Saturday, January 28, 2023

Fairy, Part III

“Can you spare some change?”

The homeless man shifted his weight from one leg to the other. I didn’t have any. But Samirah, after thinking about it, went rummaging through her purse.

“I only have a dollar,” she said.

He nodded in acceptance, holding out his hand to catch the change. She held her fist over his hand and paused. She looked at him crookedly through suspicious eyes.

“Do you really need this money,” she asked.

“Yeah,” he stuttered, “I really do need it. I-I haven’t eaten in days, maybe a week…”

“This is a lot of power you’re giving me here. You know that right?” Her fist still hung over his. He could’ve just walked away. I would’ve. But instead he nodded sadly. And when she saw he was broken, she dropped the coins into his hand.

He quickly wandered down the street, stopping in front of another couple. He mouthed some words, did his leg-to-leg dance, got a few more coins of change and moved on. He didn’t look back at us.

U Street was once ripe with the homeless. This was when the blocks were still burnt black from the 1968 riots. Then gentrification took hold like an ivy vine, its tentacles stretching throughout the community sucking out the old and injecting the new. Goodbye ghetto, hello hipsters. Now, white women walked their dogs at night around the corridor and the homeless are few and far between.

“What the fuck was that about?” I asked.

“It’s about control, Jason. It’s always about control.”

“No,” I corrected, “that’s called being a sociopath.”

“No…that’s the American economic-social path. It’s what we do…as a country. Are you saying you have a problem with this?  Because I’m sure your friends back at the restaurant would be cheering me on; and asking for a cut if I’d milked the guy.”

She folded her arms, then looked me up and down regretfully, “But, let’s not talk about that, right? We can’t talk about race… and we can’t talk about your wife.  So why don’t we talk about my ass, since you haven’t stopped looking at it since I walked into the restaurant this evening?”

“Although we could talk about your ass, and believe me there’s little I’d enjoy more, let’s talk about you…what about you?”

“Nope…nope, you first.  We started in the restaurant and you never finished…who am I talking to?”

“I grew up in Bladensburg.”

“Pretty rough there, right?”

“Kinda…well…not really. It’s full of kids scared the world’ll find out they’re not as bad as they think they are. It’s like everyone puts on an act, trying to maintain a lie of some kind; they’re scared of the truth.”

“And what’s that?”

“You know, like…90 percent of the people round my way don’t own anything. Like, they lease their cars, their homes; shit, they borrow money from the bank to pay for groceries…probably. Everyone’s got credit cards up the asshole. It’s this cluster fuck of borrowing and loaning and owing, running and dodging, and using credit to pay off more credit. I think everyone’s scared that one day, all those people who lent shit’ll realize just how powerful they are and ask for their shit back. After that…there won’t be enough ‘thuggin’ in the world to scare off all those mothafuckas.”

“That’s a lot of money and a lot of power,” she began. “But, hey…we can’t talk about that, right?”

I wanted to change the subject, wrestle control of this conversation, “Why do you care…about me? Why do you want to know how dangerous I can be? You scared I’ll do something to you? Cause I won’t. And if I do, I promise I’ll be gentle.”

She laughed loudly. She leaned her face close to mine and right before contact, snatched her lips away laughing. “You know you want me boy. I don’t know why you keep playin’.”

“Alright, I said where I was from. I talked about me, now you. Where you grow up? What was it like?”

She thought for a moment, “Fine, if that’s how you want to play. Michigan, I grew up in Michigan. Single mother, no father, community college, transferred to Maryland, became an average student…better in bed, graduated….barely, hired by marketing firm, got bored…met you. Happy?”

“And actual boyfriends?  How do they fit into all of that?”

“They don’t,” she sighed, “not anymore, at least. It took me far too long to figure that out. You know, you sure do ask a lot of questions.”

“Well,” I said, turning up U Street, “I’ve been told I’m a lot smarter when I don’t talk.”

She inhaled deeply, “I am so…so sorry about that. I flipped out, I’m sorry. It was the guys in the restaurant and these fuckin’ hipsters…”

“Don’t worry about it.”


part IV >


< part II

< part I

Ryan Coke is a freelance writer who lives, writes, and drinks in Baltimore, MD. His professional works have appeared in regional, national, and international publications focusing on transportation, travel, sports, politics, and culture.