From six to nine in the morning they pass. From eleven to two they pass. Then again from three to six they pass. That’s Monday through Thursday. Friday and Saturday, all day, all night they pass, better days. Sundays are different, the passing is unpredictable and less frequent. But, on this day the givers are more generous. They drop more paper than metal.
Every day his routine is simple and the same. He wakes up and makes his way to a near by family owned Mexican restaurant. The owners know him. He and the love of his life would eat there up to four times a week. Then they stopped.
For a while he ate alone. He fucked up. He continuously doubted her love. He fell so deep into his insecurities that one day he asked a horrible question. He started by saying “it’s a random curiosity, don’t be offended by my question.” She says “okay.”
“Would you ever have sex for money?” She replied, a solid “NO!” Him, so stuck in doubt said “I would” expecting her to say “you know what? I would too.”
He was fishing. Looking to catch her slipping, confirming his thoughts of her doing something behind his back. Instead what he got was a silence that lasted about twenty minutes.
“Really? You would fuck for money? I thought you were better than that.” She finally said to him. Not at all what he expected, and the mutual energy, the connection they both felt for each other was immediately severed.
Trying to justify his answer he blurted “Yeah, you know, if I was down in the dumps – homeless and shit! Yeah I’d fuck for money!” She disagreed, saying “you have family, your brother, your sister and plenty of cousins. You wouldn’t end up homeless.” Again she went silent.
He felt her love but his mind would fuck with him and tell him otherwise. His hyper active imagination would conjure scenario after scenario of her being with other men. Maybe it was because he knew her previous lover. That guy had a car, owned a home and had money in the bank.
She picked him up from work that night. In those days wearing glasses, his eyes still functioned well enough so that he can drive. This woman lived twenty miles west of where he worked and he lived sixteen miles east of where he worked. It was several times that she made the trip just so that he would not have to spend two hours on public transit. She loved him.
From his job, he would take the wheel. And that night, after arriving where he resided, what would have been a tight hug and long kiss was barely that. The hug was her hands on his shoulders, the kiss was the lightest of pecks on his cheek. The distance was obvious. After all his previous assumptions and interrogations this question fucked shit up.
She saw him less, a lot less and for months she tried to forget that night. She believed him when he explained that it was his messed up head – his insecurities that made him ask that bullshit of a question. But, it was her brain, her mind, and her conscious that now doubted him. Her heart ache was too much, she left him completely. She didn’t speak to him and ignored all his attempts to communicate. She blocked him on all social media, changed her number, moved away and instructed her family and friends to never let him know where she is.
He couldn’t take it. It was his doing not the natural world, not Ometeotl. He fucked it all up. He tried but it was impossible, he was unable to forgive himself.
He moved out of state for years. Even tried living in several different states. He also had a few girlfriends, none of it helped, he headed home. Once back he called up an old connect and after twenty some years of sobriety he got himself hooked on drugs. Drinking and using every day – he eventually lost everything.
Another morning at his favorite restaurant. While still holding the door open he stops, and looks up. The cowbells that he loved to hear were gone.
“Good morning Felipe!” came from the front kitchen. Then from a table to his right “morning! your usual and the key coming right up!”
The family that owns the restaurant also owns the apartment above it. They let him wash up every day and let him keep a few of his belongings on a shelf in a hallway closet. One of the items is an old cell phone. It’s without service but it holds a lot of memories. Felipe would take it into the restroom, sit on the toilet and while he waited for the water to heat he would scroll through it and cry.
“Here’s your key, thank you. I miss the cowbells.” He says standing at the register counter looking back towards the front door. “We do too. The string gave out. They’ll be back up tonight, we’re going to use hemp cord this time.” the wife tells him.
He leaves the counter and sits at his favorite booth, the same one he used to share with his love.
While waiting for his breakfast he did as he always did – stared out the window and remembered what he lost. That day after a few minutes he says under his breath “that’s nice.” In his field of view he sees a lowered Mercedes with a tricked out V8 motor. He could tell it was modified by the rumble of the engine and exhaust.
The car took his mind off the sadness for a bit. He imagined being behind the wheel hauling ass on the 110 Pasadena freeway at 3am hitting the turns as if there were no lanes. Then, in his vision he glances at the passenger side and sees her: hanging on to the door and the left edge of the seat laughing, shaking her head saying “you crazy man! I love you!”
