I saw him nearing the intersection, about half a block away, on foot. At first, I watched him pass my car, along the pavement: An ordinary man, like so many others.
His hair and beard were completely white (and I’ve always found it impossible not to trust white-haired people, for they seemed so much wiser than others). So, immediately, I thought of him not as much as handsome but somehow dignified; trust-worthy. Surely, I thought, he knew something I didn’t.
He wore a pair of well-ironed black slacks and a white dress shirt, unbuttoned at its collar. A pair of polished, laced-up shoes and a yellow manila envelope under his armpit: But of course! He had to be an important somebody!
Maybe he was someone’s tax accountant, I thought. Or, a divorce attorney walking over the final papers to a drained, tragic face of some recently single mother.
The fact that he was passing a gas station specifically for cop cars helped my fantasy, too. I had just noticed it the other day: What looked like a parking lot behind a film production building was filled with the killer whales of LAPD being served by a single, rusty gas pump. I didn’t know that the same people granting us our justice also had to pump their own gas. It made sense, of course; but my initial assumption that they were tended to, by someone else, made the idea of my world slightly better. Or, more just.
(That’s when I looked away: I was waiting for the traffic light to change. It hadn’t yet.)
I had just passed that one crowded intersection where every LA egomaniac insisted on wedging in the giant ass of his unnecessary Hummer, thinking that the yellow light would last forever — just for him! Instead, he would get stuck there, right in the middle of the mess, blocking the rest of us with an awkward tilt of his giant ass. Oftentimes, driven to the ends of our nerves by all the heat and strife already, we flip out, honk and scream at him, with lashing words and foaming saliva. Aha: Another day, in LA.
My own rage is so powerful, at times, it scares me:
What if I don’t manage to come back to the saner side again? What if I go way too far?
They had just erected a significant palace of yoga, precisely at that one intersection, where most of us are ready to lose our minds. (And those people granting us our justice: Why aren’t they granting it at that specific spot in the city?!)
On the other side of the street sits an ill-used parking lot, permanently fenced in by a giant net. Its neon orange sign reads “FENCES”. No shit! There is never enough parking in this city, and there is never enough space. Or, there is too much space — and not enough humanity.
But then, again, no one ever promised this city would all make any sense. No one ever promised for it — to be just.
And maybe, that is why it’s always so much harder to come back here, every time: Because we tread at the very end of our nerves, due to all the heat and strife, and some of us go way too far.
The white-haired man was walking slowly; and that was somewhat unusual, of course. But then again, he was nearing that one police station in Hollywood, where quite a few of my acquainted restless souls have spent a night or two, after losing their minds a little. Maybe he was someone’s DUI lawyer; or perhaps, he was delivering someone else’s bail. As he neared the pedestrian walkway, with the quickly expiring countdown on the other side, he began to squint his eyes: Eleven, ten, nine…
(And did I mention he was wearing glasses, with an elegant metallic rim? Yep: Definitely, an important somebody!)
“Ohhh… Ohhh, nooo!” he suddenly began to cry, quietly, almost under his breath. He wound up each word in a register unsuitable for a dignified, white-haired man, like him.
He stepped out onto the road and began to cross. Seven, six, five… He crossed right in front of my windshield.
“Ohhh, nooo!” He squinted again. “They took my car… Oh!”
I looked in the direction of his grief. The curbs in front of that one police station, in Hollywood, were completely empty. It was that time of the day when the rules demanded for us to give each other more space.
“They took my car…” The white-haired man continued, and in the way he stumbled onto the pavement at the end of his walkway, I thought he was way too close to collapsing on his feet: Way too close to his insanity — as he had gone way too far.
“I can’t take this — anymore…” he wept.
It separated inside of me and dropped — some dark feeling that comes from suspecting that nothing in the world had promised to be just. And that departure of my own hope scared me: What’s life — without hope?
Someone honked behind me: The light had changed, and I had to give them way. I had to give them enough space to pass into the lives that stressed them out ahead.