Creeper

This lady at work, she gave me a joint of weed to try, claimed she grew it herself, called it Purple Train Wreck. I saved it for the evening, planning to relax in my room, listen to music, read a book, practice the guitar. It burned real smooth, had a nice taste, but not much happening otherwise. Disappointed, I jumped in my jeep and headed for the bar.

Traffic was moving fast and furious, streets looked unfamiliar at night. The bar, when I finally found it, was noisy and crowded. People were giving me dirty looks. I started to cough, like I was coming down with something. I could feel it spreading throughout my body. I’m going to die, I thought. The immediacy of that possibility saturated my consciousness with anxieties. I needed a drink.

The bartender said he couldn’t serve me, said I was barred for starting a fight. You got the wrong guy, I told him, I don’t start fights. He said, look what you’re doing now, you’re starting an argument. No, I’m not starting an argument, I said, I’m just defending myself. He threatened to call the cops if I didn’t leave peacefully. I told him to kiss my ass. I didn’t realize the bouncer was standing behind me until he wrapped a beefy arm around neck, and said, we don’t kiss ass here, buddy. Then he grabbed me by the ass and threw me out the back door. I had to climb over a large pile of smelly garbage bags to get out of the narrow alleyway behind the bar.

When I reached the parking lot, I found several cars blocking my jeep but I certainly wasn’t going back inside the bar looking for help. I could either take a cab home or spend the evening on foot in the neighborhood waiting for the parking lot to clear. It was a warm night so I decided to walk down to the next bar just a few blocks away.

Streetlamps were dim and far apart. All the storefronts lining the narrow street were dark as far as I could see except for the occasional bar. The street itself had two lanes of busy traffic with a parking lane on each side filled to capacity. Yet I seemed to be the lone pedestrian on the sidewalk.

I had gone a block and a half when a man and a woman came running at me from out of the darkness of a storefront alcove. The man held an empty wine bottle in the air, and said: “I’m gonna bust your motherfucking head wide open.” And I thought, if he was going to do it, he would have done it, not tell me about it. I assumed he was bluffing. She screamed: “We want money.”

I would have given them money if they had asked me for it. I would have invited them to dinner and drinks at the bar. I found them attractive, somehow, I couldn’t say why. He looked like a taller, aging, emaciated Charles Manson without the swastika on his forehead and she looked like a strung out teenage runaway from a Hollywood casting call: too perfect. How did they get together, I wondered.

A police cruiser stopped in the street and flashed a bright spotlight in our direction. The couple departed as quickly as they had arrived.

“What are you doing out there?” a police officer demanded, his voice amplified and broadcast through a speaker mounted on top of the police cruiser alongside the flashing lights.

“What the fuck does it look like I’m doing?” I said: “I’m walking down the goddamned street. Why aren’t you chasing those muggers?”

“Get in the car,” the officer demanded: “Don’t make me come out there after you.”

They were holding up traffic. And, since I had done nothing for which I should fear being arrested, I climbed into the back seat. The doors locked with a loud thunk as the police cruiser began to slowly move up the street.

“Jesus! You’re reeking marijuana,” the officer in the driver’s seat said. The officer in the passenger seat turned, shinned his flashlight in my face, and said: “Don’t you know that’s against the law, sir? You look ripped. What have you been smoking?”

“Wait a minute,” I said: “I don’t get this. You’re letting those mugger get away but you’re hassling me for copping a buzz and walking down the street?”

“Don’t get smart with me,” the officer responded: “Nobody’s getting away with anything. We’re part of a dragnet operation in force tonight attempting to clean up this neighborhood. If you people would stop coming down here to cop your buzz, at the drug house and the whore house and the bar, and stop wandering the streets stoned out of your mind, that would make our job a whole lot easier.”

A voice deep inside my head told me to shut my mouth, these guys were just doing their job. I handed over my drivers license and showed several other pieces of ID from my wallet. As the officer entered my identification into their computer, a female dispatcher’s voice filled the cruiser’s interior with radio chatter. I had no idea what she was saying but the officers seemed concerned. After handing back my drivers license, the officer in the passenger seat, said: “We could hassle you, sir, if we wanted to, but we don’t. We’re not even going to search you this time. If there is a next time, we won’t be so forgiving. Go home. Stay out of trouble.” They dropped me where my jeep was parked. And then they hastily moved up the street through traffic with lights flashing and sirens wailing.

The parking lot had cleared. I jumped in my jeep, drove straight home, locked the door, sat in the dark, thinking: Why am I alive? Why here, alone in this old house, in this crumbling city? Where am I going in life? I’m too passive, too accepting, allowing things to just happen. I’m always looking backwards, trying to figure out what went wrong. I should be looking forward, getting ready for the future, with optimistic anticipation. When I closed my eyes, I felt myself floating weightlessly in a vast empty space. I saw a dim light on a far horizon coming closer, getting brighter. Then it hit me, like a train wreck.

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