Drug deal, less than twenty feet away, after ten at night, one way street:
--I either have to back into Zoo traffic or drive past them. That’s if I can find the anti-theft device key and then the ignition key on my key ring before they see me.
--I can cower in the seat. But they can also walk by and see me, hunched on the floorboard or lying down on the seat, acting like a cornered witness. Blam.
--I can run, but then they know I’ve seen them doing the wrong. I also have to find the key to the front door (metal) and front door (wood) before I’m safely inside. Not enough time. Possible shot in the back. There is no other place to run, no other refuge.
--I don’t have a cell phone. This was before everybody had a cell phone. Anyway, there’s no time to explain: it’s happening Now.
--I can sit and watch: no, no, I don’t want to do that. They haven’t exchanged yet--
I pick up my purse, my bookbag, the vase of gladiolas. I unlock the car door and I get out. I slam my car door, hard.
“Guess what happened to me?” I call out to them, loudly. I walk right up to them. They’re surprised by this. “I got these flowers at my work, absolutely free, but there’s way too many. I want you to have some.”
Oh, my god, this is my stupidest trick yet.
They stare at me. Years of neighborhood interaction are possibly in my favor, but they don’t necessarily count this minute. I grab a bunch of gladiolas. “Here,” I say. I hold them out, and one of the guys’ hands reaches out to accept. Then he puts his hand back down.
“No, baby,” he says. “My girlfriend’s in the shelter, and it’s closed right now.”
“No, please,” I insisted. “They were free to me, and they’re free to you. If you can’t give them to your girl, then give them to a different stranger. Just—spread the happiness.”
He takes them. We look at them in the glow of a far-off street light, although, I’m really looking past the blooms and at his face. The park’s trees hide most of the light, but the flowers glow with goodwill or perhaps divine intervention. If this doesn’t work—
“I know,” he bursts out. “I’ll take them to my Mama’s house.”
“Yeah, she’ll love them.” I hand them over. “Have a great night!”
The other guy is not part of the deal at all. He doesn’t want any flowers, waves them away.
All I know is that one hand out of a possible four is not aiming a firearm at me, and I believe they are both distracted. I turn my back on them because I have to, in order to go to my front door. I walk as naturally as possible.
I unlock the metal door, the wood door. I step inside and lock the metal door, the wooden door. I run down the hall, unlock the door to my apartment and slam it shut. I run upstairs. My husband is asleep.
If I had failed, I would have been in the RiverTown newspaper. People all over the city would say what a dumb cluck I was. Fortunately for me, I was the only one who had to know it.
You know, I would say that the Club on either my truck's or the Caliente's steering wheel have nearly been the death of me at least twice--
or you could say an entire spectrum of substance abuse ruined my day--
or, you could say, ah, that was my stupidest trick yet.
Image: Watercolor by Cecilia Price.