Who does That?
In the air conditioned glide, we sail through the streets of the city, dressed in our big-night-out-silks-and-starch. I turn around to smile at the kids and my sparkly earrings kiss my cheek and whisper to the curls of my hair. We are all divine, well-scrubbed, combed and scented, our conversation sun on the waves sparkling. Like an Audrey Hepburn gray rabbit evolving into the gazelle she always was, we pirouette out of laundry and toilets, grocery shopping and traffic, into a starry night of luxury, white cotton napkins, two forks, truffles and good wine. Released from the chains of the mundane, tonight, we dance!
Downtown we stop at a light. Evening is making itself known when we see the men on the curb out of the corners of our eyes. Snaky tattoos, veins of blue ink over blue veins pulsing. Gold teeth winking. Big swigging bottles, brown and green, clinking on the the cement. From behind the window glass, I imagine that I can smell their breath.
It’s a long light. The kids go quiet. The song on the radio is insipid, treacle. The men, maybe five of them, big and strong and sweaty, exchange glances. One breaks from the crowd. My eyes round, no corners now, like an anime Bambi, skinless grapes, the dot at the bottom of a question mark.
His hands look like meat. They swing loose at his sides. He has a long scar that runs from cheek to chin, and a triangle of three black dots tattooed on his temple. The trinity points are a gangster’s compass: hospital, prison or grave.
Certainly, he’s not coming towards us. He is, but he’s just crossing the street. We’re all smiling – can’t he see how friendly we are? The kids’ quiet is louder now.
He stops, directly in front of our purring car. He looks through the windshield, takes it all in.
I will my earrings to grow dull, my dress to burlap, my hair, newly blond, to un-bun and spring wildly from my skull, thick and black. Fierce. My sparrow muscles tense. Fight or flight. Or, maybe, scared little bird, I will only flap and flutter.
He puts his beer, a big ol’ 40, on the car, casually, looking me straight in the eye. His eye is flint. He stretches to his full height. He lifts his stomach, a massive gut, an over-inflated medicine ball, in both his brisket hands, rubbing it like it could spew the future, lifting it high like he’s bowling a strike, and then BAM!, crashes it down on the hood of the car, a wrecking ball, a meteor aiming for a colossal crater, tyrannosaurus thud that shudders the whole car, bouncing it up and down on it’s fine German suspension like a low rider in the alley. BAM!
I grab the dashboard. Alex falls off the slippery leather in the back seat and Isabelle’s car seat tips precariously. I hear Daniel’s heart beating fast and loud. The man’s eyes are still locked on mine.
Silence. We are stunned, shocked, astonished, trapped in a snow-globe shaken blur of disbelief.
And then, like beer bottles thrown against a graffiti-tagged wall, the men explode in laughter, firecrackers of laughter, all Fat Albert and the gang AH-HAHAHAHA, all Mushmouth “You-buh should-buh seen-buh look-buh on-buh, yo’- buh face –buh!”, HI- larious with a capital HI, back-slappin’, knee-shakin, 40-tippin’, high fivin’, end-zone dancin’ laughter all around, and the big man grinning ear-to-ear-like a watermelon fresh split at a picnic.
What else was there to do? With a slow roll of steady claps, I began a wave of applause that grew into a tsunami. Alex climbed back up on the seat and shouted, “Awesome! That was so awesome!” Isabelle decided not to cry and soon her xylophone angel baby tinkle of a laugh joined the hoots and gravelly guffaws of the guys on the corner. Daniel pressed the button that unzipped the windows and said, “Respect, Big Man! That is one powerful gut!” The man took a low bow, as low as his enormous belly allowed, and removed his stomach from the hood. I looked to see if it was dented, and we shouted, “Bravo! Bravo!” as we merged into traffic on our way to hors d’oeuvres, champagne and chandeliers.
Hey! Thank you so much for your comments! I’ve been hesitant to show this kind of writing, so I appreciate your feedback – especially when it’s positive!