I’m not homeless
, I tell myself as a piercing stream of sprinkler water leaves me soaked yet again. Yes, the main definition of “homeless” (not having a place to live) accurately defines current state, yet this condition is not due to poverty or an inability to find work. It should have been a lot simpler than this. Everything was supposed to fall in place when Louis and I got down to Orange Country. All the pictures, the visions, they were all yet to come true, but moving back to Southern California was supposed to be the launching point.
It had been in Irvine that I felt my freest, not having to worry about family obligations. I wonder now, if I had remained down south for the full extent of my lease, would things have turned out differently? Louis had questioned my suggestion that I might stay down there. “You don’t want to come up and play D&D?” he asked.
“Oh, y-y-yeah. I do,” I was a bit nervous, having realized that I had forgotten about that in my desire to stay down south.
Instead of a relaxed summer full of Dungeons & Dragons and MVP Baseball, as had been the case after high school, it was emotionally draining drama with toxic “friends” and a week of being misled by a commission-only job. The position had seemed exciting at first, with vague promises of becoming a “manager” and making a decent yearly salary plus the commission of people that worked below you. “I look at those shoes,” Julia had said, with a strange, idealistic look on her face. “And I tell myself… those are my $60,000 a year shoes.”
Wow, I thought. These people really buy into their system. Another well-aimed jolt of water from the sprinkler-turret alerts me to the world around. The sky has turned from black to a noticeably brighter dark blue, and despite lying on uncomfortable patches of grass for hours, it appears that I have managed some form of restless sleep. Realizing that now is a good a time as any, I force myself up and look around. The surrounding area looks more comfortable and relaxing than it did in the middle of the night.
My body aches, yet I press on, in search of food and a more accommodating place to sit. Only a couple minutes later, and there is a main road, with the Carl’s Jr. that I ate at last night, and a Del Taco. The Del Taco is showing signs of life; the store does not indicate it is open, but the lights on inside suggest that it will open soon. My stomach rumbles at the thought of some greasy faux-Mexican food, and my feet ignore their aches and pains to walk toward the restaurant. The one employee in the store notices me as I walk up to the store. “We’re closed… we open at six.”
“What time is it?”
Then noticing my lack of shoes and damp clothes, he points toward the outside tables and says, “You can sit down there until we open, if you’d like.”
“Thank you.” I walk slowly toward the plastic tables and quickly sit down. It is very comfortable to sit down, even a cheap plastic chair at a fast food establishment. Fast food accommodations are not meant to be especially comfortable; they are meant to discourage customers from loitering. Thus, comfortable seating is not in their best interest. Relaxation comes easily and time hardly seems to pass, yet the Del Taco opens. The unlocking of the front door a cue, I get up and walk to the counter.
A couple years ago, Del Taco felt a bit off-putting. The mix of French fries, hamburgers, tacos, and burritos seemed unusual. Yet after experimenting with the menu night after night in Irvine, I had discovered the right mix of foods. “Two big fat soft chicken tacos,” I stated. Many people might have felt a bit silly saying those words… but I was accustomed to it.
“Did you want a combo?” asked the employee, whose name tag said Alex.
“No, I’ll just take the tacos, and a cup for water.”
One of the first times that I had visited Del Taco had almost kept me away from it for good. “Bwoop! Bwoop!” I heard a strange noise as I walked into the Del Taco that Thursday evening.
The probable source of the noise, two college-age kids, didn’t draw my attention immediately, but from prior experience, I knew to be alert. At first, nothing eventful occurred. I placed my order, sat down, and began to eat. One of the two students approached and introduced himself. His name was Chuck; he lived in “Park West” and was a freshman at UCI. Seemed harmless enough. Then he had to up the ante. “My friend here is an undercover cop… his name is Officer Doofy. I want you to wave and say ‘Hi, Officer Doofy!’” He had an arrogant smirk on his face, and I glanced behind me and saw his friend, the alleged “Officer Doofy.”
“Um… I don’t know,” My eyes darted back and forth, as I nibbled on a fry.
“Come on, man,” he prodded. “Just do it… just wave… and say ‘Hi, Officer Doofy!” Chuck’s smirk had evolved into a plastic smile.
“I… don’t want to,” I looked at my soft chicken taco, hoping it could somehow fix the situation.
“C’mon… just say it.”
Realizing that Chuck wasn’t going to drop the act, I relented. Looking back at “Officer Doofy,” I gave an unenthusiastic wave and flatly said, “Hi, Officer Doofy.”
Returning my attention to the taco, I hoped that Chuck had been satisfied and would leave me be. At first, that seemed to be the case, as he returned to his table. But after devouring my two tacos, I turned to my left and saw both Chuck and “Officer Doofy” standing far too close. “I need to search you,” said Doofy, with his eyes giving away his dishonorable intentions. I attempted to act as though I was unaware of their existence, but the tensing of my muscles made them aware that their mission of annoyance was a success.
They did not stop their trickery. Doofy insisted that I needed to be searched, and when I refused he reached over and grabbed me. When his finger touched me, I instinctively got up and pushed him away. “You’re under citizen’s arrest,” Doofy said, the cruelty in his eyes never having disappeared during the exchange.
I sat back down, and Doofy told Chuck, “He’s resisting arrest… let’s bring in reinforcements.” They left. I hope they don’t come back, I thought. Loudly slurping down the last drops of my soda, I stood up and briskly walked outside; looking back and forth to make sure nothing seemed unusual. But as soon as I got outside, Doofy and Chuck were waiting for me. Doofy leapt toward me and tried to put his hands around my sides. I jumped back, avoiding his “search.” This confrontation attracted the attention of the Del Taco cashier, who stood just outside the doorway, carefully observing the situation.
A large white van pulled up… the reinforcements. Doofy and Chuck climbed into the van as it took off. “Citizen’s arrest! Citizen’s arrest!” they shouted as they drove off. My face began to heat up and my mouth made sounds without my brain’s consent. “drat you! drating frat boys! Why don’t you rape some drunk freshmen and get away with it? Go get in a drunk driving accident and ki