Mike and Akasha wanted to explore our new neighborhood, so we headed down to the Lost Love Lounge. The bar glowed red except for the green shirt on the sober blonde bartender, who poured our bourbons deep. Two men argued around the pool table—one with a goatee and an obvious mean streak, the other with a stutter. We made acquaintances and Mike shot his way onto the table while Akasha talked on her phone. Dwayne, the stutterer, sat down next to her and I went to watch the game.

The man with the goatee was called V—short for an Italian name I can’t recall. He likened lots of things to fucking and for this and his continence and salt and pepper hair he made me think of Frank Booth. He lost to Mike and insisted I play. He sat drinkless next to us and we listened to the things one hears while making friends with dangerous men—three owners of this bar ago he’d shot a man inside of it. Three rules now permitted his entrance to it:

1) No guns
2) No selling dope
3) No hustling pool

“Well why the fuck should I drink at your bar then!?!” he had allegedly told the owner. I asked him why, indeed, and he said everyone needs a place to feel serenity sometimes.

Onward into the game, he said he’d shot two men during Gustav and that early in his life he’d spent ten years in Angola. Akasha had been talking to Dwayne at the bar, who told her we should be careful with V. When I walked over to them he was in the middle of trying to make her understand “bonding” by repeating the word, pointing at Mike and V, and then saying, “Close!” Yes, we were getting a bit close to V.

V borrowed two quarters from Mike and V and I shot a game. I was down lots of balls at the offset since V had run five of his—bank shots, cuts, all effortless. He seemed to fall apart after that and my game picked up and I won. At the time I was blind to the hustle but still had the sense not to shoot a man for money who had just borrowed fifty cents. He wanted the next game to be “I show you my 20 and you show me yours.” I cordially declined and kept myself from being 20 dollars poorer.

V didn’t want to play for fun and Mike was done, so I went to Akasha. Mike remained on the wall bantering with V. Dwayne squeezed my hand and looked at Mike and V with wide eyes above his mustache, below his black leather cap. “Go home!” he said. “Go home!” I poured my bourbon in a plastic cup, grabbed Mike and left. We watched for V but he didn’t follow.

Back at the house we drank beers on the stoop. Mike played guitar and climbed a bulldozer in the street. A man rode his bike past and stopped to talk. He wanted to sell it for six dollars. Mike, Akasha and I were one steed short of a fleet, so I took him up on it. After a test ride I talked him down to five-fifty.

I can’t remember this man’s name but he had a bottle of white lightning. He had dark, dark brown skin with thin, straight wrinkles that betrayed his otherwise boyish face. He was 45 and said he still got carded for smokes. He started to tell us about a threesome he once had—asking first if it was okay to talk dirty in front of a lady—but he couldn’t finish the story because the memory seemed to baffle him so. Each time he mentioned cunnilingus he punctuated it with flicks of his tongue.

I took my new bike around to our back yard and parked it. The man didn’t live far from our place, but it was still a bit of a hike. We asked him how he planned to get home, and he said he would manage. In the morning I looked out into the yard and the bike was gone. I guess that’s what he meant.

Oftentimes when you have something stolen, the sense of violation trumps the material loss. In the case of the worst bike I’ve ever ridden, this was certainly true. I shrugged the thing off as a learning experience—it’s funny how at this age I’m still adding items to my “Things Not to Do When Dealing with Crackheads” list—but the whole thing has shaken Akasha. She called the landlord and got locks on the windows and security lights in the back. I suppose those aren’t bad things, but our street is pretty safe, and I doubt the guy would have gone into our yard had his mode of transportation not been there.

Now our first house rule is “NO inviting sketchy men to hang out on the stoop.” Akasha lobbied for a law forbidding games of pool with murderers, but that’s one to which I’m not sure I’ll be able to abide.

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