Steven Hunley

© Copyright 2016 by Steven Hunley



Photo of kids hanging out on Pico Street.

It was misting while they were still in the theater on a date arranged by their parents. Angelica insisted they sit near the front on an aisle, instead of in the last row he suggested. She wouldn’t allow Junior to kiss her, not even once. On the way home, wet streets reflected the traffic lights, and changed from green to yellow to red. Flickering neon signs and car headlights shined in shimmering bars across the glistening pavement, no matter what direction they walked. Before they’d gone a block, the scent of new autumn rain replaced the smell of old summer dust.

“Pico Street on a Saturday night.” Junior noted the people hustling to and fro. “It’s an incredible place, teaming with life."

Teenage girls dressing too flash giggled and talked with loud-speaker mouths. Their mothers cradling babies knew better, and watched them like hawks. Young men posed under streetlights exhibiting extreme swagger, trying their best to look ‘too tough to talk’. Children in worn shoes and stretched-out t-shirts played too close to the curb, while wounded gangsters and old men tottered by on canes, crippled by bad 'Glamorous Life' decisions and unforgiving years.

Sinaloa Pizza Parlor. A store-front neon-named ‘Oasis’ owned by ‘Persians’ sells drinking water. Haircuts are cortes. Children are Niños. The 99 Cent Store owned by Koreans sells pan dulces by the hundreds from dirty glass cabinets. In Little Tokyo, karate schools speak Szechuan/Español and not a hint of Japanese. Not to worry, because all street-corner sign wavers use precision movements, like slender-fingered Geishas spreading delicate sandalwood fans. In other words, a blaze of Pico in all its glory.

“Yes,” Angelica agreed politely, with only a piece of her heart. The rest of her wasn’t so sure.

She looked past the surface, beyond the illusion; at stars fixed in the sky like diamonds in Tiffany settings, and wondered, ‘Where are the angels? What are they doing? What do they eat? Do you suppose they make love? Do they sing Glory Halleluiah day and night to Our Lord?

It was incredibly clear between the towering buildings, but to a young Catholic woman, an inadequate view of a darkened Heaven.

“Yes,” she agreed now, whole-heartedly. “There’s nothing like it.”

Drops of diesel fuel from noisy Mack Trucks splashed onto puddles, turning them rainbow colors. Veterano OG gangsters driving Chevy Impalas sported spinning hubcaps on their favorite rides. Rolling jolly joints of mota, they stuffed them in their sweaty hatbands. The summer night wore on, fueled by countless shots of Jose Cuervo and deeds of great bravado. Once up to speed, the drunken men honked and yelled and whistled at anything in a skirt on the sidewalk. Then they sped past. When they disappeared, the women stopped cursing, and giggled to each other, hiding sly smiles or uneven teeth with delicate hands, where every fingernail was a piece of art.

On the hill overlooking the street, the well-mannered couple still held hands for public observance. The conversation was sparse and the good-night kiss was the first and last. He waved good night from her wrought-iron gate, and gave a great sigh. She sat at the looking-glass absently braiding her hair before going to sleep. The two had done their duty and showed the proper degree of respect. No mother or father could expect more.

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