“Goddamn, I knew I shouldn’t have kissed that guy.”   We’re at Eden now.  Erika’s got me laid down on a big couch with purple cushions underneath a bedou styled tent.  I’m delirious again and pouring sweat.  She’s leaning over me.  The smell of a human body is something you get used to here.  And baby’s pungent, but I don’t mind.  I even appreciate it.

“What guy?”

“That cabby – fucking Khat had to’ve been laced with something.”

“Or maybe you just picked up a bug…” Then her voice trails off.  “Did you have your period?”

“Yes bitch, please.  About 2 weeks ago.”  I’m joking, and I should know better.  Erika turns her face a little sad, and she looks out the shade across Eden’s yard; a big skate park with performance stages, scaffolding, and video screens.  Naomi Nemesis is screeching out some new song and a Trog boy in ratted out denim and tattoos is flying through the air on a skateboard.  I forget Erika was born here.  She was sterilized at birth and grew up infertile.

“When was your last herpes outbreak?”

Fuck!  I’ve been wondering all afternoon.  From the time I left downtown where I v-pil’ed with Guy I started noticing it.  But I thought it was just like an after effect or something that happens sometimes; the brain has a hard time figuring out virtual from real after a session.  I didn’t think anything of it.  And I explain all this to Erika.  Not minding anyone around, she checks me out, makes a face then reaches for her bag.   She opens a bottle, empties out a pill and gives it to me.  I open my water – what’s left of it and down the thing.

“There, that’ll get you right.”

I tell her thanks as I lay my head down, looking at her the way that makes me happy.  And she smiles.  The grungy purple velvet beneath my back is soft but makes me sweat.  Erika pulls my boots off freeing my feet at last of their stifling.  I wiggle my toes happy with my girl, and she lays her head down next to mine.  I love her body, and I don’t mind the heat of her.   The trouble in town center is behind us, and in spite of the dust and the blinding summer sun Club Eden is the place we can forget where we are.

There’s a breeze flowing off the ocean over the storage containers all red, yellow, orange, and green going on as far as I can see speckled all over with batos and laundry lines and the sound of voices, laughter and yelling.  Seagulls are squawking, patrolling up and down the lanes.  Naomi is doin’ her thing.  The kids are trading turns on the half pipe, and after some time of probing each other with our tongues, Erika and I are ready for the afternoon’s first hit of Blue.

A lot of people would say I had a good life.  My mother was a nurse, a stepfather who was a warden at a Blackwater prison that housed mainly drug smugglers near Houston.  But they don’t know the real deal.  It was a night in August of 2025 when I escaped, and I was 15.

I did tricks for Goucho, my friend who was 35 and barely made a living as a delivery man, and he drove me in his car to El Paso on a Saturday.  I realized I could make money this way.  After all, my training had started when I was very young.  I worked brothels and I skipped town to town, heading west.  I knew enough to tell when any trouble was brewing, and I always managed to escape it until I got to L.A.  That was a whole other level, wamchaka.  I didn’t know what hit me until after it ran over me and drove away, and even then it took some time.

I tried Hollywood.  I wanted to see what the tell was about.  Lights, and a lot of noise, wamchaka, people all thinkin’ they’re god or some shit.  I was with some runaways for awhile, living in camps under highway overpasses… in the canyons… always running from the law.  Angel City was like the big boogie man.  It was like prison, a death sentence.  Nobody wanted to wind up in A.C., and if the cops got you that’s where you would surely go.

Lola was one of my first friends.  She arrived just days before I did, from Utah.  We climbed to the top of Runyon Canyon on one sunny day, talking about our lives and what we wanted for the future.  Both Lola’s parents were dead, and rather than go into state care, she lit out for Cali.  Lola had decided she would live on an island surrounded by lots of water, and she wanted to go to the top of the canyon because somebody told her on the clearest day you could see all the way to Catalina island.  We wound through the desert hills up old broken pavement and dusty trails, helping each other up the steep parts, and getting breathless with the effort.  It seemed so long.  But finally we came up that last turn, up the hill.  And soon all of Los Angeles spread out in front of us.  It was a blue-grey ocean that disappeared into a white haze.  We saw plenty of police helicopters, but there were no islands for Lola that day.

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