The Minstrel

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Cindy was wet. She’d been wet for three hours now after getting stuck in the rain, and she wasn’t getting any drier. Copping a subway ride to the north side of the borough hadn’t even helped, despite all of the dry hot air circulating around her. It just made her thirsty as hell. Literally, probably, if you believed in the hellfire shit. Worse, it was daytime. She usually slept then so she could be on the move at night, but she couldn’t get to sleep at all, not that she ever got a real beauty night’s worth. The whole situation was getting her quite irritable. She had intense desire to knock people over as she passed by them; they were driving her crazy. All of them stared at her, Gucci and Tommy Hilfiger Wonderpeople. She heard them whispering. The hell with them. They whisper, they criticize, but not one of them bothered to ask if she needed help. For all they knew, in her tattered condition, she’d just been raped. They didn’t care. Assholes, all of them.

The men in particular got to her, looking her over like a slab of meat. There was something perversely disgusting about a man who looked old enough to be her grandfather slobbering over her, holding a hand of a lollipop sucking little girl calling him “Pop-pop.” Or the drooling husbands ignoring their wives. She could smell impending violence reeking from these male vultures’ pores. The women were easier to deal with. All they did was stick their noses in the air like they were sniffing their own CKOne when they saw her. She didn’t care. She wasn’t looking to get in with some clique. She had more important problems, like living.

Cold. Maybe she’d go back to the subway station. She wondered why she had left there to begin with. It was always warm there. No would one snub her, because everyone there was a loser by society’s fake standards. Some of the guys there were pretty cool, willing to share the spoils they had. Like this guy she used to know called St. Francis, who was a decent guy even though he talked about God all of the time. He helped Cindy through the first winter here. He seemed to get food from nowhere, and he seemed to share everything and yet never go dry. Even the birds flocked to him, hence the nickname. He seemed so spiritual that people thought he wasn’t even human, like he was an angel or something, until he was found a couple of months ago in a dumpster with a bashed-in head. Well, maybe she’d have comparable luck finding someone like him again, someone who lifted some food from a dumpster or had a good joint to take her mind off things. She started heading back but realized she’d been meandering so much she was totally lost. All she saw were a bunch of boutiques for people who were so rich that they threw money away out of sheer boredom. She knew, she’d been one of them. But screw that, where the hell was the terminal? She was itching to go somewhere warm, and where she was relatively accepted.

Maybe she should do something stupid like go to a women’s shelter. I’m a battered wife, my husband beats me. See if this time they’d rejected her for being too rich or put her on a waiting list, like the last couple of times she did the politically correct thing to get out of her hellhole. They fed her lingo about some kind of welfare reform shit, and the accounts being joint or some other pencil-pushing red tape. Option two was come back when she was legally separated, after she would get every bone broken in the process of legally ridding herself of an obsessive asshole. See you when I’m dead, Cindy said. Rich women don’t get battered. Their lives didn’t need protection they way poor ones did. Besides, they had said, with all her money she could get a job and apartment herself. Good old option three. Right. Like it was ever her money. Like Patrick was going to hand over ten thousand dollars so she could get rid of him. Not that poor women got any help either. Men ran the show.

And why should anyone want to help stupid women who got themselves who got tied up with jerks? Cindy heard it all before, from the country club set who thought Patrick was a saint, to the dumbass talk shows, to the men in the bars and the women in the malls. It was the women’s fault; they deserved what they got, especially if they didn’t leave the first time it happened. They must like it. Then they turn around and want help and expect the good taxpayers to shell out hard earned money for their stupidity so they can have a free hotel. They should have thought about that earlier. Everyone knew that. Everyone was a big expert because they watched the OJ trial. See, the bimbos must really like it. Like after coming back to a shithole called home after a shelter that should have been salvation rejected you, and having photographs of every shelter in a fifty mile radius splayed on a table, one with you walking out the door, then finding your face rearranged and all ten fingers broken backward, that was fun. Sure. They must like it. Dumb little bimbos. She’d heard it all.

Cindy laughed aloud. Yeah, I like it. Whip me, beat me, chain me-please oh baby, please. You want to know a big secret, my real ambition in life was always to be a masochist. Maybe be in one of those hardcore porn movies where I get pissed on. But I couldn’t make it there, so I settled for broken bones for free. You’ve got me figured out baby. Never wanted to be a doctor or an actress. I truly found what I was looking for in life in bruises and fractures. Yeah, right. And fuck you too.

