John Colagrande Jr.
Diamond and Dolly
Dolly:Didn’t have a pen. Who could afford a pen? I used a cork.Diamond ought been proud of my genius. Way I took my baby blue and burned the end of the cork. Burned that cork till it was nice and smoky.Adjusted the cardboard pallet in my lap and scribbled as much as I could in big black dusty letters: L O N G S T O.Burned the cork again then: R Y A N Y T H I.One more was all I needed. One more spark: N G H E L P S!
Diamond:Looked in the bathroom mirror at the McDonald’s on Van Ness and Golden Gate. Swore to myself by the end of the week we’d be off the street. I meant it. Enough was enough. For Christ’s sake, Dolly was in her second trimester.It was no way to live.Splashed water on my face.Rubbed callused hands down stubbed cheeks. I looked droopy. Tired.Put a wet finger on my reflection. Ran it down the middle of my forehead.The smear startled me. I laughed.Well, not quite a laugh, but my lips moved in an upward direction.I took that.
Dolly:I love San Francisco.Sunday mornings I used to leave my stuff with Diamond, take the 49 down Van Ness to Market, and transfer on the 71 up through the Haight. I’d get off at Stanyon and walk through the tunnel into the Park. I’d stroll around the bend past the field where the Mexicans played soccer. Then under the hanging foliage, vibrant and mystical, I’d enter the meadow. Y’all call it Golden Gate Park; some call it hippy hill; I’d call it my meadow of sanctity; it was the little area of the park beside the tennis courts.It was nice especially when the sun was high in the sky and my nose a dry martini chilled with the bay’s breeze. I’d kick off my shoes and relish the piney blades of the crew cut lawn. Plop down on the hill and every time the continual motion in my meadow was like a merry-go-round. The athletes tossed footballs, baseballs, Frisbees, kicked soccer balls and hackey sacks. Young girls with hula-hoops and devil sticks streamed paper through the air like a Chinese celebration. Dogs ran around in packs.Hill was scattered with folk; desperados like me, who took the sun, read, and lounged; scattered tribes of comrades, old and new, who drank, smoked, and always laughed. Then, the only bench in the meadow, where there was always a drum circle.The rhythm of the drum directed me.Rhythm knows no boundaries; it is eternal; always somewhere in the world the drum is being strummed.Me? The rhythm took me to orgasmo.Orgasmo, oh, my orgasmo, how I lived for you.How could I explain you?You were beyond anything sexual, orgasmo.You were everything and nothing. But not the nada nothing.You were an energetic void of sexual climax, rhythmic drumming, and empty laughter: each a part of a whole and each a whole part.Diamond could never understand you. You were mine.You vibrated at a pulse of consciousness that was within my reach daily but not constantly. The pace of your pulse was a little faster than normal consciousness, too fast for me to maintain, too heavy and at the same time too empty for me to carry around all the time, but I still lived for you, orgasmo. And words could only begin to articulate your surface. And on Sunday afternoons as I lay on the hill, under the sun, I stayed with you for hours, clinging to the drum. Until I was distracted. Then I picked up the cold hard plastic Frisbee or rough leathered football and tossed it back in the direction it came.
Diamond:The sound a bus made as it roared by, an extended city-growl, intimidating and disruptive, could spin me like a top, round and round, out-of-control, off course, where am I, what happened, what was that? But only for a couple of seconds, unless, unless, unless I embraced the grumbling bus and let her charge me, took her in like a breath, invigorating and necessary, she was nothing. Sometimes I didn’t even notice the bus roar as I walked along the berry lined sidewalk faster than usual, my head held a little bit higher, maybe I’d crack my neck or knuckles, maybe I’d pound my chest. But I’d march on, like what, like it was nothing, like I belonged, like I owned the place, and I said to myself, Diamond, you’re a warrior, you’re a warrior, you are a warrior.
