“Have you been to the Melrose café?
I heard they have the best lunch there”
“I always go downtown for coffee
helps you avoid the goons
and the smell of trash coming in through the door”
The neighborhood with the crooked spine streets, the intolerable hunchback it was in the armpit of Korea-town.
The snake stealth slither you acquired to get to the 7/11 down the street without your teeth being pulled out by a gun. In the 80’s the back wall of that convenience store was littered with
no-do gooders, the typical teenage gangster with ironic ****** white shirts and a mouthful of *****. An army with no motive.
Buzzards learning how to haunt instead of hunt.
In the afternoons it was speculated that they melted into the hot cement, an intimidating presence that smoked marijuana and made their cars jump.
Who’s to say.
But times have changed. The hungry graffiti on the wall became the emblem of what had been, and what had survived. It was no longer us vs. them, it was me vs. you.
There’s a hostility that sinks into the earth and made the children more aggressive in playgrounds that endorsed healthy living; a melting *** reserved only for the diversely attacked and passive aggressive scrutinized bunch.
I lived on that street in the peach palm, salmon slapped building where I witnessed a domestically abused woman with a shattered nose smear her blood across the windowpane of the front door while I checked for the mail. Her hair was bleached and it hung dead on her scalp like sun rays that had gotten seasonal depression. Her face was a gauzy mess of a nosebleed. I felt for that woman the same way I felt for the slugs that people threw salt at. A sadistic addiction for soft things; There were bruises where there shouldn’t have been and I felt like the imperfections on the wall looking but unable to be seen. And I wondered if she could see me. She crouched on the corner of the steps and waited. I didn’t know what for. I could hear sirens, I could hear footprints of her abuser coming closer and picking her up like a rag doll. Opening the door and disappearing into the night with the sound of high heels slowly going mute. I stayed there until the blood dried. The next day the stain was gone and I wondered about all the other blemishes around the building and if they had the same disgust to them. Were the discolorations on the carpet of the hallways just violent memories?
I could smell the poverty inside that apartment. It clung to me like it held on to anyone.
I was guilty of it creeping into the beds of my nails while I tried in futility to wash it off.
Despite all the books I read, all the times I refused to step out of my room in fear of experiencing too much I was not saved from observing a lot of things. There was a cathedral church a couple blocks away that you could see outside the living room window and when the sun set. It almost felt like the presence of god looming just beyond, always assuring me that yes, I had not been abandoned but it wasn’t abandonment I worried about but about becoming what was inevitably seeping into the tap water, into the people with the olive skin that can’t unlatch their own cages.
Of becoming the shadow of a civilization that revels in the darkness.
I wanted to be a pageant queen on television with the pink lipstick instead of a statistic on the news of most likely dropping out of school and hiding in the crevice of welfare.
I wanted the palm trees without the choke-hold. I wanted the cool California weather without the open fires on July 4th, the firework setting flames to nearby homes telling me that this was the hell that came with freedom. The American dream was served in the oven and why won’t you accommodate to these standards you ask me and I don’t know how to reply.
While other kids played in their backyards and learned how to ride bikes, I learned how to survive, how to walk the streets without being murdered. These are good skills that transfer into college resumes.
So the roots of trees would come out of the ground like fists and demand reparations, they would sneak into the pavement and break car windows with the intention of stealing radios that they sold for a good penny. They carried knives and cackled at the neighborhood watch because all eyes were on them and yet nothing changed but I want to change, I want to change you chant.
Nothing will be the same since I lived in Francis st.
Named after the saint with the smugness in his smile and the gluttony blistering out of his dress.
Will you comfort me in my hours of need oh gracious one?
will you drink these sins like Catholics drink Jesus' blood on Sunday morning?
Is this blasphemy a reason to instill death between the hours of 2 and 4:30?
I’m always chasing on my knees for the knowledge that is taken away from the destitute culture that the ghettos become. I wanted to go back to the mud and dig all those lives that crossed mine and tell them that they could run after their intelligence. Save them from the quicksand. That one doesn’t have to be shot at a party for being raised by criminals. That cars that drive slow at night don't always have bad intentions.
But if I do, I’m afraid I’ll sink