By Matthew Wallenstein –
Pittsburgh Current Contributing Writer
Casey was attending Emerson for poetry. I was planning to sleep in his dorm room that night before heading back to New York where I had been staying on my friends’ couch. We left the building and stopped by a coffee shop that was open late. It was cold out. The drinks were partially just to keep our hands warm. Snow sat along the street in hard, dirty piles. Dunkin Donut cups stuck out of them, there were wet cigarettes, there were footprints, the tips of fire hydrants poking out their knobby crowns.
It started snowing. It was dusty and slow moving. I liked walking on brick, there was something to it, the clack and slip. We made our way down to the seal tanks.
“I always wanted to take someone on a date here at night, to the seal tanks I mean,” I said.
“Yeah that’s a good idea.”
“Ben and this kid I knew, Kyle, were always doing that. I don’t live close to here anymore so you have to do it.”
We stood there for a while watching them glide and tumble. They had all that grace and those stupid, stupid faces.
The water in the tanks was very blue. We left, went around to the wharf. In the distance I saw what looked like a couple of people bent over a bench having sex. Neither of us said anything but we kept walking closer.
I realized it was not two people but just one person. It looked to be an elderly man. His sweatpants were pulled down and bunching behind his knees. He was stooped over and appeared to be masturbating. His ass was very saggy and blemished. Off to the right of him there was a small group of people. We still didn’t say anything to each other and kept walking in his direction.
When we were close enough I realized it was actually a woman. She was probably in her fifties. Her hair poked out from under her hat in the curls of the New England Irish. She had two stacks of napkins with the Wendy’s logo on them. One stack was clean. She was taking a couple napkins at a time and putting them between her legs. A moment later she would remove them and they would be soaked in blood. Then she placed them on top of the second pile with the other soiled napkins.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Huh?” She said.
“Do you need help?”
“Did one of those guys over there do something to you? Do you need help?”
“Ah honey, I’m on my period. Thanks though.”
“I don’t care, who cares.”
“Should I tell those guys to leave? They’re watching you.”
“I don’t care, I’m on my period. Who cares? I know them, they are my friends. I’m on my period, so what. I live under there. So what?”
She pointed vaguely towards the other benches. Casey and I started walking. We passed the group of guys. Now that we were closer I was able to see that they were homeless.
“Another night in Boston eh?” One of them said. He was sitting in a sleeping bag, his head tilted up, blowing smoke from his pursed lips. He laughed, took another drag from his cigarette.
“You’re gonna catch on fire doing that,” another of them said.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” said the man smoking is his sleeping bag.
We didn’t say much to each other on the way back.
“Look,” I said, “I thought somebody did something to her.”
“Well shit man, I’m trying.”