Art by Paul Rios
“Damn it; not again.”
Adrenaline was running through my system. I walked out of the back door and around the side of the house so they wouldn’t see exactly where I was coming from. I crossed the street with authority—my mind was made up.
“Excuse me… hey, excuse me,” I said to the couple napping in the grass median some 10 yards from my front porch. They were curled up on the ground next to their bikes. “I need you guys to move on.”
This was the second time in as many days that the bicycling bums had decided to hangout in the landscaped patch separating the two sides of the street.
“You guys? You guys!” the man said to me, suddenly jumping to his feet.
He became agitated way too quickly. Unfortunately, his chubby frame, bad haircut and glasses severely undercut his attempt at intimidation. He looked more like an IT worker after someone stole his Twinkie from the break room.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” I said, responding to his unnecessary anger. He was actually getting pissed that I referred to his lady-friend as a “guy.”
“It’s OK,” his partner said, awaking from her mid-afternoon slumber. She had the hood of her jacket tied around her head in Unabomber-like fashion despite the 80-degree heat. “He didn’t mean that.”
“We’re not homeless!” he yelled at me. The statement came out of left field, but I was happy he was moving on from the “you guys?” bit.
“I don’t really care,” I said, bluntly, although “Well, you’re acting homeless” would have been way more awesome. At this point, however, I was trying to defuse the situation.
“You can’t nap in front of my house,” I continued. “This is a family neighborhood, not a rest stop.”
“The park is three blocks back that way,” I added, pointing to the left. “I have no problem with you hanging out over there.”
“This is public property!” he said, getting incredibly defensive. He was incensed that I didn’t like people taking cat naps within throwing distance of my living room. “I can go down to City Hall and get the paperwork to show you I can do whatever I want here.”
“Go down to City Hall; I don’t really care,” I said, trying to keep my cool. “Just move on.”
“But this is public property!” he said—again—as if it was going to change my mind. His lady must have still been half-asleep; she was getting up slowly.
“I don’t care. Move on,” I said—again—hoping he would finally listen. “There are small children that live around here. We can’t have random strangers hanging out. Please leave.”
I was hoping the “please” would help.
“Look, I’m trying to be nice about this. I’m not trying to start trouble,” I said, trying to cut off any attempt by this guy to continue speaking. I just wanted the two of them to pick up their shit and leave.
“You don’t own this property,” he said. His voice was getting a little louder. “Just like you don’t own the sidewalk.”
I couldn’t take it any more.
“And if you were sleeping on my sidewalk, I’d tell you the same fucking thing,” I said, with emphasis on the explicative. My redheaded temper was making its first appearance.
“I wasn’t sleeping; I was playing video games,” he responded weakly.
It was like arguing with an 8-year-old.
“You know what? I don’t care. You need to move on,” I said. My frustration with the situation was becoming hard to hide.
“Come on, let’s go,” his weathered friend said while reaching down for her bike. Judging by the wrinkles on her face, she didn’t wear sunscreen too often.
“Finally—thank you!” I said, mustering as much sarcasm as possible. I was done with this conversation.
As they picked up their belongings to leave, I turned around and began heading back to the sidewalk. I guess that was the woman’s cue to start mouthing off.
“You need to go to church,” she said to my back. “You have a lot of hate in you.”
I decided to ignore that one.
“We’re gonna be back tomorrow with more people,” the woman said, her voice starting to trail as she rode down the street. “And the mayor.”
Any credibility her threat had was destroyed with that last part. Although, I wouldn’t mind KJ taking a nap out front.
“Occupy Sacramento is about 10 blocks to your right!” I yelled back, trying to be as big a smart ass as possible.
I waited for their portly bodies to disappear into the horizon before walking back up my brick steps toward the front door. I was happy they were gone, but I still felt pangs of anger rattling inside me.
I guess that’s just a part of city living.