Did I draw you?

I picked up Raven on 4th Street in San Rafael at 7:00 Sunday morning. She stumbled disheveled into my cab. Her vintage clothes a smelly jumbled mess of black veils.  We began a conversation.

She tells me she tended bar all night and was tired waiting for the pick up from her boyfriend. When I ask her why her kinky blond hair is all wet she says it was from a lawn sprinkler. I’d guess she’d fallen asleep on someone’s lawn.  So I turn up the heat in the cab. What identifies her are her tats, especially the blue-black spiral running down from her mouth.

“Have we met before”, I ask. I’m convinced I met Raven back in 2004, when I’d started my column of portraits of people called ‘Bay Folk’ for the San Francisco Chronicle. “Did you work at Vesuvio bar in North Beach? You had black hair back then,” I ask again.

“Yes, for a moment. Mostly I worked in a traveling circus,” she answers.

“You showed me how you served up Fernet Blanc and ginger ale  for the other bartenders, getting off their shifts.”

“Nope that wasn’t me, but there’s this chick that’s copying my look,”

 she says. Who's memory is failing?

Just then her boyfriend calls and yells at her for not being where I picked her up. “I fuckin’ waited two hours for you!” she yells back into the cell. 

By now, I’m a bit confused and cautious. Life and time has laid heavy on this woman. She’s worn out and she's wet. I have a fondness for the people I draw and I never forget them. But this chick is bad news. We're at her destination, in front of her apartment building above a bar in Larkspur.

“Get some sleep,” I suggest.

She shakes my hand. Her’s is cold. I notice the scrolls drawn into the flesh of her wrist, her beaded wristband and torn sleeve. I’d love to draw her again. But while I try not to judge people, I have the sense I should keep a distance…somethig toxic there, perhaps.

Gathering her clothes and bag, she stubbles back out into the street and wishes me ‘love and peace’.

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