HAIRSPRAY AND LIGHTER
Dawn flooded west across Houston like blood backwashing into the grey dope filling that morning’s syringe. The dealer, mouth wide open, arm raised, stood frozen, like a prehistoric peat man, until the blue and white Volare made its turn onto B and everything began to move. The man cawed, “No Joke, No Joke, No Joke . . ” Others joined in, clumped into the vendor’s space on the east side of the block between 2nd and 3rd. The patrol car’s windows were rolled down, the two blueberries slumped in their seats, staring ahead. Cash, Chinatown, Poison echoed through gutted space like deep flamenco song. Something was happening that wouldn’t happen again. The air could be torn at any moment and no one had a clue what would come spilling out. The city was on the verge of shattering.
The Radio Mobile Patrol passed through the next intersection while a few feet over on 4th, bucket hats, hoodies, Adidas trackies, all lined up. The head of a kid wearing a Mets cap was framed inside a jagged hole sledge hammered through the bombed-up cinder block wall a week before. The kid handed the man in a wheel chair a tiny glassine envelope, and the line moved forward. In the next block, a torn tan polyester suit pushed his way out two cracked glass double doors, the skewed reflection of the RMP’s white stripe flashing for that second, frosted red bulb over the frame making it for an after-hours club. He spun, plastered, already falling and fell, flat on his face. The officers listened to salsa popping inside just before the doors pulled shut. In the next block a sloppy fist fight, nothing serious; in the next, three people, hands touching their faces, tilting, jerking, on the nod. The cops smelled coffee and fresh bagels before making their right onto 14th. Crossing C, the car slowed in front of a dirty walk-up, sandwiched between two other dirty walk ups, while the driver lit his last cigarette of the shift.