June, 13th, 2014 is a day which reminds me of the Paul Aster quote,
“Stories only happen to those who are able to tell them.”
It’s an odd saying because it kind of suggests that the universe is conspiring to help you fulfill your purpose as a storyteller. Considering some of the sadder stories I can tell about my life, I’m not sure how grateful I should be for the participation of the stars. Nevertheless, even if the quote is just taking advantage of the fact that even a broken clock is right twice a day, I can’t deny that I believe there’s something authentic about that philosophy.
I neglected to mention that June 13, 2014 was also a Friday, one where I was walking home from work, thinking about the time a strange woman asked me to park her car. She was driving down the street I was traversing, pulled up next to me while I was on the crosswalk, and said, “Excuse me, will you park my car?” because she apparently did not know how to do it herself. I was dizzy from the strangeness of the request but helped her anyway and walked home thinking, “I can’t post this story on Facebook, nobody would believe me,” even though I eventually did.
Remembering that unusual moment confirmed for me that I hadn’t experienced any odd interactions with people in a while — until just a few minutes prior. The memory came to me just as I was exiting a bus where I had been talking to a former co-worker whom I hadn’t seen in years. We used to bounce together at what is, to this day, the craziest bar I’ve ever stepped foot in. I had no idea he had been living just up the road from me all this time. We talked about how much fun we had working at that bar, along with its own bizarreness like people having sex on tables or peeing (and worse) on dance floors, but also how that life is something we’ve happily left behind. It was strange meeting him and taking that random nostalgic trip on a Friday, but nice.
A few hours later, a drinking buddy texted me and said he wanted to hang out. I dressed and left for the bar. My forehead wrinkled while I was listening to the car radio and heard someone say that today was Friday the thirteenth and a full moon. “That’s crazy,” I thought. “I wonder if that means this will be a fun night.”
After a few drinks, I had slipped into my normal clubbing routine when one of three women physically pulled me toward her group and said,
“Hey, we saw the way you dance, we like it, and we want you to dance with us.”
I thought that was a little weird and tried to remember if anything like that had ever happened to me. I’ve been complimented on my dancing before. I’ve been the center of attention because of my dancing before. I’ve even been stalked because of my dancing before.
But I couldn’t recall if I’ve ever had to endure light kidnapping.
“We’re kind of bitches too, so you should really take this as a compliment,” one of them said, courtesy of alcohol.
The three were good dancers, and fun. So I busted a move or two and some friends joined me. All in all, it was a wacky experience but only in the way that alcohol and good music can loosen people up and flush their veins with courage.
Eventually, I left the trio to go use one of the unisex bathrooms. I opened the door to find a woman standing there with her panties and skirt around her ankles, while she held a square of toilet paper between her legs. By the time she screamed, I had already rolled my way back outside and muttered something about doors having locks. That felt like a little more than alcohol strange. Maybe I’d call it “God is a practical joker” strange, but that’s all.
However, I soon realized the trio of guys I had been eyeballing earlier in the night were in fact three people I hadn’t seen since I was a teenager, and with whom I had played high school football. That incident stuck to me like glue in between my fingers. I kept rubbing at the indescribability of the moment, trying to get it off my skin. Two of them had put on a little weight and one had a full beard. We were all in our thirties, and yet I felt like I was looking at teenagers — just old teenagers, like we were characters from some forgotten story and were still playing the same roles.
After the bar had closed, I joined a friend at a nearby pizza shop when someone walked up to our table. It was another person I hadn’t seen in some time. He used to bartend in the place we had just left, but he was now playing music in New York City. In that instant, I was so happy to see him I hadn’t paused to consider any significance in it. Instead, I finished my mozzarella sticks, wished him well and drove home, still thinking of the night as a fairly normal one.
