Pulling into the parking lot of the South Philadelphia Sheraton, a person is usually struck by the unlikely combination of the landscapes comprising the neighborhood. The hotel sits close to a 4-lane highway that parallels the Delaware River, across which you can see the murky land of New Jersey. There is an empty derelict button factory across the highway, spooky to pass by on foot because it is full of howling ghosts. But right next door to this abandoned building is Penn's Landing, a festive combination of fairgrounds, shops and restaurants intended for tourists. People seldom walked on the sidewalks in this stretch of the city -- the parking structures fed directly into the shops and fairgrounds, but if one were to stroll alongside the highway, one would come to an area of gas stations and discount stores with their signs written in Spanish, eventually bleeding into a recently gentrified neighborhood, to the east, and to the west, a little park nobody but homeless men and women sat in, a larger-than-life sized bronze statue of a group of bedraggled Irish immigrants prominent in the park's center.
The view from the window of the hotel suite they shared was, they agreed, different from anything you'd see in L.A. Both men were incredibly tired, but Molly felt restless. Because Richard was wary of seeming too authoritarian, he didn't tell her how uncomfortable it made him to imagine her walking around by herself or going to the event occurring at the Landing, so she put her shoes back on and went out, and all he said was, “Be careful, honey.”
The event was a carnival, a beautiful and melancholy sensory overload; she wished she were walking through all the brightly colored lights and youthful shouts with a boyfriend, and she also sorely wanted to find someone safe-looking to buy weed from.
She found this person sitting alone on a bench near the portable restrooms, smoking a joint and whistling an old song Molly'd always loved about being lonesome enough to cry.
"Hey, hi. Are you selling any of that?" Molly gestured at the joint with a nod.
"Uh, yeah, I could be, I guess. You're not from around here, are you?"
"Nope, why? Do I stick out like a sore thumb?"
"No. It just seems like I'd know you already if you were from here. Plus, I forget my address right now, I'm so bombed I can hardly make my hands open and close. If you were from around here, I could just describe my neighborhood to you and you'd probably know how to find me. See, all the pot is at home but I'm not going home for awhile. I'm meeting up with people here in a little while. I'm not much or a drug dealer, huh? My boyfriend and I just broke up and he grows pot, and he owes me a lot of money, but he said all he could do right now is give me some of his weed, if I wanted it " -- while Molly listened, she watched the young woman's lips, which were painted into the shape called "bee-sting" lips," the way silent film actresses used to have their makeup painted on -- "and really, I didn't want it, but I had to take something from him, you know?"
"Oh. Yeah. So, I don't know what it's like here, like the price for pot. Where I'm from it's usually $40 an eighth. Is that, uh....?"
"Sure, sounds good to me. I mean, I could give it to you free, really. But you just have to wait for me to get home, it'll be a few hours. Here, give me your phone number."