The Matter of The Bruises

One problem with their methodology that night was they had thrown pond water on my face.

We were drinking on logs under the eucalyptus near Stanyan and Haight Street. Hang in the park was cool, but not drinking in public was the way to avoid being arrested, especially if your group was known to get rowdy. Especially if you lived in the park or didn’t want police to send you home, because it was illegal to runaway, and I was the youngest of the group at 15.

Maybe when I kissed Scaby Ray, Ulysses was watching. Maybe he didn’t mind. Maybe I thought I could get away with it, didn’t think it mattered. Schwill was blacked out as usual. Ulysses was a big guy with a big nose, dark black eyes, jean jacket sewn over with patches and spikes. We were a family of choice, not blood.  Maybe because Schwill had been passed out for hours, Ulysses took stock, watched me lean in to kiss Scaby Ray while my boyfriend was on the ground in a kidney-shaped slump.

Perhaps I kept drinking after kissing Scaby Ray, maybe we all drank until the bottle was gone. Maybe, because Schwill was his brother, his friend, he decided to take revenge. Maybe he wanted to kiss me too, was a catalyst to the bruises. Alvord Lake pond, or heroin needle pond, was black, murky. Untouchable, like us. Alvord Bridge, next to the pond, was walking distance from the police station where we camped under eucalyptus trees by a chain link fence and thorough way.

The eucalyptus trees where we had been drinking were about a hundred feet from the pond. When Schwill woke up, my body traveled one hundred feet with two drunk men in their early twenties, one 17-year old woman, to the pond, then back 500 feet to the police station. We blacked out regularly, that was the goal. Complete obliteration, on a nightly basis.  It took practice, downing vile cheap Barrett’s whiskey, chasing it with Coca-cola, trying not to gag. The breakfast of street kids who preferred obliteration to home.

When I woke up, the bruises were everywhere. Lorraine handed me a mirror. I did not know who I was looking at. A Garbage Pail kid sticker with bloodshot eyes and puffed black skin?

“You wouldn’t wake up,” said Schwill, shrugging as I looked in the mirror. Perhaps they half carried, half dragged me, but kept dropping my body as they tried to get me to the pond to wake me up. The police were coming, and as they do with their mag lights past certain hours in Golden Gate Park, searching the parts they can’t turn a blind eye to after hours due to concerned citizens and tourists. The guys had to book it. Maybe Lorraine was shouting orders.

They could’ve been going fast, my limp body clunking on the pathway, dragging branches. It could explain the bruises all over my tiny breasts, stomach, the state of my face when I woke up from a sleep of the dead, having fallen off the cardboard and woolen blanket bed Schwill had somehow made. Maybe Ulysses woke Schwill up after Scaby Ray left for his friends, greener pastures. We were middle children in a street kid family, Scaby Ray one of the elite, the toughest. Tall. Blonde. Handsome, with piercing blue eyes like my birth father. Greased-back blonde hair. Eyeliner rimmed eyes. Schwill was my height. Maybe Ulysses woke Schwill up. Scaby Ray left before or after, probably once the alcohol was gone. I had kissed him when I thought no one was looking.

Maybe Ulysses, a big guy, carried me. Maybe Schwill helped him, though Schwill weighed less than me. He was maybe 136. If he had that chunk in his calf, maybe he’d be a pound more. They then took the pond water, shouted, kicked.

I can hear them now, somewhere in the limbo between life and not life. CAT! CAT! Get the fuck up! Wake up! Wake up CAT! The bruises covered so much of me. I didn’t have a problem with the not being arrested part.

The only problem I had was later, when I went to General Hospital, after the Youth Center, after Saint Mary’s Hospital where they pulled the curtain, excused Schwill and asked if he had hurt me, was that I was told I had to take my antibiotics, so many of them, sober. For a week.

Schwill went with me on all the doctor’s visits, with our dog Nihm-Bin. I used her leash as a muzzle to get her on the bus, my service dog. Orange, blue and white, she was my best friend. She let me snuggle her head at night like a pillow in the sleeping tunnel by the museum. Maybe they got carried away when they were dragging, pulling, dropping or kicking me. Too drunk to notice how hard I was hitting the concrete, how hard their steel toed boots were tapping my head, how much water they were pouring on my face. It was enough to cause a skin infection that lasted for weeks in my eyes and skin, but not enough that the docs thought that was the only thing that caused it to swell like a balloon twice its size. How did I get back the 499 feet from the pond to the hideout behind the police station? Did they carry my Alice pack? Did they drag me over common paths or did they go on the secret trails under the trees to get me back after the water didn’t wake me? Did my face bleed and bruise right away or did the evidence build over night? How many minutes to destroy a face? I was a rag doll. The police were coming. That’s why they had to bruise me so badly, to keep me from going home to my parents.

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