He insisted that I visit his room at The Dahlia – a Single Room Occupancy (SRO) at the very bottom of San Francisco’s Tenderloin, on Turk Street between Mason and Taylor. At first I said no. I did not want to see him there. For two and a half years he had a job, he had a room in an SRO at the top of the Tenderloin with clean bathrooms and a special garbage shoot for needles. He had a cat, he had a play station, he had me, but we broke up because he kept using. He spent a month in the hospital with endocarditis, an infection in his heart, got evicted from his apartment, lost his job, and cat, and became homeless. He refused to come over to my house because he paid for this room. His unemployment had kicked in. He was shocked to discover that he qualified for three years of unemployment. He was comfortable, complacent. I feared it was where he wanted to die.    

I was still holding his hand as we entered one of the liquor stores next to the Dahlia. He had recently dyed his hair purple, again, to hide the grey, and was wearing his “We’re The Meatmen And You Suck” tshirt, and one black fingerless glove. The purple and black tips of his hair poked out from under his tattered pork-pie hat.    

I wondered if he is wearing the glove to keep his hand from swelling up like it did when he was in the hospital.    

“What’s up with the glove?”     

“It makes me look tough,” he laughed.   

“Like Billy Idol?”   

“Hah. Hey, I used to like Billy Idol. What’s wrong with Billy Idol?”   

“I’m surprised, I’d think you think he was a sell-out. Not really punk rock.”   

“Are you joking? Billy Idol? You don’t know your punk history.”

I noticed that the bottles of mouthwash and beauty supplies were on the top shelves, like they were in every store. It was a phenomenon he had explained to me: Conditioner had more re-sale value than beer. When he boosted, he carried giant bags of deodorants that he’d sell to flea market vendors for dope.    

He came to San Francisco to get off the streets, and stop boosting. But he could not be sober. Whether working in the kitchen of a four star restaurant, or boosting, whether on methadone or using, or both using and taking methadone, he said he was a punk and he would never give up beer.   

“I am NOT going to be an NA or an AA punk,” he said. “And rehab would remind me too much of jail. No.”

As he fidgeted in the coolers I looked around the store. No vegetables, no fruits, just boxes of cereal, streusel cakes, and bags of cheetos. The entire store was processed sugar, with banners of cigarette advertisement dangling from the ceiling.    

There was a crowd around the cash register. wo men with beautiful braids wearing neon green starter jackets put together their change for Mad-Dog, they asked him for a quarter. They knew him.      

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About Aurelia Lorca

Aurelia Lorca is an alumni of the Voices of Our Nation Writing Workshops, and her work has appeared throughout the small press.
  20 months ago
"The absurd thing is that we have to think of ourselves as happy, and seek out clown magic." I like this philosophy. Good read - I can picture this place.

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