Last night I walked home from Ultimate. I had a ride lined up but it fell through. Everyone wanted to go to a crappy mass-market local-origin Mexican restaurant. I wouldn’t eat there unless you were buying, and then I’d only do it for the beers. People get fooled by a fancy paint job and crowds. In the age of logoed t-shirts and $200 sneakers, popular means quality, even when it doesn’t.
At least the restaurant sold beer. The better mom-and-pops are closed before the dinner rush, except for the slop houses that are open twenty-four hours. But they don’t sell beer.
I got a ride to the restaurant and hoofed it from there without going in. I stopped at a gas station and got a red beer in a brown paper bag. I figured I looked like a hobo with my duffle bag, so I was extra polite to the lady behind the counter. I started walking home, down the dark side streets to avoid any buzz killing interaction with the local constabulary. I didn’t want to test the theory that the paper bag would protect me. I straightened out my cowboy hat, so I didn’t look like a joker. Usually I look like a joker.
A retrograde cholo paced the street at a particularly dark intersection. He wore a wife-beater, knee length shorts and knee-high white socks. His hair was short enough to show the scars on his head. He shuffled over to a pickup truck as I approached. I walked past him and stopped, and looked back, and drained the rest of my beer. I left the can by the curb and threw the empty bag into a dumpster.
I cut over to Yandell, to the bus route, lugging my duffle bag. I stepped into the street so I wouldn’t scare some women and children dawdling on the sidewalk. I stepped into the street and looked back at every bus stop, looking for the bus, the lettered band above the headlights. Finally, at the stop at Cotton, I saw the bus. Two of them, actually, one trailing the other like a mating pair. The doors whooshed open and I dropped six quarters into the change dump.
The courtesy lights were out. The only other passenger sat near the front. He was talking to the driver about the new bus station in the Northeast.
“I hear they’re going to have apartments there,” he said.
“Offices, too,” I volunteered. I’d read the RFQ. “It’s supposed to be Smart Code.”
“Like over there on Mesa?” the passenger asked. He was wearing a security guard uniform. “My cousin says it’s like a city over there. There’s bars and restaurants. You never have to get in your car and find a parking place.”
“Yeah,” I said. “Like that.”
We pulled up to a bus stop in front of a clinic, but the family waiting there wasn’t waiting for the bus. They waved a little and walked away. The bus grated and groaned and pulled away from the curb.
I got off at the park, and walked to the corner store. I bought a forty of Colt 45. At home I drank red beers, and ate pesto pasta, and let the action ebb from my body till I could sleep.