One of the unsettling things about the street scene. You often see people disintegrating, practically right before your eyes.
I was thinking about this street chick I used to know. Let’s call her Regina. When she first hit the Telegraph scene in 1992 she must have been around 16 years old. Cute as a bunny. This adorable, red-headed, little waif. Right out of Little Orphan Annie. And she was an orphan, too. Raised by adoptive parents in a nearby suburb.
Like a lot of orphans, Regina had “issues.” Abandonment. Rejection. Low self-esteem. Unworthy of love. The usual. But the real root of Regina’s tragedy was this “woe is me” attitude. “Things never work out right for me,” was her eternal mantra. An attitude that tends to perpetuate itself.
Regina had already had her first kid by age 16. Which she put up for adoption. Another pattern that tends to perpetuate itself.
Then Regina fell madly in love with this cute, hippy-boy acid dealer named Paul who tooled around on a skateboard. He was following the Grateful Dead tour. Regina was convinced that Paul was the answer to all her problems. The solution to this state of unrequited lovelessness that she wallowed in. “Paul, Paul, Paul.” For awhile it seemed like the relationship was going to work out. But, well, you guessed it.
Of course, Regina was crushed when the relationship fell apart. Never really recovered from it. Regina was one of those people where their latest tragedies were kind of like their favorite hobby. It was one of her few interests. Her problems. That and drugs. Periodically Regina would try and roust herself from her downward spiral. But it was like she was an empty vessel who lacked the inner resources.
The thing I most remember about Regina was this blank look that was often on her face. Her eyes were like two buttons that radiated no light. She reminded me of the Raggedy Ann doll. Pliable and wispy with no solid foundation. And she had this constant neediness. That she could never fill.
The last time I saw Regina was around the winter of 1999. I ran into her on a street corner on Shattuck Avenue. Her front teeth were missing. Some asshole had punched them out after Regina burned him on a speed deal. “Oh well,” said Regina with a hapless, toothless smile. “At least it helps me when I’m panhandling because I look so pitiful.”
Periodically I would get Regina updates. “Regina’s living in San Francisco in the Mission.” . . . “Regina’s a junkie and a prostitute.” . . . “I saw Regina sleeping in this back alley, she looked really skinny.”
And then, after awhile, there were no more Regina updates.