The Virgin of Mission Beach

I get these crazy dreams about her, the kind where I know I'm dreaming, so I can do whatever the hell I want. Sometimes I think she knows it too; the way she looks into my eyes says she knows more about me than God. The way my olfactory senses register something delicious beneath the endocrine and grime on her skin.. .something holy.

I've seen her living on these streets of MB for years, always in that same sweater and jeans, always that onto-logically shocked gaze, always with surreal requests like a bath in the Vesuvial deluge or a bite of Dante's breath.

There's something Eucharistic about her.

She sleeps beneath a tree behind Belmont Park.

It's 1994, and the Mexican government's pleading for ours to do something about die massive smuggling of illegal weapons from our country into theirs. There were 5351 guns officially identified in '92. In '93, there were 3376, but officials on both sides agree the actual number is much higher.

I was responsible for a lot of that.

Since the EZLN Rebellion, Clinton finally decided to act, sent out ATF to bust operations like mine. Can't have anything jeopardizing the NAFTA deal.

Lots of my guys went down. Lots of my money too. Somehow I managed to evade the sweep. But now I'm out of a job and can't go home. I wander down the rat-and-roach-infested alley behind the Coaster Saloon. Someone screams from the apartments above Arby's. Or maybe it's me. I can't tell anymore. I feel a tiny slice of my soul slipping away into everyone else's shadows...

Mission Beach is home to just about every type of crackpot you can find: washed-out hippies, cokehead yuppies, hep-ridden hobos, low-ridin' cholos, taggers owin' jaggers, ravers owin' favors, vets in bins, neo-Nazi Skins, crazy-ass skater-rats, wife beatin' white trash, freshly buddirf teenage hookers, old-fat-drunk pervert lookers, can-I-crash-out-here musicians, I'll-make-your-bike-disappear magicians, gun-totin' Pirn on Sundays, walk-o'-shame cougars on Mondays, coke-whore strippers, daytime trippers, no-good coons, hicks heatin' spoons, Vegas bums who couldn't even make die construction scene, New York sluts who started zines, wannabe surfers from Yuma, couldabeen dope peddlers from Zuma, drunken poets in the bottle, winos who'll drink bong water, tattoo artists runnin' from the HA, nobads suckin' dick for yay, ex-alki bouncers with O'Doul's in hand, horny college girls lookin' fo' da man, parolees, bail-jumpers, snitch-thumpers, aspiring rappers with pipe dreams, broken-down bikers with HIV, ex-con Woods with stolen heat, gun-freaks, cross-top poppin' felons on tweak, high-school drop-out supermodels, Bean-town Irish Brawlahs, OC punks, frat-boy drunks, twat-lickin' RB bunnies, aspiring porn-queen honeys, South-siders flexin' muscle, Paisas with a hustle, you got beef, cuz? Hui bra' fightin' Samoans from tlie bar, ounce-pinchin slingers who don't get too far, stupid-ass Zonies tryin' to play the part, old Parrot-heads who'll soon be dead, old Deadheads off their meds, feds playin co-eds, and an ex-arms-smugglin' fugitive losin' his goddamned head.

I make a left and head south.

The nightclub Chillers is packed, but I can't tell if it's the Ghoulspoon show or "Monday Night Fights"; my days all bleed into one hideous testament of agony. That world in there, those sultry bodies in cacophonous revel — it used to be mine. But I am no longer. See the old man riding the bicycle covered in metallic duct tape?

I walk through the parking lot to the grass. The chattering people don't even notice me. It's as if I'm already an apparition, a phantasmagoric residue absorbed in the gentle waves that lap on lovers' skin.

When I get there she's gone.

Then I hear explosions behind me...

Her body has become clean, pure and ivory — the old sweater morphed into a flowing white cape. She floats above me — the fireworks from SeaWorld and swirling lights of the Big Dipper cast a magnificent backdrop of motion and flame as she rises higher into the ethereal Mission Beach night. I reach like a starving man for a morsel of sustenance. My fingertips brush the soles of her feet, and my body is electrified. Radiant bursts of azure and crimson cascade around her like ferocious serpents, burning garlands adorn her, blood-soaked lightning, streamers of violet ember whistle and pop at her shoulders, she's an incandescent silhouette before a blazing spectrum from lavender to pearl.

Take me to dance with Xuitecuhtli.

Make love to me in Mictlan.


I feel myself disintegrating, thought evaporating into the wetness and salt of the air, the rotting of my blood, my bones begin to rattle, my flesh reunites itself with the soil...

The smell of sulfur and my sins roll on down the boardwalk.

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