Gil donít live here no more


Weíre desperate

LA dumped us on the street like two sacks of trash.

So weíve come to Phoenix to find Gil only to find this old man living here instead.

Gilís donít live here no more, the old man tells us as we stand on his stoop looking a lot like hoboes.

Behind the man we see a workshop where a crash pad had been, full of sawdust and tools.

The scent of sweat and saw cuts oozes off the man as if he has bathed in both.

Our dog, Midnight, growls at him, its dark eyes thick with suspicions: the dog is as ragged as we are, thick fur still clinging to bits of the desert we have just come through.

When the man reached out to scratch Midnightís head, the dog proves cowardly and darts through the manís legs, caught a moment later by the manís large hand Ė nails blackened from those missed hammer blows, bleeding from the flood of splinters sawed wood brings.

He invites us in out of the sun and as we step across the threshold we last crossed six months ago, we enter a whole new strange world.

Gilís wobbly chairs and cigarette-stained tables are gone, replaced by large work benches and stacks of timber. A hot plate sits in the corner where the microwave once did. Half constructed cabin3ets fill the floor where Gil had spread mattresses.

We weave through the obstacle course of wood until we find three chairs and a wounded table full of saw cuts and bits of wood he wipes away with the sweep of his hand.

Louise looks scared the way she did when she first saw my roach-infested rented rooms in East LA.

She whispers that we should leave.

But I hold on as the old man offers us coffee and comes up with several cracked and not-too-clean mugs, one of which has blue flowers engraved in the side.

He says this belonged to his wife when she was alive, and he fondles it as if he could still feel the warmth of her hand on it, then gets up to fill each cup with hot liquid none of us need to keep warm with.

He hands Louise the cup with the blue flowers, but she doesnít sip.

I sip mine.

The warmth runs through me like a shot of rum.

Again Louise nudges me to leave, but I wonít.

I love this place and picture us living here, if not with the lumber and saw dust, yet with the same simplicity, me working some job somewhere to pay the rend and buy the food we must cook on the single burner hot plate.

I ache to be honest again.

To put down roots.

And I wonder how deep these roots might go in a place like Arizona.

Louise persists and I sigh, knowing we wonít stay here, but will follow Gilís trail to Las Vegas where the old man says Gil went.

I call Midnight and he scampers after us, as loyal a companion as a shadow, and I feel the great sadness as the old man closes the door behind us.



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