It was getting late. The sun had set in the west, the sky was getting darker by the minute, and raindrops started to gradually fall on the windshield. I had another long shift ahead of me the next day that I wasn’t going to blow off, like I did today to break several minor laws with a stranger. Can’t say this is exactly I had envisioned spending my sick day but it was infinitely more interesting than if I had continued about my minimum-wage duties. But enough was enough for one day and I needed time to clean my car before the passenger seat was permanently stained.
As if he read my mind he said, “Alright, cool. You can take me back home now. I got everything I need right here.” He patted the suitcase delicately.
This guy has told me a lot about himself and he felt like an old confidante, so it took me a minute to realize why what he said was so odd.
“Umm… where exactly do you call ‘home’?” I asked consciously.
He chuckled softly. “There are few places around that I’ve settled in. Ain’t much but I call them home anyway. Head back up to High Street. It’s not too far from where we first met.”
I merged on to I-70 West to expedite the trip a little more. Along the way I stole glances at him and the enigmatic suitcase, that he was still stroking in a way that reminded me of Dr. Evil and Mr. Bigglesworth. He certainly talked a lot but nearly every dialogue exchange was initiated by me and it became increasingly obvious that he wasn’t going to tell me what was inside unless I asked. “Are you going to tell me what’s in that thing?”
He looked over at me but didn’t answer right away. “Let’s just say it’s a very valuable weapon I saved from the old days.” That wasn’t good enough for me.
“That’s it? All the stuff I’ve done for you today and that’s ALL you’re going to tell me? You wouldn’t have been able to get this if it weren’t for me! And JESUS CHRIST! A weapon?! What is it, a gun? A bomb? Oh my fucking god, it’s a bomb, isn’t it? ISN’T IT? Who are you working for? Are you terrorist? What act of terror did I just aid?!” I was screaming at the top of my lungs. Manic like a freak in the midst of a whacked out LSD binge.
He remained silent for a few more moments and then burst out in laughter, like he was watching an episode of Seinfeld. “You need to take several chill pills, man. Trust me, a terrorist would have far more resources than me and wouldn’t need to rely on a teenager in a beat up car to get the supplies-[“I’m not a teenager….” I grumbled]-for the job. And don’t be silly it’s not a bomb.”
“So, what is it?”
“Take a left at this light, then a right 3 streets down.”
In my flight of mania I went into a kind of autopilot, not realizing that I had driven as far as I had. We were back on High Street. I followed his instructions and it led us to a back alley, where I’m sure a drug deal or act of violence was taking place in the shadows just a few feet away, where the streetlights didn’t reach.
“It looks worse than it actually is. I’ve squatted in far worse streets in this city.” There were a few awkward moments when we were just staring at one another, each expecting the other to say something. “Well… see ya around.”
“Will I ever see you again?” I asked as he opened the door. He was the first person I’ve hung out with in quite some time and it seemed odd for him to just walk out of my life.
“What are you doing on the 8th?” he asked.
I pulled out my phone and looked at the calender. It was the upcoming Friday. “I work a short shift but I’ll be off around 1pm.”
“Come see me outside of the Mayor’s Office when you get off. I’ll be hard to miss.”
I reached in my backseat. “Here, take this umbrella. It’s starting to rain a little harder now.”
He flashed me a grateful smile, grabbed the suitcase with one hand and the umbrella with the other, closed the door, and walked into the alley. I watched until his outline disappeared into the darkness.