By John Scott Holman
“Why was I seeking a friendly hand? I have an advantage now: I can laugh off truthless loves, and strike down duplicious couples with shame — down below, I experienced a hell women know well — and now I’ll be able to possess truth in a single body and soul.”
- From Une Saison en Enfer, By Arthur Rimbaud
How long now? Five days, six? Never mind. I’m fine. A little dizzy. I can sleep when I run out. Yes, yes, this time I’ll sleep. Food? Fuck it. I’ll never get into that slinky black number without a little discipline. Mmm, I can almost feel the fabric on my skin. Goosebumps. I’ll get all the real classy johns in that one. Bet I can fool the straight ones too. Sure, I look as good as any girl on the street. If I stick to head jobs they’ll never know the difference. Shut up! Shut up! You don’t do that now. You’re an artist girl, not a whore.
I cross the room. Place looks shabby. Unfinished canvases scattered about. Paint on the floor. Could use some furniture. I stand before the mirror and fiddle with my makeup. Ooh girl, you look haggard! Yes, will definately sleep soon. Oh, my poor, poor head. Need another hit.
I sit cross-legged on the floor, my skirt up around my thighs. Works layed out before me. Drop a half gram into the spoon. Break it down. Put on 30 units of water. Draw it through a used cigarette filter. Not as pure these days. Better dope when Georgia was around. Find a vein. Ease it in. Slow and steady now. Pull it back. A plume of deep red curls upward, swaying quick and lovely in the dropper’s neck — divine! Let’s have it then. Oh, girl! Mmm, there it is. All these burning polaroids dancing in my brain. Up! Up! Flying now, like a delerious kite in an electrical storm. Don’t stop! Don’t stop! Sweet Jesus! Don’t… stop…
Whew. Hmm. Bit dissapointed. Maybe a little more. No, gotta save it. I’m spun enough to work. Zoom… zoom… Methamphetamine. Oh, such a lovely drug. Makes a girl feel special.
I watch myself in the mirror as I walk to the new painting. Slinky. Sexy. Walk. Marlene Dietrich legs. This is Hollywood after all. You’re right in the thick of it. Feeling lovely. Sparkling shivers up and down my spine. Dolce vita! I can sleep when I’m dead.
I fish for the right brush and get to work. Lose myself in an ecstatic collision of colors. Sexy pinks. Ghostly purples. Alligator greens. They slide through each other like a tangle of snakes. Brilliant! I think I’ll call this one Reptillian Sunset. Girl, you’re a genius! Art! Life! Love! Sweet ecstasy!
Hours pass like bullets. Hear that manic music in my head! Screeching, mechanical jazz compositions. Hot dream steam whistlin’ through my brain pipes.
Losing momentum now. I can see the shadow creatures crawling out of their corners. Watching. Waiting. Whispering to each other. I shouldn’t have had that last shot. Gettin’ paranoid. And what is this shit I’m painting? It’s beautiful! No, no, no, it’s shit! Pure shit! Pretentious! Ghastly! Oh, my head! My skin is on fire. Can’t think straight. Need a pick-me-up. No, gotta sleep. Calm yourself dearie. Relax… relax… Fuck! Oh God, God, God, God, Mamma, Jesus, WHY?!
I hurry to my works. Fuck! Barely an eighth left. My hands shake. I hit myself as fast as I can. Wait for it… wait for it… Nothing. Fuck! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck me!
I lay in a ball on the floor. Fucking slut! You whore! Faggot! I want to die! Let me die! The shadow creatures encircle me. They are hungry. They come closer, closer. There is a painful ringing in my ears. I can’t breathe. Can’t scream. They descend on me, moving over my body and into my eyes. My eyes! Blackness. Only blackness and ringing. The ringing expands, filling every empty crevice in existence. All of time and space enveloped by that sound, that ringing that moves through every cell, every atom. All is ringing. Ringing. Ringing. Then nothing, terrible and beautiful.
