sleeping on the couch that gloomy night, running from normal. Joy was familiar with all the back alleys and side roads surrounding her neighborhood to the Genesee River, and bordering 390 and 490. The tires on her 2006 Ford Focus had seen nearly every inch of the 19th Ward.  She took JP on many drives when their parents had company over, which was often, listening to Busta Rhymes and looking at old buildings and houses. JP knew a lot about older architecture and had an obsession with rap music while Joy cherished the unique sounds of indie-alternative music like White Flight, Joy felt it was a stimulant for her expression through her paintings. This night she didn’t have music playing though, she felt it would be too much of a distraction to her already over-stimulated mind. She was looking for a distraction. Anything to offset the reality that she was now without parents and direction. As she drove down Bronson Road she turned down an alley and felt an overwhelming rush of emotion so decided to stop. As she sobbed with her head buried in the steering wheel she accidentally bumped the power button of her radio, “Yo, it seems stunning every time I see the fraud coming, Hundred miles and running, time to back the tools and start gunning” a CD that JP had left in her car played. Joy half-smiled thinking of her brother preaching that The Leaders Of The New School were innovators and geniuses, only to immediately feel guilt for leaving him. As she went to back out of the dim alley she was startled by the feeling of a thud and quickly parked her car and went to investigate. Behind her car Jason was getting off the ground dusting himself off, he was a tall slender young man with jet black hair and even darker eyes wearing a white apron over a black t-shirt and tan cargo shorts. “What the hell is wrong with you? can’t you see?” Jason exclaimed as he looked up to Joy, only to be hushed by the sight of her. Joy, with hands on top of head, let out a whimper followed by unintelligible stammering in the form of an apology. “It’s okay, i’m sorry for being rude, i’m really fine, this is the most excitement I’ve had all night, didn’t think i’d be getting hit by a car tonight” Jason chuckled as he lit a cigarette and offered one to Joy. Joy had never smoked before but thought it would be rude to say no after hitting him with her car. “I’m Jason” “I’m Joy” They smiled as they introduced themselves. That night, Joy was able to forget for a moment what had happened earlier. The two hung out until the sun came up, sitting out by Genesee River, looking at the university, Jason explaining that he could of gone to college but decided to join the family business instead. Joy planned on commuting to the Memorial Art Gallery on the other side of the river to take classes and work as an apprentice after graduating high school. They talked about the old Kodak building that was presumed as haunted by most people and most importantly, they talked about drugs. Joy felt inclined to trust Jason that night, because she felt she had no one else to trust. They would go on to spend most of their time taking pills and getting drunk together. Joy eventually got a job waiting tables at Bronson Bar & Grill with Jason’s sister, Rachel. John-Paul and Joy moved out of their childhood home to the doll house apartment where they currently live. A relationship formed between Jason and Joy and that is when things went bad. Jason never cared much for JP so he always tried to separate him from Joy, insisting that she didn’t need to take care of him anymore. Joy loved her brother and knew, because of his condition, that he simply would not be able to live alone without her to be there for him. on one occasion Jason pushed JP and called him a retard because he accidentally broke a paint brush from a set that Jason bought Joy, but even that wasn’t enough for her to see the real person Jason was. There was a looming power of control that Jason had over Joy, and it came from his access to the pills. They fought constantly, usually about JP, mostly about the shady company that Jason was spending his time with. Jason began selling Xanax and other various drugs with a  few guys from across the river that were expanding their business to the 19th Ward. Joy became more and more reliant on Jason and the Xanax until finally one day he left. He just left without saying anything one night and she didn’t see him again. Now, when Joy thinks about that night she met Jason Bronson, she wishes she would of just kept driving after feeling that thud and never looked back. Unbeknownst to her, if she would have kept driving after the thud and went home she would of met the person that would change the lives of her and her brother, forever.~


Joy took a deep breath and laid down her brush. She sat back and looked at what she created, it felt incomplete. As she began to clean up and get ready for work at Bronsons, someone knocked on the front door. . .



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