Of course the man with the neck tattoo of the Bacardi Rum bat logo was having a fight on his phone at the bus stop.
Of course he was.
Of course he had a sandy brown buzz cut and swore into phone.
“Do you think I’m stupid?” he screamed into the phone.
Of course he said that. Of course he screamed it between puffs of cigarette as he stormed back and forth by the Clybourn underpass.
It was a brisk dusk, the wind slashing at us with what would in a few hours put inches of snow on the ground, hopefully one of the last exhibitions of the almost human level of malice this winter has shown. By the caverns formed by the train tracks over Ashland and the slate-colored, pockmarked sheets of receding ice and garbage, the man with the tattoo of the Bacardi Rum bat peeking out from the back of his T-shirt waited by a beeping bus shelter with me and a small woman who kept hopping foot to foot.
The lighted arrival times on the side of the shelter went from seven minutes to five to four to two to five, then due, then back to three. The man with the winged rum logo on his neck swore into his phone and the shelter beeped.
As cars went by.
Another swear into the phone. An allegation that the other person thought he was stupid. Bacardi Neck screamed into the phone that the other person was a liar. He stormed south, still yelling at his phone.
The shelter beeped. Of course it did.
The man with the rum bat on his neck and the crude military buzz cut wouldn’t have liked me if I got to know him. I would be too weak and effete. I wouldn’t like him either. Whose rebellion is a corporate neck logo?
But at that moment, I felt close to Bacardi Neck, to that rowdy, angry hooligan screaming “Liar!” between puffs of smoke.
The words aren’t coming now, as I type hours later watching the then-promised snow blanket his and my shared city. When he screamed into the phone that he wasn’t stupid, it was me screaming it somehow. When he called the other a liar, I thought of the times I had made that claim. Even his neck tattoo reminded me of my own past stupid decisions.
I recognized the anger in my own sad past. I remembered the joy. This man, this terrifying, ranting and no doubt stupid man — again, who would get a rum logo neck tattoo? — was me. And I was him. It wasn’t that I felt a sameness. At that moment, I felt there was no such thing in the universe as difference.
A zen koan in the form of a screaming asshat.
So a prayer for you, Bacardi Neck of the bus stop. A little prayer from a godless man.
Be well, sir. Be slower to yell, take longer to anger. Laugh easily and don’t accuse as readily. Listen instead of talk. Relax instead of scream. Maybe consider laser tattoo removal.
Whatever I had a that moment is lost, the brief clarity of non-difference obscured again, blanketed like a city under snow. But for a moment this afternoon, I saw an angry, screaming, rather frightening man with a rum company registered trademark scrimshawed into his body and I felt we were one.
It felt natural and obvious. It felt like saying “of course.”