“Let’s go live in a cave.” The girl looked down the street in Northeast DC. It was past 1 a.m. on a work night. Homeless guys and hustlers passed in preoccupied silence. Generosity or gullibility could be right around the next corner. A hand-out or a sucker. The night was ripe.
“But there’s no Internet in a cave.” The guy sitting next to her on the bench was sober and amused. He was only teasing her, because in reality he would have gone and lived with her anywhere.
The girl’s eyes looked down the street but she was thinking beyond that. She pointed. “Let’s go West.” This was something she said sometimes. She said it more when she was drunk. A couple of years ago she had driven to California to start a new life, and now she would not stop talking about it. The West was symbolic of a new start for her.
He knew this. He knew her well. “Why don’t we just stay here.” Here on this bench, in a bubble frozen in time.
“No. We have to go somewhere else. That’s the whole point.” Earlier she had stumbled down the street to the Catholic church with the African-American Mary statue in a small fenced-off garden out in front. The Mary statue was symbolic to her, too, even though the girl wasn’t Catholic or even religious. When they came to this nightclub with their friends, the one they sat outside of now, the girl often came to Mary after a few drinks. Tonight she had spent a long time staring at Mary’s hands – there was a heart on each palm. He had stood beside the girl and watched her.
He was a friend and he was trying to help the girl on her spiritual journey. She went along with it even though she was skeptical about such things. She went along with it because she liked the idea of a journey. All she knew was she couldn’t stay where she was. That was unthinkable.
Next to her on the bench, the guy said, “I would go live in a cave with you even though you like Cheez Doodles.” She had been eating some earlier in the club.
She gasped. “You don’t like Cheez Doodles? You think I’m trashy because I like Cheez Doodles.” But she was laughing.
He assured her that no, he did not think she was trashy for liking Cheez Doodles. He assured her of many things. The last time they had talked at his apartment, he had assured her that she would make a good mom someday. He had said this and they had talked some more and then it was time for her to go home to her boyfriend. He had watched from his balcony window as she walked to her car. He watched her go. He assured her of many things but it didn't matter.