Carol

Carol was trying to find a few cigarette butts to gut out to make a whole cigarette although she wasn’t a smoker she’d sell them to her neighbors in the tent next door for fifty cents with her thin arms and micro wrists she’d toil for a couple of weeks to raise enough money to go to the flower store on Los Angeles street and buy her parole officer a single rose or sometimes two or three red carnations i had met Carol while i was in high school at that time she was in her thirties she befriended me at People’s Store asking me about my perfume on account that she liked it i was a young punk and i told her that i wasn’t wearing any and walked off Carol stood there looking confused but the guilt gnawed at my chest and i could feel my ears turning hot and red i told my friend to go home and i walked backward a few steps toward Carol as i turned to her i mumbled at  her that i was sorry for blowing her off and offered her my snickers bar she lit up and said thanks kid but i’d rather have some of that beer you have in your back pack i froze and denied having anything in my bag although i knew damned well i had a bottle of Daniels i didn’t like beer we both smiled knowing each other’s truth in bullshit every now and again i’d go looking for her with water bottles canned food and the occasional AJ note if i could spare it we talked about DTLA and Skidrow Carol laughed and i watched her and then she started to tell me about her family out in Virginia Carol had been a victim of many unspeakable things my relationship with Carol lasted for about three years or so her sanity was remarkable but as time went on  it became unbearable to watch her sleep during the day in the summer LA heat her legs were encrusted with months of dirt and when i stared long enough at the splotches they were almost artistic or hieroglyphic in a way i stopped visiting for a few months to reckon with my own demons when i returned it was during spring time and Carol did not recognize me i found her on the corner of 6th and Wall squatted down bare footed picking peas out of a tin can with half a label that read Springfield by her feet was an old pill bottle that read Retrovir a few cigarette butts and a mangled how to live with HIV pamphlet

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