I don’t spend too much time at Hate Man’s old spot in the Park anymore. I prefer to drink alone these days. And too many people know me at that spot. But yesterday was the Fourth of July
So I figured why the hell not.
Of course before I even finish pouring my beer, some homeless guy pulling a luggage-on-wheels is making a direct bee-line towards me like a guided missile.
Turns out it’s this guy Mumbles, so named because — you guessed it — he mumbles every word he says. On top of that Mumbles rarely speaks in complete sentences (he’s a little “out there”), making it even more difficult to follow what he’s saying. Mumbles is a bit on the coarse side (for some reason he always reminds me of sand paper). But he’s a good guy with some real heart. And he was always very protective of Hate Man. Mumbles has done his fair share of time in prison. But it’s mostly for being a fuck-up. As opposed to a fucker. If you know what I mean. He’s 44 but he reminds me more of a high school kid than an adult. One of those. And what with the mumbling and his shaved head he reminds me of a character in Dick Tracy.
I poured Mumbles a cup of beer and we lit up some smokes (I had quit smoking after Hate Man had died, but I had found an American Spirit cigarette pack that was full of snipes — they hadn’t been previously smoked, but they had been neatly cut in half for some unknown reason, but were otherwise perfectly smokeable, and what the hell it was a holiday).
So me and Mumbles sat there on the bench, drinking and smoking and reminiscing about our last interactions with Hate Man.
Hate Man had rushed off to the hospital for what would be the last time. And I got a frantic message from Hate that he had left all of his camping stuff on the sidewalk, and he needed it packed up and hauled off to the shed before the cops threw it all out.
Now anybody who knows Hate Man knows he has a LOT of stuff. So I knew it would be a major chore. But as luck would have it — I consider it a matter of divine intervention — there just happened to be a big, empty Berkeley Bowl shopping cart just sitting there on the sidewalk right near Hate’s stuff. The perfect tool for the job!
So I somehow managed to cram all of Hate’s stuff into the cart. And only just barely. His mounds of bedding was precariously hanging out of both sides of the shopping cart. And I had to keep one hand on top of his stuff, and the other hand steering the cart, as I winded my way down the narrow and pock-marked sidewalks of Dwight Way (one wrong move and the whole cart topples over).
On top of that, it starts raining. I don’t have a jacket on, let alone a rain jacket. So I get completely soaked. My shirt is clinging to my body. And it’s more than a little ironic. Having survived one of the wettest winters on record, mostly staying completely dry, I finally end up getting completely soaked by this piddly-ass little March shower at the very end of the season.
But I manage to get all of Hate’s stuff safely packed away in the shed before it gets wet. Victory!
But then as I’m heading back to the Park, Mumbles calls out (or I should say mumbles out) to me: “Hey, d-d-id you happen to notice m-m-my white sleeping b-b-ag? I had it stashed w-w-with Hate Man’s stuff.” (street people often stashed their stuff with Hate because it was a relatively safe spot). So now I had to go all the way back to the shed and dig that thing out.
Hate Man ended up dying shortly after. So it turned out Hate wouldn’t be needing his stuff after all. But I at least felt good that my final transaction with Hate Man had ended on a successful and completed note. As opposed to when somebody dies and there’s this loose end or unfinished business that you can never complete. I hate when that happens.
“And then after Hate Man d-d-died you g-g-gave me a bunch of V-V-Virginia Slims to smoke in his honor,” mumbled Mumbles.
“That’s right,” I said.
So me and Mumbles sat there on the bench, drinking and smoking and talking and mumbling and thinking of many things, as the sky went dark and the Fourth of July fireworks started going off in the distance. And it occurred to me that Hate Man had been dead for 3 months now. As Hate Man recedes farther and farther into the ancient past.