Hard To Relate

I saw them on the sidewalk up ahead, a tall Haole guy, very fit, maybe six-feet two, in a tank-top and shorts, late-thirties. If I had to guess, I’d say he was an escapee from California. He appeared to be arguing with an elderly Haole guy, rumpled hair and clothes, stooped shoulders, maybe 70.  

The gesticulation on both sides made it appear as though they might come to blows. The closer I came, the more of their back-and-forth I could hear. The old man kept telling the younger that he had to go. “Please stop talking to me already,” he repeated several times, “I have to go now.”

He’d walk further away, but the younger man would catch up with him. The volume of the younger man, especially, was going up.

“Oh yeah!” the younger guy said. “Well, I want you to know that I’m connected. I’m in the Mafia, see, and I have six brothers. All six of them tried to kill me, but I got them first. I’m the last one. They shouldn’t’a messed with me. You hear me?”

Again the old man, red in the face, asked him to stop talking. The young man put his arm on the older’s shoulder. Slipping out from under, the old man began walking even faster. Finally, the young man didn’t follow him, but he shouted more about how he was with the Mafia.

I carry a telescoping baton with me when I go on my walks. Since the pandemic began, I’ve been approached twice by scary people yelling at me, and this was beginning to feel like it could be time number-three. The younger guy was walking toward me now, and like an idiot, I made eye contact. I tried to look away. I was thinking about my baton.

“Hey,” the young one said, reaching out toward me as we came closer. It wasn’t an aggressive move. His hand was palm up. “Can you spare a buck? I need to eat.”

His volume had dropped considerably, sounded conversational. I stood staring at him. I know I should have kept going, but I didn’t. He came to a full stop in front of me.

“When’s the last time you ate?” I asked.

“Maybe yesterday, I don’t know,” he said.

I reached in my pocket, pulled out my wallet, and gave him five dollars.

“Hey thanks, man,” he said, took the money and walked off.

I wondered if he were really going to buy food. Three blocks down, I’d caught up with the older man waiting for the walk light.

I wondered if I should. I did. “Excuse me,” I said. “That guy who was yelling back there, what was up with him?”

The man turned to me, shook his head. It wasn’t disgust, but it was anger of some kind. Hard to say.

“That’s my son,” he said. “He’s no good. You know what I mean?”

“Yes,” I said, “yes, I do.”

I didn’t, but that’s all I could think of, and all we said to each other until the light changed, and I watched him walk off.

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