Finally, I sleep…
Morning — fuck. No dope. No money. Nobody to take care of me. Bruises on my arms. Paint on my skirt. Mornings are empty. Ever so empty, like one of those hollow jugs you blow into and it makes that eerie whooooo sound. Need to turn a few tricks. Buy some dope and fresh rigs. Stop it! You’re an artist. Forget it, you’re a hack!
I crawl to the bathroom. Lay on the cool linoleum. Lean over the toilet. Puke up green bile and chunks of something. Couldn’t be food. Maybe pieces of my stomach lining. Glamorous, real fuckin’ glamorous.
Mamma said I’d be alright. “Hush now baby. Daddy will be gone all day. Just us now. You’re daddy is a good man, baby, he don’t mean to upset you so. He loves Mamma and baby. He’s just sad, that’s all. Sometimes it makes him mean sometimes. He didn’t mean to hit you like that. Come here child, let Mamma hold you.”
Mamma, my mamma. Smell of peach schnapps. “It’ll be alright,” Mamma said, “just give it time.” My Mamma didn’t know, or she didn’t want to. Maybe it was the peach schnapps kept her asleep heavy at night when Daddy left her bed. Maybe.
“You’re a dirty little boy, aren’t you? Dirty. Say it. Dirty. You’re a dirty one. Say it. Dirty.”
I flush the toilet. Get to my feet. Look in the mirror. Lord. Look at yourself. Your makeup, my God! Look like a clown on his death bed. Why aren’t I pretty like Georgia was? Maybe if I was pretty somebody would come and take me away. Maybe.
I throw cool water on my face. Another wave of nausea. Nothing left to come up. Need to eat something. Go to the kitchen and put a pot of tomato soup on the stove. Then back to the bathroom to fix my face. Finish and return to find the soup burnt. Nothing else and no money. Never any money.
Buck up girl. We have to do what we have to do. Drake downstairs will be good for a few bucks – if I give him a good head job of course. Come on now, you’re not a whore. You’re just hungry. A girl has gotta eat (“Dirty. Say it. Dirty.”).
So I shuffle downstairs and into the lobby. Ghastly building. Not fit to house a nigger’s dog. Find Drake leaning on his mop. Finger in his ear. Protruding belly. Stringy hair. Watery eyes, the color of neglected urinals. Knows what I want without my saying it. Tells me to wait until he finishes with the mopping. I bite my lip and wait.
Drake does a half-assed job mopping and hurries me into the broom closet. Presses against me. Smell of stale sweat. Flickering bulb, lit so he can watch. That’s how he likes it. I take a deep breath (“Dirty. Say it. Dirty.”).
Early afternoon. I saunter down the boulevard, squinting into the cruel sunlight. Sunlight changes this place. I’m just a ghost visiting from a parallel, evening universe.
Drake was very generous. 30 bucks he gave me — but I owe him. Shudder. Turned another trick soon after Drake. Can afford at least a half g. I’ll work tonight and eat after. Now I need some speed. Lord in a Ford, I need to get high! A hit would be ever so lovely. Gotta find the kid. Little Asian brat. Maybe 15 years-old. Just a baby. A baby tweaker. Wouldn’t buy from him, but he’s my only connection during daylight hours. Vicious little punk. A girl has to be careful. They grow ‘em crazy these days. Young ones ain’t afraid of anything no more.
An old lady on oxygen stares me down as I walk by. Tourists. Christ. L.A. is just a giant circus to ‘em. Good entertainment. Just shuffle the kiddies indoors before nightfall.
Waiting at a crosswalk. Sweaty, rotund man next to me wears a Star Wars t-shirt. Smokes. I ask him if I might please bum one. Little girl at his side eyes me like she’s seen my face on a wanted poster. Man gives me the cigarette. Moves in close. Waits. Closer. Breathing in my ear. “How much?” he asks. First I’m insulted. Then I catch on he thinks I’m a woman. This gets me going.
