I was awakened by mortars this morning.
Not the shock-and-awe, topple-a-nation kind. More the remove-your-fingers-poke-your-eyes-out-and-wake-up-the-neighbors variety.
They were coming from the alley, so at 4:45 a.m. I put on my bathrobe and crossed my yard, just in time to see the perpetrators going into their house. I walked up to their back door and knocked vigorously. Very vigorously.
I could see four people inside: Three handsome young men and a woman in her late 30s or early 40s. The tallest of the guys was wearing safety goggles.
“Hello? Can we help you?” My goodness, but these young arsonists were polite.
“Were you guys just setting off fireworks?” I asked.
“What will you do if we say ‘yes’?” asked one of them.
“I’ll send a complaint letter to your landlord,” I answered.
“In that case, no, no we were not setting off fireworks,” he replied.
All of them proceeded to swear up and down that not only had they not set off any fireworks, but that they’d also seen the real killers—I mean, inconsiderate little sociopaths. They pointed vaguely in a direction that suggested “across the street.” One of the guys kept repeating “I’m sorry. I’m really sorry.” Yet the denials continued.
“So why are you wearing safety goggles?” I asked the tall guy. He looked panicked for a second as he fumbled for an answer. “I like to wear masks,” he replied.
By now I was wide awake, so there was no point in going back to bed. I put Tucker’s collar on and we set out for our morning stroll. The first hints of dawn were barely visible on the horizon.
We’d only gone about a block when a figure approached us in the semi-darkness. It was a bedraggled jezebel in a cheap spandex mini-dress. Her bearing suggested that she’d been the life of the party—at some point in the distant past—and was now not feeling so good. The closer she got, the more she looked like something a cat might cough up. Lovely.
A few blocks later, Tucker and I passed a young woman in shorts and a tank top. She was lying on her back on someone’s front lawn. “Are you OK?” I called out. She remained motionless. “Yeah, I’m fine. Good morning!” The response took a little longer than usual, but it was good enough for me.
Almost home, Tucker and I saw yet another woman. She was seated with her legs splayed and her back against a tree. First, I noticed the turquoise cowboy boots. Then, the striped fabric purse.
I’d seen that same purse 45 minutes earlier—abandoned on the ground, in the middle of the alley—when I’d called on my neighbors for a cease-fire. As she greeted me and Tucker, I wondered whether she’d recognize me.
“What a wonderful dog!” she said as Tucker approached her suspiciously. “What kind is it or her?”
“A goldendoodle,” I replied.
“I should get one for my father,” she said wistfully.
She looked like a damaged soul. She was lovely—tall and lean and elegant—but there was something sad and haunting about her eyes. I wondered how she had ended up on a boulevard, propped up against a tree.
“Do you need a ride somewhere?” I asked.
“Naw, I’m fine,” she said. She stood up awkwardly and started walking away with a slow, deliberate, and decidedly wobbly gait. I watched her disappear over the train tracks.
I’ve had plenty of early-morning walks. But I never would have imagined that—by setting out just 15 minutes earlier—I would encounter a whole other world. A world of wasted, vacant-eyed, chewed-up young women, staggering around like zombies.
What a way to start the day.