Coming off a meeting, windows down, a woman's sultry even tones telling a hardboiled story in my ears. Sun shining, not screaming, in the wake of some clouds and rain and I'm smiling because, when left to my own, that's the default.
Traffic's a stream instead of a steel river and I'm deciding between office and home for the rest of the day. The verdict turns out to be sweet tea and then I'm in a short line for it at a Hollywood Golden Arches.
My mind drifts as I take in the Angeline billboard, thinking, "Damn. She's back." Something about that thought sets the engines spinning, leaning towards a story about the women who tap the platinum goddess for fame. Marilyn. Madonna. Gaga.
What's the cost/benefit? "You can have a third of the Star but you give up baby making and love." Or, "I'll get you half but you die young and lonely if not alone." I wonder, if the Platinum Goddess came to me, would there be an offer I'd take?
Does she come to men at all? Does she come to black ones? What would she offer me?
I made my deal in childhood with Greater Ladies, who exact much stiffer prices for, some would say, less. I'd grin at their ignorance, knowing my deal's the better one.
Then there's a guy looking at me. I register him without actually taking notice, exercising the urban scan all grinders do. Slender, pushing hipster in a soft way that says No Threat.
Brown of South Asia or America with the twinkle grin already splitting his lips.
"Hey." he says, pulling me out of my head, making the slow approach that means he sees a mark.
Yeah, I've pegged him, now that he's got my eye– part rent boy, part grifter, all thinking he's smart. He's not. People always take me for a mark because my face has no guile in it.
People always forget, not everyone needs guile. Some of us just take the day as it comes and roll.
I say nothing as he halves the distance, only keep my eyes on him, waiting for the pitch. Of course there will be one. That's where we are today.
He says something else but the Sultry Lady in my ear is still telling me stories. A button makes her pause and I hear him repeat, "Hey. You need me to fix that front light for you?"
Nothing wrong with my lights. It's the middle of the day and we both know he's no mechanic.
No mechanic on Earth makes an offer that toothy.
"No," is what he gets from me.
Nothing harsh in it. Nothing soft either. A "no" from me is the end of the conversation and even a stranger can tell that if they listen. He's not listening. He still sees a mark.
Something about me, I guess. He's still smiling the, "Aw, come on" grin.
"Not even for free?" he says, halving the half distance to make sure I can take in what's on offer.
This time I do look at him and let him see that I'm actually seeing him. He stops smiling.
"No such thing," I say. There's a moment where I watch him finally notice me, finally see what's actually looking back at him. The smile drops. The hood folds over his eyes and he folds in on himself.
No marks here, kid. Never was. Keep walking.
He gets it. He gives the little nod. Respect.
"Yeah. All right. All right, then," he says.
And then he's shambling off, back in the swim, sharking for some other chum.
When it comes the tea is sweet, the sun shines on and I'm having my beautiful day.