Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Atlantic Glow

the other morning: after a long night of work. driving home. cigarettes tasted awful by then. the breeze of the open window made it bearable. light had yet to break, but there was that stillness, that airy blue in the sky. streetlights soften, cars slow, drivers less aggressive. we drove neck and neck with a forest green saab and the bulky guido driver and his tiny, manicured girlfriend. they bounced to snare-tickled house music. i looked at jeremy. he tossed his cigarette onto the pavement, rolled up his window, gunned our banana van. chirped out. dusted the saab.
on atlantic, north of flatbush, we slowed behind an escalade, big and black. tinted windows, of course. it was stopped in the left hand turn lane, by the median. two women had gotten out. an ambulance screamed towards us, half a mile up atlantic. the light changed and we saw the man, dark and crumpled there out front of the escalade, bathed in green now. he was twisted like a spun top. the women paced on the median. the tall one held herself against the bumper, threw up. i took another cigarette.
found the lot. honked the horn. the attendant opened the gate. we coasted in, jeremy collected his things, and i hit the corner for a southbound cab.
I stood and waved. traffic is light on atlantic at quarter after five, friday morning.
a beat up white chevy mccrapmobile stopped on the other side. rust over the wheel wells. bumper hanging down, kissing the asphalt. the window rolled down. "need a taxi?"
this is in brooklyn, on atlantic avenue. little dicey. nothing around but storage units, parking garages and white castle.
this rangy black dude sticks his head out the window.
"need a taxi?"
i looked around. is he talking to me? I shrugged, "uhhh..."
"come on, man. i need the money."
jeremy had come out the lot; the gate trembled and groaned shut behind him. he saw the cab. looked at me. chuckled in the back of his throat.
i crossed the street, tentative. jeremy hopped in the front. i popped the passenger-side back door. before i could sit, the guy said, "hold on. got to get this shit out the way." moved aside a hard hat, a loaf of white bread, an assortment of tools.
"thanks for trusting me," he said. "what's yer names?"
"tim." "jeremy."
"timothy is my name. huh. but people call me blue."
"hey, blue."
we drove. the car smelled like sour milk, or more likely, pee.
he told us, when we passed prospect park, about the gay guy who'd just been beat to death there, and about his girlfriend, who was -- "look at that full moon -- CRAZY right now," and could he be our personal cab driver. "anywhere, anytime. in the city, out the city, what you need."
sure, we told him, give us your number.
"well, that's the thing. my phone broke. but you give me your numbers, tell me when yer gettin done with work, heh?"
we got to jeremy's house, dropped him, i hopped in the front. my knees pinched against the dash. stronger urine smell. should have stayed in back. he continued about that gay guy who got beat up in the park, "because cant people just let other ones do what they please? dont you think, they oughta do what they please? shit." hairs on the back of my neck stood up. i stopped him a block short of my house.
"here it is," i said. gave him twelve bucks. got out the car -- "oh, gimme your numbers."
"i'll give you jeremy's, he's the boss," i said.
he didnt have a pen. i had a sharpie. tore the back off the envelope my check rested in, which i was quick to tuck away. wrote the number.
"hey, you need anything. how bout a tool belt? need one of these? brand new."
"naw," i said, "think i'm set up for this job. thanks."
"it's real nice. brand new. cant ever have too many. good money, i'll give it to you real cheap. heh?"
"thanks blue." handed him the torn up slip of paper. with your old DC 413 number on the back. which i dont think works any more.
but, if old blue calls you, wants to take you for a ride, pick you up anywhere. holler.