“Well now, all depends, what are you lookin’ for?” I ask, all quiet and sneaky like.
“Um… I’m… well…”
The girl tugs at the man’s sleeve. “Daddy, why come that man is dressed like a lady?” she coos.
Man flushes red ‘nough to beat the devil. Quickly shoos girl along and hurries away, lookin’ all the while at his shoes. I laugh. Light turns. My skin crawls. Feels like strips of frying bacon. Pick up my pace. Need, need, need some dope.
Pass a poster of Marilyn Monroe in a shop window. Just have to stop and look. Always stop and look. So lovely, so haunted. Like the soft white head of a dandelion ready to blow away. Breasts spilling out of her dress. God, what I wouldn’t do to have those breasts!
I tear myself away and move on. Find the kid easy enough. Hanging around the parking lot across from the taco stand like most days. More friends with him than usual. Creepy punks. Pants hanging down their backsides. Now he’ll act like he don’t know me and carry on about me bein’ a faggot. Just you wait. Secret is, I once jerked him off for a five piece. Crack has never been my thing, and it was just enough to tease me, but a hand job ain’t much of a sacrifice. Anyway, he came real quick. Just a baby, after all. A baby tweaker. Vicious little punk.
“Whachoo want?” he snarls.
“C’mon now, can’t a girl get high?”
“You ain’t a girl.”
His friends snigger.
“Baby, have a heart!” I say.
“I ain’t you’re baby. Get the fuck outa here.”
I begin to panic. “Please, don’t do this! I’m hurtin’ bad. Have a little compassion.”
“You bring cash?”
“Well, I’m not here to beg.”
“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.”
We cut the deal quick and I’m off. Can’t get away fast enough. Now to get properly spun and make a little money.
Feelin’ good now. Feelin’ fabulous! Soon it will be getting dark. Money will practically be blowing down the streets. Yeah, this town bares its teeth when the sun goes down. Mmm. Money. Money. Money. Work hard enough and I can stay up for a few days. Lock myself in the apartment. Paint like there’s no tomorrow. Lovely, ever so lovely.
One day someone important will discover my art. I’ll be somebody then. All the prettiest boys will line up just to see me. Yes, yes, yes! Picture me, loved and respected. Dripping with jewels. Shining like a diamond sunbeam. Like Lana Turner. Like Monroe. The future looks good enough to eat.
I dress up and I’m out the door. Walk to a record store. Looking to kill time until sundown. Mmm. So many old records. Smell of other times. Pick out a Joni Mitchel album and stroll into the listening booth. What fun! How do you work this thing? Ah, there we go. Joni. Such a lovely voice. Such simple words, but so beautiful. Joni, you’ll make my mascara run. Sad, lilting music, so soft, like the touch of lace gloved hands. Blue smoke. First snow of the season. Joni Mitchel.
I remove the record. Step out. Continue browsing. Browsing and listening. Searching for the perfect soundtrack to my high. Return to the booth with a stack of records. Everything from Johnny Cash to Alanis Morisette. I fall madly in love with one by The Velvet Underground. Dope! Decadence! Leather! Mmm. That’s the music for me. Somehow or another I become convinced there are hidden messages in the lyrics. Start picking them apart. Analyzing every word to uncover a treasure trove of secrets written in musical code.
Finally drag myself out of that listening booth. Past the records and into the street. Dusk. Been in that store for hours! Methamphetamine. Christ!
I’ll be coming down in several hours. Can’t come down again. Not two days in a row. Gotta think. Gotta think.
Hurry down the sidewalk, eyes shifting all around. Thin old man in a pale blue suit walks close behind me. I turn at the end of the block. He follows. Strange. I cross the street. Yep, the bastard is tailing me. I stop. He stops. Looks sick, like he could use a solid meal. Pale skin pulled tight over high cheek bones. Pants too short. Isn’t wearing socks. Something about the lack of socks is the last nail in the coffin. I snap.
