"Yo, you got the time?"
"Who says 'yo' anymore?" I thought, but instead looked at my iPhone and said, "7:02." He stared at my phone, then my purse, then my face.
"Oh, yeah yeah game's still on, I hope. First Seahawks I seen since I out. This last time I sprung, anyways." He caught up and started walking alongside me. Sammy didn't miss a beat, and kept on sniffing the broken sidewalk like it was paved with dog treats.
To myself again, "Who says 'sprung' anymore?" And then I continued, to myself, but almost out loud, "You have my undivided attention..."
"You mean from prison?" I indelicately inquired.
"Yeah, I been in and out for eight years, going on. They put me in for hittin' a guy. I get out, I hit a guy. It's what I do."
Well, isn't this a treat? A gang escort, right through the heart of his own territory. He asked me if I lived in the area, and when I said I did his posture relaxed.
"Oh. Yeah. Well I be in fights with a CO. You know what that is? It's a corrections officer, and they muthafuckahs. They hit on you an' pick fights an' when you retaliate? After they let you out of the joint they find you the next day and they put you back in for hittin' on a cop. Fuckas set me up," he explained.
At this point I thought he might need a little encouragement, so I told him I knew how bad it could get because I'd met people who had done hard time when I was in rehab. "Rehab isn't fun, but it isn't prison," I added, and I looked to him for a response.
"Rehab suck, prison suck harder but, yo, rehab suck."
I told him I knew intake could be the worst part of jail or prison, with all the searches and being tossed in with yet another group who might not be so welcoming. Too bad he'd endured it so many times. He gently tapped my arm in a familiar gesture. I'd gained a little trust, for the time being.
"So I hit a guy again, but I ain't been caught this time. He ain't said nothin' because he know he deserve it. He know it was comin'. What time you say it was, again? Can't wait for that game!" A broad grin took over his face.
No doubt he was an enforcer for his dealer. He was the muscle. Though he looked a mess, with his prison acne and torn coat, he was fairly broad in stature. Not exactly the kind of person you'd want to pass in a dark alley, and his halting motions and rapid head movement made me think he was in mild withdrawals--a dangerous condition for both him and anyone near him.
We came to the main intersection, and here he turned to a white cohort and waved. Then he suddenly shifted his gait, and limped toward a fellow black. He waived me off with a nod. I said, "See ya."
He wouldn't be seen with me. Me. A white, soccer mom-looking woman with what appeared to be some sort of designer dog in a little ski jacket. I suppose that could taint his credibility a bit.