Brains and blood.

All the death and sunshine of death, the rains that bring down the fires, the low slip into the shadows of waste. Born to run the hills, born to walk the city looking for something that will turn a boy into a man, a follower into a leader, a punk into a pimp. The city is yours, boy. The city is yours like your shadow is yours. I walk to the van and check the time on the ticket again. I know it reads 6:48, I know what time it reads but I am killing time. I feel like a creep waiting on a woman while homeless men hit me up for change. Been years. Been years since I’ve been with a woman who looks like her. I reach in my pocket and shake my change. My fingers feel her skin and my nose moves across her neck and over her shoulder. I feel her legs around me. I reach over and grab a pillow to place under her ass. She lifts up, I put it in and her eyes roll back, her nails dig into my sides and I’m fucking her, I’m actually fucking her. I pull my phone from my pocket and read the time. She’s late, she’s late because she’s figured out that you are nothing, she’s late because she’s stalling you. You who travel the roads to nowhere, you who barely escaped prison because of the truth, you who disdain your race and the hands of time. But time is watching, boy. 40 years of breath and blood, all the moments mean now, all the moments find you here, waiting on the her. Waiting on the mercy of her skin, the touch of her lips, the smell of her perfume.  Waiting on her to descend the rotted staircase, where lesser men have walked to see the trash of sex on the third floor. Waiting for your Luciana, waiting for her boots to appear and walk you to the end of your year.

I walk to the edge of Chinatown and stare at the lions. It occurs to me that I’ve never touched one of them. I rest my hand upon a gold snout and look back across Burnside to the Paris, which has been turned into a pornography theater. Years back when I was young, I’d walked its halls looking to rent a room. I didn’t rent the room because the hallway looked and smelled like piss, and the room was diseased from years of alcoholic junkies doing what they do. I knew what they did. I’d seen it from my father, then from others as I lived across the country. I watch my old city, a woman I no longer care for, a pair of shoes that have become worn by water then forgotten. Destroyed by the ocean of southern California and tossed in the Willamette. The city around me holds its beauty with her buildings and bridges and light, but the people have failed her with lousy art. She has been failed by fashion queers and males too weak to fuck her women like men should, failed by people who no longer make art from their brains and blood. I hold my palm to the snout and watch the boring damage. I think about Luciana, a trapped pearl, a fast beating heart running for empty, her fires and wants relegated to opaque, throw-away encounters. The beauty of her is lost on the bad seeds, the weakness, the boys she devours who will never become men because they’ve turned the city into a mother who spoils them, and distorts her daughters with the lowest of hopes. And I used to run these streets drunk and mad with love. I used to see bums throwing fists and men opening doors for dresses, graffiti with high art and hard messages, artists proud of their city, the freedom that sweat brought after a day of breaking rocks, bleeding into nights of creation in tiny living rooms across the districts, and my heart aches for that again. It aches for the calling back of good things, for the rebirth of real love. All of this planted in my mind, I have to smile because I know that Luciana rebuilt the city for me with one phone call the day before I was about to leave. It doesn’t make me wrong about anything, but lucky that I’ve been able to remember my city, to feel it once again. One more burst of color, one more pulse that blows the dust from the keys.


—from Gutted Rose & Other Stories, coming soon…

About Jeff Stewart

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