She looked up at the man. Sweat matted his hair to his forehead. He reeked of beer. He buckled his pants and walked into the bathroom. She saw blood on the sheet. Her legs felt funny. Nothing really hurt that wasn’t already in pain before. Misery. A dark friend. It had always been this way and the way things looked, it was bound to continue. He came out of the bathroom then. He picked up his watch, keys and a lighter from the table. His dark eyes were cold wet marbles and he regarded her with little warmth. No depth. No life. She shrunk back on the bed. He cast a long shadow. The man pulled some crumpled dollar bills from his pocket and let them flutter down onto the sheets. They lay there with the blood. Bought and paid for. Broken spirit. In the end, she amounted to nineteen dollars. Such is life in a seedy Riverside motel.
After he left, she showered slowly. Filth was rinsed away. Thin threadbare towels dried her frail bony hips. She saw bruises already forming where he had… she shrugged away the troublesome thought. Later, she waited by a bus stop. She couldn’t drive yet. She’d be able to take her drivers test soon. The girl saw a young couple walking hand in hand across a parking lot. The couple leaned into each other. Affection. Small subtle gestures. The real thing. “Someday…” she mumbled, looking away. She smelled a french-fryer from a nearby restaurant. Her stomach rumbled. The girl decided to walk home. It was fairly nice out. Riverside generally is pretty hot in the summer months. She cut across a side street and heard a noise from behind a wall. She saw a group of guys through a paint-blistered, broken fence. They were skateboarding in an empty pool.
As she slowed to look through, one of them came out of the yard and saw her. Startled at first, he then smiled and said “Hello”. He asked if it was her home. “No. I live a few streets over.” He went to a nearby car and returned with bottles of water. Giving her one, he told her that she could come watch. She did. In a moment, she was seated by the shallow end of a pool. These men were different. They weren’t hardened by life and callous. They smiled. Optimism and peace were in their every action. One of the riders gave her a Monster Energy T-shirt and a hat. She frowned. Kindness was an alien thing.
Pierre Luc Gagnon
They rode skateboards in the pool and an afternoon that had started so wrong, slowly got a bit better. Later, as dusk settled over the neighborhood, she walked home. The skateboarders had gone. She didn’t feel the heavy weight of neglect that hung over the nearby houses. Her home lay at the end of the street. She saw a yellow gleam from the windows. She knew her mother would be drunk and probably didn’t even know she had been gone all weekend. Her father had never existed in her life. Climbing the six painful steps to the front door, she paused. She saw a huge cactus looming beside the porch. It looked like it had been there for centuries. It had withstood decades of desert heat and shrugged it off. Long spikes glittered. It seemed appropriate. It reminded her of what waited inside her home. Hurt and indifference. Being invisible could sometimes be a good thing. The screen door slammed as she returned to the only life she knew. The skateboarders faded from her mind. Thanks to the crew for the session, Riverside Ed and Kevin for the pool and Chany and Jason Hainault for the images. Skate and be happy that we have skateboarding. -Ozzie