I was walking through a not terrible but not great part of Yakima a couple of nights ago, and this strung-out-looking guy who was about 25 yards ahead of me on the sidewalk kept looking over his shoulder at me like maybe there was going to be some trouble.
I stuffed my hand in the pocket where my keys were and made a key-fist and thought, “You go ahead and try it, Methy.”(I call all sketchy dudes on the street “Methy” when I entertain violent confrontation fantasies.) Then I made it to my car and drove off, because of course there was no confrontation. There never is. I was partly relieved and partly disappointed. It was all a big nothing. That’s the thing about sketchy dudes on the street late at night: They’re probably just normal dudes who seem sketchy because it’s late at night. For all I know, this “strung-out-looking guy” was an accountant walking home from evening church services. Maybe he wasn’t peeking over his shoulder because he wanted to sell my liver and kidneys for PCP money, but because he thought I wanted to do that to him.
Anyway, even though nothing ever comes of it, it’s always a thrill when you think you might have to defend yourself. That doesn’t happen to me much now that I’ve moved. But I used to live in a (different) not terrible but not great part of Yakima. And I’d brush up against sketchy dudes pretty regularly over there. Now I live in a very safe, very nice neighborhood, and I miss the excitement. I miss the chance encounters with people whose lives are more dangerous and interesting than mine. Rational me knows this is stupid.
Back when I lived in the old apartment, my across-the-hall neighbor once harbored a fugitive for a couple of days, and I remember police coming by to shake him down for information, reminding him that he was on parole and could go back to jail himself. There were a lot of fun, little adventures like that. The best was when this skinny teenage gangbanger dude bounded up the fire escape while I was having a smoke and begged to use my cellphone. I let him use it because, well, he looked terrified. He called a friend and explained that there were guys driving around the neighborhood looking for him and they’d already stabbed his other friend. Then he told the guy on the other end of the phone, “I’m going to stay with this guy; call me back,” and he handed me back the phone.
So I had to explain to him that I hadn’t signed off on that plan. I told him he could call the cops with my phone but he wasn’t coming in. I thought he might try to take the phone from me, and I braced myself for a fire-escape showdown. But he just cursed me and scurried down the steps into the night. I wished him luck, but I didn’t answer when his buddy called back.
Now THAT was an exciting night. THAT was a story.
There are weirdos in my new neighborhood, too — the woman next door yells expletives at her dog loud enough that I can hear her from outside, the guy across the street sells samurai swords at garage sales and the old (white) aggressively Christian woman next door to him would not stop trying to high-five me the first time we met (because “most of my friends are young African-American boys” she said, seriously) — but they’re more eccentric and annoying than dangerous and interesting.
I guess that’s better. And I guess it’s dumb to complain about the lack of excitement that comes with relative safety. But just once in a great while I long for the days when I would make a key-fist in my pocket and know there was at least a chance I would have to use it.
— The Indoorsman