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|(All names have been changed to indict the guilty.)|
I look up from my efforts to see a shadow at the door. I lean a bit to the right and I see it's Shawn. Sigh.
Shawn likes to park his beet-red 1998 Pontiac Shitbird outside my shop and clip his toenails all day long. When he gets bored he buffs nonexistent thumbprints off the doors, or checks his oil. Again. And again. And again.
"Hey man, how's it going?" I say, which is Chronkite code for "See you later."
The locals here haven't had time to learn this, so I'm not that surprised when he says something else which I can't hear over my dope jams, which I'd way rather hear anyway. I turn back to the email I'm writing, in hopes that he'll just scurry off and enjoy the day.
God fucking damn it.
I turn down the dope jams. "Excuse me? Didn't hear you there over my dope jams."
"I said, whatcha drinkin', coffee?"
I glance at the coffee cup beside me, then back at him, then again at the cup.
"Yes..I'm drinking coffee!"
I slowly start bringing the volume back up, but he stays right where he is, straining against the bars of the locked steel door to see me.
"You drinkin' coffee and tea?"
Sure enough, I am. Right next to the coffee cup is a fresh, icy glass of delicious hibiscus tea. Honestly I hadn't noticed it up until that point, but yes that's what I'm drinking and also WHAT THE FUCK DO YOU CARE, TOENAIL?????
I take a deep breath, then go "Yep!" and keep sliding the volume up. The dulcet tones of Built to Spill reverberate through the room. Ahhhhh..
But he keeps going. I have no idea what he said, but I stand up and walk over to the door. "Dude, I'm working."
He looks crushed. "Oh...well I didn't mean to bother ya.."
You didn't? Then why did you SAY THAT SHIT? WHO SAYS THAT SHIT?
Do you walk up to a guy playing piano and go "Hey, whatcha playing there? Piano? Are ya playing the white keys and the black keys?"
I've spent my whole life trying to learn how to deal with NORMAL human conversation, and brother THAT AIN'T EASY. But this?
Is this what every day is going to be like in Tucson?
A little while after he slunk off dejectedly, this other local girl comes in. She seems friendly enough, but she's the kind of girl you see drunkenly making out with some random drummer at your local punk bar. Basically 110 pounds of nicotine and bad memories.
"You know there's already forty tattoo shops in Tucson, right?" She delivers this statistic like she's the Tucson Tattoo Shop Count Authority, which judging by the hodgepodge of shitty, blown out ink she sports on her atrophied frame she just might be.
I say this holding aloft my unwavering index finger. I freeze the finger in mid air using old mime skills from high school and let the rest of my body gently sway to the beats. My brand of humor doesn't seem to click with her, so she goes on.
"Well what makes you different?"
I ponder that query for a billionth of a second.
"Well, I don't so much do tattoos as make people's innermost hopes and dreams come true. How many Hopes and Dreams Come True shops are there in Tucson?"
She looks at me like I just coughed up seven marshmallow peeps strung on blinking Christmas lights. What the fuck was I SUPPOSED to say? "OH NOES THERE'S OTHER SHOPS! HOLD ON AND LET ME QUIT ALL MY SHIT AND LEAVE TOWN!!" What, do you walk into 7-11 and go "Tsk, why y'all open up? There's a Circle K across the street!"
Hell woman, that's WHY I'M HERE. The population of Tucson is a vast ocean of skin, and I'm at the helm of the SS Chronkite. Batten down the hatches, motherfuckers!
"Well, don't be surprised if you get your windows broken out."
I resist the sudden urge to smash them out myself, and say something benign and noncommittal, like "I'll kill the first cockhole who tries."
She eventually leaves, and I try YET AGAIN to finish this email, but it's not happening. I know, I'll take a walk. I lock up the shop and head out into the sunny day. It'll be harder for the crazies to hit a moving target, anyway.
I get half a block away when the Tusken raider/Rastafarian homeless guy that wears a shawl of pull tabs asks me for a joint. I stop, pat myself down, then give him a big shrug like "Man, don't you know it I'm fresh out of joints!" but by now he's not even looking at me anymore, back to weaving coffee stirrer mandalas and digging zombie incantations into the sand with his grizzled heel.
I make a mental note that I should start carrying a joint filled with 10X Salvia Divinorum, just for occasions like this, in a small envelope labeled "YOU ASKED FOR IT, FRIEND!" and continue up the street wondering how often that actually works for the dude.