“Damn” he whispers to himself, wipes a tear from the corner of his eye, and begins to eat his now cold meal. Half way into the still delicious eggs, chewing thankfully, looking down at his next morsal he hears the Mercedes again. He looks up and there it goes, in the same direction.
He’s finished now and sits digesting for a bit, staring out the window again with one hand on his cup of coffee. He’s thinking the husband must have been in a bad mood or something – the bacon was too crispy, burnt really.
In the distance his ears pick up the sound of the same V8 only this time it’s not going, it’s coming. There it is, but this time all the windows are rolled down and the car catches the red light. While it waits for green the driver flicks his cigarette out the window, says something and laughs. He doesn’t hear what is said but it must have been good because the three passengers jerk their bodies in laughter. The light turns and the car proceeds.
Felipe scrapes every bit of food off his plate and eats it. He glances out the window one last time, gets up, picks up his mess and walks to the back kitchen. After washing the dishes he used and all the others that were piled up in the couple’s sink he leaves. At the front door, as he pushes it open, he says goodbye.
Back at his spot now, he unfolds his plea sign and unfolds his seat made of two thick pieces of cardboard cut from a watermelon bin taped together and wrapped with grey duct tape.
From his coat pocket he pulls out his cash box, an old, tall plastic cup. It held fresh squeezed lemonade from the Orange County Fair twenty or so years back. He met his ex’s daughter for the first time that day. It was a great time, a great memory.
He sits down, crosses his legs, straightens his back, and rests his elbows on his knees. He holds his cup with both hands, bows his head, closes his eyes and enters a meditative state to ease the burden of waiting for donations.
Time goes by, it starts to cool which means the sun is going down. It’s been a good day, his cups has some weight to it. He adjusts his legs and while doing so hears the Mercedes again coming towards his location. From the sound of the engine he can tell the car is coming to a stop and it does. It stops at the parking space directly in front of him. The person driving is skilled, he parallel parks in seconds. At that time of day people are leaving not arriving – Felipe snaps out of it. He’s awake and alert.
The passenger side door opens but does not close. Then the rear passenger and rear driver side doors open but only the driver side closes. The car is turned off but the driver never gets out. Felipe pays close attention but no one is saying anything. He hears their feat walk and join at the rear of the car. The trunk opens, there’s some whispering, then three long and distinct snorting sounds followed by laughter. “Shit, these fucks are flying.” Felipe frets.
Felipe’s instinct kicks in. Still holding his cup with both hands he stands up and leans against the wall behind him, now no one can sneak up on him from behind. The laughter stops and Felipe hears three sets of foot steps heading towards him. One stops close in front of him, this one giggles. The other two stop just behind the first, one on the right and the other on the left.
“What’s your name?” the first one asks with another giggle. Now with his cup at his hip in his left hand and his right hand in a fist inside his coat pocket Felipe replies “why, and who’s asking?”
“Our names don’t matter.” now with a deeper tone of voice answers the one in the middle. “What’s in the cup?” says the one on the right. “None of your business!” blurts Felipe.
The one on the left snatches the cup from Felipe’s hand “I’ll see.” he says reaching into his cup with a laugh.
Jerk on the right yells joyously “oh shit!” chuckles then “look at his eyes, old man is blind!”
Middle guy “No way! No fu..cking way!”
They’re not from the neighborhood. They had no idea Felipe was legally blind. And just the same they had no idea he was not completely blind. He was able to see silhouettes. The dick of the bunch waves his hand quickly in front of Felipe’s face. Then closer, so much closer that Felipe knows he uses moisturizer. The left testicle says to himself “twelve bucks” drops the cup then stomps on it. The plastic being so old crunches like an egg shell into little pieces.
Not reacting Felipe loses it. The cup was the essence of the woman he loves and her daughter. He is fucking pissed. Now there is nothing left of her, nothing he can touch.
The dick is still waving his hand in Felipe’s face only this time it’s a middle finger. The three thugs are now closer and the middle goes in for a face to face look at Felipe’s eyes. “You look like a fucking zombie.” he says.
