The city has a sinister feel at night time. Out come the blinking lights and diner signs. The screeching and growling of buses, the bass of heavy hip hop reverberating through the air,escaping from the windows of nearby traffic. The cackling chatter of the public, mixed with gossip, ringing cell phones and drunk passersby. The homeless chants of sparing change. Downtown smells like exhaust fumes and vomit. Liquor and cigarette smoke. Garbage and hamburger grease. The occasional blast of pot smoke, and the aroma of peculating coffee squeezing through the cafe doors, as people bustle in and out in a rush.
As I’m walking, I’m relieved to have a few people at my side. Tyler and one of his boys, and of course, loyal as she was from the get go,She.
She is walking next to me, talking through her constant smile. Story after story. She unknowingly skips when she walks, not a full blown skip, but almost this youthful hyper glide. You imagine her feet to barely touch the spit covered sidewalk, and she reminds you of a ten year old girl who’s just come back from a field trip. It’s almost refreshing, until you remember what’s really happening. You remember, you have no bed to sleep in tonight, or enough money in your pockets for a hotel room. That you’ve left your home, as much as it was evil, and these streets are now your play/battle ground. The boys walking behind you, whispering in fast hushed tones, hustle, hustle hustle.
Red meets up with us a few minutes later, she’s come out to slum it. A break from her sheltered suburban life. I’m deeply aggravated with that, and only shake my head at her for even being here. Fine, tag along sweetheart.
I’ve been disconnected all day, and insultingly quiet. Finding relief in She’s banter. I’m totally aware that something messed up is going to go down tonight, and so are the boys. We’re all thinking, planning and processing. Often, taking a second, to look up at each other and give the stare of settled awareness. The unspoken, yep…this is it. You ready? look. Tyler and I did this all the time, barely ever really needing to ask or explain anything to each other. We had that weird twin thing, reading each others mannerisms and facial expressions. Two peas in a pod. Two sardines in a stinking can. Two master manipulators praying on She’s ignorance and trust. We should have been ashamed of ourselves, we should have made her go home. Instead we all decided to hit an all night diner and do a dine and dash. We planned to have a feast of our favorite meals and figure out the rest later. I had only done one other dine and dash in my life, but at this point who gave a shit. The diner looks like a 1950’s hamburger joint and is open twenty-four hours. It’s packed with late night bar hoppers and a mirage of other downtown hanger outs. The booth we sit in is cushioned with red vinyl and the table looks like something right out of Leave it to Beaver. Music plays loudly in the background as She looks over the menu like a kid in Disneyland. Ordering Milkshakes and desserts. I opt for a coffee and a light dinner, my stomach isn’t working with me tonight. All I can think about is, what comes next. After we bail on our bill, and the night turns to the early hours of the morning. I think about hours earlier, walking away from the Y for the last time. How the director told me, if I left with Tyler, I wouldn’t be aloud to return, under no circumstances. I tell her, it’s my only option, and she turns her back to me. I’m swirling my spoon in the coffee and staring into the creamy hot liquid. I hate myself. The others at our table, gorging themselves, laughing and acting like a bunch of dumb kids at dinner for a birthday party. Except Tyler. He’s staring at me from across the table. Nudging my foot with his. Watching me stare off into oblivion. He gives me the come sit next to me look, and I sigh, knowing some kinda filthy scheme is about to drop from his lips. He puts his arm around me, leans his forehead on mine, and out it comes. The black, dripping tar hanging from his mouth. The sentence that catapults the disturbing play of my immediate life…
I stop breathing.
Have you ever jacked someone?
I choke on it, closing my eyes, feeling the warmth of his forehead on mine.