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Robert Crisman
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meninherlife.jpg
Art by Paula Friedlander 2010

The Men in Her Life

 

Robert Crisman

 

 

     Addicts go with the devils they know.

 

     Roanne OD’d on June 2nd. The medics found her sprawled on the lawn of this house in White Center, lying in puke and just about gone. They brought her around, in the nick, and she started fighting, so they’d go away and she could get back in the house, to the rest of the dope that she’d left on the living room table.

 

     They whisked her to Harborview Hospital instead.

 

     She lay in that hospital bed for three days, lonely and frightened as lonely and frightened can be.

 

     One night, sleep light-years away, Roanne watched TV. The shows, mindless gallops, tamped down her thoughts and helped minutes pass.

 

     There was a man in a sequence of one show. He fought fires. Handsome, of course, de rigeur for TV, but not the bland blondness and dimples that prime time so often serves up. This man was a pro, he looked like a pro, a serious man doing serious things, with dispatch and strength.

 

     Roanne fell into a reverie of sorts, a brief one—where did it come from?—in which she and this man were entwined, eye to eye; his eyes soft, knowing; hers wide, drinking his . . .

 

     A serious man. No trick, no coyote . . .

 

     Roanne’s men had always been either. Her boyfriends: street dealers, boosters, sidewalk commandos. They seemed to run to a type: sort of tall, well set up, with long hair, tattoos, the jailhouse pallor. Late 20s, mostly, going on 16, with “Bad Boy” stamped on their foreheads. They had loud, sharp personas, were violent in gesture, if rarely in deed—though they’d have you believe you weren’t safe if you got on their wrong side. Bluffers, cowards at root, yet given to bold, stupid moves—muggings, purse-snatchings, or, sometimes when pressed, armed stickups, so long as the targets were easy and cheap.

 

     They all had short shelf lives; here for a minute, then gone, off to jail or wherever. . . .

 

Still, they were fun of a sort for a short little while, with nothing really required of them but a line on the dope. And, necessarily so, they were buffers, selected to stand between Roanne and hard knocks . . .

     She’d have told you she’d loved at least some of these bozos. They’d shone just like stars before they winked out. . . . 

 

Still, it was love without love, love plucked from a script in some teen magazine then reshaped by pliers in dark downtown alleys. . . .

 

     See, love is an action, demanding the lover show up for drill and be counted. Roanne, in accord with street stricture, had gone AWOL a long time ago. . . .

 

     Now, here was this man on TV, boring right in with soft, knowing light. . . .

 

     Roanne snapped out of it, then. It was almost a physical contraction: shoulders, chest, scrunched; belly tight. She shook her head, blinked the image away.

 

     What was this? This flickering image, this man—on TV!—with those eyes and strong hands and sure purpose. His questions, his need—and somewhere within her, questions and answers and needs of her own . . .

 

     No, uh-uh, no! Men were cocks, empty. There to protect, to titillate, amuse, or, maybe, bruise. Service them, trick them, and get down the road . . .

 

     Besides, what was she after all?

 

     A guttersnipe, right? A tramp, like the nun said the day the boys cornered her out on the playground and lifted her dress up for fun . . .

 

     A tramp wears her name up in lights. . . .

 

     What’s in a name? Heart, soul, skin, and guts—and memories edged like machetes . . .

 

     Roanne’s dread: not the man, but the questions and answers she posed, that shone in her eyes, entwined with his in that dream in the dark . . .

 

     Drenched in sweat, she blinked and finally fell off to sleep.

 

 

 

Robert Crisman spent 15 years in the mix in downtown Seattle and knew Roanne well. He finally got out, and brought her ghost with him. She had hopes, dreams, and fears just like anyone's daughter. It's just that the fears took her over.

In Association with Fossil Publications