I chatted with my parents, bought bottom shelf vodka, then shot to the parking lot I live in. I love this place. It’s abutted by baseball fields and a walking trail. These features attract all types. They embody the disparate mix of big city society: families beside a drunken bum. Them with their kids. Him with his head in a trash can. I only stay in the lot on weekends when parking is free. But other nights I come to charge my devices. To watch movies in my car before bedtime. To piss on grass and people watch.
From the window of my car I see night creatures come from the crevices. They fill the seams of society. Hobos with raccoon lineage. They ride on bikes or hoof heavy packs. Each noticeable by their night light. Little beams bouncing, an unseen body attached. They step beneath bleachers, hit the tin shitter then sit there for hours. Most are headed for woods or water. Others hang tight as I do. The steady set of regulars.
There’s a hippie truck with tits painted on its side. A van with smashed-out windows. Its occupants installed a fan and hang sheets when it rains. Most nights I see two rough fucks who’ve stole city bikes and ride in circles. There’s also a bum with a guitar on his back. He only ever steps to the bathroom then leaves. The rarest sight was a hobo rolling a tractor tire as tall as his chest. Lord knows why or what he was up to.
For this night it was the weekend. My ass planted. I wasn’t on the sniff for awkward encounters. The drama of others played out in public. All the world’s a stage, as one once said. I’d had my fill from an incident earlier. So I planned on taking a night walk, maybe traipse the downtown party scene. Stretch legs under the effects of a bug spray jug. One better known as vodka. Embody the power of two shots in the system.
I stepped out my car and hit the trunk for my preferred cocktail: bottom shelf booze and sink water. Immediately drama erupted down the lot. My ears perked to a one-sided screaming match. A woman erupting in anger. Belts from hell with no reply.
“FUCK YOU, BIIIIIIIITCH. FUCK YOU. I FUCKING HATE YOU. I’M FUCKING DONE WITH YOU.” Her blow-out squelch bordered on demonic.
A variation of the FUCK YOU theme repeated for a minute. She was consistent if nothing else. I didn’t know how her throat could sustain the pain. Her voice seemed shredded. Whiskey shot with a crushed-glass chaser. I thought of shuffling over but my drink wasn’t ready. Still needed sink water to ease the sting of plastic jug spirits. I’d check the fight in a minute.
Where I stood was lit by floodlights from a close-by softball field. It bordered my parking spot. The lot was full. Down the way dark. From that darkness the screams came closer. Then the noise seemed to cross the street. I looked past my trunk to catch a man sprinting. Turning the corner of an apartment block. He disappeared into darkness. Running for dear life.
Giving chase was the screamer. A sub five foot woman. Barefoot, grey sweats, and cradling a dog. Its leash swung free, slapping her legs. Her chase felt half-hearted as compared to her screams. She’d wore out. Turned from shouts to sadness. She returned to the lot, a mix of mumbles and sobs on display. Two dudes strolled past and I remarked “Well that was fun.” They laughed in agreement.
At the softball field a middle-school game was in its late stages. On guard was a cop, his gut and girth stretching the fabric of his uniform. His frame was so obese I thought him to be security but strapped to his side was a firearm. I thought of the contrast of the things before me. The FUCK screamer and then this all-American scene. Kids playing softball. Playing in a lot where bums slink at night. Where a woman’s cries cut through the clatter.
I started toward the sobbing girl to offer water. To see if I could calm her. The cop took notice too. I followed the sobs to an SUV. There she was. Her face pointed to the ground, still crying and incoherent. She was either drunk or in distress. It seemed both. The dog still rested in her arms. It acted calm as if the fight hadn’t happened. I stepped past to collect myself. To think of how to best approach. As I did the cop came up and asked her what was happening.
I sat on a pole acting as a wheel stop to watch. I held an unfinished cocktail in one hand, cran La Croix for her in the other. Her answers to the cop were unintelligible. Each interrupted by fits. He spotted me and asked if I was the boyfriend. I piped up to say no. He popped more questions. One after the other. They brought forth little. Shovel to cement. She said it wasn’t his business. He replied he’d make it his business. That he could hear her all the way over at the softball game. He didn’t seem here to help. I finally caught a clear answer as she dismissed him.
“I’m just done with everything. I’m done. I just wanna get away. I’m 32 years old. I heard you. I already heard your stuff. I don’t even know you.” It seemed her turning point had come. Over the hump to a long and awful descent. Rage replaced by sadness.
In a more calm and quiet voice she said she’d leave but needed to use the bathroom. With her no longer screaming the cop walked his frame back to the game. His part now over. I watched a bit more but all she did was walk her dog and stand by her car. So quiet and still. I felt it best to leave her be. As a parking lot creep I could offer no comfort.
I completed my cocktail then caught the game. Just your friendly neighborhood hobo sipping vodka by kids. The cop gave a head nod. Asked how I was doing. Wrote me off as a lookie-loo. Later I circled back but the lady was gone. Disappeared to darkness. I possessed no more insight as to what happened than when I first heard her. That’s the nature of a public encounter.
I’ve spent thousands of hours walking city streets. Stumbling onto the stage of others: blowout fights, awkward dates, and old men screaming at trash cans. Never a clue how it started or where they’ll wind up. Books flipped to random pages. Me thumbing through a moment of their life. Them through mine. Make an imprint then move on. This was just another moment of mystery. One of someone fucked up and forgotten. Screaming pain and epithets at the world.