“Are you a cop?” I spit.
He looks around like he’s not sure who I’m talking to.
“I asked you a question, Grandpa.”
“I’m sorry,” he says nervously. “I’ve never done this before.”
“Done what? Made a bust?” I ask, even though I’m certain by now that he isn’t a cop.
“I’m sorry. Really, I am. I didn’t mean to upset you.”
He turns away.
“Wait,” I say. “Is there something you wanted? Something special?”
Sure he’s old, but I figure he could be good for a few bucks. Besides, it’s obvious he’s the shy, grateful type and I really don’t need any trouble tonight.
“Really, I’ll go now,” he says meekly.
“No, no.” I walk slowly forward, swinging my hips. Put my hand on his arm. “Are you sure I can’t help you?”
“Well… are you a prostitute?” he asks, finally.
I smile. “Do you have somewhere we can go?” I ask.
“I followed you from the record store. My car is in a parking garage not far from here.”
We walk to the parking garage. It’s almost empty. “I only have a hundred dollars,” he says. “Is that enough?” I laugh gleefully and the sounds echoes through the garage. What luck! He leads me to an old boat of a Cadillac and opens the door for me. A gentleman! I slide into the passenger seat. Mmm, leather. He gets in and sits nervously. Doesn’t say a word.
“So, what can I do for you?” I say seductively.
“Um, I’m not really sure, I’ve never done this before.”
“You said that.”
“Oh, right. Well.. I guess I…”
“I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m sorry if I’ve disrespected you. I’ve been so mixed up lately. So very, very mixed up.”
“Come on now, let mommy help.” I lean forward and begin to undo his fly, but he pulls away.
“Wait. Wait. Just give me a minute.”
I sink back into my seat. Crunch of leather. “Having trouble with the old equipment?” I ask.
“Yes… uh, no. I… You see…”
I’m getting frustrated. “Look, I don’t have all night,” I say firmly.
“Stop saying that.”
“Sorry. I mean. Oh, dear. My wife…”
“Oh, I see. There’s a Mrs. Grandpa, huh?”
“No, no. My wife, she’s dead. Last year. She died last year. She’s been dead a year. I… I haven’t been with another woman in almost 40 years.”
He laughs. “Now you’re the one saying sorry,” he says smiling.
“I guess you’re right. Nice to see that pretty smile.”
Now I feel guilty. Also a little uncomfortable. But I can’t fuck this up. This is an easy job, girl. Remember, there’s a hundred bucks in that awful blue suit of his.
“So, what can I do to ease the pain?”
“Can we just talk for a minute? You know, just talk.”
This is too much! But I smile. “What was she like?” I ask.
“She was… well… she was a terrible bitch,” he says, with humorous sincerity.
I laugh helplessly.
“But I loved her,” he says. “I really loved her. I don’t know what to do without her, you know? My house is a mess. If I have to eat goddamned microwaved noodles again I’ll puke. But I can’t bring myself to eat out alone.”
This is too pathetic to be real. But I do feel bad for the old guy. Guess I’m a sucker for a sob story.
“I still wake up in bed alone and think she must be in the bathroom,” he says. “Sometimes it takes me a few minutes to remember. Sorry, I’m rambling.”
“No, go ahead. And if you say you’re sorry one more time I’m gonna call my pimp to come beat the shit out of you.”
He looks suddenly concerned.
“Joking. That was a joke. I’m joking.”
“Oh, I see.”
“So tell me more about her. If you want to, I mean.”
“I don’t really know what to tell. Let’s see. She had the most beautiful hands. She arranged flowers. Always wanted to know how I liked the flowers. I never knew nothin’ about flowers but I said they looked nice. She was real refined, you know? If she ever took a shit in our house I wouldn’t have known it.”
He was loosening up. I was feeling strange about the whole thing. Wanted to leave. Go find some real work.
“So are you ready?” I ask, awkwardly.
