She’s alone now and sitting in her car in a dark parking lot.
The light from her phone casts her face in a greasy haze.
Her eyes are hollow and vacant and she’s scrolling through the comments below her photograph.
“OMG! She looks 60!”
“That’s methed up!”
“What a POS!”
She stares at her mug shot, posted on various news outlets’ Facebook pages.
The comments keep coming, along with the LOLs and the thumbs ups and likes.
She sets the phone down and glances at the passenger seat, where a needle beckons her.
“I am ugly. I am a POS,” she says out loud.
She thinks about calling a friend but does she even have any? Other than the people who have been taking advantage of her, probably not.
Her real friends have given up on her. Her family has given up on her.
She has no one, not even her boyfriend.
He’s in jail. Again.
I don’t know what he saw in me anyway.
She picks up the needle and drops it. She looks up and in the rear view mirror she sees an unfamiliar face.
“I am ugly. I am a POS.”
Tears are streaming down her gaunt cheeks. Her hands are shaking.
She slips the syringe between her fingers and places the thumb over the top.
She thinks about plunging it deep into her eye.
Instead, she slides the needle into a thin vein and pushes down with her thumb.
She closes her eyes and her fingers slip from the syringe. The needle still deep in her arm.
Her body shimmers and she peaks through her heavy eyelids and the last thing she sees is that ugly face staring back at her in the rear-view mirror.
“I am ugly. I am a POS,” she whispers as her eyes close for the last time.
Let’s get this out of the way first.
I am not quitting.
I am done, however. I can’t do it anymore.
It was two weeks ago that I saw her name on the court sheets.
“Again? Jesus,” I said out loud.
I jumped on the story. People are gonna love reading this.
I have to get her mug shot.
So I did and compared it to her other mug shots.
Then it hit me.
What am I doing?
She is the same age as my oldest son.
Comparing photographs of her I saw something.
Her life slipping away. What once were vibrant eyes had a hollow, dull glow.
I could see the Facebook comments.
“OMG! She looks 60!”
“That’s methed up! HAHA.”
“What a POS!”
I told the editors I was working on a good story. Should be done by the end of the day.
It’s been two weeks and you will not be reading about her, at least not in the way that we have become accustomed to.
That is, sensational. Sensational headlines. Sensational mug shots and post that baby on FB!
Then sit back and watch how people react. Get more “hits” and thumbs ups and likes and comments.
I don’t know this woman but I have written about her more times than I can remember. Her and so many others like her.
I stalked her Facebook page and the more I read the more I wanted to write about her.
She’s foul-mouthed and brash and, well, trashy. Annoying. Rude. Crude.
Yet, there is something there.
She boasts of her newfound freedom from drugs and there is a light in her eyes and I am not going to judge.
And I’m not going to take advantage of her for the sake of more comments from trolls on Facebook.
Instead, she will just be a small part of the blotter. No more, no less.
This is not what I signed up for.
I have become a bully, no better than the basement-dwelling trolls who delight in posting rude comments about people.
We have become bullies.
The more sensational the better. The uglier the mug shot, the better.
I have written about crime since 1992.
Yes, crime sells. It’s my job. You commit a crime, you are going to be in the paper. Simple as that.
It wasn’t always this way, though. I had empathy. I tried not to take advantage of people.
Yes, some deserve the treatment they receive when they commit a heinous crime. I will not apologize for writing about that.
Social media has changed all that. It’s all about likes and hits and traffic.
Crime sells. Get the gory details. Get the mug shot of the wild-eyed drugged-out thief.
Show us the photographs of that young girl with the scabs on her face and missing teeth and dirty hair.
I’m done. I’m not doing it anymore.
I will still write about crime and punishment and law and order.
It’s my job and I would like to keep it.
I am going to be more sensitive. Back to telling real stories about real people and the struggles they face.
Maybe I will contact her, the woman whose name I saw yet again two weeks ago.
Maybe her’s is a story that needs to be told, through her eyes.
If you or someone you know are struggling with addiction there are local resources available. The Genesee/Orleans Council on Alcoholism and Substance Abuse can be reached at (585) 343-1124; the Wyoming County Counseling Center is at (585) 786-0220; and CASA of Livingston County is at (585) 991-5012.
Scott DeSmit is a general assignment reporter for The Daily News. He can be reached at email@example.com.