2000 Dollars

I sat on a curb on a street I didn’t recognize trying to clear my head. “How did I get here?” I didn’t remember anything. I felt like I had just appeared out of thin air and was now sitting on a curb on a dark suburban street. I looked around. The curb I sat on was bordered by a large front lawn. A single story aging house with the porch light on was on the far side. The house had a driveway to my left. It looked like there was a car parked there and someone was examining it with a flashlight. “Unit 428, what’s your 20?” I heard off to my right. A light shined in my eyes. “Good evening.” The light said. “Do you have some ID?” The light now pointed lower. I could see now it was a police officer. “I don’t know.” I replied rummaging in my pockets as I stood up.”

My mind was a jumble. Bits and pieces of the evening started coming back to me. I remembered riding my bicycle through a lighted intersection at full speed having just come down a hill on my way home after my shift waiting tables. I did this regularly, usually very late, often after midnight. The restaurant was maybe 5 miles from the 1 bedroom apartment I shared with my older brother Kelly. Kelly and I worked at the same restaurant many times on the same nights. We worked there full time since high school along with our younger brother Brendan. Brendan moved to Maui and was already married with a son at the age of 19. I had gone to South Africa for a year surfing and visiting my father who lived there with his new family. My father’s alcoholism had caught up with him causing everything there to implode so I returned to San Diego. Our family home was being sold and the family scattered while I was gone so when I returned from Africa I was broke and homeless. The first day I went to the restaurant where I’d formerly worked to ask for a job and a meal. Hans, the manager was more like an older brother or mentor and gave me a hamburger and a shift the following day. That was the first thing I’d eaten since leaving Cape Town 2 days earlier. Sally, my High School girlfriend took me back, kicking out another man she was entertaining when I knocked on her door after a year’s absence. A few months later I shared my transgender self with her and things changed. Sally was wonderful and understanding, but we were no longer boyfriend/girlfriend but more like female best friends. Our intimacy suffered and eventually I chose to leave. Fortunately my brother Kelly was moving out of an apartment he shared with a childhood friend. This friend was a major Cocaine dealer in the County. He always seemed to bring my brother trouble. When Kelly finally had enough we found the small apartment on Chalcedony street in Pacific Beach. That was where I had been headed.

I found my wallet in my front pocket and handed my driver’s license to the officer. He shined his light on it looking at it the license and then me again. “Do you recall being in an accident Mr. Mahoney? “The officer asked handing me back my ID. “Um, not really.” I replied as I returned the license to my wallet and back into the front pocket of my Levis. “Yes, it seems you were hit by the gentleman who lives here about 30 minutes ago.” “You caved in the front of his car and flipped over the vehicle traveling at about 35 miles an hour.” “You’re extremely lucky to be alive.” New memories now flashed in my mind. Little disjointed vignettes. Crossing the intersection pedaling in 18th gear as hard as I could hurrying to beat Kelly home. He was in his small brown Toyota pick-up truck and had the obvious advantage. I had left before him so hoped I could beat him. Winner got the bedroom loser the couch. High stakes every night. We turned out to be great roommates ironically because we hadn’t really liked each other as kids. He the smaller older brother always getting in trouble while I was the tall younger over-achieving brother constantly making him look bad. I was also extremely sensitive, crying over things boys just didn’t. He had made it his mission to toughen me up and had largely succeeded.

I now remembered the car turning suddenly across a double yellow line and left turn lane. No time to react, I hit the white 280z full speed without ever touching my brakes. “Do you still live on Chalcedony?” The officer asked. “Yes.” I replied. “You seem ok now.” Said the officer. “Here’s the gentleman’s information that hit you.” “You may want to contact an attorney.” “Technically you were an accident victim and he moved you from the scene.” “You were clearly in shock.” “How about a lift home?” He asked. “Sure.” I answered, “That would be great. ” “Okay, follow me.” “I’ve already loaded your bike or what’s left of it.” “My bike!” I thought. Shoot, my only form of transportation. I’d bought the blue chrome-oly Centurion on the advice of a good friend. It was apparently a great deal at 150 dollars. It had seemed like a lot, but I needed reliable transportation so bought it. It served me well until tonight. “Just another brick in the wall.” I thought as I followed the officer to his patrol car across the street suddenly aware of a searing pain in my right knee. The officer opened the passenger door for me and I ducked in, a new pain now in my shoulder.

