Sitting with Ty
I was tired. What kind of tired? The kind of tired you get from 9 hours on your feet, smiling, picking up clothes from the sales floor hanging and re-hanging, checking prices, smiling and suppressing thoughts such as your “fat ass will never fit in those jeans let’s just save everybody the trouble and put them down. But no, I help the ladies find sizes that they once could wear. I can’t stop them from destroying their last particles of self esteem in the dressing room. There is a whole cosmetic, psycho-therapy, pharmaceutical, so-called organic conglomerate web that can’t exist without demolishing low self esteem. So into the dressing room with them with pants their hips would have bulged against at 19 and are beyond desperate at 32.
I’m sitting at the bus stop waiting for the 105. I got off at 9pm. Just late enough for the buses to come as frequently as a polio outbreak. I usually ride my bike the six miles from home, but my muscles and energy have been failing me. I’m having more close shave almost collisions with cars; my mind drifts, my eyes are heavy very dangerous when you’re riding a bike at night. So I let the bus do the driving, but there is the waiting. The waiting in the cold where red hot inflamed muscles are locked and frozen in the whipping wind- It aches. Your body locks up, your feet throb and ache. Like a baby’s scream, your body is talking to you. It’s just saying, rest me, feed me, take care of me, love me, take me out of this cold. But all you can do is all you can so I wait. We wait. I watch. We watch and the city is busy.
I’m on the corner of La Cienga and Beverly sandwiched by two massive shopping centers in the middle of the Christmas season. This sheik strip of Los Angeles is fed from trendy West Hollywood and the always obnoxious but seductive Beverly Hills- small cities that feed into the behemoth momma LA- I’m at an intersection of commerce and elegance. Upscale trendy hotels exude hip-hop bass beats welcoming their well dressed country club like partiers. I used to be one of them. I used to eat in the restaurants on restaurant row, go to the parties at the upscale clubs. My event calendar was full for many years. I have flashes of jealousy and the awareness of what it really was and what it really was not. I had known the flash and the emptiness. The pleasant pity party passes and I’m back in the moment on the bench waiting and knowing. Knowing no fantasy, no regret, no daydream, no anything will make the bus come any sooner and I have no energy to do anything but sit and wait. As 10 approaches the lights are in the distance. A ten minute bus ride will take me to the bus terminal where I will catch the 37 and arrive home. How tired am I? I feel myself doze as the bus approaches. The pain isn’t as sharp as it was, the narcotic I took an hour ago is just kicking in, taking the edge off my pain, but taking the last of my energy. With sleepy feet, I clumsily make my way up the bus steps and fall into a hard uncomfortable chair.
We hit bumper to bumper traffic 10:04. The streets are getting busier, it’s Saturday night. It’s the time to leave all your cares behind and party like a rock star tonight and try and forget your life as a peasant. It doesn’t matter what we have, we are all attached when we are attached. When we are attached we are peasants. A king doesn’t need a crown, he just is. I have those moments but mostly I am attached. I’m attached to an idea of peace I have yet to find as I drift in and out of my drug haze on the 105. The ten minute ride is going to take at least twenty five minutes. Did we pass the bus terminal? Where am I?
I explode out of my seat and fall into the pole by the bus driver bracing my movements ,catching myself.
“Do you go to the bus terminal?”
“We just passed it.” He answered exasperated. He took a second to take in what kind of stupid I was before ignoring me. I pulled the cord and the bus slowed to the next stop. I got off.
There was no activity, it was a quiet corner, boring and blank. It was not sheik. Dark, lonely, the kind of corner you see in a scary movie, but I was too tired to be scared. I sat on the hard bench in the quiet of the night listening to the sound of silence. I felt I was closer to that teasing peace I had been searching for, smelled, touched, tasted, felt, then lost- again and again and again… This stop was the complete opposite of the one I had left. Sure two miles to the East there is a bustling drug trade where shadows move through the night with regularity but it didn’t touch this spot. I was in an oasis of quiet an oasis of solitude. I could breathe and I did. Deep inhale, deep exhale. Will it ever make sense? Everything had gone to hell, but in this moment I’m near the peace almost at the place where maybe this makes some kind of sense and I can grab some faith from somewhere because it is running low to out. Then…
Then I hear footsteps and it’s all gone. I’m on alert! Ready! It looks like I haven’t moved a muscle but I’ve moved hundreds of them stealthily and silently. I take him in as he sits on the distal part of the bus bench and I simultaneously slide a few inches away giving as much space as possible between us. I take him in. He’s scruffy, he has shaved recently but not very well or with an old blade. Hard lines in the face tell the stories of street life. The scruffy Army sweater is an identification, medal, a sing song to better days. He’s about 5’10” 145lbs. He was White and was comfortable in a Black & Brown neighborhood that said a lot about his toughness right there. Probably about ten pounds underweight. He looks like Steinbeck character. A lean mean tough son of a bitch who you would rather not tangle with. He ain’t saying anything but I’ll know he’ll talk and I know I don’t want to listen. I was so close to my peace. But what can we do?
