Chandler, Arizona, United States
There's an old saying. If you don't want someone to join a crowd, you ask them, "If everyone were jumping off of a cliff, would you?" Well, I have. So my answer would be "Yes". True story.
Profile continued . . .
The Drunken Native American Who Started Following Me Home
with love from CRS @ 10:13 AM
this entry brought to you by nirvana, "radio friendly unit shifter"
I had to walk a mile and a quarter to a store and back. It was 7 o'clock on a Sunday morning, and although my feet hurt-- they always hurt nowadays-- it was a walk I was actually somewhat looking forward to. My cell phone has a QWERTY keyboard, and I'd long known I could type huge amounts on it without looking, and while typing on the computer was obviously preferable, I'd recently decided to give writing on long walks and on break at work a try, since I'd had Google Drive installed on my phone. It's something I discovered I love doing. In fact, there was a recent set of multiple entries that spanned thousands of words that was written entirely on the phone, although edited on a PC.
So I didn't mind the trek, and was somewhat lost in my world and still far off in thought when I slid my phone into my pocket to walk into the store as a sketchy looking character almost ran into me. He was laughing loud and drunkenly at the woman who worked there, and when he nearly ran into me his laugh stopped and his expression changed to a mean mug, as he nearly stumbled. "Excuse me," I said loud enough to make sure he could hear me, so he wouldn't see me as being rude. He stumbled out the door and the lady who worked there shook her head annoyedly.
"Having a bad morning?" I asked sympathetically.
"It was actually a really good morning until he came in here," she said.
I did my business and walked outside, expecting the guy to be long gone, but instead I saw him at the bus stop. I eyed him, knowing something bad was going to happen and sure enough, he got up and approached the wimpiest looking man I'd ever seen, who was out walking his dog with his son. I heard him say something to the man, a question, but the man shook his head "I don't know" in the most dumb, deer-in-the-headlights look possible, his son, no older than 8, peering through his glasses with the most brave yet clearly terrified look on his face, the way an 8 year old looks when his parents are fighting in public when they have never fought in public before.
Confused, the drunk looked over at me, and I thought, well, here we fucking go and took a deep breath as he approached me.
"Hey man," he asked, "where the fuck am I? Can you tell me?"
Now I got a good look at him. He was native American, roughly thirty, covered in tattoos, short cropped hair, and a scraggly mustache with soul patch on his chin. But the most prominent feature of this guy were the multiple stab scars, years old, dug into his face. There were at least four, and one mark on his jaw that was so spectacular I wasn't sure if it wasn't a bullet wound. He was lucid and awake, but still clearly drunk, alert like a man who had gotten black out drunk the previous night, had just woken up from his stupor, but hadn't entirely sobered from the previous night's events. His body language was exaggerated, lurching, and cartoonish. His clothes were from a construction company and on backwards, and I imagined he set directly from work out partying.
"You're at Germann and Arizona," I said, indicating the street sign above us.
He looked confused. "Where the fuck is that? Where the fuck am I?"
"Chandler," I said, finally getting what he meant.
His face screwed up. He lowered his shirt past his neck while lifting up a sleeve with his other arm, flashing what looked like gang symbols. "I'm from Phoenix," he said, and initially I took this as a threat but the smile on his face indicated no harm. He was wearing very loose clothing and pants that sagged past his boxered ass, so I had no idea whether he was carrying any weapons. I watched his hands.
"How the fuck do I get back home?" he asked.
"Well," I said, pointing. "The bus stop is right there."
He ignored me. "How the fuck do I get to Phoenix from Chandler?" he asked.
"That direction," I said, pointing down the road. The light at the corner of the road changed and the crosswalk lit up to "Walk", and I said "Just take that bus and it'll drop you at a depot in Mesa, and there will be a bus that takes you to Phoenix."
This has been a logical stop in conversation, but I somehow knew it wasn't the end of it. I crossed the street, and he crossed with me, ignoring my advice. Oh, god, I thought. Please don't. No.
But he followed me. "Man, I got craaaazy drunk last night, I don't know what happened. It was a fucking rager. You know what I mean? I just got out of lock up. 10 years. Where you work?"
I considered lying, but I was wearing a shirt that plainly said "Fry's", which is rare. I almost never wear work clothes, and the only reason why I was now was because apparently upper management was insisting we wear this particular shirt for three months; I don't believe I wore the shirt again.