Life had been challenging for Kelly and I to say the least. We often found ourselves broke sitting in the apartment staring at each other with barely a dime between us. It seemed we were going backwards even as we worked full time waiting tables and going to school at the local Junior College. We sometimes felt frustrated and angry that we had no guidance or help from a parent. Car troubles were solved or not learning by doing. Everything cost too much. Our only respite often getting high together smoking a bong hit or something else. One memorable day had been spent in the apartment flying on mushrooms. A day glow painting on the wall had suddenly come alive dancing and strobing to the Clash, “London Calling.” We’d gained some insight that day into our older sister who had given us the painting from her college days. Most days were less exciting when we weren’t working or studying. Both Kelly and I wanted more. Something else at least. I had applied to UCLA when we’d first moved in and been accepted based on my high school grades. I had almost a 4.0 grade average and was a national merit scholar. My friends were blown away at graduation when I was recognized for it.  I was very secretive about studying and my grades. It wasn’t cool among our crowd to like school or do well. The only trouble with being accepted to UCLA was that I was broke. Moving would take money and I didn’t have any or know where to find it.

The officer pulled up to the apartment and began unloading the bike. I got a look at it for the first time. Even in the dark I could see both the handlebars pushed all the way forward. He unloaded the front wheel separately, now folded in half. “You take care now.” The officer said stepping back in the car and backing out. ” What the fuck happened to you?!” Kelly asked now stepping out of the ground floor apartment. He had a natural aversion to police having had his encounters.” I got hit by a car”  I said carrying the bent bicycle past him inside the apartment leaning it against the wall. “Damn! ” he said, “Again?!” Kelly sounded stunned knowing I’d been hit twice before. One time it had nearly killed me. “How?  Where?” He asked examining the bike and me wide-eyed. “You Okay?” He continued. “I’m not sure exactly. ” I replied,  “it’s still a bit blurry.” “Holy shit!” He said looking at the bike noticing even the cranks were bent and the top tube buckled the blue paint peeling where the steel had wrinkled. “You must have hit hard!” “I guess.” I replied, “The guy crossed a double yellow, it was his fault.” “Then he moved me from the accident scene.” “Crap, you need to call Ed-Ward!” He advised.

Edward Nava, my sister’s ex-husband and our former brother in law, drug dealer and roommate had finally passed the bar exam after he and my sister divorced. I didn’t know any other attorneys so I had done just that the next day. Edward or “Eddie” as we called him was Latino from the barrio of Montebello in East L.A. He and my sister had met and married in college at UCSB during the Vietnam era protests. Eddie had been a radical, activist and probably more importantly unacceptable to my father. They had moved to Sacramento following college where Eddie got his law degree and my sister became a Veterinarian. Both had moved to San Diego when our mom died 7 years ago. I had been 14. I contacted Eddie and he had agreed to help, pro-bono. Pretty cool I thought at the time. Eddie asked a doctor friend of his to check out my knee. After a month I was still limping heavily. The doctor took an X-Ray and said I probably tore some cartilage. “You were lucky.” He said. I didn’t feel so lucky as my moving date for UCLA rapidly approached and I was still broke. After some discussion with the driver of the car that hit me Eddie had secured an offer to settle for 2000 dollars. That was more money then I’d ever had at one time. Knowing how much I needed it Eddie had advised I take it. “It will get you to UCLA.” he added “Take the money and run.” So I had. I helped Kelly find a new roommate and found my own place near UCLA with 2 High School friends already in their third year there. Once I’d moved and was set-up going to school with a new job nearby as a busboy I began to re-think the accident. I realized I never would have been able to get here had it not been for that accident and the 2000 dollars.

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