I meander in a big fuzz of fatigue

down to the local hot spot, the Third Street Promenade,

land of upscale retailers, eateries, bars, bookstores, coffee houses,

and teenage runaways.

The affluent, eclectic shoppers do not notice

the young bodies for sale,

background adornment to the privileged scenery.

The runaways hang out in the archways

of the historic brick buildings,

chatting and laughing;

much like the group of spoiled teens

with Rolex watches and Seven Jeans

acting important in front of the movie theatre,

or the group of gang bangers "chillin" in front of Starbucks,

or the vacationing family of eight from Michigan

staring and pointing at the passing celebrities.

But, those teens in the archway, well,

they have that hungry look,

that "please feed me some love and sustenance" look,

that "we have no place else to go" look.

The two girls are attractive,

their long, lean midriffs firm under pale pink cropped tops,

their slender jeans with the slight flare at the bottom

catching every curve

around their undeveloped hips.

Their skin is smooth and supple,

supporting bodies that move well to rhythm,

as their uneven hair falls loosely around their faces.

The three boys are as beautiful as the girls,

with soft features and lanky builds.

All these kids serve the same buyers.

The next meal just depends on customer preference

for blonde, brunette, city chic look,

or a small town midwestern air.

They go out solo, sometimes in pairs…

two boys

a boy and a girl

two girls.

They watch each other's subjugation,

storing each other's emotions in a tiny blue satin box

for safe-keeping,

in case one of them ever wants the feelings back,

perhaps in psychoanalysis years from now.

I walk by and smile at the group.

Most of them pretend to look past me.

But, I see the purple-gray pinstriped wall that surrounds them.

I see their cavern tunneled far from safety.

I see their stare into hope,

that search for shelter

and holding of tender hands

that will demand nothing in return.

The youngest girl smiles back at me.

A conflict rages in her eyes,

the serpent of self-protective defiance

against the kitten longing to curl at the belly

and suck milk until her tummy fills.

It will be years before she drinks enough

of the milk of life

to become like me…

meandering in a big fuzz of fatigue

along a trendy city street

filled with all I was taught to desire

and trade

for my soul.