Wednesday, March 24, 2004

We have all experienced misfortune. Various disasters have visited us during this existence. Sometimes they are a direct result of our own ineptitude. Other times fate's twisted sense of humour marks us to take a fall. The latter is much easier to stomach. No bile is more bitter than our own failings realized. Occasionally, we are saved from ourselves we avoid the ache of a self-inflicted catastrophe. Remember the time you left the gas on and locked yourself out, but you also forgot to latch the window. Praise <your deity here>!

Some people call it luck. Others need something a little more active, and name guardian angels as the cause. I would side with the angels theory, but I have had the benefit of experience.

I met my guardian angel. He introduced himself. "Man, I am your guardian angel." I gave him a ride from a laundrette to a house downtown, and he told of his time fighting in Vietnam. He also told me he was my guardian angel.

When I was going to University I lived in a rougher neighbourhood. I frequented the laundrette at the corner. The laundrette was 24 hour and was always busy. Two in the morning, under-aged kids would drink from oversized beer bottles. Whole families complete with toddlers would be there listening to music pouring out of an open trunk and washing clothes. Someone at some point took exception to a particular washer. They put a hole into its face. Right between the dials. The bullet went in and must of bounced around inside because there was no corresponding exit hole on the back. The machine was there when I moved into the neighbourhood and was there when I left. I don't know why it was not replaced. Maybe it still worked. I never saw it used or tried it myself. Maybe it was the laundrette owner who shot the machine and left the corpse there as a warning to the other machines.

One night I walked out with my clean laundry about to head home. A man stopped me. He had tired eyes. The irises were as dark as the pupils. Both nestled in a tangle of thick nest of red blood vessels. The bags under his eyes seemed heavy, carrying two pennies each. Green baseball cap. T-shirt. Light blue shorts covering the top half of a pair of stick thin legs. His knees looked like tree knots, and his skin was the colour of coffee.

"Hey, man. Where you going? Can you give me a ride man? ... Man."

"I live over there. Where do you need to go?" Pointing with a motion of my laundry basket towards my apartment.

"Man. Just over off of Tuttle. You know, man. That street by Fiesta. It take you ten minutes.  ... Man." I liked the way he used the word 'man'. He used it like quotes, like punctuation, like the 'stop' of a telegram. The trailing 'man' always sounding like an afterthought to himself. An aside said out loud. He also looked like a man who wanted to be home and was not there.

"Listen. Let me drop off these clothes. I live right over there. My car is parked on the street. I'll give you a ride. Stay here. I'll be right back."

"Oh man. Thank you, man. This is great man. ... Man." A smile pulled fast and taunt against his face. He immediately sat down at the curb. "Man. Thanks." I started to walk back to drop off my basket. Behind me, "... Man." We got the car. I unlocked his side. "Man. Thanks." When I got in on my side, I was greeted with "Man." I confirmed the street we were heading to and started the engine. "Man. I want to thank you man. I am ready to be home. Man. This day was new this
morning, but its tired and old now. Man, Tired and old! ... Man."

"No problem."

"You know I was your age. I was riding my red Shwinn on my block and they took it away from me and gave me a gun. Threw me in a jungle and had me shoot people. shoot them and kill them" The message was disturbing, but I only noticed the 'man's had disappeared. The rhythm of the sentences changed. Slowed. and became heavy. Viscous.

I could only muster a non-committal and empty, "really?".

"I was a baby. They took my red Shwinn and gave me a black M-16." Nothing was said for a few traffic lights. "... Man. Thank you for giving me a ride man. My name is Edward Higgins. Man. You know what. Man, I'm your guardian angel." My eyes left the road to see his huge smile aiming directly at me. "Man. You know what. I'm setting you up. Man. I set you up with a quarter pound of weed. quarter pound! Man. Tomorrow. See that shop over there man." He pointed to a corner store as we passed it. "Tomorrow. Man. You go behind there and there will be a big ole' bag of weed waiting for you. Man. You go back there. You'll see man." To be honest at that stage of my life my guardian angel would indeed be bearing marijuana. It definitely added credibility to Ed's claim.

"Oh yeah?" The wide smile was gone and the eyes watched the road with me.

"... Man." We both watched the road. A few blocks go by and Edward broke the silence. "You see this scar?" He took off his cap, and lowered his head, tilted it toward me and pointed with a finger toward the three inch long mark on his head. "They took my bike and gave me this. I was eighteen. A baby. Never even seen a woman naked. And they wanted me to go kill. Go kill! Shit! Feel it." He put his head closer and pointed at the scar.

"Nah. that's okay." I could see beside the scar a small saucer shaped indentation. Shallow but visible under the passing street light.

"Touch it." There was a hint of command in his voice.

"Um. I'm cool." I'm flustered. I don't want to touch it, but I want to appease him.

"Touch it!" The command now carried threat and anger.

I blurted out like a defence. "Man. No thank you."

"A baby. One day I am riding my red Shwinn. Next I see nothing but blood. Red blood." He retreated back to his seat. Sadness. A voice thick with sadness. It made the air in the care uncomfortable. I rolled down the window to let it clear. A few blocks passed. "... Man. I take care of you. I'm your guardian angel. Man. I hook you up. You alright. Man. I'm your guardian angel. ...Man"

We pulled up to the house he specified. "Don't you ever come here now. Man. I take care of you, but man don't ever come to this house. Man. You remember what I told you. Man. You know where to look." He got out and before he closed the door he leaned in and said, "Man. Don't you worry. I'm your guardian angel." He flashed the smiled and shut the door with "Man." 

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