Valentine’s Day, 2007, Skid Row, Los Angeles

Today was beautiful. There was so much happiness. I brought Sherri a small arrangement of asters and carnations and blue wild flowers with sprinkles of white. Carroll was sad she did not get valentine flowers so I ran out to the flower district and got a bouquet of a dozen red roses and oriental lilies; she cried. It was the first time in 21 years anyone had given Sherri flowers, and the first time Carroll has received flowers in her fifty-five years.

Many friends came by, including a young man with a shaved head and the voice of an angel. He serenaded Sherri and swore to protect her to the death of anyone who harms her.

The dealer, Cuba, gave Sherri and Carroll two nickels for Valentine’s Day present. He had them hidden inside his empty tube of crazy glue and dropped them as he walked by so that anyone watching saw no more than an ordinary man walk past two women and a man sitting on dirty blankets on a sidewalk. I too would have missed the drop had I not seen the quick flash of a smile as he went by and Sherri’s crooked fingers take the tiny white rocks from the blanket as if driven by instinct; she continued to talk without missing a beat while my mind stumbled for a moment. “I’ll thank him later,” she muttered to herself and discreetly handed Carroll her share. I think my flowers still meant more because they showed them off to everyone that passed by.
Liz came by and hugged and sang to Sherri. She said they kicked heroin together. Liz wore a hat covered in flowers. She looked every bit like someone I might have seen in Barnstable Village; a mother, grandmother, wife, a beach-front home owner.