StreetLegalPlay by Kyle Thomas Smith

Cafe de La Lune

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on February 17, 2020

By Kyle Thomas Smith

Full Moon.jpeg

So I was just in Cafe de La Lune (not its real name but close enough), around the corner from our apartment in San Francisco. I figured I’d get some more French homework done before my husband Julius finished his workout. This one hairdresser in our neighborhood, who has emerald hair and was sporting a puckish, steampunk frock coat, ordered her usual nightcap of rosé. The octogenarian Irish couple was stationed at their usual table in back, he a mathematician who usually ends up with a Guinness mustache, she—I don’t know what she did before going gray and having her nightly white wine glass but this is their nightly rite now. It was the usual, last-call crowd.

I said to Rhonda the barista, “My friend keeps texting me about caffeine addiction. I mean, I know I have one but it’s just iced tea.”

She said, “What are you gonna do? Switch to chewing gum or Jesus?”

The hairdresser side-eyed me like, “Like you know what addiction is, choir boy.”

Well, she seemed to be under the impression that gay men don’t know how to side-eye back. When, in fact, we practically originated the sport…when we weren’t busy originating democracy and cosmetology and operettas. Plus, it kind of brought me back to those high-school ego clashes—“I’m the badass, not you.” So I walked by her with my sleeve rolled up to expose my Infinite Knot tattoo and sat down with my iced tea to translate the biography of Pamela Churchill from French to English—and that Pamela was one saucy broad, so who’s the badass now, huh?

All of a sudden, this guy walked in, thin as a stick with short-cropped blond hair, wearing nothing but a black t-shirt. No pants, no underwear, no socks, no shoes. And he’s screaming and crying. Rhonda said, “Can I help you, sir?”

With a blood-curdling screech, he said, “A rat tried to gnaw off my foot! Bugs, they’re crawling all over my legs. And they’re out to get me.”

“Who?” said Rhonda.

“Them!” He screamed and left it at that as he scratched his legs up and down, opening scores and scabs along the way.

The Irish lady’s top eyelids rolled up like nightshades that’ve been yanked down too fast.

Rhonda brought him a dish towel, a day-old croissant and a plastic cup of water. Next it’d have to be the police, she supposed.

The hairdresser ran up, though, and put her hands on the guy’s shoulders, “Listen. Listen. It’s okay.”

“No! There were rats! And there are bugs! And…”

She said, “Here. Come here. Let’s sit down.”

And she sat him at the table across from me, on the chair facing mine. I just went on doing my translations and surreptitiously glancing over.

I heard snippets. She said she’d been where he is. He’s just whacked out on meth. He’ll be fine. He said a rat stuck its fangs in the side of his foot and started gnawing while bugs went in for the kill. She said shhhh and “Remember, it’s not real. I know it feels like it is but it’s not.”

“We need to call you an ambulance,” she said.

He was suddenly calm. And he nodded. And she stood by his chair and kept her hand on his shoulder as she called: “Hey, yeah, hi. We need an ambulance…Cafe De La Lune…There’s this guy. He’s on drugs…Yeah, yeah. Track marks. Gassed-out teeth. I guess thirties? Forty?…Forty, he says…How soon? ‘Kay, thanks.”

She said to him, “Okay, five minutes.” And she told him she was in rehab and was in the psych ward but now she has people from all over the world wanting her to do hair design for them. He crossed his legs, covering his naughty bits, and just sort of casually talking about what it’s like to do hair. And what it’s like to do heroin. And how addiction sucks. And how there’s too much you have to watch out for on the streets of San Francisco. How he’s had to turn to survival sex at an age when he’s no spring chicken.

The EMTs showed up. They asked his name. He said Alex. They asked if they could take his pulse. He said okay. They said they’re taking him to the hospital. He said okay. They asked him to follow them out. He said okay and he did.

Rhonda comped the hairdresser’s wine. The old Irish lady went up to her and said she‘d handled it beautifully. Even the mathematician seemed impressed, but you can’t really tell with him.

The hairdresser said thanks. She’s thinking about going back to school to work in an addiction psych ward. She knows them all too well. But she’s making a killing in hair these days and the people in her chair usually aren’t much different from that guy when you get right down to it. “You just have to talk to them like they’re people. They calm down. That goes for everybody.”

I continued translating. I still couldn’t bring myself to get up and doff my hat to her. She and I had gotten off on the wrong foot and I just hate having to give credit where it’s due. Plus, compared to her, I guess I am a choir boy.