The car returned to a constrained quiet that only tales of administrative abuses of power can bring forth. I was simultaneously intrigued & terrified of the man sitting in my passenger seat. He looked and sounded like a half-mad cross between a hyena and a hermit, a thing best left alone as long as possible to do whatever the hell it wants.
Yet I felt for him. Here’s someone who was bent over and fucked sideways by the powers that be, lost everything and everyone that was important to him, and just seemed happy someone else was listening-I’m probably the first person that’s noticed him and didn’t recoil in disgust in ages.
We drove and drove, with him pointing out the directions and chain smoking my cigarettes and wordlessly gazing out the window. “Man, it’s been a long time since I’ve been out this way,” he said suddenly as we passed a mall. “What the fuck is a Forever 21 and why would anyone want to stay that age?” I could only laugh.
Finally we arrived in a rather upscale neighborhood. Houses bigger than every residence I had ever lived in combined, animated green manicured lawns decorated with miniature marble statues, and brand new sports cars ostentatiously displayed in every driveway. I felt very selfconcious with my beatup old Ford Taurus with several easily noticeable dents on the doors and bumper and a Geico caveman for a passenger. We could not have looked anymore out of place.
“STOP THE CAR!”
I stomped on the brakes and he jumped out and raced up a driveway and into an open garage. He rummaged around for a few seconds and ran back into the car holding a shovel, which he tossed into the backseat. “Ok now, drive up a few more houses and park by the curb.” I did.
“I’ll just be a few minutes.” He grabbed the shovel and got out of the car again. I couldn’t help but notice his body left a sooty outline on the cloth seat. He walked up to another house, through the neatly trimmed lawn, with the shovel flung over his shoulder.
I watched as he walked from window to window peering inside with a hand above his brow. I thought about driving away. I kept having horrible visions of him breaking inside and committing unspeakable acts with that shovel. Or a police car driving up to this hard to explain situation, called by a concerned octogenarian neighbor witnessing this from their window- or whomever he stole the shovel from.
He worked his way behind the house and out of my view. The outcome was uncertain and my vibes were beginning to shift unfavorably. This man didn’t seem the violent type, per se. Just someone fed up with nothing left to lose, but that in itself can be a pretty hairy way of thinking. A person like that can be a ticking bomb just waiting to go off at any moment, consequences be damned. It really just depends on what they devote their time & energy to.
10 minutes had gone by. I lit the last cigarette in my pack when he appeared again at the corner of the house. I could barely make him out past the oak tree and chokeberry bushes in the lawn but he seemed to be brushing himself off and peering into another window.
Come on man. I pleaded under my breath, silently willing him to get his ass back over here. I looked around quickly and didn’t see anyone else on the street but I saw a curtain move in the upper level of the neighboring house he just did godknowswhat to. Someone saw us and was getting suspicious and it would only be a matter of time before the police would be here. Or it was an air conditioning vent blowing upwards on the curtain. Either way, it was time to go.
I revved my engine a few times. He must have gotten the hint and hastily walked back to the car. A fresh layer of brown dirt was caked on his shoes and up his pants leg. The shovel was gone, replaced with a dusty black suitcase.
“What was that about? You didn’t just murder someone and bury them in the backyard, did you?” I asked as he climbed back in his seat.
“No way, hombre”, He laughed my question off as he put his seat belt on and rested the briefcase between his legs. “That’s my old place… Whoever owns that place now has terrible taste.”