This ‘story’ is not fiction. It really happened. All the characters are real and, although edited, they are pretty much just like they are presented here. “Truth is stranger than fiction”. Sometimes.
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Dateline: September 27, 2013
So I take Glenn, the down-and-out, former-six-figure-marketing guy who sleeps on our couch, drop him at the Big Tex liquor store on Walnut. He says it’s alright to just drop him at the Starbucks at Webb and Forest where I usually hang out, but I’m feeling good so I take him all the way t0 the liquor store. Keep in mind I’m the ex-Fundamentalist, ex- tee-totaling Pastor, and I know he will be buzzing in 15 minutes on a pint of three dollar vodka and I don’t like that. Enabling? Yes. Change his mind if I stop? No. It’s out in the open, he’s an alcoholic and I’m an enabler. No secret, we both admit it, not much shame on either side. I love the guy and know he has far deeper issues than the simple alcoholism he uses to cope. We got issues, both of us. I love the guy and he loves me, although he can’t admit it. Nothing physical, mind you. It’s not like that between us. And besides, we got too much good theology, too much bad pride and way too much illegitimate shame already going on for anything more. He says I think too much, I say he drinks too much and runs too fast. I don’t say that out loud to him, not any more. Our two fist fights settled that. But that’s another story.
So I drop him at Big Tex’s Liquor Store on Walnut and as I’m wheeling around in the parking lot I see fluffy dark gray clouds rolling in from the west.
So I roll down my window and yell “HEY!”
He looks over and I point a finger up at the sky and I yell, “Stay Dry!”
It takes him a second to get that I mean weather, not alcohol. When he gets it, he grins and says, “I’ll call if I need a ride.”
See, that’s what I’m talkin’ about. Love.
I grin back and hit the gas hard enough to squeal the tires as I whip my 13 year old Kia around the parking lot and go to pull out. Unfortunately there is a minivan just changing lanes into the one I want and I have to slam on the brakes to avoid hurting somebody. So much for the macho exit.
I make it to Starbucks without further incident. I walk in with my netbook in one hand, and two paperback self-help books and a spiral bound notebook in the other, all of which I will probably not even open but—just in case. I see one of the two actually comfortable chairs open and drop my stuff on it and head for the counter.
Tim the Manager is on the register, and because I’m a regular he finishes what he’s doing, including a run into the back for more tea bags, instead of hustle for my business. Thanks. Not exactly a reason for me to frequent your store. But his store is almost walking distance to the house, so yeah, I’ll be back. And as far as he’s concerned, I’m here too much and buy too little anyhow. Whatever.
Tim is pretty much a jerk to pretty much everyone, anyhow, so what am I expecting? OK, well, he doesn’t realize that he comes OFF as a jerk to everyone. There. Give him some room to be himself, the asshole!. But today the Asshole is a surprise. They are pushing a new brew and he gives me a French-pressed, for-here cup of it for free. I like that. He goes to the next customer. But I actually wanted to buy food too, so we have to do that “oh-I’m-so-sorry-didn’t-mean-to” crap-dance and get a slice of banana bread ordered.
Then I have to answer, did I want it on a plate or in a bag. Whatever is easy.
Then heated or not heated, and by then I’m ready to say never-the-fuck mind, I’m not really hungry! I hate the ‘after list’ of options.
So I get the coffee in the for-here cup and the banana bread in a bag, cold, and head for my seat. My chair is one of two dark brown leather club chairs stuck in a corner with three outlets and two tiny side tables, out of view of the cash register and baristas. Nobody has any idea you are still in the store unless they lean way out and deliberately look. Nice. I settle in, get the netbook plugged in, the books tucked beside me in the chair out of the way and commence to write.
I have three hours to JUST WRITE NO INTERNET (that’s the deal I set for today for me: time for some self-dicipline!) The net book is on for music only. I get three paragraphs done and who should stroll up to my comfy little hide-y-hole, but my daughter. She and her mother have stopped by after doctor appointments for a cup of motivation, before moving on to Estate Sales. Today being Friday, the sales are in full swing and the selections are at their peak. So they hang around, wife plugs phone to charge while she drinks her Americano. She and I are very much on the outs. We don’t greet or meet eyes or expectations. Ever. Divorce has been mentioned several times and finally I’m ready to accept it as a fine resolution to 35 years of co-dependency, enmeshment and enabling. Yeah, I’ve done some reading. Done some ‘work’ on my shit too. But hat’s another story.
So I talk to the daughter about I don’t remember what, but it was fun. Twenty minutes later, the two of them finally take off—they get a hot line on another estate sale at one of the Golf Course homes. I get a few minutes to write. That turns out to be, oh, about ten minutes and then who should come into the store with her two kids, but the Tarot Card Reader. I kid you not.
This is a good looking Hispanic bleach blonde, about five foot five, nice tight body, does Zumba all the time so she says. Whatever that means. Married, she says, to a flake, and then waits for some kind of answer from me. I know better than to answer that. Hell, I qualify for “flake”. And she complains. Pretty much that’s her M.O.: Complain, Zumba and Starbucks.
