Sunday, May 12, 2013

Doing Nothing

Last night around midnight I was getting ready to turn in when I heard some of my neighbors yelling.  At first I figured they were just having a loud party, but it soon became apparent at least one woman was angry.  When I heard her say, "It isn't even loaded, you chicken shit," I knew someone had a gun over there, and I grew concerned.

My neighbors are South Pacific Islanders, and very friendly folks.  My only real beef with them is that they don't get waste service.  Instead, they pile their garbage into the bed of an open pickup until it's full, then haul it to the dump.  Winds prevailing as they are, a lot of candy wrappers and snack packaging get blown onto my lawn.  Although it's mildly annoying, I have never said anything: I just pick it up and mutter to myself.  Their eldest daughter is a stocky, athletic kid who spends hours every day shooting into the neighbor's basketball hoop or cycling in endless circles around the cul de sac.  She's a sweet kid who seems lonely.  It was the knowledge that she was in the house with these raging idiots that made me wonder if I should call the cops.

On the other hand, I didn't want to overreact, or get people in trouble unnecessarily.  Although several adults were yelling at this point, no one seemed to be in pain or extreme fear.  While I dithered thusly in my darkened living room, the cops arrived anyway, and with considerable drama ("Come out with your hands up!"), they arrested both a woman and a man. 

This Mother's Day morning all looked serene across the way, and I ventured out for a pack of smokes.  I have a favorite convenience store I always buy cigarettes from that is run by a Korean couple.  They are rather surly, but the front counter is plastered with pictures of their beagle in various adorable poses.  I've been popping into their store twice a week for ten years, yet they never seem to recognize me.  They never remember the brand I smoke either.  It's a little weird:  Do they really not recognize me?  Do all of us white people look alike?  Or are they just respecting my space?  Either way, I don't mind.  I'm a native of a city that is renowned for both its rain and its social chill, and I kind of like it that way. 

As I was leaving the store, I noticed a rack of t-shirts on display near the door.  One on top caught my eye.  It showed a cartoon man brandishing an unfurled belt above a small terrified face with the caption, "This hurts me worse than it hurts you."   It was so crudely drawn that I wasn't sure if the victim was meant to be a child or a woman.  I had never seen a t-shirt like that before, and I could hardly believe that someone would think of making it, much less selling it.  Was it meant to celebrate or condemn domestic violenceI almost wanted to buy it so that people would believe it was real.  I thought about taking a picture, or asking the owner what it meant to him, but his forbidding expression and lack of English daunted me.  

As I drove away, I thought, "It's time to find a new place to buy cigarettes."

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