Friday. 10.25.13 1:29 am
Dave(yes, OUR dave) showed me nothing but love from the moment we met that Friday evening, roughly six weeks into my Obama Campaign exile. I started that week living on a couch in Detroit, slept on a park bench in Pittsburgh Wednesday, and ended it in Midtown, Manhattan by Friday.
“What do you make of the city?” Dave asked a few days into my stay. From what I could tell, his life consisted of waking up every morning at 9, hopping on a handful of conference calls, maintaining excel sheets on one of his many laptops, walking around SoHo for a few hours, and ending it at a nightclub or bougie bar to find a tall, blonde woman to make a housewife out of.
“It’s a weird place, Dave. It seems like this city has a million different worlds in one – worlds that seemingly never interact while existing side-by-side.”
“What do you mean?”
“Take your doorman, for example.”
I don’t remember dude’s name, but I remember his voice. It was a real deep baritone, beautified by a real lush Nigerian accent. He was a gruff guy, and was mighty suspicious of me the first time we met. When I first arrived in Manhattan, Dave told me to wait for him inside his apartment and that if I had any trouble, just ask the doorman to let me in.
“Excuse me, sir, may I help you?” the doorman asked as I walked past him in the lobby
“Nah, I’m good.”
“Do you live here?” I’d like to feign indignation – and I reckon I probably am a bit that he’d ask me that question, but I did look a little suspect. Then again, you try to spend one night sleeping on a megabus and another on a park bench and still be pretty.
I waited in the lobby til Dave got back.
“You live here, in the Olivia, and you see him what, four, five times a week for months? What do you know about his life? His family, kids, all that shit?”
“I don’t really know him at all.”
“Yeah, that’s what I mean.. you two spend so much time side by side every day and neither of y’all know nothing about the other.”
“That is weird.”
“What do you think of that one?” He says to me with a nod toward a tall, blonde woman across the street from us.
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Chess and Checkers - Finish this one later too
Monday. 10.14.13 7:21 pm
Finish this later, Jonathan.
Thursday. 10.3.13 1:29 am
Thursday. 8.22.13 3:53 pm
“The best thing? I don’t even – hold up, wait, no, I got it—“ She paused to let the anticipation build. “The parties, man. We get it in, you know?” She turned from me and toward her friends beside her. One of them, a dude ironically wearing a Brooklyn Nets snapback, extended his hand, palm slighted, toward the sky for her to slap. “For real. What was the other question though?”
“The worst part. What’s the worst thing about Detroit?”
“The murders,” she said without a flinch. Again, she turned from me, but this time looked straight ahead.
Twenty or thirty people were out there with us, scattered around the parking lot of a mall. After spending a few days living in Chloe’s basement, I took a megabus from Pittsburgh to Detroit to stay with Rob, one of my closest friends. By this time, I’d spent time in Baltimore, D.C., Ohio, and Pennsylvania and had applied to jobs every at every stop with no luck. I reckoned I’d land a gig by the time I hit Detroit, but figured Rob would let me crash there for a week or two either way. Three days of feeling sorry for myself led me to get off his couch and check out his new city.
“ I know, shit, maybe two people this summer,” her friend said as she glanced in my direction.
“Why were they killed? And by who?”
“Wrong place, wrong time. You know how it go—“
“Fuck around with them fuck arounds, you fuck around and get smoked,” the third member of their group sang out suddenly, grinning. His antics seemed to annoy the two girls I was talking to before.
“It wasn’t even like that, Brandon, and you know that. And that song is stupid as fuck.”
“You know Lil Mouse got bangers. And it answered the man’s question,” he said with a nod toward my direction.
I studied the three of them as my bus pulled up. Brandon looked to be 19 or 20, darkskinned like me but a good three, four inches shorter. He had an arm wrapped around the second girl, and his lip pressed to her light skinned, freckled face while she smiled. The last member of their group, the woman I initially spoke to, looked the part of a college freshman – down to the pajamas in the daytime and a heavy backpack over her shoulder.
She had a bunch of water bottles in there though, not books. She offered me one to buy when I first sat down at the bus stop, spurring our initial conversations. As I stood up and walked toward the bus headed back uptown, I felt her gaze follow me.
I still feel it.
