It’s early evening when Kamani and I trundle into Omaha, Nebraska, a slight deviation from our trek back out to Reno, Nevada, which will be home for at least the next six months. There’s nothing in particular that we’re looking for in Nebraska, except that it’s the only state I havn’t been to in the contiguous United States. Kamani is interested, I’m sure, in anything that gives her a break from the harsh discomforts of road-life.
My interests in Nebraska are mostly focused on Lincoln, but Omaha offers an opportunity to stretch our legs and ease away from the torment of the accordion highway shuffle amongst drivers who don’t use cruise control. I find a gym where I can park and take Kamani for a walk. We’re in the part of Omaha that’s been developed for apartment complexes and box stores and shopping plazas – the beige blocks that are often cluttered on the outskirts of any town and always remind me of a bright-light shit smear.
After a couple miles, we turn around and head back to the car. Kamani trots beside me while I carry a bag of her shit. A short distance away, another pedestrian is making his way toward us. I crowd the left edge of the sidewalk so Kamani is on the narrow strip of grass between the street and the walkway, which allows the other pedestrian ample room to pass. I do this because I understand not everyone is comfortable around dogs or they don’t like dogs or they’re the type of people who hate things based on what they read on Facebook.
I notice the pedestrian begin to stutter step as he, apparently, has some trouble adjusting to the width of the sidewalk and the effort it takes to veer a few inches to give another pedestrian room to pass. As we move by him, he says: “Get that fucking pit bull off the sidewalk.”
“Go fuck yourself.”
My immediate response is somewhat shocking.
It’s been a long road to Omaha, and I’m already tense from so many hours of driving. I’m edgy, and it hasn’t been that long since I dog-cussed someone from the safety inside my vehicle. I notice the twitching in the man’s eyes then, how pure white his pants are, the awkward pile of whatever is bulging in his back pack, the plastic shopping bag full of small boxes that might be douche or generic macaroni and cheese. I notice the cigarette in his hand and the thin smoke seeping from between brown and yellowed teeth. I also realize that Kamani is on the grass, not the sidewalk.
“Fuck you,” he responds.
From there, it’s a verbal torrent of suppressed road rage and absolute refusal to disregard what is most likely a person who might have conversations with strangers only he can see.
The distance between us has closed, and I’m the one who’s taken a step toward him. I realize this as he steps back and the sound of my voice erupts into the smaller space between us. When I hear myself promise to death-fuck the pavement with his skull, I’m reminded of all the other niceties I’ve expressed over the years:
Fuck off, demon slut.
I’ll knock that fucking mustache off your face.
I’ll punch the fucking prescription out of your glasses.
The man opens his mouth to say something, but sidesteps away from me instead. His walk away is much more brisk, and I begin to imagine the horrors that might befall me.
What if he is a fucking lunatic and steals a car and runs me over in a cross walk?
What if he decides to chase me down the street with a machete?
What if he has friends in a moped gang and they follow me and beat me to death with toilet seats and then put things like Legos and bottle caps in my butt?
What if he has a collection zip ties and duct tape and vinyl gloves in his back pack, much like the stash I keep in the Nitro?
What if he…
What if I…
I am suddenly overcome with the thought that perhaps there’s something wrong with me…
Perhaps the man I’d just encountered hadn’t said anything at all. Perhaps the last three days of long drives and a massive intake of caffeine have scrambled what’s left of my shitforbrains. Maybe I have conversations with strangers only I can see.
I go through a list of questions in an attempt to diagnose what might be a very horrifying realization. The personal inventory and reflection of my behavior that day as someone else might see it is pretty damn bleak:
Prone to outbursts.
Hasn’t showered or shaved.
Recent abuse of alcohol.
Feelings of anger.
I walk back to where I’d parked in a very confused state of mind.
Crazy people don’t know they’re crazy.
Maybe something is not right.
Maybe my perception is wrong.
Maybe I’m fuckingcrazy instead of just fucking crazy…