Samantha yelled at Tobias after he circled the block for the fifth time.
“I really don’t want to pay twenty-five bucks to park” he countered.
Attempting to inject a calm perspective into the uneasy situation.
“I get that, but I also want to get out of the fucking car, before the show is over”.
It was fast approaching the 9pm show time at Massey Hall, and Samantha really did not want to not miss the Misfits. She had been waiting over 30 years to see her favourite band. Danzig had finally gotten over himself and Jerry Only had needed a better paycheque than he had been getting without him. So the love of two minute songs and large retirement accounts had won over their former animosity.
The two founding members of the influential 80’s hardcore act had hugged it out at a lawyers office in New Jersey and agreed to cash in on the rising interest in their back catalogue. Being senior citizens now, it felt to the both of them, that it would have to be now or never.
During the 80’s, Tobias had been more Duran Duran and Flock of Seagulls than Samantha’s Dead Kennedys and MDC. He didn’t really get the allure of punk rock, but he had also missed his youthful rebellious period, due to a rare illness that kept him bed ridden through his early teens. When he and Samantha met at the 7-eleven, that used to be at Donlands and Danforth, he didn’t know his Jello from his Cretin. He can now tell by ear whether a Black Flag song was sung by Dez, Keith, Henry or Ron.
Tobias, sensing it would be a long time before he would hear the end of this, reluctantly parked in the old Sears lot on Mutual and paid the $25 with his phone app. Samantha, stretched her legs as she got out of the car threateningly pointing her well worn Docs toward Tobias’s ass, which to great effect hurried him along. She would be pissed if she missed the band playing Bullet, Skulls or Angel Fuck. She definitely loved the Misfits more than she loved Tobias.
As the setting sun burnt his iris, he still couldn’t turn away. Everyday he watched the sun leave the city behind, as it faded behind the silhouetted cardboard facade. As it sunk behind the life sized film set, he felt himself free falling through the earth. If he closed his eyes, he would pop out on the other side of the planet, and watch it rise again, against a land both foreign and unknowable. He felt uncertain about the axis from which the earth rotated, he felt that every time he looked around, he was in a different world. The voices he heard constantly provoked his feelings of isolation, constantly confirming all his negative self-beliefs. They explained to him, his place in the universe and confirmed reality as he understood it. While at the same time he knew that they were trying to get him, get what he knew, take away his autonomy, his knowledge, his truth, take away his life. These things he knew, these things were true, these things the voices confirmed.
Looking every which way, he paced the sidewalk in front of the agency several times before he walked up to the slide open take-away window. tThe young looking woman with green dreaded hair, septum piercing and light green eyes asked in a sing-song voice,
“Hi, how can I help you?”
He felt human for the first time all day, walking the alienating streets, talking to himself pulling a converted golf bag cart, with various electronic devices tied to it with bits of coloured wire, he rescued curb side along his travels. He was storing this gear, under a bridge by the river, knowing that eventually he would build a device that would finally take him home.
Smiling at the attention from the striking looking woman, he replied:
“ Can I have a bowl pipe?”
She handed him a glass meth pipe, wrapped in a thin white styrofoam sleeve. He put it to his ear, listening intently before, he frowned and tossed it into a yellow No Frills bag, hanging off the cart which was overflowing with his street haul and asked:
“ Can I have one more”.
She smilingly passed a second pipe, again he put it to his ear, this time releasing a sigh of relief, putting it in the torn front pocket, of his torn and stained, burnt orange puffer jacket.
“This one likes me”, he smiled back at the still engaged worker.
“Did you know, that my brother is looking for me? He wants to help me to work at our father’s company, but I know he is actually working for CSIS and they want to steal all my patents, cause I know how to stop all global suffering, but the government doesn’t want that to happen, as it would put them out of business, which is why they have been giving those vaccines”
He spit out the last word while making air quotes.
“You see every time they jab someone, a little piece of nano-technology goes into their body and the government’s central computer, because they are looking for me, so now every time someone who got the vaccine is near me, it beeps the location and a hit squad shows up trying to kill me”
“ Wow. I’m sorry that is happening to you. Is there anything I can do to help?” she asked earnestly.
He looked into her sincere eyes, the depth of green reminding him of the ocean when he went to Florida as a kid, then with his gaze to the sidewalk below him and sounding a little scared said , “ No. But I have to go, so you won’t get caught in the cross fire – cause they will be here any second now”.
“Okay, well, would you like a bottle of water and a granola bar?” Her hand extended through the window with those items in it. He paused for a moment, looking hard at the items and then back into her eyes. Reaching forward he took the granola bar, leaving the water bottle in her hand.
“That shit will kill you”, he said as he turned and made his way down the street, limping slightly and slyly watching the reflection in the storefront windows, waiting for the agents to appear, again.
