It was late Saturday afternoon, later than usual because Kai and I had both overslept his afternoon nap. The sun had set behind Signal Hill, a brilliant orange line running along its ridge, casting the city down below me into dull tones of gray as I packed the groceries into the boot of my rental car.
I opened my wallet to pull out my parking ticket, but it wasn’t in its usual place. I checked all my pockets. Nothing. I’d forgotten it in the machine downstairs when I’d paid for parking. I’ve been having periods of inattentiveness recently, where I’m on autopilot. It’s very unusual for me.
I dashed back downstairs. I was hoping that since it was so late, maybe no one had used the machine since I had. No such luck, there were two people standing in front of the machine. One person was just finishing his transaction, removing his ticket from the machine. I checked the top of the machine – no ticket.
The other person was just standing next to the machine, an elderly man; he seemed to be waiting for something. I looked at his hands and noticed that he had two parking tickets.
“Excuse me, you didn’t perhaps find a ticket in the machine did you?” I enquired of him, dipping my head to indicate the two tickets he was holding.
“Yes, I did.” He replied.
“Thank you. I left mine in the machine when I paid.” I explained to him.
He handed the ticket over to me. “I was waiting for someone to come back and claim it. They always do.” He smiled as he handed the ticket back to me.
“Thank you so much. That was fantastically kind of you.” I took the ticket, thanked him again, wished him well and took the elevator back up to where I’d parked on the roof.
There were only two cars on the roof when I stepped out of the elevator: my rental car and an old Ford Fiesta, white, with black trim, sports wheels, and decals plastered all over it. The front passenger door was open and a young man was sitting half-in, half-out of the door, looking down at something in his lap.
I climbed into my rental car, started it up and pulled out of the parking space. As I did so, I glanced over at the man in the Ford and briefly noticed that he was wearing a Mavericks t-shirt. This had no effect on me immediately but as I made my way out of the parking lot, it started to register in my mind. I started to get angry. I stopped the car and thought about going back. Why? What was I going to do? He was probably just a bartender and anyway he was far too young to have had any part in Miki’s ordeals. Forget it, I thought to myself, and put the car back into gear.
My anger intensified. Damn it, I thought to myself, I had to do something, anything. I slammed the car into reverse, turned it around and raced back, pulling into the parking space right next to his open door, engine revving, brakes squealing.
I climbed out, and walked around to his open door. He was a young man in his early to mid-twenties, Caucasian, tight, brown curly hair, probably quite tall judging by the way his left leg extended out of the car. Under the black Mavericks t-shirt, he was wearing a pair of plain blue jeans, and smart sneakers. He was looking down, concentrating on a Lotto form, filling in numbers with a pencil.
I strode up to him. “Do you work at Mavericks?”
“Yes.” He replied, looking up at me unconcernedly.
“Do you know what they do there?” I asked. My voice wavered a bit, adrenaline flushing through my system. I’ve never liked confrontations. I either don’t do it at all, or overdo it completely. I took a slow, deep breath and willed myself to calm down a little. The ‘Adrenaline Dump’ so characteristic of these situations became more manageable.
He was looking a bit confused, but hadn’t replied, so I asked again. “Do you know what they do there?”
“Yeah, it’s a strip-club.” He smirked at me; his body language indicated that he thought he was pretty cool working in that type of environment.
“I know that, but do you know what they really do there?” I demanded accusatorily.
“I’m not sure I know what you’re talking about.” He had stopped smirking and a crease of concern wrinkled across his forehead.
“They take sixteen year old girls off the street and out of their homes, shoot them up with Heroine and make them strip for men all night. Then they force them upstairs to screw the men. Did you know that?”
“No, I don’t know anything about that,” he replied, his gaze lingering off to the side, not looking at me directly.
I looked at him sitting half-in, half-out of the passenger seat and wondered if I should beat him. One quick, sharp downward stamp on his extended leg would break his leg and tear his knee apart; a hard, straight, full punch to his face would shatter his cheek bone, or dislocate his jaw, depending on how he had moved after I’d broken his leg; if I followed that up by grabbing a handful of hair and smashing his face repeatedly into the dashboard in front of him, I’d break his nose and smash his mouth up. It would take me less than ten seconds to beat him bloody and senseless, and leave him lying, broken on the seat.
“Well, I do. I know first hand that’s exactly what they do. Do you care?”
“I didn’t know that.” He repeated again.
“I do. Now you do. Do you care?”
I decided against beating him. This man had nothing to do with Miki’s abuse, or Erin’s abuse, or 7’teen’s abuse. Violent revenge wouldn’t serve any purpose at all. As emotionally satisfying for me as it would have been, my self-discipline prevented me from acting out some primitive, animalistic instinct for violence and revenge.
“Enjoy your job.” I turned my back on him, climbed in the rental car, and calmly drove home, my anger slowly ebbing away.