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Caged beast
By Amanda Nowinski

FUCKED/NOT fucked "Don't cry, sister," the homeless man pushing a Safeway cart down 12th Street says. "Walk over to Ninth – it's safer, and they got more cabs over there." It's 2:30 a.m., Thursday, and every taxi passes her by, cruelly zooming along with tired drunk heads slumped against half-open windows. The boy sleeping in the warehouse upstairs isn't responding to the doorbell, which she has pressed three times in the past 15 minutes. She yells his name one last time, but to no avail. She rushes into the street to hail yet another cab that won't stop. Her tears fly to one side of her face, obeying the wind. She cusses loudly and begins the trek toward Ninth.

She's not wearing a jacket, and her long, skin-tight dress makes it impossible to walk fast. The metal gypsy belt hanging around her hips jingles madly like a deranged a wind chime. Paired with the spiky shadows lurching from each doorway, the belt becomes footsteps of frightened ghosts trailing behind. Her legs begin to sweat, and she can feel the cocoa butter melting down inside her boots. She is suddenly pissed off for having ever bothered to shave her legs – why get all greased up for a ride that never comes?

She notes that the South of Market blocks are always longer than you think. Men in low cars with bright lights slow down every few minutes, saying "Heeeey" in long, invisible murmurs. She is thankful she is not on acid at this particular moment in time.

She reaches Ninth, and another homeless man tries to hail her a cab. But of course, each one is already full. "Fuck!" she yells, stomping her feet.

"Walk down to Folsom," he tells her. "They got more cabs down there."

This time she lifts up her dress and runs. "Little lady," a carload whispers, "why don't you come over here and suck our dicks?" At this late hour, she knows better than to give anyone the bird. Each van that stutters past reminds her of kidnapping Cheech and Chongs.

"Come over afterwards," she remembers the boy saying two hours earlier, as he left the club. "I'll be waiting." She pictures him walking away, and the way his thick shoulders curl forward, like an animal too hip to ever attack.

Reconciliation There's no beast more dangerous than a caged beast. That kind of creature is always waiting on emancipation, and once it comes, freedom becomes hyperbolic and sick. Knowing this fact all too well, she swallows her second E at noon. "You are so beautiful," she tells a pockmarked drag queen, tightly holding her hand. "Really, I mean it. You really are gorgeous." The drag queen chews aggressively on either her tongue or a wad of gum, takes the $20, zips it into her boot, and says, "Thanks, sweetie, but I truly gotta run."

For the umpteenth time in the past 12 hours, the caged beast rushes up to dance. Music has never sunk deeper into her bones. And as she looks around her, she feels that all the perfections on earth are gathered right here, and for only this one time. Everyone here shares an otherworldly secret – or maybe they're just all high as fuck. More like it. Tweekers stutter, sunshine burns, eyeliner drips, and three o'clock slips by.

Without saying good-bye to any newly made friends, she gathers her things and rushes outside, where she catches a cab in 10 seconds flat.

Send comments or tips to amanda@sfbg.com.