A Girl I Once Knew (Las Vegas Rains)
A young woman awakens slowly
to the endless searing Vegas sun.
She sleeps in a confined space,
on a cardboard box, spread out,
with only a tarp for a blanket,
behind a foul blue dumpster,
behind Walmart off of Boulder Hwy.
Her space is littered with trash,
the remnants of the things she steals
in order to survive on the streets,
and the shame embodying her life.
She is sweating, shaking, dehydrated.
Sun-worn from her countless days
exposed to the ruthless desert heat,
and from surviving on the streets,
she rises, hungry, scared, and crying.
She’s been without food and water for days.
With bloodstained eyes, the pain
of her past leaves a map of punctured
and bruised veins on her body.
The poor girl has abscesses now that
are getting bad, and infected. She needs
help. She tries to shake off the filth and
guilt of her lost and decaying world.
She stumbles off to the main street
with a black plastic bag containing
everything she owns, and ever will.
After some time, She hails a cab.
The cabbie knows her and remembers
that the girl was once strikingly beautiful,
of body and mind. She is now sick
and aged well beyond her years.
The cruel streets have taken their toll
On her, along with the poisons she has
destroyed her body and soul with.
She looks away without making eye contact.
From her bag, she hands him a small fold of cash
earned the night before panhandling and
turning tricks. She reveals her destination,
and asks for him to wait, she won’t be long.
The cash should cover it, she did ok last night.
He acknowledges and he knows where she’s
going, and it is no place she ever needs to be.
The cabbie looks into the rear view mirror.
He tells her she needs to go to the hospital,
and fast. She agrees, but first things first,
she needs to get well, she needs a fix. That
is usually how the story ends in this town.
The next morning is greeted with heavy rain.
Two chatting Walmart employees quickly
approach the dumpster to evade the downpour
as they rush to take out the trash.
“It never rains in Las Vegas,” one states.
“It only rains in Las Vegas when an Angel falls
from Grace and dies” laments the other.
The two stop abruptly, standing frozen.
Transfixed and aghast, staring down at a
lifeless form of a young girl that was once
strikingly beautiful, of body and mind, now aged
well beyond her years, sun-worn and bruised.
With vacant eyes, laying under a tarp on
a cardboard box, with a needle still in her arm.
“She looks peaceful like she got well,” one whispers
as they run for shelter from the Las Vegas rain.
Francis Michael Flanagan has a B.A. in Economics at the University of California at Berkeley, and is currently enrolled in the Graduate School of Economics at UNLV. He is serving as a Graduate Student Instructor in mathematical modeling and statistics. Born in Dorchester, Boston, Massachusetts and later moved to Southern California, he is a single father of two, who has, at last, returned from his life’s Odyssey, and found home in Las Vegas, Nevada, who loves writing about the dark and seductive side of the city he has grown to love.