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Friday. 7.12.13 8:34 pm
Although the aroma hadn’t quite left my clothes, I missed that smelly bus I’d spent the prior night on shortly into my stay in Pittsburgh. The fifteen minutes I spent sneezing in the back of my friend’s ex-girlfriend’s car had something to do with that. James, her cat, sat in the front passenger seat.
“I swear – I’m going to kill that boy,” Chloe, Cordell’s ex-girlfriend, exclaimed as we climbed her front porch. “You know ‘Dell didn’t say nothing about you being allergic to cats,” she continued while simultaneously looking back at me with a smile and opening the front car door.
“Don’t worry about it, Chloe – I’m just grateful to get off a bus after seven hours.” After a week of sulking around both D.C. and Baltimore, I put $20 on a bus ticket to Pittsburgh. The plan was to somehow make it to California and find work until I could return to Harvard in January. I’d been applying to jobs all across the country, figuring that if I found something before I made it out to California – say in Chicago or Detroit, --I’d settle there. “Really though, thank you for letting me crash here for a few days. Just let me know if there’s--“
“Anything you can do?” She interrupts before flinging the unlocked front door to her home open. “First of all, help me take this shit,” she nods to a pile of road safety signs, “back to my car. It’ll save me an assload of time in the morning before work.”
“No problem,” I say while dropping the gym bag with half of my belongings on the ground. The other half was in a single suitcase in the trunk of her car. “I can move them for you. Just say when.”
She’s giving me a grin that would make Gaston himself proud. “Really though, I’ve got to be at the pet shop in about thirty minutes for the afternoon shift.”
She was restless. Her blue eyes told me so. I figure it was in those moments -- watching her wince as she bent down to grab a stray sign – that the guilt hit me. After a morning spent holding up various signs at a construction site, Chloe drove downtown to pick me up from the bus stop instead of taking her customary hour and a half nap between jobs. In the afternoon, she typically worked a second job at Petsmart.
“I got it,” I say as I reach for the stray sign in her hand.
“Thanks. The trunkdoor isn’t locked, so just go ‘head and place them in there.”
“You hungry, Jon? We got some food in the kitchen,” she says when I return. “You’re welcome to whatever you see up in the cupboards as long as you make me some.”
Trying to decide between the three different kinds of ramen noodles in her cupboard brought back a lot of childhood memories. I still remember watching my mom boil water to cook noodles that cost a quarter three, sometimes four times a week. Although she always had a way of making the best of our EBT-sponsored food seem normal, twenty years later I get queasy everytime I see ramen noodles.
Staring at those familiar beef and chicken caricatures on the front of the ramen packaging had me feeling a little funny. The anger I had for my mom for not supporting my decision to leave both Harvard and a relatively good gig on a Presidential campaign rapidly transformed into guilt. All this time I told myself that she just didn’t ‘get it.’ Standing in a kitchen with a pantry filled with noodles, boxed mac n’ cheese, canned creamed corn, I couldn’t help but feel that my indignation was misplaced.
Perhaps it was me that didn’t “get it.”
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Monday. 6.10.13 12:39 am
Although I used to spend a lot of time daydreaming about living as a vagrant like my heroes Kenshin and Jesus, it didn’t take long for that fantasy to lose luster. Something about the aroma of the megabus – a rancid mix of sweat and urine -- soured the whole vagabond life pretty quickly. On the plus side, I crossed paths with a number of folks who made a mighty big impact on me for one reason or another.
One of my favorites was a barber from Akron who traveled from Toledo to Cleveland every weekend to see his children.
“My daughter though.. she’s just crazy with all the computer shit. She do it better than I do, you know? I’m just,,” he claps his hands together before opening them, palms up, as if presenting a gift, “watching her go. She’s smart… just, real smart.” His words sagged as his sentence concluded, as though the gravity of his reality – of their reality – suffocated the syllables.
“That’s why I’m doing this every fucking week,” he says from the seat in front of me on the bus. He turns his head toward the window, watching the interstate roll on beneath us.
“Do you have her enrolled in pre-k?” I ask after a few moments of silence. Before he could answer, I started in on the importance of early education, drawing from the lessons learned in my Education Law class the prior year. “It goes a long way in ensuring kids get to college, you know? If we’re ever going to get there, I figure it’ll start with educating the next generation.”
“Her moms has that covered. She’s good with that, too. Wasn’t good with me but she’s a good mother to my babygirl for sure. That’s one thing I…” he kept on talking, but I was more concerned with my words than his.
Did I say “if we’re ever going to get there”?
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