What follows are two tales I would never tell my mom lest she demand I return to my childhood home and she locks me up to never again access the dangerous big world we live in - but they're totally fitting at the brunch table if we're talking random, semi-related anecdotes.
My best friend
You may remember the Blood Moon from several months ago. The whole East Coast bundled itself up, stepped outside to stare at a blanket of clouds, and tweeted about the experience using the hashtag #BloodMoon. My friends and I joined in on this trend, except we one-upped the rest of America by walking to a local science museum where astronomers would be reading the clouds for us.
The museum was a mile away. We left my apartment around 9 PM and thought nothing of taking Broad St., which is the Main St. of Richmond other than we already have a Main St. and I would never walk on Broad St. alone in the dark without a bazooka, but I was flanked by two females, so no worries, right?
As we approach the corner of Broad and Boulevard - which is a heavily trafficked area, but I guess so is the 'hood - a man crosses from the opposite side of the street toward us. People cross streets all the time, so I think nothing of this or the man crooning, "If I had a dime for every beautiful woman I see..."
You'd be a self-made man, I think.
Since I wasn't planning on writing an investigative journalism piece at the time, I don't have his exact next words, but the man said something about where are we going, my friends are so pretty, etc. I'm pretty sure he did not ask for money.
He ambles forward so that he is going to intercept us, and we veer to avoid collision - and then he steps among us and he puts his bloody hand on my lower back. Like, what the heck is this? Why is a stranger stroking my back? At least he corrected my posture because I stood straight like lightning had come down from the clouds.
He continues chatting with us, and I skip ahead so his hand is off of me. Thank Gabriel, the pedestrian signal is blinking so we briskly cross the intersection and leave our new-found friend behind - so we think.
Our friend does not wait for the next crosswalk signal, just a break in the cars. We see his return and decide we should go into the CVS for shelter.
"It looks like we're going to the same place!" he calls to us.
Inside, the cashier asks if we need help finding anything. We jerk our heads back and forth and flee to the rear of the store where we assess Hallmark cards and discuss what we do. We could call our friend (like, an actual friend, not the one stalking us), the police seem too much, but the museum is only a block away, we could just walk, he won't kill us. Right? Right?
A ding resounds through the store as a new customer enters. I flatline as I hear the cashier ask the customer if she can help him and our new-found friend responds.
"Well just stay back here," I counsel. "Hallmark will protect us."
We consider sneaking out. I can see the man in another corner of the store via the mirrors meant to prevent theft. I watch as he returns to the cashier. He must have bought something, but then he says the most blood-chilling thing loud enough so it echoes back to us:
"Those are my best friends in the back."
Five minutes pass. We decide the predator must have left. And again, it's only a block.
As we leave, the cashier once more asks if she can help us with anything. I feel sad that she is a lone soul working this CVS on this street corner prone to transactions with predators like our aforementioned best friend.
Outside my pulse staggers to see our best friend waiting to greet us.
"Friends!" he says, and he starts to circle us. We begin a purposeful stride toward the museum.
"Give me a five!" the man continues and insists by sticking his hand out at me. At me. Why me?!
"No, I'm not touching you," I reply in what must be my most authoritative voice. Just kidding. I am envisioning he probably has a knife or gun in his coat and we probably should have called our real friend to pick us up.
He continues to trail us for half a block until my friend, who has recently returned from Boston where she apparently dealt with similar characters, announces, "Leave us alone. Stop following us, or we're going to call the police."
"I'm not following you," the man says.
Of course not, we're just bonding like best friends do.
"Yes, you are," my friend says. And we make it to the museum with frequent glances over our shoulder. And then we stared at the clouds for an hour. The Blood Moon was totally worth risking our lives on Broad St. Not.
The Rain Man
Later that same week, my friend and I had to be at a social being thrown by an organization I'm president of. We're already running late because we found a dead cat beside my car - yes, you read right - and we (aka my friend) had insisted we participate in burial rites.
Me: "I'm just gonna call animal control."
Friend: "Here, I brought a trash bag shroud for it. Where is your trashcan?"
Me: "It is not going in my trashcan. There's a full week until they take the trash again. Can you imagine the smell? And why are you touching it with your bare hands?"
So we were running late. It is also drizzling. Fitting for a cat funeral, aye?
As I unlock my door, my friend and I notice a man waving at us.
My friend: "Get in the car!"
Crap. So we can pick up deceased feral cats with our bare hands, but can't talk to strangers?
Nevertheless, we get into the car. Because, really, the social started ten minutes ago, it's a fifteen minute drive, and it's not commendable when the president is late. Except I turn in my seat and the man is beside my window. He waves his hand like my car is going to back into something.
"What?" I say. "What?" I am supremely confused.
My friend seems to grasp the situation. "Just drive away."
Me: "I sorta can't." My car is parallel parked between two other cars, and this man has me cornered. Like, he could pull out a gun and we could all die right here outside my apartment.
I go to roll down my window, because I obviously need to negotiate with my captor.
My friend: "Don't roll down your window!"
My window inches down because, you know, it's raining outside.
The rain man stops waving and just stares at me. And then he says, "Man, why you gotta be like that?"
He goes on, "I'm just trying to ask you for 95 cents. Why you gotta be like that?"
I stumble: "It's raining? And I am late for something."
Rain man: "I just need 95 cents."
I'm sorry, I only have 79.
Me: "I don't have any money on me. And I have to go."
I probably sound like the rudest human alive, but I roll up my window. I honestly did not expect that request or anything of the like when I rolled down my window. I thought this man was warning me I was about to back over a second dead cat, not change for the dollar menu. Like, where is 95 cents getting you? Round up to a dollar. Are you paying for a toll road? I'm confused. I should have offered him the protein bar I always keep in my car.
He lumbers away after a moment, into the rain, and we drive away.