Ah, yes, El Pollo Loco, flame broiled… the only food other than breakfast open this early, which seems odd, that they would be open, but I am hungry, and the chicken is not-bad, eh, good enough.
A man in shorts and sandals, button-up short sleeve shirt: dark blue, sort of tropical pattern, is the only other customer, while there’s a homeless person’s bike, sufficiently raggedy, with too much stuff attached, also sufficiently raggedy, out front nearly blocking the glass doors. Can’t be his…
“The bathroom is locked so you have to ask us to open it if you need.”
I don’t need. And just chicken please; corn tortillas.
Sandals-man gets up and leaves, looking very tropical. He’s dark enough for Mexican but no… Sub-continent, of course: the taxi parked out front. Sri Lanka pops into my head.
As I rip at it, the chicken interior burns my fingers. I pile some of it onto one of the steaming tortillas that was only seconds before difficult to peel from its Siamese twin in the plastic bag (only two tortillas…getting cheap, are we?) Then I dump one of several small plastic cups of the always, overly-watery pico de gallo onto both the meat and soft tortilla. If anyone comes in I’ll have to make sure I’m presentable. I alternately wolf a bite and then smear another of the pile of paper napkins I have gathered, careful to have the water flowing out the tortilla not splash onto me.
A clanking of the door round the corner (not the men’s room) and Mr. homeless comes out. Storage room? The Women's? Was he in there all night. He’s got a wine bottle, red and unopened, in one hand. Classic. I’m careful not make eye contact and must appear to be fully engaged in my eating. He looks at me and then goes out to the bike, which I notice is cabled to the handrail.
Only last week I remember cries of dismay as a homeless woman came upon two homeless men ransacking her encampment. She ridden up on her bicycle just as they’d ridden away, and I watched for minute as she went into a fit of cussing and throwing things. Bastards…
From outside, Mr. homeless performs an exaggerated circular flourish with his free hand, bowing. And then he opens the door, while a female, older woman, and obvious civilian with her bleached hair and clothes, comes in.
She begins a long and complicated order, with comments, observations. I can hear that the man behind the counter doesn’t seem to mind.
I eat my last taco, dump my discards into the trash, and notice Mr. homeless who has followed the woman inside, rapidly making his way towards me. If I were in prison I would expect a shank, so I exit quickly after an even quicker glance back which slows him down.
Probably was hoping to hit me up for some change.
Across the parking lot a homeless woman is sitting/ upright-sleeping under a blanket. It’s chilly this morning and her feet are exposed. What I’d thought earlier was a dog next to her is actually a bald man with beard sleeping prone (also under a blanket). I unlock the car, and as I do I see that Mr. homeless is actually a female. Shit. Lipstick and breasts, how had I not noticed that?
I pull out and waiting at the light, I count them, eight homeless men are directly across the boulevard from me. I try not to stare and the driver in front of me has to wait turning, as another crossing the street hop-shambles in front of him.
Audi. There are a lot of Audis around here. I follow the Audi and make my turn.