A Place I Never Knew

© 1996 Marlene Taylor

I have a very clear image of a place I have never been to and maybe will never go to.

It is an alley behind some warehouses. It is late at night, cool the way it gets in San Francisco in September, cool but not cold, with wisps of low fog beginning to drift across the streetlights and above it the clear hard night sky. The pavement is wet in patches and there is a grey rainbow reflection of oil on the surface of a puddle near my feet. The sky is clear and the combination of the moon and the streetlight turn everything black and white, deepening the shadows in the doorways and around the eyes of the man I'm with. We are both wearing black leather and as he pushes me against a cold brick wall the smell of the leather mixes with the fog, the oil, the liquor from broken bottles in the gutter, and the faint but ever-present scent of decay and trash and dirt. The leather creaks as he traps me between his arms; I look up and see the stars, all the stars above the silhouette of the city, feeling his hot moist breath on my neck, listening hard for footfalls or the engine of a police car, knowing we might be caught at any moment and the knowledge making it a hundred times more exciting, listening and hearing only the faraway noises of saturday night, glass breaking and girls screaming with laughter. I feel the outline of the bricks against my back and the cold. He has dragged me here (as if I didn't really want to go) and pinned me against the wall (as if I didn't want to fuck him) and it feels so good to be with him in the dark, in the dirt, down here among the secrets of the city, and now we are one of the secrets too, in the echoes, in black and white, burning each other up against the cold.

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