by Saira Viola
She only existed under the neon swirl of Broadway
Between 42nd and 9th: A super billboard of iconic luxury,
She was the freckled faced beauty of Ralph’s Americana.
College cute, the world is safe in Polo dreams and monogrammed elegance. Her blue-ribbon smile cut with Woodberry pluck, and her cinema curls sprayed with Nantucket goodness but underneath, the fried stench of food stamps and microwaved tacos and the Real face of Broadway spits through.
Her face was ripped with open scars and pitted sores, she tried to hide them with drug store make up but you could still see those lines of swollen sorrow like rotting worms feasting on poison.
She wore ankle socks slutted with tide marks and thrift store shoes, limp with no heel. They were two sizes too small hammering her toes purple making them bloody and raw like red dandelion heads. Sometimes, she would take them off to let them breathe, dried scabs forming a line of leeching crusts across her toes.
In the rain all you could see was an overhang of boiled pink flesh like a Holiday Ham burnt on the rim. She wore a flimsy cotton dress, well 50% cotton and the rest polyester. It was dank and moist and smelt of rotten milk and ammonia. She couldn’t do anything about the yellow sweat stains that gassed the arms but to avoid people’s stares and protect her tiny dignity she would clutch her hands in front of her. She had oversized, calloused hands used to fend off revulsion and pity the kind of pity meated out at a distance the kind of pity she detested.
Frank was her sweetheart then Jimmy and Johnny T ridding the grease pole with fangled teeth she lost count of all the promises they made then she lost time, until she lost everything that mattered; hers was the underskirt of a Pepsi kiss with no saccharin left to coat her sordid panorama.
She had forgotten when her birthday was either May or June she blanked out all the good stuff. Like a bomb, she had exploded into nothing.
She didn’t like thinking about who she was and how she got there scraping the alleys off Broadway for bottles and 10 cents cans.
On bright days when the sun was bleaching the buildings with an oily glare and fried dirt she wore fake Raybans and Ronald McDonald lipstick, the Betty Jones of her ghetto tableau; her pork belly folded over three times had a mushroom hue and was sagging with no hope.
She existed on the fringes of a twilight world. Just a living corpse
A study in beatnik angst; material for an Allen Ginsberg wannabe.
Her eyes leaded with grief and hammered with pain the kind that’s punched into you — leaving her numb and ripened with hate.
Four ‘o’ clock in the morning: underneath the candy pink glow of Times Square lie the skewered remains of Jane Doe a mottled portrait of gloom fracturing the Manhattan skyline.
As smoke rings circle the frost bitten air and a police siren switchblades the dawn. Party hipstas rubber neck the scene there’s nothing to say: a blue veined reminder of Pauper Hell.