I met a man with none of his front teeth at the bus stop today. He was there with a lady about his age, which I figured for mid-thirties, maybe his sister, maybe his girl. We trade cigarettes, one of his Kools for one of my Camels, because a man can't smoke menthols all the time.
"We're hustlers, professional hustlers. We live on the street," he said. He had a bunch of jailhouse tattoos. One of them was a teardrop, coming down from his right eye. That means he killed somebody while he was in the joint, if they do things the same in Texas as they do back East. "I'm a crack addict," he said, unsolicited. "I only do crack though. Not weed, not junk, not even powder coke. Just crack." He stopped to think. "I'd probably do some glass if I got my hands on that, though."
"Dude, meth's some hardcore shit. Meth'll drive you fucking mad." I meant that more as a point of reference than a lecture, and I didn't start in on the crack. Because, in the end, what can you say?
A beat-up caddy pulls up to the stoplight, and a hispanic girl leans out the passenger side window, yells out, "Why didn't you call last night?"
He yells back, "I lost your number! Look, if you still have a room tonight, give me your number again!" She does, and the lady who's been sitting quiet next to him the whole time takes it down, in sharpie on her arm, after the caddy pulls off. Maybe she's not his girl after all. Maybe she is, and they're dealing to the girl in the caddy. Maybe this shit is complicated and none of my business.
I asked him about the teardrop. I'm not sure why; I guess I just wanted to find out if it meant what I thought it did.
"Yeah. It was when I lost my teeth. They pulled my parole and dropped me in the worst lockup in the fucking state, in the middle of a fucking riot. Three niggers started whaling on me, knocked my teeth out, broke my jaw in a few places. Right before I passed out, I stabbed one of the motherfuckers in the neck, with a ballpoint, and it went right through his fucking jugular. Took me three fucking years to prove it was in self-defense. Motherfuckers."
This is the way life goes, sometimes.
Not long after the caddy left, my bus came in and I went home. I doubt I'll ever run into him again. But he'll be out there living his life, just like I'm living mine and you're living yours.