“I can’t,” he sighs. “It wouldn’t be right. I’m sorry.”
“That’s it, I’m calling my pimp.”
“No, no, you can have the money.”
“I… I was joking again. I don’t even have a pimp.”
“Oh, right. Well, I’d like you to take the money anyway.”
Ok girl, you know you want to take it. With that much money I wouldn’t have to worry about where my dope was coming from. At least not for tonight. C’mon girl, just take the money and scram.
“I can’t,” I said. “Please, just keep it. I want you to keep it.”
Fuck. What are you doing girl? You’re so stupid. Stupid.
The old man smiles. “Will you take a twenty? You know, just for your time? Just to get something to eat.”
“Alright,” I say. I take the money. Kiss the old man on the cheek. He blushes. I step out of the car. Fuck. All that money gone to waste on microwave noodles. I watch the old man as he drives away and think of him sitting in bed waiting for his dead wife to come back from the bathroom. I sigh. Twenty bucks and no regret. Better than nothing I suppose.
Past midnight now. No luck all night. Should have taken that hundred bucks? Fuck. These heels are killing my ankles. A man’s ankles aren’t meant for heels. Coming down hard now. Irritable. Depressed. Paranoid. Everyone looks like a cop. Can’t take it anymore. I use my twenty to buy a quarter of dope off Starla, a weird old queen, always working the street. Dope is easy to sniff out at night. Every time I buy off Starla I gotta listen to her god-awful rambling. Talking, talking, talking. Real fire and brimstone shit. Thinks she’s some kind of sorceress. She waves her arms and flutters her fingers like they’re drunk with spirits.
“Be careful tonight,” she says. “You feel it? The night is restless. Something is going to happen. Come child.”
She takes my hands in hers and studies the lines of my palms.
“Ah, yes, yes, I see,” she whispers ecstatically. “Tonight you have been chosen. Yes, you will surely be tested on this night.”
Pull my hands away. Uncomfortable. Agitated. “Ok, good to know,” I say.
She looks at me with deadly intensity. There is a fire in her eyes, like an ignited oil spill swaying on a dark ocean. “Yes, be careful my child,” she says. “Nothing happens by accident. Soon we will see the world take its last breath. Is your soul ready?”
“I really have to go now,” I stammer. I hurry away. Starla calls after me. “Are you ready? Are you ready? Are you ready?”
I wrap the dope in a bit of paper and swallow it. Not much, but it’ll help. Continue to wander. Make eyes at the men that pass by. No luck. Fuck. Oh, my aching head. Frightening faces all around me. What a freak show! Goddamnit. This dope better kick in soon. It could be bunk shit. Oh, I’ll tear Starla’s face off. I swear to Christ!
That’s it, I’m going home. If only I had enough money to drink myself to sleep. Feel like crying. Wait, I am crying. Shit! Gotta get home. Stupid, stupid! There goes my mascara. Oh, God! I start walking home, quick as possible. Coughing. Snot running down my face. Snap. My heel breaks. My ankle throbs. I kick helplessly at the ground, crying like an idiot.
“Are you alright?”
I turn to see a small Hispanic man holding my broken heel. Young. Maybe 19 years-old. Cheeks still thick with baby fat. Rich, caramel skin. Piercing brown eyes. Childlike eyes. Streetlights dancing in them. He smiles, kindly. I wipe my nose on the back of my hand and reach for the heel.
“Thank you,” I sniffle.
“Bad night?” His voice is thin and slightly feminine. He wears a wrinkled black button-up and black slacks.
“Yeah, I guess so,” I say, somehow managing to laugh at myself. That quarter of dope must be taking effect.
“Anything I can do?”
“Look, I’m not working now. I should be but I just can’t. Sorry, I’m going home.”
“I said I’m not… Oh, you were serious.”
“I’m not gay,” he says, an unconvincing firmness in his tone.
“Ok, well… I’m sorry, I just don’t know what to say to that. Um… goodbye then.”
