The sky was vomiting buckets of rain over the streets of Los Angeles. The asphalt had the slickness of bile that comes from an empty stomach. I crouched beneath the windows of my miniscule apartment and slurped on my dinner- noodles, carried out from the Pho place up the street. The place that at all hours of the night is filled with only the well dressed and in the know. An orange soda sweated rings into the wood floor next to me. I just had to make it one more night and then he would be home.
The phone rang.
"You coming tonight?"
"Bullshit, you grew up here, you aren't scared to drive in the rain!" He hung up on me.
He was right. if anyone should suck it up and show up it should be me. I set my noodles aside and crabwalked the length of the wall to a little corner where I could safely stand out of view of too many windows. I yanked off my pajamas and threw on a pair of jeans that only just passed the sniff test followed by a pair of chucks that were caked in something crusty.
I got in the car. While I was getting changed the sky had taken a healthy dose of Ipecac syrup. The vomiting had turned into violent retching. I got on the freeway. I shouldn't have gotten on the freeway. Visibility was at a point below zero and there was no airport control tower around to guide me to a safe exit.
I called him back.
"NO! No, you are not doing this to me tonight. i swear, everybody has canceled and it's for fucking charity. Get here."
"Seriously man, this is really bad, I can't even see."
"If you've made it to the car you can make it here."
Jesus Christ. Again, he was right. I had already crossed the halfway mark. Going back would mean an even longer drive in the rain. It was safer to continue on to the bar. It was deep in the valley, no bigger than the smallest living room.
I parked the car. I congratulated myself on finding a spot so near to the door. I stepped out of the car. My foot was wet. My leg was wet. I looked down. I had accidentally parked in the middle of the L.A. River.
I squished across the street. The bar was warmed by a wood burning stove in the center of the room. Smiles swirled around me in the orange glow. Someone peeled off my socks and shoes and set them to roast on the stove. I was swallowed deep into a velvet booth. Down home country music warmed my face and in the time it took to spit from L.A. to China it was over. So was the rain. The wind took little bites out of my cheeks and the stars peeked out to survey the damage from the storm. They watched me turn down an obligatory invitation to an inevitable after party. They watched me drive to a gas station, stop and then drive off. I wasn't going to risk standing out in the open on a cold lonely night just to buy cigarettes. I'm no fool.
I stopped at another gas station but did not get out there either. They had been held up the week before. With guns. No way neighbor. i went straight home. ALmost.
The phone rang. I went to pick it up and the battery died. My mother always told me to have a car charger in case of emergencies. I had one but it was at home. it could wait.
I pulled the car around the lake near my house. I drove past the club that was sixty seconds, on foot, from my house. It looked less like the usual swarming beehive of activity and more like a discarded empty wasp's nest on a dried up lawn. The parking lot of the convenience store was as desolate. I pulled in. I parked.
I reached in my bag and pulled out one pack of cigarettes worth of dollars. When my bag tipped over my wallet made a harrowing leap to the floor. Being a responsible person in general, I left it on the mat. I opened the car door.
He opened the convenience store door. He was wearing a black hooded sweat shirt. He looked at me. I looked at him. Mexican stand off. "No sudden movements" rang through my brain. Not his.
We stared long enough for me to have time to decide not to close my door and not to drive away. He walked over to my car door. I held tight to my cigarette money.
"You got any money?"
Ever street savvy, I looked him in the eye and, like the genius that I am, said, "Duh" and waggled my dollars in front of him.
He looked at me like I was speaking japanese. He snatched the money with the hand not holding the gun. No "domo arigato", no nothing. Oh, did I mention there was a gun? There was a gun, no bigger than a chihuahua.
"Give me your purse." He was awfully gracious and put me at ease with his car side manner.
I told him that it was very expensive and that it only had a pair of headphones, a tampon and some change in it anyway and could I please keep it. While he considered my request I took the opportunity to swing open the car door directly into his baby makers and send him sailing face first into a pool of anti-freeze, which held him occupied until the police came.
Okay, no, not really. he took my purse and walked away. Just like that. Just like this. As calm as the day, it was over. that is not at all what I thought it would be like to be robbed. But, it was and it is. A little anti-clamactic, isn't it?