The black of night could have been described as beautiful if the upcoming events had not made it ominous. My husband, William and I had not enjoyed a date night in quite some time due to work and acquiring advanced degrees. However, we finally made it this night. The car was filled with music, conversation and laughter as we cruised the freeway toward a Hollywood Jazz Club. I snickered to myself.
“What?” William asked.
“I was just thinking of one of my students who tried to drink glue.”
“Yeah. She leaned her head back with the glue held high and turned upside down with her mouth wide open.” William was slowly shaking his head. I chuckled. “I caught her just in time before it started to stream.”
“Damn,” William kept shaking his head. “Well thank God it’s Friday night – I was cursed out today.”
“Yeah, a new kid came into my classroom with a drink and I told him that he had to finish it outside or throw it away. Then he told me, ‘Man, fuck you – I don’t have to do nothin’! and Babe…” William glanced in my direction. “All I saw was red – flashin’ back to my gangsta days.”
“Are you serious?”
William sucked his teeth. “Those kids haven’t been taught anything.”
“That’s a shame – no teacher should have to deal with that foolishness.”
“Yeah, well I didn’t deal with it – security did.”
“Good.” Now, I was shaking my head.
We drove further into the glowing lights of Greater Los Angeles but never made it to Hollywood. After a few more miles, a burst tire sent us to the shoulder of the road. Finally parked, William sighed. “I have to check it.” He pressed the button for the hazard lights and left the car running as he leaned out of the car, stepping onto the road.
“Be careful out there, Will.”
“Yeah,” He moved around the car inspecting until he found the damaged tire. He paused a few minutes then made his way back inside. “Popped like a balloon,” He announced.
“Yeah I know – we can’t continue unless we find somebody to replace it – we don’t have a spare.”
“Well,” I gave him half a smile.
“Let’s get off this freeway.” He finished my statement. We bumped up and down the exit ramp into the Wilshire District. William sighed again. “Bright lights and fancy buildings – this is as close to ‘Tinsel Town’ as we’re gonna get.”
“And the freaks do come out at night,” I chimed in. “Check us out having a date on rims.” I smiled.
William chuckled. “No shit,” He pointed at the passenger window. “Wave at the people, Babe. They’re starin’ at our twenty mile per hour float.” I laughed and waved with a slightly cupped hand like a pageant contestant.
Through the Wilshire District and the Crenshaw District with its bright lights, bustling people and hilly terrain, we popped up and down on muffled bumping noises. Every tire shop we located was closed for the night. Finally, around eleven o’clock we found ourselves on San Pedro Street in South Central Los Angeles – close to home. Everything was closed – caged and locked and boarded storefronts riddled with graffiti were battle ground fortresses. Dull lights on an upcoming corner caught our attention and William crept into the intersection making a left turn and another, across double yellow lines into the parking lot of a gas station. The night seemed to be darker on this side of town. The corner and surrounding streets were deserted. I don’t even remember cars driving by until…
“C’mon Babe – I don’t wanna leave you out here.” William took the keys from the ignition and I grabbed my purse. He paused to examine the wheel when a pristine white cadillac pulled up to a gas pump. Out stepped an old school pimp with blood-shot eyes that fell on me.
“I got this.” He mumbled, lighting a cigarette.
William clutched my arm and escorted me into the store. When we learned that no one was available to change a tire (so late at night), we started out of the door. A man wearing an afro and leather jacket walked in alongside his side-kick with a pencil-troll hairdo and chicklet teeth – every third tooth missing.
William noticed a picture of a hawk on the man’s jacket. “Hey Boss, you roll with the Hawks, man?” He asked.
“Yeah you know ’em?”
“I hung out with the Hawks a couple of times.”
“Cool, what’s up wichoo man?”
“Nothin’ to it, just tryin’ to get my tire changed so I can get my wifee home.”
“I heard it playa – hold up a minute.”
We went outside to wait by the car. Someone else was pumping the pimp’s gas. His gaze pierced through the cloud of smoke around his head and seemed to communicate telepathically with me.
“I got thissss.” The pimp hissed.
My breathing turned panic as I shot a gaze to William and the pimp again. My Will stood firmly with his right arm around me. I just knew this man was going to organize an attack on my William and throw me in the back seat of his car.
He started toward us. “I got this.” He said again.
Just as he arrived a few steps from William, the man in the leather jacket intervened, rolling a spare tire toward our car. “The Hawks got this.” He announced. His side-kick hobbled up and down like a jack in the box with the tools.
“I got this.” The pimp insisted, stepping stealthily in tandem.
“Hawks GOT this!” The man in leather took the tools, no questions asked, and went to work on our wheel. Without another word, the pimp puffed on his cigarette, turned toward his car and strolled away. He gestured to his ride-a-long to get into the car and burned rubber taking off.