By the time I was only a few seconds away from my bed the part of the city I lived in had slipped into black like dinosaurs into tar pits. There was no power for blocks. Technically, it was Saturday the 14th by this time, but the moon was still full and driving into my neighborhood felt like burrowing toward the center of the Earth. It unsettled me. Fortunately, I realized I still needed to pick up my bicycle from the train station. I had blown a tire a week earlier while in the middle of a ride — and too far from home — so I locked it up there for safe keeping.
I turned the car around.
While I was in the train station parking lot trying to get my bike to fit in the SUV, a lesbian couple — I assumed — looked like they were trying to use the Zip Car parked close by. I was too annoyed with my bike’s flat tire and my powerless neighborhood to pay much attention, but then one of the women walked up to me.
“Excuse me, could you give me a ride home?” she asked.
I knew the trains had stopped running, and their chances of finding a cab were thin at that hour. Plus, we were the only people around and she seemed like a nice person. I had been stuck in situations like that before, especially in a city where public transportation has the bedtime of a toddler.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
She told me she was going to the other side of the city, no more than a few blocks away from the bar I had just left. My head cocked to the side at that coincidence, but I let her keep talking while I considered her request, and came to terms with how badly I didn’t want to return to my blacked out neighborhood. It felt like space was eating the planet one nibble at a time and had decided to start with my home. What had really intensified the sensory experience was that even the street lights were out. Rather than nighttime in my neighborhood, it felt like there was no neighborhood. So I told the woman that I would help her for gas money. She said that she would be right back, and I returned to shoving my bike into the back of the SUV.
The night was quiet. Frozen, like the air had gripped everything and held the city in a perfect posture except for me and the two women I could see out the corner of my eye. Oddly, for an instant, I thought I saw the woman I had not spoken to, who was wearing a white t-shirt, lunge at the one who had approached me. But because I couldn’t think of any reason for lunging to be happening in the middle of the night — except maybe for some playful slap boxing like I used to do as a kid — I told myself that I was wrong. Then I heard the woman I had just spoken to say,
“You’ve been punching me for years and I’ve never punched back! How do you like it?!”
That was when I realized the thump I thought I had heard, but dismissed, was real. When I accepted a thump had occurred, I became concerned because it was loud. The night’s quiet broke like a bone because somebody had just been hit. Then I realized the lunge I saw was also real, and the woman in the white t-shirt had blasted the woman I had spoken to in the face.
I looked up from my car. I had missed the retaliatory punch from the woman who had approached me, but it had obviously happened. The one with the white t-shirt was now coiled into herself, on the ground, and crying. I thought to myself, like I did with the stranger who had wanted me to park her car so long ago, that I was an idiot for being willing to help people I didn’t know. The one in the white shirt looked up at me from the ground and said,
“How can you just stand there and let a woman get beat on like this?!”
But the one I had spoken to wasn’t hitting her anymore. She wasn’t doing anything except standing there, looking down on her girlfriend while her girlfriend looked in my direction and kept blaming me for not stopping the fight. And I just stood there dumbfounded, not knowing what to stop, not really sure about what was happening, and wondering why I was going to help these two violent people. I hated them a little bit for making me feel stupid, as if they had tricked me into helping them.
The woman I spoke to then helped the other back to her feet. They walked away together, still arguing, with a poisoned love between them, and the one who had asked me for a ride saying,
“How are you going to make it look like I do this all the time in front of him?”
I don’t remember moving. But I was eventually behind the wheel again, driving off toward my black hole of a neighborhood, feeling a little disgusted.
Earlier in the day, I had received an email from a woman I went to high school with — and had always had a crush on. Again, this was another person I hadn’t seen in years. I didn’t even know she had my contact information. She said she had seen me walking by a train station earlier in the week, but there were so many people around that I couldn’t hear her, so she decided to say hello via email.
I couldn’t remember the last time I was at the station she had named. But I hadn’t given that oddity much thought until after the fight in the parking lot.
And then I said, “That’s so strange.”
Photo credit: on1stsite./Flickr