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"Okay," I said.
I got forty dollars out of an ATM and then we wandered down Mission St. looking for a bar. It was mid afternoon and most of the bars had not yet opened for the day. It made no sense to me. Weekday afternoons seemed as necessary a time to drink as any other. People had no imaginations. We finally found a dark little Mexican place on 24th St. It was perfect, a wonderful place to hide from the day. A short, chubby woman with a kind face stood behind the bar pouring a bag of pretzels into little baskets. She smiled a decent smile as we walked in the door. A few old Mexican men with cowboy hats sat at the bar and glanced our way for a moment and then turned back to their drinks. A jukebox played Latin pop songs. We sat at the bar and I ordered a dark Mexican beer. She ordered a Jack and Coke. She. I just realized I didn't know her name. And just as I realized it I also realized that it didn't matter, but for the sake of conversation and conventions I asked her as we waited for the drinks.
"What's your name?" I asked.
"Huh?" she replied, feeling around the pockets of her jacket as if looking for something she feared was lost.
"Your name," I said.
"O," she said, "Jenny." She didn't sound too sure.
"I'm Jeffery," I said.
"Hi Jeffery," Jenny said, not sounding terribly interested. Fair enough.
We got our drinks and things immediately felt a little better. Jenny raised her glass and said, "Thanks, Jeffery. You're alright, man."
"Likewise," I replied. We drank our drinks and I got us another round. We didn't talk much, and it was good enough that way.
"Hey," Jenny said after finishing her second drink, "you like to smoke?"
"Sure," I said.
"If you gimmie twenty bucks I can get us some good stuff from a guy, and then we can go somewhere and smoke. Sound good?"
It sounded good enough. After a few drinks in the dim light of the bar it was easier for me to convince myself that Jenny was a decent and attractive person and that we were having fun. "Sure," I said. "Where we gonna go?"
"We'll go to Ed's," she said. "We'll hang out at Ed's."
"He's a guy I know. He's lonely, so he lets me stay at his place whenever I want."
"He's got AIDS, or cancer, or something, but he's not contagious...unless, you know, you fuck him or something."
"See, me and him, we took life insurance policies out on each other. When he dies I'm gonna be set. But I tricked him a little bit. I told him I was sick, too. I think he's hoping I'll die first."
"That's kinda fucked up."
"Yeah. So you wanna hang out or not?"
I was sad to leave the bar and be back beneath the sun but I got another forty dollars from the ATM and followed Jenny back to the corner of 16th and Mission. She instructed me to give her the twenty dollars and wait where I was while she found the guy with the stuff.
"How long is it gonna take?" I asked.
"Not long," she said. "He's always around. Just wait here."
She wandered off into the midst of the lonely circus that was the corner of 16th and Mission on a Wednesday afternoon. I got another beer from the liquor store and then sat back down on my bench and waited. I realized I wasn't even sure exactly what it was we planned to smoke, but decided that it didn't really matter. Anything that helped counter the cold and brutal reality of the day would be just fine. Twenty minutes had passed and I had nearly finished my beer and Jenny had not returned. I wasn't terribly surprised, but there was still a little part of me that was hurt. There's something about being used, even when you expect it, that leaves this dead little empty feeling inside you that stays for quite a while.
I finished my beer and wandered around, trying to decide what I felt like doing. I tried to convince myself I should try and collect more signatures but the momentary thought of it just made me that much more depressed. I went to the liquor store and bought a bottle of wine. When I came out I thought I saw Jenny across the street on a corner standing in a group of people. I walked over there, not knowing exactly why. When I got there Jenny was gone, if she ever was there. I stood a moment near a group of sneering thugs then walked back to my bench and sat down once more.