“Wait, can I buy you a drink?”
That’s an extremely odd thing to ask at a time like this. But God love him for it anyway. “Oh, honey,” I say, you can buy me five.
“Ok,” he smiles awkwardly.
We stand silently for a long moment. “Are we going?” I ask, finally.
“I can’t buy you a drink.”
“No, no, I’m just not old enough.”
“Oh, well we can stop by the liquor store.”
I smile. He smiles. I have no idea what’s going on, but the meth is kicking in and I’m feeling better.
“Wait,” I say, “where are we going to drink? My place?”
“I know a place,” he says.
We walk off together, just two lonely creatures of the night.
“This is my church,” he says.
“We’re getting drunk in a church?”
“Yeah, it’s cool. I have a key.”
He unlocks the side door of a small white church covered in graffiti. Inside it’s dark and dusty. More graffiti. Beer bottles scattered across the floor and over the pews.
“This is your church?” I ask, my lip curled in mild disgust.
“Well, it used to be. It’s closed down now. I taught Sunday school. Sometimes.”
We walk to the front row and sit on a tattered pew. I twist the lid off a bottle of Bacardi. A creepy wax statue of Jesus looks down on me from the pulpit (“Are you ready?”). Watches as I take a swig.
“Catholics drink, right?” I ask, feeling strangely uneasy.
“Don’t worry, you’re not going to hell.”
“I’m not? How do you know?”
“I don’t. Anyway, I don’t think so. I don’t believe in hell.”
“I thought you were a Sunday school teacher.”
“I did too.”
“I don’t know. My brother died. In Iraq, you know?”
“Me too. Anyway, that’s why I joined up.”
“Yeah, he laughs. I leave for basic in the morning.”
“Why would you do that?”
He shakes his head. “I guess I thought it was a good idea at the time.”
“I’m not sure. I’m scared, you know?”
“Honey, I’d be scared too.”
“Don’t call me that,” he says seriously.
“Don’t call me honey. Don’t call me that, ok?”
“Ok,” I shrug, taking another swig and passing the bottle to him. He takes a small drink and coughs gently. “Gross,” he says. “I mean it’s good, but it’s kinda gross, you know?”
Suddenly it occurs to me that I think he’s cute.
“What’s your name?” he asks. All this time and we haven’t exchanged names!
“I don’t really know,” I say.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean I don’t know. It used to be Steven. Long time ago. It’s changed a few times since then.”
“What is it now?”
“How ’bout we don’t tell each other our names,” I say, taking another drink. “It’s better that way, with you leaving tomorrow and all. We can just remember each other as that person from that night. Ok?”
“So do you have a girlfriend, someone to write to when you leave?”
“No, I don’t have much of anybody.”
“You can write to me. Sorry, I don’t know why I said that.”
The rum and dope are making me feel loose and emotional. Watch yourself, girl. He’s nobody special. Still, it is nice to be treated like a human being. Twice in one day. But that old man didn’t have pretty brown eyes. Fuck. I begin taking larger drinks.
“Gimme some of that,” he says. I pass him the bottle. He takes a long drink. Burps quietly. “I don’t want to go,” he says.
“I’m sorry. Really, I am.”
“I don’t think I can kill somebody. I killed a rabbit once. I’d begged my mom for that rabbit. It’s name was Pedro.”
“Pedro?” I laugh.
“Yeah. Pedro. Anyway, my Dad, he was always on my ass. Told me rabbits were for girls. So one day I… I took that rabbit and I smacked its head against my dresser. I did it over and over again until it’s little feet stopped moving. I cried for days. I was so ashamed.”
I don’t know what to say to him. I’m getting drunk. Strange feelings. I feel real. I feel real and it fuckin’ hurts. I take the bottle and have another drink.
“So, I say, do you drink often?”
“Don’t tell me what to do.”
“Sorry, didn’t realize you were so touchy.”
