Look I get Giving people their space.
Being respectful of communities you entering.
But that don’t mean don’t engage.
Or it could mean: Not engaging, out of fear of committing the above, can be worse. More dehumanizing.
Like say you kicking it out back and homie pulls up, crouches, and hits the rocks feet from you. Other side of the fence but flagrantly visible. Adjacent to where kids be hooping.
Is the move really Do nothing?
To flat-out ignore him?
Deny he exists?
Like Oh. That’s that dude. That’s what he do.
So call me crazy but when this happened one morning, what I did was, I went up to the back gate homie was crouched behind. Crouched. Went Bro, you good?
And when he ignored me: You got a spot to crash out?
And when he still ignored me: You need food or anything? A pop tart? I got pop tarts.
He lowered the pipe he was about to torch. Stood. Went Sure, I’d hit a pop tart.
Yeah? I said. Sit tight!
When I came back with my last Brown Cinnamon Sugar, unopened in case he wanted to stash it, he looked at it. At me. Went It’s not toasted. You can’t toast it?
I started laughing. Bro you serious?
Bro take your fucking pop tart.
Still feel bad about not toasting it.
The following weeks I went about my days feeling great about myself. Like Look at me! I’m Contributing to my Community.
The season changed. Jackets became tanks. I was hitting my delivery routes with a vengeance.
One night it was so blasted out I coulda called it. But decided to take one last order.
The pickup was McDonald’s on 40th, right by my spot. But the drop off was late sixties. Way west. Further than I’d ever biked.
Bounding down the porch steps post drop off, head down scrolling, I barreled into a dude booking it the other direction.
Same dude from before.
Looking keyed up.
Yo! I said. Like we were old pals.
He looked up. Stared at me vacant. Kept it moving.
Pop tart guy! I’m pop tart guy! I yelled after him.
But he was long gone.
Saw him again, the following week.
Crouched down in an alley between a church and a funeral home, a block north of my spot.
I passed him, then backed up to double take. To check that it was him.
How he was squatting was like how he used to when smoking out back.
Only he didn’t have a pipe.
He was taking a shit, it took me a sec to realize.
Made direct eye contact with me. Smiled. Kept on with his business.
I’m embarrassed by how surprised I was that Glinda had had a job, had two children, and had been happily married not two years ago.
I’m confused about why it took months of regular powwows, about the weather, about how to get rid of all the trash that kept accumulating out back our block, about the unresponsiveness of the Philadelphia City Streets Dept., before I even considered these things enough of a possibility to ask.
Why did I assume that, just because Glinda’s life was daily a.m. tall cans out on the stoop, it always had been?
When I finally learned these things, that Glinda had a son not much younger than me (a bus driver), and a daughter who had just graduated high school (who was off to college), and that it wasn’t till she got injured and lost her job two years ago that her ex kicked her out, I was floored.
I wanted to hear more. So zipped it and let her talk.
“I get so mad at him sometimes,” she said. “For being so cruel. Always calling me, telling me what a deadbeat mom I am. I swear to god, if I see him, I’m gon’ cut his ass like Chucky.”
“Oh man,” I said, laughing but grave. “I feel you. That’s real. That’s Chucky Mode!”
She laughed so hard at that, she started tearing up. “You the only one who gets my humor,” she said. “You alright.”
And suddenly we were both tearing up, both wiping our eyes.
I got so excited, I wanted to communicate how much I felt her.
I said, “Yo honestly? I’m on the same shit, minus the kids. I got injured, stopped working, and then my ex dipped. Two years ago. And I’ve been here since, tryna get back on my feet.”
She stayed silent, so I kept going.
“And I get so mad/sad sometimes that she don’t fuck with me. Like, I know you don’t fuck with me anymore, but you just never gonna respond? Y’know?”
“What do you mean respond?” Glinda said, cracking another and going serious.
“To my texts.”
“She broke up with you? Why you texting her?”
“I mean, because we were friends? I still wanna be friends. We were basically married—”
“No,” said Glinda, shaking her head. “Stop it. Stop texting her.”
I bowed my head and went quiet. I thought we were doing a bonding-over-our-exes thing.
“Leave that girl alone,” she said. “You don’t wanna be with someone who don’t wanna talk to you, anyhow.”
“Plus,” she added, “You cute. You’ll be fine.”
“What does that have to do with anything? Being cute don’t help me become a daytime person. Or get a real job.” I was indignant but was also blushing some.
Glinda pulled from her tall can.
“You right,” she said. “No matter how cute you is, it’s still two dollars to ride the bus!”
And we went into stitches, laughing like hik-hik-hik-hik!