Dolly:I love the women of the city.The women—fluttering sprites. Their wings made of sugar, sweet-sweet sugar. Every filament of that wing candy coated in a honeycomb dream. And their eyes would bubble, bubble-bubble, the liquid essence of spirit, in every blink a lash flirted sparkling dust. Some swished in the air, mystically disoriented, others swooshed around in excitement. The women tossed about, without judgments, in the citywide garden—San Francisco.Y’all could catch one in your hands, if you were lucky, maybe at a park like Washington Square in North Beach, or outside the Funky Door Yoga parlor on Polk Street. Now you might catch em but you can’t keep em. They’re not the fireflies of your youth. You can’t put em in a cleaned out Prego jar under a lid you used a rusty scissor to puncture air holes with. And you could never clip their wings.You could only admire their beauty. Then you got to let them free to flap and flop where they may. If you were lucky they’d linger, like me to Diamond, like a moth attracted to light, for as long as you want, whether a moment or an eternity.
Diamond:This cat Hector I knew from my old days when I squatted in the Mission had it.I didn’t want anything to do with it. I really didn’t. He said it was Peruvian and it was pure. He said he’d front it to me. One gram, vato, he said, you can step on it.Fine. I’ll take it. I’ll have your fifty dollars by the end of the day, Hector.I asked him for some baggies. Hector told me to go by the crib, his brother was there. He’d hook me up with some baggies. On my way to his house I stopped by the Walgreens on 16th and Mission and stole a small bottle of vitamin B12.Hector’s brother Carlos gave me what I needed: a safe place to step on the gram and some bags to throw the powder in. I crushed up a bunch of those Bees. Old street trick, vitamin B, it has no flavor, its smooth, perfect color, perfect for stepping, perfect for work, some people used baby laxative so don’t give me a hard time.I got six half grams from it all. Gracias, hermano.It was a far cry from one of them late night Monday recycling quests where I’d stumble through the steep streets of Potrero Hill, drunk on beer, digging through blue bins for a nickel. Those nickels added up. But them cans and glass got heavy when you didn’t have a cart. Still it was worth the forty or so dollars the Chavez recycling center gave you. And it was kind of legal. Or at least harmless.It didn’t take me long to get Hectors money. In less than two hours I’d sold all six bags in the Mission at thirty a pop.I didn’t do any. You think I might’ve, huh. Who needed that shit?I beeped Hector and met up with him at the crib. Gave him his fifty. Asked for two more grams. I’ll pay cash. I’ll give you ninety. I was already there so…soon I had twelve half-gram bags and forty bucks in my pocket. It was only two.I hopped on the 14 out of the Mission, got off at ninth, and bounced around SOMA making my way to the Loin. I didn’t even deal with bums. They can’t afford that shit. Suits? Fuck them. Or anyone old, they could be a narc. I only dealt with kids. Fucking college kids with their disposable incomes. Yuppie parents who gave their offspring an allowance. That’s what I looked for: kids who walked around like addicts pushing along allowance drips. And there were more of them than you think, especially in San Francisco. Little art students from the Midwest. Here, take some drugs. And tourists. A white boy in the Loin that’s not a bum was either looking for drugs or he was a tourist. If they acknowledged my solicit with talk they were a tourist. Tourists kept the homeless alive. And God bless them too. God bless those good old boys from the south that had a conscience. God bless those well-bred European motherfuckers. And God bless the summertime when they were everywhere. Kids and tourists. That was the secret. You wanted to stay out of jail and make some money: kids and tourists. But who wanted to deal with that shit? Fucking monkey hustle shit made me sick.But sometimes to get by…five I was in the Tenderloin and all out. Got some food in the KFC on Polk. Went in the bathroom to check my pockets. Three hundred and ninety-five dollars.
Dolly:Not too long ago I felt so old I thought that I would die.Ya’ll know the feeling?Something in the air—more than the fog, more than the breeze—made it unbearably cold for awhile. There was nothing in the air. Y’all know the nothing, right?Some electric nada sizzled a florescent.Some drowsy nothing droned overhead like a bulb.The drowning nothing—it gripped a hold of my ankles. It tried to take me down.It got in my bones and it made me feel old.Asked Diamond about it and he said maybe it was my diet. Too many liquids he said but not enough milk. Not enough protein, or calcium, or Vitamin D, or whatever it was that made your bones strong.I saw it as some unwelcome spirit, some ghost.Like resin from festival.I felt like a cavity waiting for a filling.Maybe it was the weather, uninviting, overcast, and dreary.Whatever the case for awhile my house was haunted.