I placed the credit card on the counter.
“Anything these ladies need, mmmmk?” I said, winking at the scrawny something-somethin with the baby doll eyes and asymmetrical haircut.
“Sure,” he squeaked, and looked down at my quadruple platinum as though he’d never seen one before.
TRUE and Sterling huddled on one chair in front of a design station. I went out for a smoke and stared at the silhouette of a water tower. Soon it would be night. Whatever was going to happen, it would have to happen soon.
When I came back in they were pulling poster-size prints from the oversized printer, giggling and slapping at each other’s hands.
The two of them were like commercials for life itself within the antiseptic corporate afterworld of Kinkos.
I made a square by forming an “L” shape with each hand and pretended it was a camera lens.
When they were done printing, we picked up some wheat paste and brushes from the hardware store and got to work.
They used an empty milk gallon to mix it with water in the back of the Caddy. Meanwhile I chainsmoked up front and played with the buttons on the dashboard and watched purple light flash across storefront windows as the sun set behind the buildings.
We slapped the boy’s picture up on the aluminum sided sides of houses, across industrial loft doorways, on dumpsters…the sides of garages. Anywhere we thought it would be seen and we could get away with it. On a dare by me, TRUE ran up and pasted one across the glass front of the new, Yuppie bakery. That one was actually up longer than the one on the side of the “hip”, “urban” clothing store that had commissioned graffiti artists to cover their exterior. Our poster was yanked down almost before we could cross the street.
“Yeah! So punk!” I shouted as I gave the bird to the greasy haired manager as he nervously wadded up the damp shreds of paper.
A guy carrying an antique boombox asked us if what we were doing was art.
TRUE stared at him with her eyes narrowed. She moved her toothpick from one corner of her mouth to the other.
“Nah,” she said. “This is a picture of the guy who grabbed my tits earlier today. I’m putting it up all over so I can find him so I can smash his head in.”
She unrolled a copy of the poster.
“Bitchin,” the guy murmured.
“Have you seen this guy anywhere?”
“No,” the guy said, staring at the blurry blow-up.
“What is that, a kid running?”
“Yeah—you can’t tell?”
“No…now I can.” He stood with his hands on his fashionably narrow hips, staring deep into the pixel aura.
“It would look great in my place…how much for two?”
We sold it to him for kicks. Then we went back to the copy shop, scaled down the picture, elongated it, and stuck it on lampposts, we pinned up multicolored 8 and a half by 11s across the community bulletin board on bedford…we made stickers and stuck them to the side of busses, on mailboxes and the swinging doors of bodegas…we handed out flyers from the window of the Escalade. Adults and kids came up eagerly, mistaking us for hip-hop promoters handing out free CDs.
Who is this, they asked…what does this mean?
When seen from up close, the larger posters disintegrated into abstract clusters of pixels. They reminded me of Serrat.
“You know, a copier was the first machine I really got to like,” TRUE told us. We were smoking another blunt—a thick one that I’d rolled for the occasion.
I’m very much about drugs as hor d’oeurves. You know, a means to an end. For instance, like loosening us up for the kill.
Even Sterling had a puff, which is a once a year kind of occurrence.
“Fuck this kid,” she said as she inhaled, before hacking up a lung.
I didn’t know how we were going to find him. I didn’t know if it was possible. Brooklyn is a big place. A kid in blue jeans is a kid in blue jeans is EVERY kid in blue jeans. A whiteboy like me. One of many.
As I drove, however, something came over me. A feeling—a force—I don’t know what it was. But all at once, as we raced through green light after green light with the rest of the traffic on McGuinness, I realized that I wasn’t the who was driving the Cadillac. My foot was on the pedal and my hands were on the wheel, but I wasn’t the one making the car go. I wasn’t the one making the moment happen—that power seemed to be emanating from someone else. I looked at TRUE sitting beside me. She sat with her knees on the dashboard. Her eyes were closed.
“Now, listen,” she said, flatly. “I’ll tell you which way to go and you follow.”
“Alright,” I said.
She pulled her black Armani skull cap over her eyes and leaned back. Her face was a cross between a Buddha and a round-faced Mafioso.
She put her black on black Yankees cap on top of the skullcap, gangsta style.
I drove as fast as I could, but I’m telling you, I wasn’t really driving. It was like a kiddie car, where things lit up and made sounds but none of the knobs were connected with anything, nothing worked. I became passive, regarding the situation in a manner of philosophical epoche. The road flashed past like a road on a movie screen.
Flickering…ominous…the double yellow line glowed like in Lost Highway…or the end of Terminator2, when Linda Hamilton drones on about the future that stretched out before us, dark and unknowable.
I stole a look in the mirror. Sterling was staring fixedly out the window. Her eyes had the high strung vibe of a championship athelete.
“Turn right,” TRUE said, “ok, now…make a left!”
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Where the fuck do you think? We’re going to find him!” TRUE shouted. It seemed that all of her emotions were right there on the surface—she was angry, elated, sick and confident at the same time.
“How are you going to know it’s him with your eyes covered?” Sterling asked.
“Shhhh. I’ve got a psychic hold on him.”
“She’s got inner vision, like Stevie Wonder,” I said, laughing. No one else seemed to think it was funny.
We turned around and went the other way on McGuinness, eventually passing beneath the dark girders of the BQE, and on into the Graham Ave Sicilian neighborhood, so-called East Williamsburg, renamed and redefined by crafty real estate agents.
