On The Boulevard: Just A Working Girl

“Their eyes stay open. Nothing can carry them into the sleep they want. Over and over I prepare the potion to take the sisters into the other world. They can’t get enough of obllivion.”from the poem Snow White published in the book “Resurrection” by Nicole Cooley, 1996

Dawn felt for the door handle. She could feel the john staring at her. There was no way she was going to meet his pig eyes with hers. The money was in her pouch. She opened the car door and stepped out onto the boulevard. She heard the car pulling away and spit twice in rapid succession but the foul taste lingered in her mouth. The boulevard was quiet. The sun was just peeking over the horizon. It was just past 5:30 in the AM. Dawn was having trouble getting rid of the feelings, the heroin just wasn’t working like it once did. Maybe she should up her dose. No, no, not again. It was hard to keep up her nine bag a day habit as it was. If she increased it, then it would mean one more date a night. She was having trouble dealing with those creepy, night-crawling johns now. The last thing she wanted to do was to add one more to her agenda. She felt tears coming to her eye corners, rubbed them away. She wished it was as easy to wipe away the hollow ache in her chest.

Dawn saw the newspaper truck pull up and dump its load in front of the smut and tobacco shop. She passed the pile of papers and looked at the front page. It was the 7th of August. The old feelings came like a mighty flood. For one thing, it was the anniversary of her grandmother’s death. She headed toward the old stone church and twisted the Rosary that hung on her wrist.

As Dawn entered the church, she smelled the incense. It brought her back to when she was younger. She remembered attending Mass with her grandmother. She would sit and watch the pomp and ceremony in quiet fascination. Those were happier days. It seemed that, all of a sudden, her grandmother began to experience rapid weight loss. One day she had been rushed to the hospital. She had never come out. Dawn’s life had changed from that day on. She was placed in foster home after foster home. She remembered the strange smelling stepfather coming in and touching her private places in the middle of the night. Then there was the running from place to place, bus station to train station. No matter how fast and far she went, there was no way to get away from the feelings that felt like they were stabbing her heart. Then she came to the big city. There was the man who whispered; the heroin, the heroin, and the feelings retreated into the dark night of
her dying soul.

Dawn was sitting in the rear pew. She heard a noise and looked up. A priest was walking towards her. She sat still and watched him approach for a moment. She wanted to stay, to talk to him, she felt the tears coming. Then the panic slammed into her like a locomotive. The priest was a man. If he pulled down his zipper he would be like all the others. She was crying, she was running, she was flying through the door of the church. Dawn ran down the street. Her high heels twisted her ankles as she ran. She was dope-sick. Her feelings rose from the burial ground. Tears blurred her vision. She was gutwrenched with the agony of her long submerged awareness. She didn’t see Anna pushing her shopping cart, mumbling to herself. She didn’t see the garbage on the boulevard. An alley cat jumped quickly out of her way as she ran.

She wasn’t running fast enough, her feelings were keeping the pace. They passed her. They overwhelmed her. She saw the alley. She rounded the corner and entered it, ran past the dumpster, and she was hidden by the dumpster from the street. Dawn sobbed those deep cries wrenched from the depth of her gut. She fell to her knees next to the dumpster and clutched the rosary tightly. She was praying to a God that she did not understand. She prayed for the soul that was dying daily within her. She was crying into the sad empty morning. A fix, she needed a fix. She knew it was the only birthday present she was going to get.

Her body was wracked with convulsive crying as she remembered that her grandmother had died on her birthday. Yes, it was her birthday today, a celebration of sorrow. After all, she was just a working girl, only time for a fix and a prayer between the johns and the tears. How fitting a present for a working girl on her fifteenth birthday. Dawn kneeled in the shade of the dumpster in the alley. Nearby, a tattered alley cat cleaned it’s paws with a rough tongue.