He takes ¾ of cigarette from his sock, the edge isn’t burned evenly. This works for relighting, no waste, four or five deep nicotine puffs. Get even. Get the edge off, let it go out and tuck it back in your sock. My right leg starts moving like a piston. Contrary to popular belief it’s not anxiety it’s anger. I’m pissed because I’m no longer drifting toward nirvana. I’ve been disturbed. I didn’t want to be here and when I’m making something of this space, this clown shows up. Any idea of peace is far from me now becaue I’m consumed in my don’t wants. I don’t want to be in this achy body. I don’t want to feel this drug haze. I don’t want to have blisters on my feet. I don’t want to live in faith. I want certainty. I want comfort. I want a virgin sitting on my right thigh and a stripper sitting on my left. I want Dharma to be a pretty black girl with a thin waist, a big butt, a healthy rack and a mother with obviously poor phonetic spelling skills. But my wants or my don’t wants really don’t matter because what I have is the now. Just that.
And in now with my leg pumping like a turbo charged piston- His cigarette cooling to be tucked in his sock again. I spoke-
“Think the bus is going to come anytime soon?”
“Oh that #37 is pretty regular. Yeah it will be here.”
I appreciated his optimism but I figured things would be much the way they were before. A long wait.
“You coming from work?” He asked a touch of country in his voice. He could’ve have been from the boonies are picked up the tone Whites pick up living in Black neighborhoods.
“Yeah…” I moan not wanting to think about.
“I wish I had a God Damn job!” he said.
“Yeah it’s tough.”
“Where you stay at?”
Damn, we’re getting personal; this was further than I wanted to go. Too early to get that intimate, he was violating ghetto etiquette. My jaw tightened. I could feel it tighten but I didn’t loosen it. Was he angling? I don’t want to tell this fool where I live, not even the cross streets but who really cares.
“West Adams. Ya know between Arlington and Crenshaw.
“I stay on West Blvd. I get my housing through the VA. So that’s all hooked up. But I need a job. Say man, you don’t have any spare change do you?”
I had change, but I had good change in my pocket, like 78 or 84 cents. That’s at least three quarters, you can always do a lot with quarters. Most likely, I had three more quarters at home so I gave him mine. Just like that pretty girl gave me that cigarette on my way to the bus stop when I got off. How she offered me a second one . She was kind, she was beautiful. Now I’m so glad he asked for change because it made me think of her and I hadn’t fully taken her in. The memory soothed me. 84 cents – let’s pass it on.
“Thanks Big Dawg. Name’s TY.
He extended his hand. A hand that I’m sure had scratched his balls, his hair, been in the thrash trying to find a bottle with a few squirts left in it. What can I do? What can we do? I shake it.
“I need a God Damn job, though! I got two strikes, ain’t nobody want to hire me.” He announced.
“That sucks.” I heard, I listened, I was present, I responded.
“Man don’t it. There’s a big ass sign at the Yoshinoa on Crenshaw and Adams, “Help Wanted”. I went in there and filled out the application. They see I have two strikes, then they tell me they ain’t got nothing for me. I told them I’d clean the floors and the shitter all day. I need a job.”
“Yeah it’s tough. I used to be squeaky.” I admitted. “Squeaky clean, but I got a misdemeanor. A DUI a bad night. Everything changes.”
“Shit, I got two of those. Second one went real bad. See I-“ Stop, pause. The drinks have been sipped, the appetizers have been served here comes the meal.
He stared straight into the darkness and spoke loudly “See- they locked me up because of it. The homeboys from West blvd. broke in my place beat up and boned my old lady.” He said it with musical detachment hiding the deep vessel of pain and powerlessness that pitted and prodded at his depths. That’s why he asked me where I lived. I understood. “Then I got picked up for spousal abuse spent 5 days in the county found out I had a warrant in Orange County because I never finished my DUI classes on the second one so I had to spend 15 days in there. I get out, they had stole all my stuff and turned my place into a dope house. People walking up and down the street with my shit on. I want to put hands on them, but there’s too many.”
It was all true, every last sentence, he was angling for trust. He was angling for connection. He was angling to make peace with something so horrid that it just rips you and rips you and when you think there is nothing left that can be torn, it begins ripping again.
I was his priest and he my parishioner there were no closets or veils just empty space. I saw it all when he described it to me. Images and sounds flooded my mind as he spoke. The noise of the door being bashed in would’ve have shocked her. That was her first scream. The first scream of an endless symphony of screams that will echo through her skull every moment of her mortal life. Then the bodies flooding in the room crowded, crawling, tearing at, shredding, on her, in her and she knows what they are going to do and she can’t do nothing about it. And when their dicks are empty, they beat her more and think of ways to continue to defile themselves through her. She is the canvas of their self-hate and they each hold a brush in each hand. Van Gogh Van Gogh Van Gogh Motherfucka!!!-
Declaring their shame by doing shameful acts until boredom and darkness drive them away! What can she do? Not a thing. She’s has been devoured and defiled and she will just have to take it and he will just have to take it. Because what can he do about it. What can we do about it?
His voice got louder, more emotional.
The emotional juice bubbling in the narrow troth where it sloshes back and forth but rarely spills.
Boys don’t cry, Men certainly don’t. “They blamed it on me, set me up for it, told the police I done it! Shit, I was hanging out in the liquor store parking lot when it happened. Took me up on fucking spousal abuse.”
He kept talking but everything else was background noise a way to come down from that peak. Stories of harassment from cops for his tattoos. Mild stuff, gentle stuff. Background stuff, dispersement. It made sense why he asked me where I stayed. I could be connected, but I was at least a half mile away and in this densely populated desert that can be a life away. I was safe to talk to. I was the peace. The bus came. We boarded. He said his good byes and nodded the slightest of thanks. I won’t see him again. That’s the way he wanted it. How tired am I- Ask Ty