This was the latest chunk of old Brooklyn to be claimed by artist type hipsters and trust fund kids, who brought with them rock n’ roll and raised rents. There was a sleepy timelessness to it that perfectly suited the retro slacker stoner aesthetic of the PBR drinking new arrivals. It could have been anywhere—Ohio, Canada, Pennsylvania—a place so unhip that it was hip again, with its pink and green pastel aluminum sided buildings--not a single one over 4 stories tall-- it’s pork stores and marble headstone carver who slept in the backroom of his grave filled shop, the OTB, Café Capri and Phoebe’s, where the mullet-headed, heavy metal t-shirt wearing counter girl played Cheap Trick, Big Star and Nick Drake CDs all afternoon long.
The side streets were tree-lined and covered with potholes and thick slabs of uneven sidewalk. No matter what the season, there were always old, dead leaves in the gutter and a woman in an apron who was out there sweeping them up.
It was a street just like this that we took a left upon and sure enough, a crowd of kids gathered in front of a car at the end of it, a cloud of blue smoke hung over their heads.
“TRUE! TRUE!” I hissed, slowing down to a halt half behind a parked Explorer.
She pulled the skullcap from her eyes.
“Oh, shit,” she said. For a second her face was completely lit up, like a wide screen TV.
“Oh-wee,” she chirped, pulling the sock tightly around her wrist.
“Y’all still with me?” she said.
“You know it,” I said, my heart pounding in my ears.
“Let me do it,” Sterling said holding her hand out for the sock.
“No way,” TRUE replied, and laughed, bitterly—Ha! I half expected her to spit.
“Drive,” she commanded.
I started forward, inching around the Explorer. I tried to look casual. Luckily, the kids were on TRUE’s side. I mostly saw girls, their freshly tightened weaves glistening in the streetlight. But the boys were there too—hanging in between, low and slouched. It was a pleasantly mild evening. The afternoon’s rain had cleansed the air, enhancing it with a crispness you usually didn’t get in Brooklyn. It reminded me of Europe—of losing myself in tastes and sounds, the way I did when I was younger.
The kids felt us approach and stiffened slightly. An Escalade was a serious ride. Eyes flashed in our direction.
“Do you see him?” I asked, when we were directly beside them.
“No,” she said.
“But I will.” She put down the window and stuck her head outside.
“Yo,” she said. “Can I ask you something for a minute?”
A black kid came over. He was J-crewed out in a blue and red rugby shirt with a bright yellow collar. His eyes were red and watery.
“What’s up?” he asked
“Do you know this kid?” TRUE said, and gave him a wallet-sized glossy of her picture.
“This kid from the back here?” he asked.
“Yeah,” TRUE said, “Take a closer look.”
The kid squinted at the picture. Then he held it out in front of him.
“Nah, could be anyone,” he tried to giver her back the picture, but she wouldn’t take it.
“It could be anyone, but it is only one person.” She handed him a wad of glossies.
“Give these out to your friends,” she said.
“Uh, Ok,” the kid said, looking confused.
“Is there a number on them or something,” he asked, turning one of the cards over.
“Nope,” TRUE said. “I just need you guys to look at the picture...you know, really concentrate on it. There you go...that’s it. Werd.” She nodded, apparently satisfied, and then gave me a look like "let's go" and off we went, back into the night.
“Hmm. So what now?” Sterling asked.
“What do you mean?” TRUE said as she closed the window.
“I mean, what now?”
“We’re going to find this motherfucker, that’s what.”
“How, TRUE? Can you tell me that? How are we going to find him?”
“We’ve got his picture up all over town for everyone to see.”
“So—it’s publicity, man! How many times do I have to explain this to you two? Jesus!”
“Maybe we should have put a phone number on the back of the glossies,” I offered.
“Give me a fucking break that’s not how it works!” TRUE screeched.
“Why don’t you let us in and tell us how it works,” Sterling said. She had taken her hat off—the yellow shock of her hair was between us on the front seat.
“Put your hat back on,” TRUE said.
“Tell me how it works.”
“Put your hat on—your hair is like a goddamn lightbulb!”
“Yes, Master!” Sterling shouted. “Heil!”
I looked over my shoulder as she slumped back in the seat. I turned my attention back to the road just in time to see someone racing in front of my headlights. I slammed the brakes but it was too late—we hit them head-on. They were thrown across the windshield. For a second all I could see was a pair of bright blue and white jeans.
“Holy Shit!” TRUE shouted.
The person bounced on the front hood and ended up shoulder rolling onto the pavement.
“Oh, my God,” I said, as I pulled the Caddy into park. There was a large, circular crack in the windshield. It looked like a spider web. I scanned the scene for blood but I didn’t see any.
“Are they OK?” Sterling said.
“Look!” TRUE shouted, as the person on the street stood up. It was a teenage boy—he couldn’t have been more than fifteen, with wavy brown hair and a stained white t-shirt.
TRUE pulled the window down and stuck her head out.
“Hey!” she shouted. The boy turned and looked back at us in horror.
I noticed he had a large black mole beneath his right eye.
“I’m sorry! I’m sorry!” he shouted, before he turned and broke into a sprint, disappearing between the streetlights, his brown hair fanning out around his head.
Just like in the picture.