Miscellaneous Mental Musings of an Emerging Artist
The swaggering badass yaps loudly on his cellphone, walking his bicycle over to the metal fence about ten feet away from me and my two dogs, who are waiting for Dana to come out of the Jewel with several bags of groceries. We are going to go home, have dinner, and watch The Lookout on DVD. Cassie is as antsy as she always gets when we find ourselves standing near busy parking lots; Oracle is as calm as she always is, in general.
And the swaggering badass walks past us, very clearly telling the person on the other end of the signal that his shit is the best on the north side, he is talking ninety-eight percent. Hold on, man, got another call.
And I’m trying not to jump to conclusions, here. Just because a young black man wearing dark sunglasses after sunset and a bandanna over his head tells somebody that his shit is the best on the north side, tells somebody that he is talking ninety-eight percent, it doesn’t mean that he’s a drug dealer. He could be talking about soap, after all. He could be talking about organic vegetables.
So the drug dealer switches calls, and the voice on the other end rings through loud and clear, and the drug dealer is telling the voice that he was there, he was waiting, where was he. And the voice says he’s somewhere else. And the drug dealer negotiates the map of Chicago with the man on the other end, finally realizing, oh, right, you’re by that nursing home on Montrose. Yeah, I know it. Look, I’m on my bike, I can be there in like ten minutes. Okay? Okay? Ten minutes. I’ll be there. And he clicks back to the first call. Tells the first person that he has to go, that there’s like $4000 waiting for him, yes Four Thousand, what did I tell you. I told you my shit is the best on the north side.
He listens for a bit.
Tell her to have the 700 ready for me.
And he puts his phone in his pocket and bikes away.
This was at 7:00 this evening. The nursing home is Carlton-on-the-Lake, near Montrose and Clarendon. Four thousand dollars in money and drugs. Ten minutes from then.
And my hand juggles the cellphone in my pocket, skating over the obvious action, daring to tell the police that I have an easy collar if they’re willing to put in the legwork. No, you don’t need my name. Just doing my part as a responsible citizen. Yes, I overheard everything clearly. He was barely ten feet from me when this happened. Yes, officer. Good luck.
Because I was the only person standing near him when the phone call happened, and although I doubt he took much notice of me at all, somehow standing there in my long black wool coat, Chicago Bears winter hat, holding a brindle greyhound and a white pointer/beagle, somehow I felt very distinctive. Somehow I felt very much like somebody one might remember as one were having their head ducked into a squad car, as one were going back over the evening and trying to figure out how it was that a routine bit of business had turned into a mandatory minimum.
And yes, I imagined being executed for the act of citizen justice. I imagined my dogs being mowed down by random sprays of submachine gunfire. I didn’t open my phone, and somewhere in the city right now another hustler has just made bank and another overprivileged addict is dividing up the best shit on the north side with his buddies. And I am nothing in his life; a one-day background extra who was offered a line but didn’t want the responsibility and so declined the opportunity. And he is nothing in my life but a scene that ended up on the cutting room floor, an unfinished extra for the Special Edition DVD.
We go on with our lives oblivious, because I decided I’d much rather go on with my life than take steps to halt the momentum of his.
And I think, he said wryly, I can live with that.