Pieces of a Dream

Smacking gum, smiling, and wearing a
tight mini-mini that barely covers
the imagination, she looks like she
belongs in a junior high somewhere—
and even that might be a stretch.

It’s two a.m. And the stroll is popping.
Pimps are dinosaured; The Crack Age
decimated their ranks in the Eighties
and they never recovered. Rocks
control the block now.

She struts with the poise of a
runway model, swinging hips
just beginning their womanly spread;
bra-less breasts, overly developed for
any age, bounce, swell, and spill out of
a top two sizes too small.

In the four plus months we’ve been
friends, she’s been beaten—twice,
raped—once, and infected with HIV.
I interrupted an attempted rape
and became her avenging angel,
get high partner, and occasional lover—
I’m sixteen and dying and caring for
a pseudo-child.

I’m an old man on the streets:
homeless since my AIDS-riddled uncle
decided to keep a family tradition
alive, and came to me when I
turned nine. Nearly seven months later
I ended his comings by ending his life
and fled into the night.

She and I click on several
levels, and actually have a few things
in common outside of getting high,
HIV, and being sex toys for elder family
members. Who knows, in another life,
another reality, we might’ve been able to
have something resembling a normal
relationship—then again, what’s normal.

When ARC hit me, she put down
her pipe, dated only a few regs, and
Florence Nightengaled me back
from the brink. She got us a hotel
room that we cling to, and mastered
the art of hot plate, microwave culinary
preparation, producing delights worthy of
an Epicurean gourmand.

And along the way, we convinced ourselves
that maybe God, Allah, Jah, Whoever, cared
just a tiny bit about what happened in
our insignificant, minuscule lives, that hope
became a vibrant thing. And foolishly,
we began to dream.

Our dreams were simple: a pain-free day,
a tearless night, a place called home.
An end to the nightmares: those relentless
memories of family that still disturbed
our sleep. Her screams had awakened me
far too many times to keep track of. And
the things she murmured in slumber,
reliving events no child should ever live through,
chilled me like an iced frappaccino. She
deserved peace; and the scars traversing her wrists
bleakly recounted all her attempts
to obtain it.

On her fifteenth birthday, a few days
before my seventeenth, I decided to
surprise her. Using the proceeds from
a convenience store robbery, I threw
a bash for two: ice cream and cake,
balloons and orchids, and take out from
Ching Min’s Golden Dragon—her favorite.
I got her a stuffed giant panda toting
a miniature purse with a quarter piece and
a sack of weed hidden inside.
She was delighted; surprised I cared.

We ate, sipped Boone’s Farm, smoked weed
and dope, and then made delicious before
doing it all over again. High, tired, and
feeling at ease, I relaxed in her embrace
and slipped into a somnambulistic euphoria.
She was awake with two dubs left
when I winked out. And gone when I awoke.

I found the note she left on the table
held down by a doubled up fifty piece,
and quickly scanned. It said she
went to meet a regular and would be
back at eight. I read it at nine but
thought nothing of it—dates ran long,
sometimes. I went out boosting,
got home that night, and still saw
no sign. I started to worry then.

Her body was found three weeks later
putrefying in an empty house of 56th.
Cause of death was listed as suspicious,
possible homicide. No one heard, seen,
or remembered anything. She was just
a forgotten nobody, a non-entity. It was only
by happenstance that Marguerite, a
mutual acquaintance, had discovered the body.
She had been looking for a trap to
trick in, and fell back on an old, out of use
favorite. I thanked her for telling me
what she didn’t tell the police.

Marguerite had found the purse she had
when she died. Her wallet was still in it—
no cash, just flicks—the only pictures either
of us had ever probably taken wearing a
genuine smile. I remembered the day
we took them: at an amusement park
with a disposable camera, we’d asked
another couple to capture our joy.
As I sat with them, sipping bumpy
face and seven*, I felt tears rolling down
my whiskered cheeks. So this is how a heart
feels when it is breaking.

Amazingly, I never knew her real name.
I called her Pandie because she loved
panda bears; found them so adorable.
I had meant to take her to the zoo
to see a live exhibit, but kept finding
too many excuses to find the time to
take her. Funny, you never realize
how much you care for a person until
they’re gone. Looking for her memory,
her picture, I told her for the first time,
“I love you, Pandie.” And then, I
washed down a handful of pills
and went to join her. 


*Seagrams, gin and 7 Up