She got herself so worked up that she realized she was saying all this shit out loud. Nothing she couldn’t live with, but she knew she breached some kind of tea party definition of good public manners. Sure enough, as she finished her lively conversation amongst she, her and herself, she noticed that people were staring at her. She was getting sick of this. This was not a freak show. If anything, they were the freaks, looking like a clone factory spit them out of a machine. She started screaming at the top of her lungs that abortion was a mortal sin and all their souls were damned to hell. Many bodies scurried in many directions. Cindy smiled. Works every time, she thought smugly to herself.

Except one remained.

Far off she saw a man. Well, not that far off. He was standing in the alley that she was planning to duck and hide in. The way he was looking at her got to her. It was different from the gawkers. It was like he knew her. She did not want to be known. And he was kneeling, as though he had been in the middle of prayer. That freaked her out big time. She’d been joking before. She didn’t give a shit about abortion or anyone’s soul. Last thing she needed was for this weirdo to think that she wanted to join a religious cult.

But the thought of being known was even worse than that.

She ducked into a stationary store, oblivious to all the upper-crust stares she got while in there. She pretended she was looking for a card for someone, knowing how stupid all this looked. She was too poor to feed and clothe herself, and now she dared to soil this reputable enterprise trying to find a card for some Invisible Man. What the hell was she doing in Hallmarks ‘r Us? She almost laughed. When the cashier picked up the phone while looking in her direction, she almost left. Then she thought, the hell with it. A night in jail might not be so bad. She didn’t have to give her name. She’d probably get out before Patrick came. And she’d get a good meal and a warm bed. She could get used to the idea.

The cashier’s conversation oozed with “miss you honey”, “can’t wait to lick you honey”. Complete barf talk. She judged that unless the cashier had a personal booty relationship with a badge, the fuzz wasn’t on the phone. She was actually disappointed. Jail was almost sounding nice. After standing around another couple of minutes, seconds, it was hard to estimate, she got fed up waiting for the cops to come and listening to 1-800-ADULTERY. So she left. Luckily for her, the praying mantis was gone.

She resumed her search for the subway, and felt relief when she saw the terminal sign just ahead. She was almost dry. It wasn’t much to celebrate, but in this life, this kind of thing almost made her happy. Almost.

The day was sunny now. Before it had been dark, and the heavens had unleashed its tears. The minstrel burst into song. This was the happiest he felt all day. It was such a simple pleasure, the sun. Such life it held, such power. An awesome spectacle.

He knelt down to find his bag, which was hidden behind the garbage can. He wanted to change and find a place to wash. He had just washed himself the previous day, but he desired to feel water rushing over him. A baptismal of his spirit, the renewal of life. He was beginning a new life; this was the start of a new chapter here. It would be good to stay here. Perhaps he could settle down once more. Days like that seemed so long ago.

Suddenly he stopped. He heard a cry, and turned to see what could only be an angel; an angel that bore the same radiance as Raulita. When he saw the angel, he knew she was showing him what Raulita had grown to be. She stood at the alley, watching him, more beautiful than he could imagine. His heart leapt for joy. Dear Dios, what could the angel mean? Was she to lead him to the daughter lost to him? yet just as suddenly as he recognized her, she disappeared. Panic went through the minstrel. He couldn’t lose her again; not after all that he had been through. And this angel, he could not lose her either; she was the fruit of hope to him. Please God, he thought, as he ran to the street. But the angel was not in sight. The street was suddenly deserted, as though no one ever walked there. Despondently, the minstrel went back to his alley, going through his bag with much less enthusiasm than he had previously. There was some food. He would find a place to sleep tonight, he always did. But there was an emptiness to his heart that he had not felt in a long time.

He had lost her again. And he was plagued with the vision of death, of a casket draped in flowers, the one that was too much for him to bear. He crumbled to his knees, burying his face in his hands. To the Virgin Mary he desperately pleaded for mercy. The Holy Mother, she had lost her son; she would show a lowly man like him mercy. He began to say the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary once more. The words soothed him. Tentatively, he began to feel peace again. In his prayers, he was assured that all that would come before him would be all right.

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