It was cold for the city today. Cold like the first time your palm touches a beer from a cooler. Tuesday around Pershing. Kicking around cigarette butts I look around hoping I can figure it out. The sky is gun gray so are the prospects of the tent city by the children swings. One lone chubby security guard swipes at his phone. Oblivious.
Love is the hardest thing to think about. The thought of it is frightening to me. To them who dwell, and hustle love is crystal clear.
She is there with a pink metal suitcase. The pink pops betwixt the stains of dried blood, chili, and grime. She wears a broken cowboy hat and underneath a matted polyester wig. I’m not sure what to have called the color. Across bent body a poncho, crispy looking like KFC clotted with dirt and hysterical indifference.
From the banana plants steps out a man thin with skinny fingers and yellowed fingernails which at a closer look were filled with black dirt underneath. An unholy French manicure. As he reached in to hug her his Jamaican flag colored letterman jacket levitated in the wind. Then the rain came down on his worn Oakland A’s baseball cap. He smiled with a meth mouth grin and crust around the corners of his mouth. She placed her broken left hand on his left shoulder. And with her less broken right hand nursed a blunt as she offered it to the OA man as a new mother nurses her baby.
I drew closer pretending to look past them and secretly taking them in like a hummingbird delights in nectar. He called her Lucretia, and she laughed a raspy sound. She called him Cesar and thanked him for the three dollars last night. He hoped the cough syrup helped her with her chest cold.
Sitting down on the steps that stare at the jewelry and finger printing fronts across the street on Olive I caught patches of their conversation. Cesar was from Nicaragua. Years of exposure to the richness that is the immigrant community of Pico Union I learned to decipher at least 9 accents and dialects. The raspy lady was from L.A.
The blunt was crushed on the tip and tucked in the hole of her chest. They sat down on a cardboard and took a long look at the day around them. I could tell he sighed as his lips pursed like an old Indian chief portrait at the natural history museum. As she stood up again with her less broken hand she slicked her hat off her head and took off her wig.
“My last daddy hit me with a bat,” was her disclosure as she felt the stitched cut on the left side of her head like braille. Cesar shakes his head and reaches up to hold her hand.
We turn to the west as a swarm of pigeons flap over the playground. The three of us look at each other and smile.