A Night on Skid Row
Skid Row at three a.m. smelled like one hundred years of oil and gasoline and fifty years of heroin and blood spilled onto pavement and then congealed in the dew before daylight. Hitchhiking through the Mojave Desert at night had not worked out well. My heavy eyes searched for any place to sleep.
A construction site looked good: tall stacks to block the wind, tarps to hold in my body heat and hold out the rain. Without an alarm, the workers would find me in a few hours or worse they might start work and knock over the stacks and crush me. With my mind twisted from too many horror movies, I backed away.
A wrinkled woman in short dreadlocks flashed her teeth into a wide smile. “Hello, sir,” she said, her words flowing unnaturally, “Do you have a dollar? I’m really hungry.”
She smelled like old sweat. I smiled and shook my head, “Sorry, I don’t have any money.”
“No money?” She gave me the sad puppy look, “But yo’ a pretty white boy, cours’ yo’ have money.”
I pulled out my money. One dollar, all that I had. “I don’t really use money.”
“Yo’ don’ use money?”
I shook my head, and told her I was a traveler, a hitchhiker. “and a dumpster diver when I need to be,” I said, looking for connection.
Her eyes roamed over me. She nodded. “I like yo’ hair, it’s like I am who I am and maybe I am little crazy but I’m not gonna let anyone mess with me. Aggressive.” She said about my shoulder length braided blond hair speckled with colorful bands.
“So wacha yo’ gonna do tonight, sleep in one of these hotel rooms?” They be costin’ $60 a night, but you know what baby, if you give me $30 I can gech yo’ a room.”
“Thanks, but I really don’t have any money, I’ll just find a spot on the street, somewhere away from the cold.”
“A white boy with a smile like yo’s don’ need to sleep on no street, jus’ go over to the gas station and pan handle. Yo’ gonna make big money.”
She was right. Normally when I hitchhike, people give me rides or invite me home for the night. In California it was different. People wouldn’t stop offering me money instead of a ride. I didn’t want money, I wanted to ride. “No worries, I don’t need any money, when the sun comes up I can hitchhike out of here.”
“Nah, I goch it, jus’ give me yo’ dollar and come on”.
I smiled and handed her my dollar. I had to trust her. It was my new mantra, philosophy, belief.
…Part 1 of 4…