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Yucca Shade

by Sunny Sampson 8 months ago in humanity

Hint: There isn't any

So I was just an ordinary guy walking down an ordinary street in downtown Albuquerque. Nothing whatsoever distinctive or remarkable about me, shorts, t-shirt, cross trainer shoes, backpack, longish un-barbered hair, hoodie, even in summer, generic student, hispanomexinative, no qualifiers needed. I don't play an instrument. I'm not goth, or a scater. I suck at video games. I'm not fat, or muscular. I don't have a girlfriend. General studies is my major and my grade average is just an ordinary B. I guess I am kinda smart, but I don't see any point in applying myself at school, never have. Never found anything I was really into, of course I never really looked.

One day when I was a kid, I told my dad I was bored. He said, "For heaven's sake! Go for a walk! Draw a picture or paint a rock. Go to the library and read a book!" He said more, but I don't remember what, cause I was floored by the simplicity of the solution. Go to the library and read a book! Its amazing, a building full of books just begging to be read. If you read fast, and I've always been a fast reader, cause lunch came right after reading when I was learning how, you don't even have to check anything out or get a library card. Just walk in, pick a book, sit down and read it cover to cover. Nobody bothers you. Nobody cares.

So I guess you could say, if I am into anything, its eating and reading. And on this particular Saturday, that's exactly what I wanted to do. Hide out all day in the library and eat my sandwiches from the Yucca Shade Diner, while reading any book I wanted. My gold standard kind of day.

I did not expect anything else from the day. Didn't want anything else from the day. I expect to be invisible. I don't shout, or make random noises, or wear bright colors, no one ever notices me. Come to find out, on that day, that particular day, someone had picked me out. Someone had noticed me as I stooped to tie my shoe in the shadow/non-shadow of all the yucca trees on the sunny side of The Yucca Shade Diner. They had noticed me and had picked me out as the exact kind of stooge they were looking for. And she was following me, but of course I didn't know that yet. I didn't know her yet, nor what she was into, but without my knowledge or consent she had already enrolled me into her complicated plot. Simply by reaching down to tie my shoe, buying a couple sandwiches, and walking down the street, an ordinary guy like me had become the hinge pin of the kind of multinational intrigue found only in James Bond novels.

Or I did, the instant this beautiful blond girl ran around the corner in front of me, threw her arms around my neck and kissed me full on the mouth. How I didn't fall over backwards has always perplexed me. I even wrapped my arms around her waist and kissed her back. Her lips were full. She smelled of Ivory Soap and a hint of perspiration. She was not wearing a bra under her flouncy taffeta printed dress. I remember her eyes, blue grey, like a cobalt laser. Those eyes bore into mine as she said one word, "please" as she pressed a small book against the center of my chest with one hand. And I remember her breath as the please brushed past my face, it is entwined with the taste of her mouth, Bacon, with Lemon Grass, and Avocado, I recognized it fondly. As I reached for the book, I was no longer in my body, I was watching from the side with my mouth open in amazement. She kissed me again, touched her forehead to mine, whispered, "Thank you!" and disappeared. I caught a glimpse of her cowboy boots as she re-rounded the corner she had appeared from, and heard maybe two more snaps of her heels against the cement before the silence of the sun and desert downtown at midday swallowed her up like a vanishing dream.

I resolved to help her. She was a damsel in distress, and I was in love already. Eager to fight and die for the chance to sniff the handkerchief of my platonic mistress. Nevertheless, I must have stood stock still for far too long. On the one hand, I liked my non exciting ordinary life. On the other hand, I had been unconsciously longing to live the exciting lives of those characters in the books I was always reading. I knew instantly that this girl and this book were my entry point, my invitation, into the intrigue I didn't know I had been fantasizing about, and the only thing I needed to get past the fear was a kiss from a pretty girl. I was Don Quixote and James Bond all rolled into one.

So, I knew what to do. Walk like normal. Take no notice of the book. Go to the library as planned, find the darkest corner like usual, but today the book I would read would be this mysterious volume, given me by this mysterious girl that l loved. I glanced at it enough to see that it was leather bound, with the back cover that folded over the front, and held by a delicate little metal hasp. The word, "Journal" was emblazoned on the front in gold letters. The worn corners and the style of the hasp gave me the impression it was old, like turn of the 20th century old, the sort of thing one might find hidden in the wall of an old church. The more modern equivalent of The Desiderata.

I walked finally. The book hanging uninterestingly at my side, I hoped, clasped casually in my sweaty palm. Normally I walked looking at the ground at my feet, looking for things to avoid tripping on, or maybe discarded diamonds. That day though, I scanned, kept my head on the swivel, still looking for diamonds in the forgotten corners of the sidewalk, but looking everywhere else as well. Having never done it before, but having read about other people doing it countless times, I hoped I was doing it right. I pulled my hoodie up over my head, unzipped, like I always do when I'm trying to be invisible, but that made the scanning harder. I was gonna get noticed by trying so hard to be unnoticed. The streets were relatively empty, siesta time as they say. I got the ideal then to disguise myself, change my walk, act like I have a tic, be the homeless vagabond talking to himself and picking up invisible shiny objects. That worked very well, the few folks there were actively looked the other way after the briefest of unconscious uncomfortable glances.

At the library I took off the hood and dropped the act, cause all the security guards know me, but darted quickly into the bathroom, the single stalled one, the one usually reserved for staff and people in wheelchairs. I don't really know how I knew, but I knew to peek out to see if I was being followed. And I think I was!!

