Ret walked and he walked. Up and down Desiard mostly, to no avail because he didn't know what it was he sought. The tall dark downtown buildings seemed to grow toward him, visible by ambient light. Had it been so long since things were always hopping down here around the clock? Now ghosted shapes painted their own absence black behind him as they pulled away to another world. And the boom boom of lowriders chased away the voices trading narrative of the streets back and forth.
A solitary drugstore storefront spilled a miserly light on the sidewalk. Fontana's, open 24 hours how much longer, until the ratio of holdups to days with no holdups meets a certain critical point and it too will close.
Does everyone feel that way? Does everyone have a distant sixties of the soul, a certain levity and wonder they carry with them always, and forever long to reach again?
Even a sixties of the little black boy with doors shutting in front of him every so often?
"Yo." A voice pulling Ret from the sidewalk inside. "What's going on?"
Ret turns. "Looking for it myself," he says.
"I hear you," is the reply. "Mice elf."
A man younger than himself stands inside the open glass door, a little to the side near sparse merchandise shelves. The man clearly knows him, evident from the way he doesn't have to look at Ret's face in order to speak. Ret, no idea who this is, goes over.
"Any word on the situation?"
Ret's not sure. "Ain't heard it, if it is."
"I know what you mean. Standing here. Waiting. Then waiting some more." The man is close-cropped, broad-nosed, a thin chocolate face you know is going to have a deep voice before you even hear it. His arms cross laxly in front up high, exposing large veins.
"So saying he didn't do it's not going to help him any more than swearing to the man you did it yourself. What happens, happens."
"The way it is." Some kind of friend of Glasseye's? Impossible, for a man who has no friends,.
They stand facing the same direction, toward the uneventful street, words directed outward.
"Think that white man done it?"
"Mac? Aw, Naw. Don't think so. They cut him loose anyways."
"That's right. You knowed him, didn't you."
"You could say that."
Somewhere off sounds a siren, for several moments growing neither louder or more distant.
"That's exactly what they did."
At that moment a large black women in strained polka dotted hot pants and halter top comes from the sidewalk carrying nothing in her hands. She walks past as if they belonged to another world she didn't have to see.
There is an overflow to her femininity, an abundance characterizing fertility and sedentariness. They can't help but stare the way neither would hesitate while standing alone, but are somehow comfortable enough to do in the presence of the other.
She sashays, swings, fulfilling every stereotype they no longer cared to hide from the white world.
"Your cousin too, hainh?"
"Yeah? I guess you could call it cut loose. Everywhere he goes, there's a uniform there. Gets up in the morning, there's one outside his window. Comes in at night, there's a car parked across the street."
"Dog him till he does, dog him till he doesn't, dog him till he does again."
"Every single minute."
"Sooner or later, now and then, someday there's an end to the road."
"And the thing is, man, he doesn't mind."
"I ain't never seem him like this."
"Say he doesn't mind?" Like: Whatchoo talking bout Willis?
"Like it turned him into a different man. The one he was supposed to be all along." Ret still has not figured out where he recognizes this guy from. "You know him, huh, Glasseye?"
"Sure thing. I knows him." Almost a laugh there.
"Never looked a man in the eye. Never had a complete sentence for his mamma. Never wrote more than his name on piece of paper. Never watched a TV show without twitching the whole way through like invisible peoples were hitting at him."
"That's him. That's Glasseye."
"Now, now he's like Hello, how do you do. He shakes your hand. He smiles at the cashier girl. He ask a old lady what's the weather gon' do."
"That's him now. Waves at the cops following him. And get this, it's not to piss them off. He really is glad to see them."
"And it pisses them off anyways."
"Of course. But he holds his head up when walks down the street here."
"Made him like normal."
"And they going to send him away like that. That's the kick in the nuts. Gets straightened out, then it's all over." Ret leans against a rickety shelf. "They're asking him shit every day, and word's that there's an illegality about dust prints found on that car in Arkansas".
"They going to do something to him."
"They're not going to let a dead woman's case go away just like that."
"Not a dead white woman."
"That's not what I said. It's not what I'm saying."
"You're not not saying it it either, are you?"
"I'm just saying what I said".
The woman comes back out. She is carrying nothing still. The purpose of her visit to the store was is unclear.
Her walk is round and full and belongs to another space of the mind than theirs.
They can't help but stare, and star together. Outside the realm, they can't say any more.
A car goes by on Desiard, boom the boom.
"That's a strange story to me, man."
"Man. I know I don't know how to tell you."
"Ain't no matter whether they find something on him."
"They're going to nail him down. Sooner or later."
"They are. I know it."
"It don't matter."
"It's going to be a matter of indifference whether he actually committed a crime or not."
"What's going to happen will happen."
"Total indifference. Time is all that passes. The facts don't change, do they?"
"No they don't."
"The fact whether he did it or not?"
"It doesn't matter. The end is the same."
"What I thought. I hear you."
"I'm not saying. I'm just saying where it comes to."
"I'm with you brother. All the way."
"I just don't know where he is. Ain't seen him in a couple of days."
"Think it's already happened?"
"I know this: when it does, I will know what I've got to do."
"I know where I got to go."
"That's where it is, for sure."
"I've got to go there."
"I hear you talking."
"The thing is, I just don't know how."
"Even if he did--?"
"What's gone is already gone."
"I got you."
"And what's going to happen is going to have to happen sooner or later."
"And. . . what's that look? What are you thinking?"
"I might know how."