"Fry's," I replied.
"I work construction," he said. "I got out of lock up and I got this job the next day. I got fucking lucky. Man. I'm not going to make it to work today. What time is it?"
"It's 730," I said, and then, indicating the bus stop which was now behind us and getting further away. "You're going to miss the bus, it'll be here soon."
"How the fuck am I going to get to Phoenix by 830?" he asked.
"Well," I said, helpfully. "You could take the bus. It just might get you there on time."
Again he ignored me. "Man, I'm going to get fucking fired," he said. "I got this job, my sister took me in, and here I go, I fucked up, my sister is going to fucking kick my ass out of the house." He pantomimed a high kick. "She'll say 'Kenny you dumb piece a shit! You got drunk and got fired! Get the fuck out of my house!'"
He laughed uproariously, which turned into a piteous laugh. "I fucked up. Hey bro. Did I fuck up?"
"Yeah man, I think you did," I said.
"Yeah, I think I did. I'm a fuck up," he said, laughing piteously. He grasped at the back of his head. "Fuck, man, I got stabbed in the back of the head."
He did not, in fact, get stabbed in the back of the head. I could see it. There was some grass on his head so clearly he bumped it while drunk. I considered telling him, but then thought against it. I didn't want him regaling me with the stories of the actual stab marks that were clearly scarring his face.
"What you listening to?" He asked. Shit, now he was asking personal questions of me.
I looked over and saw that in less than 30 seconds we would be directly across from a random complex and desperately did not want him walking with me all the way home.
"Indie rock," I said, answering his question.
"Indie rock?" His face was screwed up exaggeratedly.
"Yeah. Bands like The Dodos and Glasser," I said, naming the first bands that came to mind I was positive he had never heard of, biding my time for an exit.
"The Dodos?" he asked, laughing.
"Yeah, they're great, you should listen to them. Hey man," I said, "that's my apartment complex, I gotta go home now."
He turned to me and smiled. "Thanks bro, good looking out," and he offered me a fist bump. His hands were gnarled. This was a man who clearly had been in many a fist fight.
I fist bumped him. "Good luck with your job," and I split, moving quickly across the road. The apartment complex I was ducking into has gated and I hoped there was no security guard working this late in the morning as I slipped in. I looked behind me over the fence to see if he had drunkenly followed, and was happy to learn that he had not. I sat down on a curb and ate a doughnut I had bought, hoping no one here wandered past and wondered why there was a man they didn't recognize, just sitting there eating a doughnut.
I got up and walked back to the fence, peering over, to see that, no long after I had left, he had stopped. I could still see him. He had walked maybe 50 feet, and was now just standing there.
Shit, I thought. Why was he just standing there? What the fuck was I supposed to do? I decided merely sitting there and looking over a fence looked suspicious, so I walked a lap around the complex, figuring a guy just out for a walk listening to headphones looked much more like he belonged than a guy hovering near the fence and looking around nervously.
Once I was done I headed back to the fence and, slowly coming out of the apartment complex, I found that I could still see him, a dot about half a mile from me, shambling along. I looked at my clock. I was supposed to have been home 10 minutes prior, and I still had a twenty minute walk ahead of me. I decided to chance it, afraid that at any time he would change his mind and start walking back my direction-- after all, he didn't know where he was, and had only pointed himself where he had because I was heading that way-- but if he did, I would see, and would have to duck somewhere else. I hoped he hadn't noticed me, a black dot half a mile behind him.
When I got home and explained to my wife my story, she smiled at me softly and said "You did a good thing, Chris."
"I just didn't want to say anything to agitate this guy," I said.
"I would have just ignored him and, if he got too close to me, I would have told him to get the fuck away from me. Most people would have," she said. "But that man has been through a lot. He's clearly hurting. He needed someone to listen to him, and you did."
I thought about it. At the moment I hadn't really considered it a good deed, I considered it being as cool and collected as I could be so as to not make a clearly drunk ex-con not want to hurt me. But, of course, she was right. His story, the brief part that I had heard, had made me sad. He clearly was in his own world and paid no attention to anything I had said, but he also clearly wanted a friendly face, and for some reason, he thought I was one. And even though I hadn't done it on purpose, I suppose it was actually a good deed.