Victoria With A Blunt at 5th And San Pedro, Los Angeles
I’ve been thinking about Victoria. When I left Los Angeles, she thought she was pregnant and I was dumbfounded……I couldn’t believe that this tragic miracle could possibly occur on the eve of my leaving California. She was jubilant, and referred to the developer inside as a “Trick baby”. We were on the street when I found out, buried deeply in Skid Row, and we ran across a woman, hanging at a corner sandwiched somewhere between San Pedro and Gladys Avenue where Skid Row meets the flower district. The woman’s dress was bright blue, and her hair was thin and dark and oily. Her legs were bruised , and she wore no underwear of any kind. She sat, posed on the curb, and I asked for a few pictures and she obliged–I know not where those pictures are in my disorganized Lightroom catalog. The streets in this area are seedy, and dirty, and barren, pockmarked by some very deeply worn women trying to make drug money by prostituting themselves.
I remember thinking how far removed from their lives I really was, and that their references and storylines and habit sets were as different to most as any could be, and that there was very little that could be done to pull these women into the present, a place devoid of crack and sex, dirt and spit, semen and urine….a place without running sores and rats, deeply pungent body odors and vicious beatings. But one thing I can say is this: they are willing. Willing to do whatever it takes to follow their path, with patience and persistence, and sometimes without either, screaming bloody and murderous battle cries deep into the night, a night full of cries and whispers, rape and all things secretive and furtive. With perseverance and abandonment of everything and everyone that stands as obstacles, they do whatever they must to get high, and absolutely will not be deterred by genuine offers of help, or clear guidance toward a path to redemption and recovery. You can call that a sort of bravery in my estimation, backhanded and full of torsion….but all the same, like it or not, in reality a sort of peculiar model of courage. Because , after all, if you’re not willing, you’re not going anywhere, whether that path is a righteous one or it’s a blemish that will forever disfigure a lifetime.
As it turned out, there was no tragic pregnancy, and no baby to live out a life that would serve as a perfectly defined model of neglect and despair. I began to realize that her babies, as she referred to what she believed to be twin lives inside her, were likely an abdominal fluid build up that could represent the dawning of a severe health problem. The pregnancy was a mirage, and all the days spent in floating, feminine dresses while working the streets of Skid Row were a strange fabrication, some alchemy of hope and despair, brain damage from inconceivably heavy drug use and delusion and happy thoughts. And it makes me wonder about the rest of us, and our lives and hopes and aspirations, and I wonder how much of that, too, is falsehood and waste.