“Don’t tell me what to do.”
“I don’t know you, right?”
“Not that well. No.”
Silence. I try to read what’s in his head. Feel like I understand him, but I don’t say so. Know he wouldn’t like it. Keep watching his eyes. Beautiful eyes. I want to save him. I want him to save me. I want to cry. No, I want to get wasted. Smashed. Spun.
“You got any more money?” I ask.
“You wanna get some meth?”
“Yeah, I wanna get some meth.”
“Ok. Let’s get some meth and go back to my place.”
“Ok… Yeah, ok.”
“You’re a painter?”
“Yes, I’m a painter.”
I take a seat on the floor of my apartment. He does the same.
“Sorry, I’m gonna get furniture soon. Well, some day, if this place ever feels like home.”
“Do you like the paintings?”
“I don’t think I understand them.”
“Yeah, they’re abstract. You have to look beneath the surface. You have to be willing to give them a chance, even though they’re different. See? Most people wouldn’t do that. I think you would.”
I look into his eyes. He clear his throat and looks away.
“Anyway,” I say, “how do you do your dope?”
“I guess I just smoke it.”
“Sorry, no Pyrex. We could get some foil. Or you could just snort it.”
“Does it burn?”
“I’ll snort it.”
“Good. I’m gonna have a shot.”
“You shoot it?”
I cut his half of the dope into lines on a plastic tray and pass it to him. Put my half in the spoon. He watches me take my hit. Squirms a little when he sees the blood. Oh, lovely. Lovely! Good dope. Flying. Flying. Delerious kite.
He leans over and sniffs a line through a rolled bill. Rubs his nose in pain. “It’s nasty,” he says.
“Huh?” I ask, in a haze.
“It tastes bad.”
“Well, beauty is pain. You’re about to feel beautiful. I feel great! Divine! Lovely! Lovely! Lovely!”
“Sorry. It’s just that rush! Mmm. So nice.”
He sniffs two more lines.
“Can I ask you something?” I say, swelling with chemical confidence.
“Why did you ask if I wanted a drink? Why did you pay attention to me at all? You must like me, right?
Right? Don’t you like me?”
“I like you.”
“I don’t know. Maybe I don’t like you.”
“Hmm. Where’s that Bacardi?”
He passes the bottle to me and I finish it off. I feel sweat running down my forehead. Racing thoughts. My body is tense, like a tightly coiled spring. I’m about to do something stupid. Yes, I’m going to do it. Don’t. No. No. I lean forward and kiss him gently. Taste of rum. Yum. I pull away. What did I do? Fuck. Wait… Oh my God! He’s kissing me back! Frantic, methamphetamine kisses. Hot. Soft. My skin tingles, every nerve screaming. Kite flying higher and higher.
I fumble with his belt. Unzip him. Pull off his pants urgently. Heavy breathing. He moans softly. I slide my hand into his briefs. He shudders, coming immediately. Pulls away. He sighs and the sound hangs dark and heavy in the air.
“I told you I wasn’t gay,” he says through gritted teeth.
“Well, it sure seemed like…”
“I told you I wasn’t gay!” he screams.
He stands suddenly. Towers over me in animal rage.
“You fucking faggot! You fucking faggot!”
He kicks me square in the chin. I crumple over, spitting blood. He raises his foot and brings it down heavy on my ribs. I cry out. The room spins. I vomit. He kicks me in the stomach. In the groin. Kicking.
Kicking. Over, and over, and over, and over. Shards of dope scatter across the floor.
“Fucking queer! Faggot! Fucking queer! Fucking queer! Fucking queer!”
Lightning strikes the kite and it catches fire, spiraling towards the ground.
I cover my face and scream. He cries. Screams. Spits. Kicks. Oh God, God, God, God!
Finally he stops. “Fuckin’ whore.” He pulls on his pants. “And by the way, a fuckin’ kindergartner could paint this shit.” He puts his foot through Reptillian Sunset. That final blow hurts worse than all the rest. He turns and walks out. I whimper like a dog. Bleeding. Sweating. Panting. Curled up in a pathetic ball.
