It was late one weeknight. I had been at a friend's house in Claremont for a few hours. I was, as usual, dangerously low on gas. I don't know what it is with me and gas. I hate getting it (both kinds, for those of you as immature as me), and I hate stopping late at night in gas stations. Mamma didn't raise no foo. I carry my keys pointing out between my fingers, I practice the foot stomp and shin kick.
So I show up at this gas station, and I have to go in because I left all my cards at home. A cracked out guy with Crazy Eyes walks out as I walk in. He's holding a plastic bag to his chest. Clutching it like it's a brick of gold. Did I mention the Crazy Eyes? He would have only registered as a minor blip on my radar if the scene inside wasn't so off. There were two scraggly men standing by the counter. They were unshaven. One of them had beer stains on his holey shirt, and the other one was wearing jeans and a denim jacket that had seen better years. The woman behind the counter was on the phone giving a description of Crazy Eyes. the place was small. i was next to the two scraggly men within nano seconds of walking through the door.
Oh fuck. Was this a robbery? Were these guys in on it? Was I going to get shot in a gas station in Claremont at 11:30 on a Wednesday? Smelly would be soo pissed! That's not how I intended to go. It's going to be in my car driving 45 mph around a curve that warns 25 mph; or landing headfirst after doing something totally stupid on a dare.
Stained Shirt was looking at me. I was standing next to the counter with my (now) crumbled up, sweaty dollars deciding what to do. These guys were looking me in the eye and weren't shifty. They could have used showers, but the woman behind the counter was at ease with them. Were they good guys? Dirty Denim walked to the doorway and peered out. "He's heading across the street to the gas station." The woman behind the counter repeated this over the phone. Should I leave? Should I stay and get gas? Was someone going to get shot? Stupid. It's 1130pm and you show up at a gas station. Who does that alone? Why don't you get gas during the day like normal people do? All the cracked out druggies are asleep in their cardboard boxes during the day. Was Crazy Eyes coming back? Was he rallying his Crazy Band of Crazies to bust a cap in my ass?
The woman behind the counter was talking to me. Oh. Um. 30 on 3, please. Holy fuck, now I really had to go outside. What if Crazy Eyes was hiding behind the pump? Did I lock the Blue Macheen before I went in? I walked toward the door, totally freaked out. Shirt Stains looked at me. "I'll watch over you while you pump your gas." My blood pressure returned to normal. My breathing slowed down. "Thank you."
Crazy Eyes could still be lurking under the Macheen. He might get a shot off, but I believed this guy would throw fisticuffs for me. That's all anyone wants. Someone in their corner in the dark scary nights to ward off bad guys. You might not beat him, but he'll get more than he bargained for.
I figured Stained Shirt would stand safely in the doorway. Instead he stood five feet away from the Macheen, arms crossed, feet shoulder width apart, a menacing look on his face, keeping one eye on me, and another one out for Crazy Eyes.He waved to me as I drove away. I locked my door behind me and waved back, and mouthed Thank You.
I have always believed in the basic goodness of people. It might be hidden under a stained shirt and scruffy appearance, but I believe that inherent goodness is there.