As it turned out, I did have fifty cents, which I gave him. He sat next to me to wait for the bus. [Our bus ended up being 45 minutes late. It showed up the same time as the next bus, and we still couldn't take it, because it was going to the garage. Great.]
Maybe because I'm friendly and share money like that, the guy decided that we should be friends. He started a friendly conversation with me. He wondered what I do for fun. I told him that the only things I do are work and go to school. I'm really boring, I told him. He said he never really liked school. He sometimes thought about doing his GED, since you can get a better job with that. I told him it was true, that he should really do that, and I tried to make the GED sound as cool as I could.
And then our conversation got really deep because he continued to ask me questions. "Who's your favorite rapper?" he asked. Hm. Good question. Favorite rapper.....ummmm...yeah, I don't really ever listen to rap, I told him. I really am that boring. But to show an interest, I asked him who his favorite rapper was. "Fiddy cent." Oh. Nice.
We talked about work and school, and I asked him what he wanted to be when he grows up. He said he didn't know. He told me that his ex-girlfriend said that she thought the best job would be to test different kinds of pot. "I don't think that job really exists," he said, "but if it did, I would want to do that." Huh. Yeah, I don't think that exists, I told him. He said he wants to be a rapper. His friend does the beats, and my bus friend raps. (Later in the conversation when we talked about "street names" and rapper names, I asked him what he would call himself when he became a rapper. "IK," he told me. It didn't stand for anything, though.)
He said he does need to get a job, though. So that he can go back to California. Or Mexico. To chill. He said he'd like to go to Mexico and wear nothing but boxers. Always. "You would get really sunburnt," I told him. "That would suck." He agreed. I told him he would have to wear sunscreen, and we discussed the merits of sunscreen.
He said he isn't as tan this summer, because he's been out in the sun less. I told him his hat probably helped. (He was wearing a baseball hat with an A on it.) I asked him what the A on the baseball hat was for. He took off the hat and turned it around. "Oh, Atlanta." He was like "yeah, isn't that the city that's underwater?" I was surprised. "Oh, close," I said. "That's Atlantis. Atlanta is in Georgia. It's near Florida." "No way!" he said. I don't know if he knew that Georgia existed. "I want to go to Atlantis," he said. "I don't think it exists," I said. "I think it's part of a story." "It would be cool if it existed, though," he said. "I would want to go."
He was 19 years old. His parents live in Nevada. He has a sister that lives in Utah. In fact, he went to Salt Lake to look up her myspace, so that he could get the sister's telephone number. [He talked about myspace several times.] He spent one year in a really tough juvenile detention center. He didn't really like it.
When the bus came, he sat next to me.
He talked a lot about his homies, and I asked him what you call your best homie. Without any hesitation, he said your best friends are your "bros". Huh. Makes sense.
He told me a story about one of his bros, from back when they were in California. I forget what his name was, but he went by CJ. My friend on the bus was held down by three guys from a rival gang, and he watched them shoot his bro in the heart three times. "I had tears in my eyes for two years after that," he told me, solemnly.
My bus friend and I were sitting on the back row of the bus, and an old man wearing a suit got after my bus friend. He was sitting near us, but facing the middle of the bus. "You're touching me," he said. "Let an old man have some space for his legs." My bus friend didn't pay much attention to the old man, but I guess he moved his leg so that he wasn't touching the old man anymore.
His girlfriend left him recently. She moved to New York with his parents. He wants to drive out and follow her. One of the reasons she left, was that she thought my bus friend was "playing" her. He said he wasn't. He said he was just busy rapping with his friend, because he wants to be a rapper. He wasn't playing her, though. He only played her once. Instead of 4 or 5 times like he usually does. He couldn't really understand why she was hurt. I told him that thinking he was playing her was probably enough to make her sad. I said that he deserved this for being a player in the first place, and he laughed. He said he wanted to leave her a message, so he called her while we were there on the bus. On the message he told her he wasn't playing her, and that she could find out by asking his friend. (A good, logical argument.) He finished the message, and he asked me how many messages I thought he could leave. He'd already left some and she hadn't returned his call. I said I really didn't know. He showed me a couple pictures of her, and asked me if I knew how many messages after that. I still didn't know.
He told me he left his gang a week ago. "I thought they like, usually come looking for you if you try to leave a gang," I said. "Don't they usually not want you to leave?" He shrugged. "They won't follow me," he said. But if they do that's okay, he said, because some guys from another gang have his back. Like, apparently the East and West gangs get along just fine, they just don't get along with the South ones, or something like that. Oh, and the other reason they won't follow him is, they don't know he left. He told his cuz that he was leaving the gang, but he didn't actually tell them. So they just sort of think he moved away, but don't realize that he thinks he's done with the gang. Probably a good idea, I told him.
I guess with the jostling of the bus, the old man and my bus friend were touching again. "You're touching me again," the man started. And I don't know if my bus friend moved or not, but the man stopped talking about it.
"Do the police come on the bus to check for tickets?" Bus Friend asked. "No," I said. "They check everyone's ticket when they get on the bus. So since everyone's already had their ticket checked, they don't need police to check people on the buses." "Oh," he said. "They check TRAX, though," I told him. "I know. I've been caught without a ticket so many times they're making me go to court," he said. "That's one of the reasons I'm going to Provo, is to see if my homie knows anyone who did lawyer school." He paused. "Do you know anyone who did lawyer school?" "No," I said. "I have some friends who are in law school now, but they're not done yet." "Too bad," my bus friend said.
We were getting close to my stop, and my bus friend offered me his phone number. "We can chill," he said. "Remember how I told you I'm really boring, and only work and study?" I asked. He nodded. "I won't ever have time to chill," I said. "Well, maybe you can take my number and we can chill," he said. Persistant guy. "Okay. I'll write it down." So I wrote down his number. We won't be chilling any time soon, though.
The end. (PS, I think any story that involves buying 2 hours of friendship with a gangster for fifty cents is worth sharing.)