I was skating back from Burger King along this rough kinda sidewalk when, coming over a little hill in the road, he flags me down. I already felt pretty crummy from having eaten the fast food and all and this guy – medium length brownish hair, late 30’s, sporty sunglasses, a large tee and thigh way khaki shorts (was that too much?) – waves me over. He’s nodding his head a lot and he’s got that classic man/boy grin on his face. My stomach lurches when I see him. All the sudden I feel like I’m back there in Burger King again.
He stops me on the sidewalk and looks me over. He says in all that faux cali surfer voice: “Hey man, up the road a bit. There’s two chicks. They’re holding hands… Gross!”
He shoots me the thumbs up and goes on his way. But I don’t really know how to handle this. I stand there for a moment, watching him off. I literally shake my head and try my best to continue on with life.
Up the road are the two girls.
As promised, they’re holding hands. I know them. We go to school together. I edge up to their side.
“Did y’all see that dude with the glasses?”
They look at me. We’re not really friends or anything. They would never have gone to Burger King.
“You mean the creep?” they respond, together at once.
“Uh huh.,” I guess. Suddenly I feel like maybe they’re referring to more than just that guy.
“He told me you two were holding hands.”
They both turn their heads and glare at me and my skate.
“I mean… stupid guy. Terrible, terrible guy. I mean…”
It’s two years later. This time I’m just walking down the street. I’m all over, across the ocean in another place when I see the same guy again. How do I know it’s the same guy? Well I don’t for sure. But I’ve been thinking of him lately so I just assume.
He’s cruising towards me on a big green bicycle. Still the same doo and clothes. No facial hair. Baby cheeks. And still that stupid grin.
He skids to a halt and straddles the bike with his unshapely legs.
“Hope on boner,” he commands.
I blink a few times. I open my mouth but he beats me to it.
“Did I say hope on? HA! I meant hop on. Hop on boner.”
Once again I am paralyzed by the encounter. I’m supposed to be meeting the girl who’s been putting me up, paying for food and washing my clothes. I’m supposed to be taking her out for dinner. Things haven’t been going so well between us. There’s the whole issue of how she puts me up, pays for food, washes the clothes… This dinner is supposed to make everything better. It’s been planned for a while that I’ll pay for this dinner on account of some money I just got.
I check my watch. I’ve around 15 minutes to get there. The guy is now drumming some incredible, rockin drum solo on the handles of his bike. He does this with his two pointer fingers. He’s making little bum, bum, bum noises to match his beat.
“This had better be quick,” I tell him. “I’ve got somewhere to be you know.” I sit side saddle on his rack and hold on the bottom of the seat for balance.
“Want a doobie?” he asks as we speed away.
I look up at his round, plushy back. It ripples a little in the bike riding motion.
“Yeah” I say. But I’m not sure he can hear this in the face of the wind. And anyways, you can’t smoke a doobie on a bicycle. That’s stupid.
“Then go for it then,” he shouts, his grin even apparent when he’s not facing me.
I sigh. I’m about to let it go when suddenly I feel the joint already in my hand. Its a big one and, despite the wind, going strong. I take a few hits and pass it up front.
How long are we riding? Hours? Minutes? Seconds? It isn’t that time has no consequence right now. But on the bicycle we seem to ignore it. Some unspoken law. I can tell.
We ride through the city, into depths and heights I’ve never seen. Over bridges and through tunnels that could not have been there before I got on. We ride through every type of weather. Through day and night, dusk and dawn. Thousands of seasons… Finally we pull over on a familiar little street that I recognize as being only a few blocks from my own. I try to check my watch but all I can see is his loose face reflected in the glass, this and the bright glare of the sun shining above.
We shoot his bike over into some bushes and then he leads me into a building. We walk up the stairs, up and up, all the way to the roof. On top of the roof is a little makeshift shack. This is where he lives.
It’s full of pigeons and bags of feed for the pigeons. It reminds me a lot of “On The Waterfront” except in color and in real life.
“Here’s my pad,” he explains, throwing a blanket across an empty patch of the roof. “Was goin for an “On The Waterfront” sorta thing. Pretty into Brando right now.”
We lie on the blanket and he starts to roll another joint. Above us, the sky is completely clear and sunny except for this one little dark cloud hanging there off in the distance.
It looks completely absurd, that cloud. It’s small and round like you might see over somebody’s head in a strip of the “Peanuts”. It doesn’t seem to be moving. Then it does. Then it doesn’t again. And the more I stare at it the more I hear this strange noise. It’s barely audible and I can’t tell if it’s really there but it almost sounds like sex. I look around. The roof is empty except for us.
“What’s up with cloud guy over there?” I ask him as he hands me the new doob. He’s looking at me as I ask. Smiling and his glasses on. It seems like he’s going to ignore my question but after just long enough a pause he turns over and checks out the cloud. He even lowers his sunglasses to get the whole look.
“Oh yeah,” he says distantly, “that’s totally a figment of your imagination. Just forget it and have another hit.”
I look at the cloud some more and take another hit.
“Those sounds are fake too,” he says this staring me over, his eyes settling somewhere along my shoulders. I exhale, coughing a lot.
We finish the joint and stagger back to the shack. There’s a hurt pigeon he’s gotta see to.
“I think at this point, I’m not making it to dinner,” I tell him, feeling a little put off all the sudden.
He’s holding the sick pigeon in his hands, stroking its feathers. “You want me to teach you how to fix a pigeon?” He looks up at me and gives me that same grin, as if this is a consolation for all my trouble. I sigh and go over to him anyway. What does it matter? I’m already fucked.
The pigeon is bundled up in his hands. Its feathers soft and calm. The pigeon pokes up at me. It cocks its head to the side and looks me over with one of its round, wild eyes.
“They just need a little encouragement,” he says, but not really to me. He’s just talking.
“They’re just little babies.”
I look up at him. He’s looking at the pigeon, his eyes getting big and sad. He starts to pout his lips. Oh no, I think. Oh god.
“Just ittle ittle babeeess,” he says in a terrible, infantile voice.
“You’re going to kill the pigeon, aren’t you?” I blurt it out and in almost the same instant he takes the pigeon in his hand and wrings on its neck until it’s dead.
“Oh! Oh! Oh!” he says as he does this. Once done, he tosses the pigeon limp on the ground.
“I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t so creepy to everyone.” He walks away from the shack towards the edge of the roof.
I look at his figure, rounded in day. I look at the gimpy cloud. It’s a lie. It’s not real. It’s time for me to go.
I dig in my pockets for the phone that should be there. I find it despite all the best intentions. A million missed calls.
The guy turns over at me. “What did I say?” he asks.
“You know, the thing that was a little funny?” He flops his hands around his waist.
“Oh yeah,” he admits, “hope on.”
Kevin Luna lives in Stockholm, Sweden. He is author of the blog PETBOOKS. He originally hails from Half Moon Bay, California.