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The thing about Maggie you have to understand was this: Maggie was a slut. Joe loved her and although he was intelligent, Maggie's nature was something Joe never seemed to figure out or admit. Not until it was too late.
Maggie and Joe lived at the Reese Hotel downtown on fourth street. People uptown call it the whore hotel. You can't blame them. When Joe was making his runs to Germany for hits of pharmaceutical acid, Maggie was free to indulge in her own devices, or be up to her old tricks, however you'd like to put it. That's just how she was. One time she rolled over to score some weed. I saw a stranger waiting in the car outside by the curb. That always gets the neighbor's attention, always brings the heat. I mentioned it.
"Never let strangers sit in the car.You know it draws the heat."
"Well, you don't know him, so I thought it would be better."
"Where's Joe, anyway?"
"In Munich about now, but he'll be home tomorrow."
I gave her a look. It was a look of non-approval.
"While the cat is away, the mice will play," she quipped.
That's what she told me, and she knew I wouldn't say anything. I keep out of everybody's business the same way I expect them to keep out of mine.
A week later I saw Joe. After he copped and was turning to leave I noticed the handle of a pistol sticking out of his pocket. He'd been sitting in my easy-chair, the leather one the cat scratched to shit, and it nearly fell out. We always take time for a beer or a smoke. It doesn't look good to have people run in or out of your house in a hurry. Like you're selling dope or somethin'. Besides, Joe was well-mannered, and could keep up his end of an intelligent conversation. He shoved it back in.
"Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand?
He ignored me, as if he hadn't heard. We were playing the Beatles A Day in the Life pretty loud at the time. But I knew he had, so I insisted,
"Hey Joe, where you going with that gun in your hand?"
This time he answered.
"I'm going downtown to shoot my old lady, she's been messin round with another man."
"Oh," is all I said. What more could I say?
An hour later he was back. His shirt was torn, his hair disheveled, and the gun wasn't there. He scored some speeders and more weed, and acted like he was in a hurry.
"A rack of black-beauties, and some smoke, and make it snappy."
I served them up, then said,
"Hey Joe, where you gonna go?"
He ate half the rack and washed them down with a Budweiser.
"I said, "Hey Joe, where you gonna
"I'm goin down south, goin to where a man can be free."
I knew what that meant. Mexico. We were in San Diego you see, and only twenty minutes from the border. You could commit a crime and be over the border before they even found out, much less began searching for you.
"Ain't no hangman, gonna put a noose around me."
"I'm gonna miss you," I told him, all sincere-like.
"The only thing you're gonna miss about me is my business."
Like a flash he was gone. I lived on a hill in East San Diego and you could catch a glance of the freeway from the upstairs window, from between the palm trees. It was the first house I lived in alone. It was on Chamoune street. At night, you could see the the lights of Tijuana clearly, sparkling as only the lights of Mexico do.
On warm summer nights when it's too hot to sleep I climb out on the roof sometimes to smoke a joint. It's a fine way to end the day. I can see Mexico gleaming through the rippling waves of heat like a tortilla curling up on a hot griddle.
I often think of Maggie and Joe and have fond memories of them both. She was the sluttiest slut I ever knew and he was a prince. What was it Proust said about women?
"People who are not in love fail to understand how an intelligent man can suffer because of a very ordinary woman. This is like being surprised that anyone should be stricken with cholera because of a creature so insignificant as the comma bacillus."
Maybe it was that way with them. Love and death are strangers to nobody.
My thanks to Billy Roberts and Jimi for the inspiration.