In early 2015, the Blue Angel Motel was demolished. Then, in late March of this year, the guardian angel who looked over the motel for 60 years came down to earth. News reports indicate that the gigantic angel sculpture, designed by Betty Willis, is going to be restored by YESCO sign company and returned to the Charleston/Fremont area. Downtown resident Matthew O’Brien, who stayed at the motel in 2009 and wrote a collection of nonfiction stories titled My Week at the Blue Angel, responded to the news in a prose poem.
I’d heard rumors she was in rehab. Had to go and see for myself. Sure enough, she’d stepped down from her pedestal.
A kind of empty I’d not seen since 9/11. A Twin Towers empty. Sunless sky.
She’d not been the same since the weekly was bulldozed. No one to look after, no one to turn to. Few months later, her mom passed.
Angel looked haggard. Brawny arms bruised from all the miss-hits. Halo askew. It even fell off once. Sound of it spinning on the asphalt woke up the neighborhood and brought her to.
I hated seeing her like that: crowding the curb, the straps of her gown sliding dangerously down her shoulders, porcelain skin leathered, making bloodshot eye contact with motorists. But it didn’t change how I felt about her.
Got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Hit rock bottom there up top. I found her halo tangled in the weeds, her oxidized wand propped against a chain-link fence.
Vietnam Steve said she’s in a 12-step program. Knows half the folks there. They used to look up to her. Still do. When they saw her sitting alone at the back of the room, they acted as if the Lord Almighty Himself was in the house. Spinning round in folding chairs. Spilling Sanka on the checkerboard floor.
He said she’ll be clean and back on the block in six months. Me? I’m skeptical. The boneyard? A graffitied downtown dumpster?
So many years behind her, so many protections ungranted. The message distorted by her mouth’s faded smear.