|photo by joan sorolla|
Out the back door of the hotel, rain slashes at awnings over shop doors. I can’t be contained any longer. The Shakespeare Theatre is dark, all the actors huddle in the back; some lovers, some tragic, all humorous. They are no different than any of us. The streets are empty, but for rows of parked cars devoid drivers. The storm is here. The flood is coming.
The grocery store shelves newly vacant. Running water chatters out gutters on building corners into streams along the curbs. I cinch my backpack a little tighter, blow a rim of rain off my lip. The bricks speak of slavery, dead brothers and sides forced by birthpangs of a nation. I slip by a dumpster in the alley behind a first story tavern – Thursday night’s remnants, in brown glass, heavy on the hops.
Ghosts in a ghost town. Spoons on cereal bowls. Sips of coffee. Shadows are waking in windows & moving. They pay little attention to me. A patrol car slows, letting me cross - corner to corner, then rolls on. Weather babble on the police band radio loud enough to hear through the door glass. A wedding planner. A coffee shop. The post office.
“Can I use your phone?”
She surprises me, tucked between places. Her pups, big and white stretches his leash, leaping at my face. She’s messed up – probably meth, by her rotting teeth. Blond hair knots matted to her head. Starter jacket soiled&slick. She was pretty once, before using; before being used. Over-used.
I thumb the password&hand it over. It’s a quick, hushed plea for help, a ride – a little argument, promises of last times& she hands it back.
We make small talk, smaller. She’s nervous. I have no cigarettes. Her pups name is Gage&she grows silent. The rain makes up for it, takes our place. A truck pulls up. A thumb motions to the bed, behind the cab. Gage jumps up on the tailgate&she follows him in. She draws him close; hugs his neck – getting wetter, as the truck pulls off.
I skim the edge of the college, the empty truck bays out back a furniture store – returning to the hotel. The rocking chairs on the porch wiggle with the wind. I drip on the tile. The doors shush closed – keeping the city’s perfume at arm’s length.
I carry a little, on my collar – past bellhops in stiff jackets, into the elevator.