It was just another July night. Hot early summer air, loud traffic moving slowly in both directions on Dundas, between Church and Jarvis Streets. He could hear bits and pieces of pop songs and the occasional hip-hop beat splashing out of open car windows and floating into the thick humid night. It was all bright lights, big city down here. He and his boys were hustlin’, flexing’, trying to make a name for themselves. Trying to make some cash. Trying to be the men they had been led to believe they should be, all the while attempting to fly under the radar of five-o.
He belonged to a small crew, run by his best friend’s older brother, J. J ran things tight, both in the hood and out in the streets. Out of line, late with a call back, late with cash owed and you just might catch a beat down. J would show up randomly, just to check in on them or with the re-up. He would drive up in a white Jeep with gold rims, Pink LED lights shining down from underneath. Not too flash, but just enough to let you think he might be a real player. Though he was just another soldier, living in his mama’s basement in the project. 1980’s paneling on the walls, decent sound system, a framed Kobe jersey on the wall next to a NAS poster, closet full of sneakers. No diploma in a frame, no assets, the car on a high interest cash lease. Twenty-five, no prospects, other than his gang affiliation.
The boys in the crew thought J was a god, they looked up to him, wanted to be like him. Saw the ride, the girls, the folded pinks and browns. Saw the respect those things gave him in the urban blocks they all lived on. While the City let the bricks and mortar crumble, they plied the old neighbourhood trade. Periodic sweeps occurred. The Babylon system sending in their uniforms every now and then to remind everyone who was really in charge. The crew knew the drill and innocently dribbled balls on the worn out courts watching as a couple OG’s running a trap house got paddy wagoned away. Laughing at 51 division as they tried to look hard, out of place, no body cared, fucking pigs.
Everyone up the line was just trying to get a piece for themselves, get a little ahead, dreamt of getting out. This fucking town, this fucking country, it did all it could to keep people like him down. Wrong colour, wrong address, just wrong, tough fucking luck. His anger somehow kept in check, most days. His bitterness, a well worn groove on the handle of the glock he kept in his waist pack. They sold what was in demand, these days fentanyl had replaced crack, so that’s what they slung. He didn’t care if these dumb street fucks died. Worst fucking dope ever. Each week a new batch. Each batch a new colour and no different than a fresh bullet in the chamber. Toronto street roulette. One puff of smoke or mainline and your life could be over, gone, exhaled. If you think the dealers care, you’re living in a fantasy, living like the fucking Cosby show, a different world all together. No not that Different World. Ain’t no one care if you junkies die. Not the cops, not the mayor, not the other street life. In this life, it’s for life, which is usually way too short.
He knows all that, as he zips his glock in a designer shoulder bag and hops on the electric scooter that will keep him moving all day. From hood to customers, to re-up, to bag man, to nothing but another job that no one really wants, though some still think they do. There is always another fool, waiting in the wing. It might seem like not working and the paper might seem good today, but tomorrow there ain’t no unemployment benefits, no sick days, no security, nothin’ but looking over his shoulder, holding a few small bags of dope, money owed up the line, a gun. Each of which could get him killed or put away for a several years, federal time. Die trying, try not dying.
He didn’t know another way of life. The housing he came up in promised no future, but this. By nine years old he was running for the bigger boys. Doing errands, watching for cops. Getting paid in dope. They wanted to see if he was an entrepreneur and flip it on his own or if he was just another joke, who smoked it, nodded out, eventually OD’d. He flipped it and slowly built the trust of the gang and moved up to his current crew, who were now all of nineteen, twenty years old.
He stood on the dirty dark sidewalk, looking up at the newly built condos. Mesmerized momentarily by the steel and glass, lights shining out into the unglamorous streets below. He heard the car stop, the door slam, he turned to look, saw a blur of movement, heard the bottle smash, down on his ass, head bleeding,. All he could smell was the acrid aroma of vodka, his skull numb, eyes blurred by the viscous blood pooling in his sockets.
“What the fuck, are you doin’, cuz?”
Was all he got out before being surrounded by four guys that looked just like him, size, age, skin colour, black bandannas obscuring their faces.
“You tell J, we own this fucking street now. Motherfucker”.
Spit the one who hit him with the almost empty twenty-sixer of Grey Goose, smashed glass scattered on the broken sidewalk, around him. As what seemed like a parting afterthought, three of them then laid a few boots to his now curled and protected torso. As they walked back towards their ride, one flashed a glock in his waistband and shot him three times with his hand, fingers pointed, thumb half-raised.
“Your dead”, he laughed, as they got back in the haphazardly parked matte black Benz.
Still alive, still in one piece, he got up off the ground and wiped the blood from his face with the front of his now stained t-shirt. He limped to his scooter, leaning against the buildings closed storefront.
Now that he felt safe, he spit blood onto the street and laughed.
“Stupid fuckers, didn’t even take my shit”. Laughing as he checked his pockets and still had a fat roll of twenties, a bag full of little dope bags and his gun. He knew J would be out for blood now, but knew he was good, nothing lost, means nothing owed.