Cut through a small, well-kept pedestrian alley at the end of my route, where I am sitting to write this now. There’s a door in the middle of this alley and steps behind it that go down into some restaurant that isn’t open right now. For whatever reason, I’m imagining it as some sort of jazz club, the kind that might have existed in the 30’s. Did they have jazz out in the suburbs and small towns in the 30’s? I really hope so. I am still feeling waves of jittery energy from that hippy meth coffee and then the kombucha on top of that.
Right before I turned into this alley, an old man stopped in his tracks on the street to stare at me. Like, full stop, turned his head to follow me with his eyes as I made my way down the street. I stopped for a minute and held his stare without breaking eye contact or changing my facial expression. All the sudden, I felt like I was fifteen, turning heads at the mall. He eventually started walking again. I walked into the tanning salon to change out their posters. It smells heavily of what I imagine is chemical tanning lotion in there. The strange, orange colored women behind the counter are always very friendly. “Just change out whatever you need, hon.” My next stop was the pizza place that always smells faintly like rotting cooking oil, the kind Lizzie and I used to dumpster when we drove around the country in that fucked up diesel/veggie oil truck/money pit that I couldn’t even keep running for longer than six months. The contrast of smells from tanning salon to pizza shop is always nauseating. I feel a headache coming on. Too much coffee. Not enough water. Too much sweating the precious fluids in my body out in the sun. As I was walking over here I heard a woman yelling at two kids on BMX’s.
“If there’s a problem here, we can call the cops!” She said.
“No problem. You don’t need to call the cops” said a scared looking boy who couldn’t have been older than 12.
What is it with middle age that makes someone so cop-happy? Seeing that interaction reminded me of the time Mike Fleetwood and I were bored when we were 13 on a lonely small-town Saturday night and wandered into the Shrewsbury Family Restaurant – I think it has a different name now, but it was the closest thing to mom’s house where there might be other people. If I’m putting the time right, my father probably would have been dead for a month or two. I know it was still cold out. If I recall, we were lurking around behind the diner, just childishly wandering around. Somewhere back around the front, a woman came out and confronted us:
“What are you two doing?”
“Uh. Nothing.” I remember saying, with my eyes directed towards the frigid pavement.
“Well, I’m calling the cops!”
I remember thinking what a rapid and unnecessary escalation that exclamatory statement was, and that the last thing my mother needed to deal with was my being driven home in a police car. I turned and ran and Mike followed. We cut through yards and made our way back to my mother’s house, where we hid in my room probably watching movies or whatever for the rest of the night.
Two short years later, a different Saturday night and Adam and I were bored and maybe high on dirt weed or Ritalin. We walked to the diner in the cold and empty night, smoking cigarettes and talking. I had a mohawk and Adam had bright blue hair. We sat down at the counter and asked for a cup of coffee. The manager on duty told us no service. The place was dead. There weren’t even other customers to offend with our hair. We got up to leave and the server behind the bar told us to sit back down and she would get our coffee. She went back in the kitchen to get our coffee and we could hear voices raised, but never knew quite what they were saying. We drank our coffee and left, tipping as graciously as two broke fifteen-year old’s could.
It’s weird what you think about. I want to get home to my dog.