Stephen D. Gutierrez|
She ran. That’s what I learned from my friends. She saw them and ran. Spotted them sitting in the corner, these dudes all the way down in San Bernardino having a few beers in the dark with the music thumping around them and the cocktail waitress showing up every set with her own set of boobs sticking out of the sequined bra, bending over for the drinks on the tray she set on the table opposite with a little smile on her face she flashed over her shoulder.
“She just saw us and split, man.” But not before she showed them what she could do.
“The pole, the pole, man, she worked the pole!”
“She clung to that thing like… ” He searched for words. He didn’t find them. “I don’t know, man. She just humped that thing.”
“With those big tits hanging out.”
“Hanging out of what?” I asked.
“Nothing! She was just naked!” We all laughed; we couldn’t help it.
It was funnier than hell. That part.
“Hey, man, get another round,” I said. “I’m buying.”
Now we sat in the dimly lit pub with the British markings hanging on the wall and the lunch-hour crowd thinning away but the door opening and closing, letting in light, more people coming and going, a respectable crowd, a cheerful, good-natured crowd, reminding us how good life was.
“Life is good, ha?”
“Yeah, life is good.” So there we sat feeling the good buzz of the good cold beer, hunkered down in the corner booth, our favorite booth, the three of us toasting the day away at a bottle-crowded table with plenty of money between us, enjoying the soft ambient glow not three blocks from where Marcella grew up in a duplex with a screaming mother and a trouble-making brother and a little sister as overdeveloped as she was.
“The Commerce projects,” we called them, and everybody else in Commerce who didn’t live in them agreed: low-rent duplexes with cars splashed in the back, washing machines connected to nothing, milk crates upended at the edge of driveways.
Men sat on them. Unemployed. Belligerent.
Transitory. When the blight got too bad, the big broom of the city came out.
The City Department of Residential Standards notified them of delinquency. Cleaned the messes and painted the duplexes and hoped, hoped for a stricter adherence to community norms next time around.
You didn’t call us The Model City for nothing!
“Yeah, we got rid of those bums, those drug addicts! Thank God. Pray we don’t end up like East L.A., huh?”
“Yeah, that would be a shame. No place to run!”
I was coming through. I made some phone calls and set it up.
Guys took time off work. They have that kind of clout.
Uh-huh. Real forces in the workplace.
They’re all right, really.
“I’ll be down in the town so don’t be a clown!”
“Fuck your ass! You better be there or else!”
Marcella had crooked teeth and sad eyes. Always a smile for me, though. Always happy to see me.
“Hey, Marcella!” Lifted me out of sunken feelings a few times at the park.
Sat under a tree with me and we just talked.
Cool. Cool chick. Understanding, even with her own shit raining down on her. Constantly. “Yeah, we’re thinking of moving. My mom can’t afford the rent. But she doesn’t want to. She likes the park here, the people. She doesn’t want to go back to East L.A.”
“All right. I hope you stay.” Shy smile. Mild flirtation.
“Bye, Marcella. Thanks for talking to me.”
“Of course, Steve. You’re my friend!”
“You’re my friend.” Giggles.
Everybody’s friend. Shit, Commerce girl. Neighborhood figure.
Walking across the park with a ponytail and a fine spreading ass.
Swung a mean softball bat. Snapped gum. Hung out with the girls.
That was Marcella.
“What were you guys doing down there anyway,” I said. I tipped the beer into my glass.
I indulged myself. I usually don’t drink and I keep a tight schedule. I’m a prude, a no-fun guy.
“Visiting Mike,” he said.
“Just going down there to check things out,” the other guy said.
“Mike still living down there? He doing all right?”
“Sure. He’s got a job, a house.”
“A wife that don’t nag him too much!”
“If she lets him out of the house it’s a miracle.”
“But we went to the strip club, man. For the hell of it.”
“Saw plenty of pussy there, let me tell you. Lots of pussy.”
“What? You don’t see bush in strip clubs. It’s against the law.”
“What strip club you go to?”
“It’s been a while.”
Bush. Nipples. Leers. Dark cavernous hall and three jokers taking up the space in the back. Loud music prepping the entrance.
They couldn’t believe it.
Up on stage.
“And now, from a glittering city known as the capital of grinding industry, Commerce,” the fucking emcee saluted the hometown, “it’s Marcella!”
Bent over. Showed them that asshole. Spread those cheeks.
Pouted over her shoulder halfway through her routine.
“That’s when I got up and pounded my beer on the table. ‘Marcella! I love you still! I want to suck your tits again!’”
“Can you believe it?”
“Naw, you didn’t do that!”
“No, but I stood up tall. Smiled at the girl. Let her know a homeboy was here. Enjoying the show. Right, dude?”
“She fucking ran, man. She picked up her clothes from the stage and just ran, split out the door. It was kind of embarrassing.”
“What do you mean, man?”
“Nothing. I’ll pick up this tab. I got to get out of here, man. I got to hit the road.”
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