Cities and suburbs, real and imaginary.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Zampano and I met for the first time in a public place. He wasn't crazy, I could tell. Most of the people that responded to the ad were crazy. Zampano wasn't crazy. He asked me what I knew about vampires, and I told him about the werewolves, and about my mother when I was young.

I was homeless a long time, before I grew up. I had seen it all. My mom and I lived in an abandoned van for a while, on the other side of the harbor from the city, where the trash washed ashore and got collected into large piles. It wasn’t officially a city dump. Officially it was a beach, and fenced off with intimidating signs. People found their way in to the place. Werewolves hung out there. They wore ragged denim and stank like they were always covered in blood. They ran in packs. They just rummaged through the trash, looking for rotting meat and the cheese from the bottom of pizza boxes. They looked like hairy people in poorly fitting clothes if you didn’t get a good look at their faces. If you saw just their faces, you’d think they were big dogs.

That’s not even the beginning of what I had seen at the shelters, later on.

At the time, I stayed out of the way of the wolves. I went to the bus stop and made my way to a public school, and if anybody tried to follow me home, I threw rocks at them. My mom got her mail through a PO Box. She got alimony from my dad. She used most of it to pay off her gambling debts a little bit at a time.

Eventually, she got up enough with her debts that we came out of hiding. We went to the shelter.

I slept in a cot in a room full of cots. Grown men fucked in plain sight of everyone, even us kids. Junkies trembled off the worst of their addictions.

That was worse than the wolves in the dump. At least wolves didn’t bother normal people. Their presence scared off the worst of the gangs and sinners.

My second night in the shelter I asked my mom if we could go back to the beach.

She told me it was time to try and be humans, and we had to start somewhere.

That was also the first time I watched my mother kill someone, at the shelter. Everyone was sleeping, or staring off into the nightmares of their drugs. I was the only one who saw her rise from our cot, and place her hand on a woman’s cheek. She bent over the woman and kissed her – my mother’s worn-out, sunburned face against puffy, white, pockmarked cheeks – right on the lips. Then my mother started breathing in hard, like the opposite of blowing up a beach ball. The woman was dead in the morning. The social workers at the shelter came in with coroners and moved her body into a black bag. They stripped the cot’s sheets for the wash.

I told my mother what I had seen her do. She told me I had been dreaming, and nothing more. I had only been dreaming.

The shelter found a communal house for us, with some other families. It was okay, I guess. My mom got a job. I stayed in school. I think my mom was robbing people in the night, because she was working at a gas station, but she always seemed to have extra money in her pockets that was too much for anyone to have, in her position.

I guess nobody asked her about it, because everyone liked the extra money around the house.

The point of all this is, when Julia showed up dead, I knew it wasn’t because she was a junky. You can’t hide that kind of thing for long.

My mother is still alive. She lives in the same house. People don’t talk to her if they don’t have to. Children avoid her.
I avoid her.
I saw her once, late at night, on a bus roaming the city after the lights had all gone out in all the bars all over town. I had looked down the bus when I stepped on, and I saw her. She didn’t see me, because she was staring at the people across from her on the seats in the front middle, where the seats look across to each other. She stared at an old, Asian man enough to burn a hole into him. I sat down, in an empty seat, and watched her, watching that Asian man. He looked right back at her with fear on his face. At the next stop, they got off together. I watched them walking away hand in hand, the old man terrified.
Maybe I was dreaming.
The people I was with didn’t know that was my mother. I didn’t want anyone to know.
I wasn’t the kind of son that called home once a week.

Julia, wherever you went that night wasn’t with your sister, and you weren’t a junky. The cops and the medical examiner must all be under the spell of the night creatures.
They drained her blood, and left her body for the crows in the woods.

Zampano listened to my story. He asked me if I had ever drank someone's blood. I told him I hadn't. I told him that I honestly wasn't sure if my mother was really my mother, or if she was just some creature that found me alone on a street somewhere and took me in.

That's the truth, I'm afraid.

Zampano said we should ask the werewolves what they know about vampires.

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