Santa Muerte’s Lover
He told me not to fall in love with him; he belonged to someone else.
“You don’t understand,” he said. “I’m a heroin addict. It takes over me. My body doesn’t even become my own any more. You don’t even drink!”
“I drank enough last spring to get in trouble in my graduate program by telling my thesis advisor that all California Literature needed was yet another novel about a Spanish friar.”
“You don’t understand,” he would say, over and over again.
Each time I would argue, “Clown magic!”
But I did not understand.
He relapsed a year after he came to San Francisco. He relapsed hard. He lost his phone, had hocked his play station, and was off work for four days from the restaurant he worked at. He had no distractions so he decided to draw. I thought it was an illustration of The Virgin of Guadalupe. He wore her on a medallion around his neck. He had told me how grandmother’s house was adorned with her image. He had told me how when he was boosting from stores, he prayed to her for protection.
However, it was not the Virgin of Guadalupe. Her veil was green and speckled with stars. A halo of gold and orange streaks surrounded her, and her dress was red. Her face was bone, her hands were bone, and clasped piously. She was held up by a devil, or dark angel.
He would tell me years later, “What we think of as demons are really angels tearing us away from flesh.”
The drawing was of Santa Muerte: The Skinny Lady,the Bony Lady, the White Girl, the White Sister, the Pretty Girl, the Powerful Lady, the Godmother.
It was always Santa Muerte, not the Virgin of Guadalupe, not heroin, not even the crazy bitch he was with after me who knocked out his teeth and gave him what he called “vampire fangs.” It was Santa Muerte. She was his lover. She was the one he loved the most. She was the only one who understood how someday he would be completely hers, and hers alone.
On O’Farrell And Powell
Did I say I love you? It was the last time I saw you. I was on my way to a protest for the Ukraine in Union Square. Did I say I love you? I was late. I walked by you on O’Farrell and Powell across from Macy’s. I was late, and I was walking down O’Farrell, and the sun was so bright, you were crouched on the corner with a row of backpacks and someone’s pit-bull. Your face was so bruised and swollen I almost did not recognize you. I looked down and I almost didn’t recognize you because your face was purple. Like a big blueberry. I think I even gasped. You said hi but you did not smile. Everything was so bright, the sun was so bright, and your face was so dark. “What happened?” I asked.“Some guys at the bar next to our squat on California and Hyde didn’t like the way we looked,” you said. “They thought we had a knife, we didn’t. There were six of them and two of us. The bar called the cops- They knew we had been squatting there and not giving anyone any problems. The cops said we could press charges, but I didn’t have my id, and my buddy is on parole. So we didn’t.” I asked if you still had the jacket I bought you. You yelled of course and pointed to it on top of your backpack. “I didn’t sell it,” you said. “That wasn’t what I meant,” I said.” I just wanted to make sure you were ok, if it was keeping you warm. “ You were with Luna, your friend’s dog, a skateboard, and all of your backpacks. I didn’t know what to do or say. There was something larger than myself on that street going on- not just the protest up in Union Square that I was running late to. The sunlight was so bright and there were people around. Whatever it was felt so big, and all was exposed. It was too big and too mushy to be on the street corner like that with so many people around. Your face was un-naturally bruised, and not just from getting beat up. I know now it was a sign that your heart was giving out. I gave you ten dollars. “You don’t have to do that,” you said, “I don’t want your money.” “Please,” I said, “just be ok.” I was running late to a protest. My friend also was once a junkie and knew more dead than the living, I wanted to support her. The world was bigger than my heartache. I was running late, so I asked you to come with me and you said you couldn’t but you would meet me later. There was something I had to say. I think I said it. I said I love you there on the street corner, on O’Farrell and Powell. Once upon a time it upset you when I said I love you too much, but I said it there on the street corner, even though it felt so weird to be so vulnerable like that. I didn’t think it could be the last time I ever saw you. I just needed to say I love you because your face was so black and blue. I didn’t think it would be the last time I saw you. I just wanted you to know that I loved you. You told me that you’d meet me later, that you had to wait for your friends, that you couldn’t leave their dog and backpack, that you’d come to the protest, but it was the last time I ever saw you other than in my dreams.