A few days later Madeline returned from her vacation. She asked for money nearly every day. She messaged me on Facebook most often, but sometimes she’d call the house or my cell phone. I remember times I would sit down to my computer and post something on Facebook, and within minutes the house phone would start to ring from a blocked number.

It was the beginning of September. I was able to scrape up enough money to keep the cable from being disconnected by the end of August, but I still owed Madeline about $100, and she would not let me forget it.

I couldn’t pay her, so I tried to do the next best thing. I tried to earn my keep. In preparation for her arrival I cleaned the apartment from top to bottom. I cleaned the inside of the stove, which I had found was full of mice feces. I washed her bed sheets since she had given me permission to sleep on her room, and I offered to make her something to eat for her arrival. 
My mother and grandmother used to travel a lot, and whenever they arrived somewhere, all they asked was to be greeted with warm, homemade soup. It was a great cure for jet lag and that weird nausea you get after traveling. Madeline declined the offer. 
After her arrival, I gave Madeline a good overview of everything I had cleaned in the apartment. I showed her the kitchen and what the exterminator did, but she quickly stated that it didn’t matter, that the cabinets were old and the roaches would return. 
I gave her a look. The age of the cabinets didn’t mean anything. The exterminator had gotten rid of the infestation and I personally captured over a dozen mice. There was no reason why the infestation would return if she was vigilant. But that was the problem: she was more concerned with having her excuse ready than actually paying attention to what I was telling her. 
Within a couple of days Madeline made call to have the refrigerator replaced, something I had serious reservations about. Madeline constantly reminded me that the Housing Authority could not find out I was living there, and I had already made several calls for her. 
But she wouldn’t take no for an answer, and literally barged into my room with the phone in her hand, and had me say I was her sister (not true) and that she needed the refrigerator replaced because the kids medicine was in there (also not true). The refrigerator did need replacing. Two different people had come to fix it at least five different times and it still kept crapping out. 
The Housing people resisted and kept telling me that it would be replaced by an used refrigerator anyways, but it wasn’t until I called, insisted and lied that they sent a replacement. Absolutely no one looks good in this story. 
Within days of her arrival, Madeline’s sister came to visit. Madeline had hinted in the past that she and he sister had a strained relationship because her father and stepmother openly favored the sister because she was light-skinned while Madeline wasn’t. 

When I met the sister, this is the impression I got: a light-skinned, slim Dominican woman with large teeth who used every opportunity to steer the conversation to talk about her plastic surgery. Seriously.

We met and I introduced myself. As we talked she asked me what kind of work I did. I brought my laptop out and began to show her what kind of work I did marketing, and she asked me if I could write legal letters, and I said yes. Then she asked if I could write a letter for her so she could confront her doctor, because even though he had told her that her stomach would be flat after her surgery, she wasn’t really ‘flat’. 
I asked her to send me an email with all the details: who, what, when, how, everything, but she never emailed me. She just wanted to talk about her surgery. 
The moment Madeline arrived, I told her about the bar. 
Up until then I honestly thought that Madeline was a stripper. When I told her my story, she asked why I didn’t come to her bar in Brooklyn instead. I told her I didn’t want to take my clothes off. Then she clarified that she wasn’t a stripper, but danced in a bar in Brooklyn, which paid more. It would be $50 per night, plus drinks, and $2 per dance, more than I was making at the other night. Madeline explained that they also had bouncers at her bar, and the men were not allowed to get fresh.
When her sister came to visit, Madeline invited her to come along as well. We all agreed to go together the next night. But the next day came and there was no word from the sister. Not a whisper. She had assumed that because she had a car that we expected her to drive. We decided to get dressed and leave without the sister. I was happy to drive. 
And to flaunt ma boobs. 

The drive to Brooklyn was nearly an hour. We arrived late, and the men spent the majority of the night watching a paid fight on the projection screen. I still managed to get the attention of the entire bar by standing in front of the projection screen by mistake within five minutes of my arrival.

After the fight ended sometime after 1 AM, I danced a little, one guy kept dancing with me but when I charged him, he put on a face. He gave me what he could and still left owing me money. 
I looked around. Even though the bar was full and loud, I noticed some of the man falling asleep on the edge of the dance floor. It was later that Tati explained to me that those men were high on heroin. They were getting high in crowded spaces just in case of overdose. 
The night ended at 4 AM. Madeline took her sweet time wrapping up with a customer, and we didn’t leave until an hour later. I spent a chunk of the night hanging out at the bar and talking to people. We got home at dawn and picked up breakfast sandwiches for the kids. I was exhausted. The next week, we would do it all again.