He Slept Under Stars, Kept Folks From Their Cars

The Old Aryan had no intention of letting me get my car. He said as much, opening the gate slightly to allow his comrades file out, then carefully closing it behind him. “This here-” He pointed to the sign wired to the gate, “Is private property, no trespassing girl.”

“That’s my car I’m getting-”

“That aint yer car, now the mechanic is up front, he’ll be the one with your car.” He smiled and after carefully closing the gate shuffled to the park with his companions. It wasn’t my first run in with the Old Aryan. It was the second. The first being the time he had seen me lunching at Subway with my then boyfriend and taken it upon himself to visit me at my work , informing me it wasn’t right to mix the races. The colors weren’t inferior mind you, he paused his blue eyes open wide boring into mine, but different and if god wanted people mixed he wouldn’t have made them so different. Celebrate the difference, but keep to your own kind. I had nodded, smiled, and never spoken to him again. Whenever I saw him entering my workplace I would go hide in the back, take a coffee break, watch the video monitors to see when he left. Years later, now happily married to the boyfriend raising two children who possess a diverse genetic background, I found myself grateful they were safely in a minivan with my sister who had dropped me off at the mechanics to pick up my car.

I wasn’t worried about the Old Aryan clenching his ever present malt liquor. His outfit, what was left of it at least, seemed to have formerly been a pair of white underwear and it revealed his startling lack of tattoos. I revised my opinion of him deciding he was a run of the mill garden variety racist, and not after all, a member of the Brotherhood, or some other Neo-Nazi group. I mentally changed his name from Old Aryan to Old Haole. His friend the Opiate Panda with dreamy eyes and sunburned tummy poking out of his shirt jiggling with each step he took also ranked low threat wise. The Gaunt Man however ranked high. I hadn’t realized they knew each other and the Gaunt Man watched our conversation with an ever present smile on his face. The Gaunt Man (who I wont go into great detail about as his children might come across this someday, children who seem to look at him with eyes of admiration and pride in the pictures their mother puts up despite the fact he has not done right by them) specializes in being friendly. He has over the years accumulated a vast array of homeless friends willing to terrorize anyone who dares testify against him in court and as a result is always free to wander the island with a sparkle in his eyes and ready smile on his face. Today he looked rather well, from the back you might take him for a high school student dressed in the best surf name brands- but as my sister said when we drove by later, “If you’re a grown man who spends his days hauling a backpack around with no intention of hiking, life has not gone well for you.” The Gaunt Man does ICE. I live a very sheltered existence and all I know about ICE is its wildly popular and a guy loaded up on it a few years ago stabbed his ex girlfriend to death in a crowded restaurant. He had near super human powers brutally taking her life despite the other patrons breaking chairs over his back and trying to pull him away. So I see the Gaunt Man, and smile back, wildly wishing he isn’t high, and that the mechanic a few hundred feet away can hear my screams over his stereo blasting oldies rock if things get violent.

No longer being a member of the workforce I’m able to pick where I spend my days so it has been quite awhile since I’ve run into Old Haole or the Gaunt Man. Given how great the weather is on Kaua’i I did of course briefly consider joining the ranks of the homeless when at 18 I came home to an eviction notice because I had thought it was ok to pay rent on the 15th of the month and not the 1st . How much money I’ll save sleeping in my Mustang for a few months! I told a friend who shook her head disapprovingly and introduced me to her former classmate, now a surf legend who was renting out a studio. I found myself working three jobs to pay for it and thought it vastly unfair I was splitting the cost of utilities with a navy contractor in the main house who worked an 8-5.

The newspaper addresses homelessness occasionally, calling it a crisis and focusing on families, the cost of rent, the job market. “See how hard it is!!!” The man ahead of me in the gas station line told the clerk. “Nobodys hiring! How can we get a house if we don’t have job?” I didn’t pity him, jobs have dress and grooming codes. For example my workplace demanded I not wear black nail polish, dye my hair blue, or wear earrings bigger than a dime. He was paler than me (quite a feat!) and his dreadlocks brushed the back of his filthy linen pants. The attendant rolled her eyes, asked if he was buying anything, then told him to leave when he said no he had just wanted to show her the article. “He comes in here everyday and takes napkins.” She pointed to the dispenser by the hotdog machine, “I never knew why but then yesterday I went to the storage shed out back to get more sodas and he was there behind it crapping.” (In his defense the nearest public restroom was a good half mile away.) I purchased my coffee and walked past the shed to my work, cringing over the public health hazard. His girlfriend didn’t crap in the jungle by the gas station, but she was a prostitute of some sort, when work got slow we would people watch with binoculars, and she would be there in the park, rolling around on the grass laughing and swapping spit with various folks before gaily running away hand in hand with them behind the county building.

Red the Jew from Argentina was my favorite. His red hair may have actually been gray and dyed red from sleeping outside up in the mountains, his clothes certainly hadn’t been red when they were new, but his little black hat was always clean, I wondered if he stowed it away and only wore it when he hiked down from the mountains and boarded the Kaua’i Bus into town. He would teach me phrases in Hebrew, his first language that left him with a heavy accent when he spoke English. I don’t remember any just that they seemed to come from deep within him, gurgling and bubbling in the back of his throat before getting hacked out. He always recommended classic movies, some I watched, some I looked up on Wikipedia and pretended to have watched the next time I saw him. Red was writing a book about his life, and would sometimes pat the worn briefcase he hauled around, an optimistic smile on his face. He would say that while life hadn’t been kind to him it had been very interesting, taken him to many far away places, shown him a great many things, and now he would turn his fate around, he would use what life had done to him to make himself comfortable in his old age. I sincerely hoped it did.

I also sincerely hoped to have my car back. I pulled the receipt out of my wallet that the mechanic had given me when I had paid him a few hundred and double checked the license plate written down in case there was more than one Toyota Rav with paint peeling off it. I saw it matched, and waited for the Gaunt Man to make his way across the park before opening the gate. “Girl!!!” the Old Haole materialized from behind a tree, stopping to place his bottle down before rushing towards me, “Girl I told you-“ We had a few words. It ended with him bowing to the ground in a grand sweeping motion and opening the gate for me. I felt horrified and ridiculous, even more so when I rammed the gate post on my way out (driving in reverse is an elusive skill for me.) Big breath in and out, exiting the gates I put the car in park and got out to close them, the Old Haole standing at the side yelled out words of encouragement and gave me a thumbs up, feeling generous no doubt because while he was out and about in his underwear at least he could drive properly.

Thank you so very much for having took the time out of your day to read my blog! I am very appreciative of it, and hope to have the pleasure of writing for you again!!!!

Sincerely, The Chauffeur

2 thoughts on “He Slept Under Stars, Kept Folks From Their Cars

  1. Great writing Em! I am looking forward to the novel. Keep up the great observations and literary caricature. You “put me there” with great word pictures.


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