|Steeple at St. Stephen's|
Someone harangued the store manager. A bald man, inky flames scaling up the back of his neck. Rainy fury pelted the parking lot. I paused under the awning. Maybe it'll let up in a bit.
A woman in a shabby jacket passed before me sobbing. Her face twisted in despair, she wailed to the weeping sky. "I can't believe he did that." She sagged against the bricks outside the door.
Inky Neck came out. I paused, ear buds halfway to the ears. Inky Neck and Shabby Jacket exchanged harsh words. They knew each other well. Something about a van. Something about a promise. "I told you back in Texas..." said Inky Neck. "You don't care, do ya?" Shabby Jacket shouted. The battle joined, she wept no longer.
Profanities flew as an elderly woman pushed a walker from car to Walgreens door. I wondered if we might have a problem on our hands. A fussilade of profanity from both parties, then they parted. Shabby Jacket fled in one direction, Inky Flames stomped, cursing in the other.
"How'd ya like listenin' to all that?" asked the elderly woman, rolling her eyes. I shrugged. "What're ya gonna do?"
The rain did not let up. Across the parking lot, Inky Neck shouted into a cell phone, his voice rose above the noise of the traffic.
"You got a light?" asked Shabby Jacket. I turned. She was older up close. Harder. I had a green Bic in my hoodie pocket. She saw me reach. "Let me get a smoke," she said. She pulled a cigarette from her jacket. A wrinkled, single. She held it to her lips. I spun the striker wheel and applied the flame. "It's been a day," she said, exasperated.
"They all are," I said. Meaningless, but it was all I could come up with. She frowned and turned away.
The rain hammered. F*ck it, I'm going.
Ear buds in. Neil Young Live at Massey Hall. Bend the head, hunch the shoulders, and don't stop for nothing. Past the county library. Cross Cesar Chavez and skirt the Fred Meyer parking lot. Straight down 38th for the crosswalk across Hawthorne outside Key Bank. Hoodie growing heavier by the minute.
Five paces from the crosswalk another weeping woman passed before me to stand uncertainly at the curb. Youthful and beautiful, she reminded me of the Irish girl I knew. Her hair was dark and she wore it short, like the Irish girl did. She stood in the rain without a hat or jacket. Tears coursed down her face. Her tiny mouth trembled at the corners. I passed her and entered the crosswalk. The traffic stopped and she followed me across. We parted ways at the south curb. She drifted away toward Pepinos. I was hellbent for home.