by Doug Draime
I couldn’t tell whether she was
a man or woman at first. I took the
bottle anyway. It was four in the morning
and the rain was beginning to fall,
as we huddled together in the alley off of
5th and Temple in downtown L.A. The Night
Train was smooth going down warming my throat and
stomach. After passing the bottle back and forth
a few times, I found out her name was Sally.
She was younger than me; she took off her Cincinnati
Reds baseball cap, and her hair was matted and
filthy, but through it all, a radiant shiny black.
She asked if I wanted some sex. I told her no, I was
too tired for that. She seemed relieved, but shot me a
quick disgusted look. “You’re not a fag, are you?”
she asked. “No,” I answered, “just real tired.”
Sally was from Baltimore. Had been living on the streets
for over a year, and when she couldn’t stand it
any longer, the women’s shelter at the mission.
Her father raped her.
Her brother raped her.
Her uncle raped her.
Her mother broke her arm and called her a whore,
throwing her out on the streets when she
was 16. “The fucking world sucks, “ she said. I nodded in
agreement, taking another long pull from the bottle.
We sat huddled, talking together till the rain stopped
and the sun was breaking out over the downtown
skyline. Pigeons flew in the morning light overhead.
I left her there about 6 a.m. sleeping up against a cardboard
garment box, and headed back to my apartment in Silverlake.
It’d been 3 long days of booze, speed, weed,
debauchery, madness, lies and violence. Little
of which I remember, but I do remember
waking up in that stinking alley
next to her warmth, with no hope but the bottle,
no desire but to warm myself, no thoughts,
As I walked out of the alley onto 5th street I
looked back at her sleeping peacefully,
and in the light and fading shadows of
morning, she was almost beautiful.
After these many years of my life, of drugs, booze,
marriage, poetry, divorce, love, resurrection,
friendships, poverty, prosperity, death, homelessness,
children, betrayal, rage, faith; the endless nowhere shit hole jobs
and all the rest of the moments
which brought me to this moment, this memory,
my tears saturate the paper for Sally,
and I raise my fist to the world,
for her, myself and all the rest of you.