This dude came in just as I peered through the slightest crack in the door. White, like nobody looks in the desert. Bald, with the lightest eyebrows, so light I couldn't tell if they were blond or white or colorless. His eyes also seemed devoid of color. He had stopped just inside the door and was scanning the whole place, looking for that dude in the hood with the funky walk and the little black book in his hand. I had almost forgotten about the book so intent was I on being unseen. But this dude had seen me, marked me, I hoped that he hadn't seen me standing there looking at the book, or heaven forbit the kissing rendezvous where I had acquired it. It's likely he had seen me with my hood down though. I said a little prayer for the tinted glass in the library entrance, and wondered how I might leave the library without being followed again.

Now I won't say that I love libraries. I never said I loved anything, before that blond girl kissed me that is. But I have visited every single library Albuquerque has, and the only ones I don't frequent are the little tiny ones without any hidden corners where I can sit and read without being bothered. The little ones with hidden corners are my favorites! The city owned ones, however small, all have an after hours book drop slot, although some of them are not part of the building but a separate box out in front. I'm almost always in the library right up until closing, where the staff has to come tell me they're closing and walk me to the door before locking it, and once or twice due to lazy staff, I've been locked inside.

The first time, I simply resolved to spend the night. But I guess I triggered a silent alarm or something going to the bathroom cause a bunch of police and security guards descended thinking I was robbing the place, which was scary. But there was another time it happened in the big library downtown. Which was very weird cause usually you can't even fall asleep in there without someone kicking your foot to wake you up. But this one day, I startled awake in a completely darkened library! I really didn't want to be found alone in the dark in that place, not again, so that time I started looking for a way out. And I found one! The after hours book drop at that library is in the alley behind the library and receives book deliveries from other libraries in these cloth rolling laundry bins. There's a special door for the bins right beside the after hours book drop slot. From the outside you need a magnetic key to open the low square door. But from the inside there is a red button that says open. I saw it as I tried to escape through the emergency door in the back of the library, but hesitated because it says right on the door that an alarm will sound. So I tried the button beside the low square door and it opened immediately. I had to fight with the laundry carts but I got out. And getting it to shut again was as easy as getting the laundry cart that I'd pushed out to extricate myself, back in the low square door. On another note, at the smaller libraries, the alarm on the emergency door is typically turned off. A fact I discovered on another occasion when I fell asleep and got locked in...

I stayed in the bathroom until the bald albino left the building, which seemed to take quite a while, but I was afraid to look at the book, instead I kept my eye on his every movement through the crack in the bathroom door. I prayed that no wheelchair bound patron needed the bathroom and thankfully no one did. The albino was methodical in a way that scared the shit out of me! From my vantage point near the front door, it looked like he casually strolled up and down every single isle of books from the door to the back of the room. Then he stood staring at the main desk of the library, and at the various doors behind it, one of which was the one I was hiding behind, before finally leaving. I was certain that he was certain that somehow I'd slipped behind the desk and through one of those doors, which was the truth, and resolved himself to wait by the front door for me to come out. I, on the other hand, resolved to make an escape out the restricted back door, alarm or not, and hopefully over to the Lomas or 4th Street bus without being seen, and then just ride the busses all day. If you know the system, and I do, it is very possible to remain completely and comparatively comfortably invisible all day long riding in the back of various city busses.

I went as causally as I could toward the back of the library. As I approached the back door, it slammed open, and a UPS guy with a heavy dolly full of boxes started struggling to get through it. I rushed forward to hold the door open for him, and then stepped out into the sudden shock of the midday sun. I put my hood up and ran for Lomas as fast as I could. While I'd waited in the bathroom, I had placed the book in my largely empty backpack, between the sandwiches from Yucca Shade, and my 2 quart water bottle, another desert essential. So I was unencumbered as I sprinted for the safety of a dirty city bus. In my minds eye, the albino was casually strolling behind me, and I ran like I was being chased by a pack of valley dogs.

Instead of a car, like every other teenager in this part of the world, my father offered to buy me a bicycle when I graduated high school with a four year lottery scholarship to UNM, The University Of New Mexico. I had turned him down. One because I had really thought it would be a car, even though I'd done nothing to indicate that I wanted a car, except perhaps the fact that I'd gotten an A in the Driver's Ed class offered at Valley High. And Two, because I didn't want the extra hassle of always wondering where my bike was and if I'd remembered to lock it properly and where can I legally park and lock up the God damn thing anyways. I hadn't thought to peruse the actual driving license, it looked like too much trouble, and that's what everyone else was doing. If there is a rule I live by, its NEVER do what everyone else is doing. And in the two years since I had only regretted the bicycle-less decision twice. That time when I'd gone to the botanical gardens and then decided to take a walk in the bosque to see for myself the ongoing extinction of the Cottonwood trees, and ended up getting chased by an actual pack of valley dogs, and this time, when I felt just like I was being chased by a pack of valley dogs, but really it was a bald albino, or maybe no one at all. I didn't know cause I was afraid to look.

And as I ran I thought things through. A car is very easily identifiable, cause of the plate. A bicycle also, although I suppose there would be no harm in leaving it locked up somewhere and striking out on foot if I didn't want to leave my calling card on the front of the bus I was riding. But if I'd been on a bike, I wouldn't have met 'her', that blond girl who kissed me and said please, who I knew had been in Yucca Shade, because of her breath, and the fact that I was very acquainted with their menu. In fact, the two sandwiches I had bought that day were the same as the one I could smell she had eaten, a Bacon, with Lemon Grass, and Avocado. Quite possibly my favorite sandwich on their entire menu. Maybe she saw me buy them, even as I didn't see her. That's not unusual, as I say I most often look at the ground, but if she was in Yucca Shade, then how did she get down the street and around the corner ahead of me?


Sunny Sampson

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