“Fuck you.” Felipe thinks to himself. The left nut decides to go in for a closer look. “Fuhhhhk youuu” Felipe thinks again about the piece of shit that destroyed the last of his most valuable possessions.
The thief is close enough to kiss Felipe on the cheek. Felipe acts. With his right hand he grabs the guy on the left by the ear, takes a step to the right and slams his head against the wall behind him. Strengthened by his anger, he feels the skull crunch and the thief buckles then falls. His body twiches then stops.
“He’s not moving!” You mother fucker! He is not moving!” screams the middle thug. The dip shit on the right starts to gag then bends over with arms straight, puts his hands just above his knees and begins to vomit. The middle guy takes a few steps towards his downed friend, drops to one knee and cries “wake up fool!” He grabs his friend’s shoulders and wiggles him, “wake up!”
Felipe sees the guy on the right still bending over, but doesn’t hear any vomitting. He gets to him, places both his hands on the back of his head and forces his face down onto the sidewalk, knocks him out. Knowing it’s do or die, Felipe grabs a fist full of hair and slams his head into the concrete two more times with enough force to flatten the thugs face.
Felipe being old and out of shape drops to his knees breathing hard, trying to catch his breath, his hands are on his lap, his back is straight up leaning back as nimble as his age allows him to, his head is facing the sky “one left” he thinks.
He starts to stand when from behind he’s tackled. The unexpected hit doesn’t give him time to use the full strength of his arms. He hits the ground hard, his face makes contact with the sidewalk, forehead, nose and lips all in pain. His nose is bleeding, probably broken, his upper lip fat and dripping blood. The thug is now on top of him with his arms wrapped around Felipe just under the arm pits and his head peaking forward under Felipe’s left arm. Not very smart this guy. Felipe takes advantage and gets him into a head lock with his left arm. Never fully recovering from a dislocated shoulder his left arm is about half as strong as his right but it works. Still lying on his stomach, he squeezes tight and starts to stand, the thug being choked has no choice but to follow. Felipe’s arm is just strong enough to keep the jerk in place so with his right arm free he starts to deliver blows. He doesn’t care about accuracy. His punches land on the thug’s nose, lips, forehead, eyes, chin, cheeks. After at least 20 quick full strength hits he thug’s body goes limp. Felipe lets go and drops to his knees beside his opponent. He’s out of breath and bent over with his forehead now resting on the sidewalk. He hears the car door open then slam shut. “Shit! The driver.” Felipe says in a deep tired voice then coughs a little and spits. The driver is walking over to him, and he’s clapping. He stops next to Felipe still kneeling, still hunched over. “Good job old man.” the driver says seriously. He sounded disappointed. Maybe because his friends got the shit beat out of them by a blind homeless man or because of what he is about to do.
The driver, with his left hand grabs Felipe by the hair and pulls his head off the ground, and straightens him. Felipe is looking up again, as if in prayer. In the driver’s right hand a small crowbar. “Good job old man, but it’s time to rest” says the driver. Felipe, tired and still out of breath does nothing. The driver raises the bar and brings it down onto Felipe’s face- it lands across both eye sockets and his nose, breaks all that bone and knocks him out cold. Then the driver steps to stand directly in front of Felipe. He raises the crowbar again, higher this time, lets go of Fleipe’s hair and just before his body collapses strikes him on top of the head. His skull caves in. Felipe departs.
The driver gets a couple of water bottles from his car, walks to each of his friends and pours water over their heads. All three come to. He gives them a few seconds, “get the fuck up!” He says it twice then yells “HURRY UP! PUT HIM IN THE TRUNK! He then walks around the rear of the car, pops the trunk, sits at the wheel and lights a cigarrette. The body in the trunk, all of them in the car now, one asks “you have some napkins?” The driver, just after starting the engine, as he looks into the side mirror, replies “use your fucking shirt. All you, use your fucking shirts. Idiots.” They drive off.
Wife at the restaurant is dusting the cowbells hanging on the front door yells over to her husband in the kitchen “It’s been a couple of weeks now, hope Felipe is okay.” The husband comes out sharpening a knife “Im sure he’s fine, maybe he snapped out of it and went to live with family.” The wife steps outside to look down the street and as the cowbells ring says “I hope so.”
Copyright Jesse Velasquez. All Rights Reserved.