Segment 4: When a Third World Came West

I’ve always liked meeting new strangers, just like I enjoy ordering something I’ve never had before off a menu, in a language for which I can’t understand…cause it’s a surprise.  When I looked back I was wondering if other people were like this too..if they were  casual about walking up and making small talk with people that they didn’t know, or if they were curious about someone who had an accent, who smelled and looked from far away.  But a lot of friends turned me down when I brought this up, I think maybe, because they were worried about me or maybe they didn’t want to get into the same rut as I was in.

There was a man with one leg propped up against the mortar of a brick wall, stained with coca cola, gum, gum wrappers and the writing ‘SJ Sand’ that was fading away in black spray paint.  I looked at him because he was looking at me and I didn’t know it then, but I needed glasses.  He could have been someone I knew from high school, mad that I didn’t recognize him or friendly, decent enough to stop and say hello.  He was smiling; I was watching my way in and out of traffic, keeping an eye on the red hand of the signal at the other side of the road, and at the same time listening to a beat up yellow VW honk and then stop next to a motorcycle who crossed the pedestrian red cross line.  The white stick figure blinked three times on the walk signal so I hurried across, seeing how much traffic was across the street since I needed to cross it again to my different bank.  I saw the guy still leaning, smiling at two girls with brown curly hair who passed him and who could be mistaken for either Latino twenty-year olds or promiscuous Jewish twenty-year olds.  He said something to them and when he opened his mouth you could see that the gap between his two front teeth were an upside down V.  The ATM was across the street and I walked past him looking for oncoming cars to the left and right, crossed it and went up to the ATM and thought about withdrawing more than twenty dollars.  I had a feeling I was gonna keep needing to find my luck and that I was going to need maybe thirty to get a chance at talking to the guy with the curly hair who had made me feel lucky the first time. It had been forty minutes and I hadn’t felt a thing and the more drunk Robbie got the more set in his ways he would become and the less likely he’d be likely to let me share the stuff that he’d been making, when we got back to his kitchen.    I walked past a line of people waiting behind me to get money out, crossed back over to the same corner by the bank and turned, ignoring the guy that had smiled at the two curly haired girls and who smoking now, in a blue and white cotton lookingCaribbeandress shirt.  But I heard someone say “Hey….” A big muscled with a white button down business shirt said thank you to the man in front of him and walked up to the ATM to get money out.  I turned around to see  if the ‘hey’ was for me, and it was from the same guy with the V gap in his smile, in between his two front teeth.  He had walked up to the corner to where the ATM was, ignoring three couples that were out together, who walked passed him and who were talking and carrying Styrofoam left-over’s in white plastic restaurant carry-out bags.  He had a shy smile.  I waved and said hi under my breath so that just I could hear it.  He stood still, waiting, as if he were gonna ask me to get him some change from out of the ATM.  I walked up when it was my turn and got out double what I needed and guarded the screen with my brown purse clasp, looking behind to check that they guy was more than a couple feet away.  I looked to the road in front and saw that all of the traffic had gone and when I got my cash, collected my card, I turned to the guy and told him I hoped he’d have a good night.  He stepped down from the curb, following me somewhat while I crossed to get back to the side where the Bank of America building was again, so I could cross and hurry back to Robbie at the bar.

“Heya, wait…wait up…”


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