Show Me the Way – David Lohrey

“Running away never solved anything.”
People say this but I wonder if they really mean it.
One day, you are in, say, Birmingham, Alabama, and the next,
you are pulling into Grand Central Station, the first day
of the rest of your life! I’d say, running away solves a lot.
You may miss your parents but you won’t miss the moon.

You’re 15 in Memphis, yes, that one, on a chilly February afternoon,
heading for the airport. You’ve got a flight for San Francisco leaving
at 3:43pm, nonstop. In less than 4 hours, you will be at Bryant
and Van Ness smoking a joint with a friend of a friend and her lover,
a black saxophonist who’s a junkie. Don’t tell me running away
never solved anything. Life just got more interesting.

The lover and his roommate, a white speed freak, will provide you
with the necessary papers, a fake social security number, and enough
stuff to get yourself a local drivers license. For a dollar extra,
you can have it laminated. The boys head to the back room to shoot up
and fuck each other silly while you sit around watching TV. You’re having
the time of your life.

What the dickens does “solve” mean anyway? The problems disappear
the minute you land at SFO. Now it’s just a matter of staying out of
trouble. My advice to you is this: better not join the boys in the back.
Don’t let them undress you and stay away from smack. Otherwise, you’ll be fine.
Follow Mrs. Moore’s advice; she was my 3rd grade teacher. She told me
to keep my hands to myself and not to draw unwanted attention.

I had that tattooed on my ass on a street in the Tenderloin, back when
San Francisco was a small town. It had low rent. The homeless were called
hippies. They sang songs and begged for money. My first thought was they
lacked talent. I went instead to Union Square to watch the pantomimists.
I became aware of my body and felt awkward. I didn’t like the pigeons.
I followed my mother’s advice and refused offers from strangers.

I ate in Chinatown, but the turning point came the day I was taken
to the Mission to try pork belly burritos. The cook called me “amigo.”
Nobody ever called me amigo back in Tennessee. That burrito, prepared
some 45 years ago, was the most delicious thing I had ever eaten.
Running away may not have solved anything, I’m not too sure,
but I can’t imagine life having any meaning without flour tortillas.

D LohreyDavid Lohrey currently teaches in Tokyo. His poetry can be found in The Rats Ass Review, Softblow, The Blue Mountain Review, Otoliths, and Quarterday. He lives in Tokyo.