The Unwanted Passenger

Was looking through an old entry I made before I started blogging and thought I’d add it. This was after my brother’s suicide when I was following his instructions to dispose of his belongings. This was a couple of months before the Year of Sean was slated to kickoff (pre-Uber driving too).

April 2017

So I’m down a little bit west of the Biltmore area in Phoenix where upscale and scruffy begin to intermingle. I’m supposed to meet my brother’s friend from his workplace so I can give her a chair from his dining set. She had already picked up the rest of the set a couple of weeks ago, but I overlooked one chair in the garage.

I park by Pier 1 and get out and stand next to my car so she can spot me. Bad move. Lots of attractive, well-to-do women are going in and out of the store — they’re not the problem. The sketchiest looking character within a mile radius is the problem. Because he’s shouting out “Bro! Bro! Hey, bro!” across the parking lot and I’m pretty sure he means me. Yep, he has locked onto me like a grubby, heat-seeking missile, heading over my way. I watch him out of the corner of my eye, pretending to be engrossed in my phone. Nope, my lack of acknowledgment is an ineffective countermeasure and he’s closing fast. Shit.

He looks like a product of hard living, a well-muscled and bronzed white guy with inscrutable eyes. Weathered, his age range is hard to pin down, though I feel he might be in his 30s. He sports a goatee and wears a wife-beater and do-rag and he carries a camouflage backpack. He’s standing uncomfortably close so I can no longer ignore him. A strong smell of old sweat wafts around me. According to him, he’s been on his feet all day and doesn’t feel like walking anymore.

“Dude, give me a ride to Walmart — or Target. Either works.”

Direct demands with an assumption of compliance — the sneaky bastard knows my weakness.

Nervous, I tell him I’m not heading that way. He wasn’t looking exactly friendly to begin with and now his steely gaze gets even steelier as he stares and then says:

“Come on, man. I’ll give you gas money.”

I fight the urge to make a crack that I’m not an Uber driver. I learned the hard way back in junior high that the quick comeback, while a verbal winner, often comes with a steep price, and this guy’s revenge move doesn’t look like it would be a wedgie.

He stares me down for a few seconds, silently trying to impose his will on me and crumple my tinfoil spine. But then I remind myself that this is how the Crips got me. Apologetically, I tell him no again, that I’m waiting for people, and I just got here. Inside I’m thinking ‘Please go away and don’t hit me.’ Despite projecting an aggrieved air, he doesn’t punch me, but I can tell as he walks off that I am yet another person who has done him wrong in his life.

The friend is running late. An equally scary-looking dude walks out of Jersey Mike’s and kind of stares at me as he saunters by. It could be my hyper-vigilance at work, but it feels almost like he’s mad dogging me, so I glance away. Man, what is going on? To these predatory-looking dudes, I must look like a fatass Wildebeest just standing on the Serengeti with a big Eat Me sign on my back.

Finally, my brother’s friend shows up. I put the chair in her vehicle, we hug, and I’m on my way back to my side of town. Phew.

Photo courtesy of photographer extraordinaire, Alex Szymanek (all rights reserved by him). 

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