Alone again… always.
Rain falls slow and steady on the sad remains of a fallen kite.
I wake in pain. Floor is hard. Smell of vomit. Eyes swollen almost shut. Can just see the ceiling through blurred slits. Last night occupies the back of my mind like a scream muffled by a suffocating pillow. Christ! I sit up. Aching. Why didn’t he just kill me? Why? Why didn’t they all just kill me, instead of taking, taking, taking EVERTHING?! Fuck!
Need some dope. How can I make any money in this condition? Shit. Mamma said everything would be alright. Lying bitch. Oh God, I want my Mamma.
I crawl on hands and knees, looking for last night’s spilled dope. God. Ow. Ribs. Guts. Face. My hand comes down on something thick and lumpy. His wallet. Must have fallen out of his pants. Trembling fingers pull it open. Twenty bucks. Not much, but praise Jesus! Get to my feet. Gotta find the kid before it’s too late. I walk to the mirror. Eck! No sense even trying to fix that mug. Throw on a pair of retro tortoiseshell sunglasses. Tryin’ to hide the bruises. Fuck it. Scramble out the door. Limping. Coughing.
The daylight burns my eyes. Try not to think about how I look. All the normal, happy people stare at me. All my life I’ve lived with their stares. Stares of hatred. Stares of confusion. Maybe they hate me. Maybe I hate them. Maybe they feel sorry for me. But maybe… maybe I feel sorry for them. After all, they have their prisons too. What is this feeling, and why? It’s a strange energy that moves my broken and weary body through each day. Makes me feel love for my Daddy at odd moments when my brain is empty. It gives me the power to forgive. How? Why?
I want to hate that Hispanic boy, but I can’t. I’m angry. God, I’m angry! But I understand him. I feel sorry for him. It’s silly, but I know he didn’t mean what he did. One day he’ll remember me. He’ll be off fighting somewhere and he’ll remember me and feel ashamed. He’ll want to tell me how sorry he is and he’ll know that the chance will never come. But it’s ok, because I know how sorry he is. And I forgive him. I really do.
Strange thoughts on this afternoon in the city of dreams. The city of nightmares. The city of wandering souls. My city. My home. The strangers around me are the only family I have. That’s ok. We belong together… in a way.
It is warm. I still taste blood. Salty. A pleasing taste, despite… C’mon girl, stop all the thinking. Get the dope and get home. Should be going to a hospital. Penniless freaks like me don’t have the luxury. Fuck it then. God, God, I’m sore though. Think a rib is cracked. Should get some smack what I should get. Man, oh man. But the world just keeps on turnin’, don’t it? And life is a party when you’re up. But Lordy my Lord, it’s a war-zone when you’re down. And I’m down. I just keep puttin’ on my war paint — mascara, lipstick and a smile in my eyes. Hitler’s whole army was on dope. Methamphetamine. Christ! I think of Starla and her mad prophesies. Am I ready? Oh, my poor, poor rambling mind. Get sensible now, girl. Ha!
I stop to look at Marilyn like so many times before. Such a nice big poster. Mmm. I just stare. Stare. Stare into her haunted, beautiful eyes. Something in those eyes. And I know! I just know.
I finish taping the poster on my wall and step back to get a good look. Really brightens up the place. Lovely, ever so lovely. Like a lost child. But now I’ve found her. And she’s found me. Spent all my dope money to get her, but that’s ok. It’s all ok, even if it isn’t. That’s a nice feeling. A nice feeling all in my guts. My aching guts. I watch her, trying to catch her move or wink. But she’s too smart for me. Tricky girl!
Somewhere that battered kite rises, just a little, on a spring zephyr soft as a newborn’s breath. Storms loom on the horizon, but that is of no importance… for now.
I smile just to smile. And that is good.