Chris Arnade Photography

Denise Perez is Alive: Rumor and Reality in Hunts Point Part 2

This is a follow up to a prior piece: Denise Perez is Dead

Denise Perez is not dead.

She is alive, staying with her mother in New Jersey, in a 30-day detox program, headed for a mandated rehab program. When I told her over the phone of the rumors of her death in Hunts Point, shot by a john, she laughed, and then said, “Well, I am dead to Hunts Point.” Denise Perez, aka Neecy, is not dead.

When she called late last night, using her mom’s cell phone, I had expected to be offering condolences: Earlier in the day I had spoken to who I thought was her son, Jermaine, who confirmed that his mother, Neecy, had died, but not on the streets. Jermaine’s mother had died in Beth Israel Hospital of breast cancer.

Takeesha, after talking with Jermaine, was sad but relieved. With tears in her eye she said, "Nobody deserves to die out here. Nobody. That’s my greatest fear. I don’t want to die out here. Too many people die out here that I was close to."

So I left Hunts Point sad that Denise Perez was dead, that some portion of the street rumors was true.

Five hours later “Momma Perez” sprung up on my phone: Denise Perez’s mother in New Jersey. I had left a message earlier in the day before calling Jermaine. I was standing at a urinal; I was not going to miss this call.  On the phone was Denise. “I am not dead.” I peed on my shoe.

Jermaine’s mother is Neecy, but a different Neecy. Jermaine’s mother knew Denise Perez, knew Takeesha, knew all the women who worked the streets, and did what she could to help out those less fortunate.

The streets had confused the two Neecys. Had filled in the blanks when it came to Denise Perez’s absence, assuming the worst.  Information on the streets is nebulous, made more so by the interweaving of blood and street family, by the use of monikers and nicknames, by the desire to run from the past.

I drove back to Hunts Point later in the night. Takeesha was out on the streets, working and very high. I told her of the confusion, of her friend Denise Perez being alive and in Jersey. Takeesha nodded, the information barely registering.

So Denise Perez is alive, in Jersey, heading to rehab.  Jermaine’s mother, Neecy, passed from breast cancer.  Both are lost to the streets of Hunts Point, one lost from this world.

I hope that Denise Perez will stay lost to Hunts Point, but stay part of this world.

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