Today she doesn’t even say hi, just looks over at me, sees my eyes meet hers and begins. The plumber still hasn’t fixed the sink and shower at her office. She goes on about how she’s willing to pay but nobody will show. I told her one time that I was a plumber’s helper and I can do some. Of course she then wants me to come be her plumber. Right. And what else? You’re scaring me lady.
In case I forgot to tell you, the first time she and I ever talked, she was all proud of what she does, had that bragging tone of voice going on. Then she asks me,”So what do you do for a living?” I says, “I’m a Baptist Pastor.” As her jaw hits the floor and bounces once, I correct myself, “actually an Ex-Pastor.” She recovers enough to pick up her pride and the conversation. I don’t say anything about the difference between us but she does. Starts in on the story of her life, how God saves her from dying from a heart condition that was killing her and all. I let her talk. She’s not a bad woman, probably trying to make a living with a deadbeat husband at home and two kids to raise. What’s wrong with that?
Today, she says the plumber actually did come by, but it was last night and only for two hours. And, she says, what is that all about? Two hours?! What can he do in two hours? I offer again to come by in the morning and take a look at it, knowing she doesn’t really trust me to do the work. Which is all she wanted me to say, as far as I can tell: give her the attention and the offer. She says, “We’ll see.” Good answer, Babe!
So that was the day, pretty much. Oh, and then the last one. There’s this lady. And I use the term loosely. Very loosely. She’s Huge. As in really Huge, like way over 300 pounds. Has the wheelchair thing hanging from the rear view mirror of her minivan, parks crooked in the special spot, walks in with a cane. I’m good with all that but she is starving for attention and not even a little bit shy to grab yours off your plate.
She hobbles in just then and lays her beady eyes on the leather chairs. But me and another guy are occupying them, and not looking like we care. Well, one of them is hers, do we not know? So she picks the table nearest to us, which is quite near. One of the small square ones, a two-seater. She pulls a chair out at a 45 degree angle and proceeds to lower herself carefully onto it, hanging dangerously of the edges. I feel a twinge of sympathy for about three second. Because then—swear to God!— she takes hold of the table and turns it so that her, her chair and the table are now facing directly at me and the only thing between me and her is the table and about six feet of contempt. Gee, lady. Want something? I got my ear buds in and I won’t meet her eyes. This isn’t the first time I have ignored her and her attitude says she is not gonna lose this time. Sure, Toots.
I just kind of stare off into space like I’m seriously listening to something. The Mozart on the earbuds was over a long time ago but no way am I taking the buds out: she WILL start a conversation if I move my hands that far. She has the right. Yeah. Right.
So she gets it, that I’m ignoring her demands and so is the other guy, and that won’t do. So, instead of asking politely or even actually speaking to me verbally, she does the passive-aggressive thing. She makes comments to two or three people who come near where she has herself parked. The cream and sugar station is right behind her. What people do there is none of her business, and she had nothing interesting to say to the people who come by. But for her? That’s no problem! She begins a conversation with you, establishes a connection and then sucks the life out of you until you leave or she loses interest.
So, what to do to get the squatter (that would be me) out of her chair? Her next move is classic: hold her smart phone up to her eye level and play a game with an annoying sound turned up loud enough for the whole store to hear. And every now and then glance over the top of the phone at me. Nice move, Toots, but it ain’t working for this Yankee bastard. This goes on for about ten minutes. I put some Mozart in my ear buds, help drown out the unrelenting ping and pong of the game.
By now, I’m ready to say something to her all right and it ain’t gonna be pretty, but just then my phone buzzes in my pants pocket. I realize I haven’t been paying it any attention and I pull it out.
I moved. Her phone comes down. She’s interested. Her beady black eyes are locked on my hands.
I look at the phone: Glenn has called twice, left a voicemail once and now is texting for a second time. Wants to cook on the grill tonight and he’s walking home with groceries. Crap!
It’s like 90-something out, he’s walked four miles already and he’s mad I’m not picking up him or the calls. Well, dammit! I don’t always pickup! It’s my damn phone and I don’t have to! But I call him. Bad idea: texting is free on his phone and calls cost. So now, first I don’t pick up AND then, on top of that I burn his minutes. He answers, and he is really irritated, but yes a ride would have been nice but now he’s almost to the house so never mind. I tell him I’ll be there in five. He says no. I say yes. He says whatever. I say five and hang up.
As I pack up, the beady eyes are following my hand movements like the cat does a can of tuna at the kitchen counter. As I begin to get up out of the leather chair, she is off oer chair and waiting. Finally the squatter leaves! I bite my tongue. All yours bitch.
G’bye, Starbucks. See you tomorrow.
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Before you go, would you do me the honor? I’d like to be able to stay in touch. I don’t sell or share emails and I don’t have time to spam you myself. You can expect one email a month. Thanks.