August Nights

It is a small photo of a hot August night at the Boardwalk. He has won me
an inflatable blue baseball bat. I am sick but I do not force my smile. In
ten minutes I will ride the Giant Dipper and learn the effects of gravity.
He will rename me "Roller Chunks." He has helped me choose what to wear; a
black blouse with cowboy roses and buttons that refuse to cooperate. Don't
worry, he says, red lace bras are meant for showing off. In another
picture, before this one, he sticks the bat in his crotch, flings up his
left fist and whoops for the camera, the lights of the tilt-a-wheel
starbursting behind him. He has a straggly strip of furry tiger cloth on
the zipper of his pants. His hair is black, he wears sunglasses, spikes,
skull rings, a hoody and thirteen visible piercings. He says he is happy.
I had to come here, he says. I had to come here sober. After fourteen
years, this is the first time I've been here sober. He vows to finish
Beauty School this time. He lives on student loans. He insists on paying
for unlimited rides, he insists on paying for dinner at Planet Fresh
Burrito. Planet Not So Fresh Burrito. Maybe it was the sundried tomatoes,
chicken, brown rice and spinach tortilla, maybe it was the flu, but I had
already thrown up in the bathroom twice. I do not tell him. He tells me I
look pale; I admit I feel queasy. He buys me an Aquafina. I do not tell
him I have thrown up because he will worry and insist on going home. He
wants to go on the kiddie rides. The men in line with us for the dinosaur
ferris wheel offer to take our picture. I smile and clutch my purse in both
hands, he holds my Aquafina bottle, the bat squeezes between us. Two years
later, on another muggy August night they will ID him from his dental
records. When they find him, his NA bible will be open to Relapse, this
picture will adorn his wall.

A native of the Monterey Peninsula, Nicole Henares- at the age of five-
authored her first book about the Monterey Public Library's lop-eared
mascot, Bigfoot, and moonlighted in her early twenties as the street-talk
reporter for the Coast Weekly. Henares has since penned two chapbooks of
poetry, Lush and Duende, and edited a small poet's press, Magenta. Her
poems are where the blues meets the mean reds and have appeared throughout
the small press in publications such as The Homestead Review; The Monterey
Poetry Review; Poetry Bay; Poesy; The Circle Magazine; Main Street Rag; and
Remark. Nicole lives in San Francisco with two cats and one husband.

2006 Underground Voices