Last night I was in their kitchen, waiting for my phone to charge so I could go home and feel safe during the drive. I get shifty every time I leave their place and take too long to get settled in my car. They live in one of those neighborhood’s that’s not your own, so you don’t trust it.
I was hungry and polite, so I said “yes” when I was offered pizza but took the smallest (square) slice in the box, and helped myself to peanuts on the dining table but only ate three. I could have helped myself to more. I did pick him up from the airport and he usually gives me gas money, but not this time. Were the chocolate covered macadamia nuts my “thank you”? Maybe. He had a bunch of boxes for everyone.
I must’ve looked under appreciated. He approached me. “As a thank you for picking me up from the airport, I want you to be in my first California selfie.”
So out came the phone. He looked up while I looked at the lens, and a moment was recorded for @ravesselfies_sf’s endless digital album.
I walked over to my phone to check the battery level. Why was it still in the red zone? We had already listened to three Yanni songs on youtube and two halves of two different Los Angeles Negro songs.
There was a discussion about whether the bug in the jar was a potato bug or a bee. It didn’t have wings and it had a striped body, and was ugly and small — a baby. Summer felt bad for it and kept on tending to the jar, tending meaning touching it and asking no one particular if we should feed it, or give it dirt or leaves.
Moments before Summer and I were leaning against the kitchen counter, talking about nothing and hitting it off, and then Blaine brought up the hip hop airhorn app and Summer wondered why every Drake song starts with an airhorn.
Then she stopped mid sentence to beat box and she was phenomenal and I almost said, “I didn’t think girls could do that,” but she was a smart woman and I didn’t want to ruin the connection that we had just made by saying something sexist.
I spent a long time looking at Summer’s toenails, how long and dirty they were. Maybe a month ago they had been painted a deep eggplant color and by the condition of her feet, I gathered that she lived life barefoot, and spent her days walking through gravel, eating her meals on mountain tops, and sleeping standing up on hot coals.
She had a smart boyfriend with hobbit shaped feet, but he was a giant — a good seven feet I’d say. It made my happy that even ladies with very dirty feet could find companionship.
Things got serious. We somehow started talking about her EBT cards, being jobless and poor, and loving to clean. I told her I hated cleaning and that I’d give her money to clean my place. She LOVED that idea. Her eyes lit up and for the first time that evening she was practically speechless, but I could see the excitement in her agape mouth. I could see her excited epiglottis and her excited teeth and gums.
And then she started beat boxing again.
And then I realized she had a stutter. A SEVERE stutter, at a level so time-consuming and frustrating as a listener that I could only wish I was rude enough to recommend a game of charades. Though she didn’t seem frustrated, so I quickly chose the other option: patient listening.
I sat and listened to her make these dolphin click type sounds for a straight 30 seconds before her words started. I don’t know if her challenge would even be considered a stutter. I stuttered as a child (enough that I had to go to speech therapy for it) and spent my elementary school mornings in a trailer with flat tires with an instructor and a bunch of other kids with speech impediments. I had never heard anything like it.
Occasionally I tried to throw in a word but they were always wrong. She didn’t stop. As a matter of fact she got more and more into the conversation and the more impassioned she became the harder it was for her to get her words out.
“Look at the bug! He has a proper home now!” directing her attention to the jar now filled with soil and mushrooms. Summer grinned wide and bright. She was a kid who had just come home from school to find a new pet.
(I still have a slight stutter today; it kicks in when I have to think before I speak, hence my thoughtless vocalizations.)