On a quiet sidewalk outside a coffee shop in Berkeley, California, Jon stood having a cigarette. A man from the coffee shop wearing boxing shoes and a Kangol hat stepped outside to have a smoke. Jon noticed the shoes, and having a history in boxing himself, decided to strike up a conversation.
“Whats the deal with smoking cigarettes in Berkeley? I heard they give you a fine.”
“Yeah up on Shattuck.” The man responded.
“I just found out, that’s BS.” Jon took a drag of his smoke. “So do you box?”
He turned and looked at Jon, surprised he’d ask that question, as if to say, what do you mean?
Jon reitterated, “I saw you have boxing shoes on.”
“Yeah, I’ll fight. If someone tries to kill me I’ll fight,” the man uttered with a jerky, somewhat spastic inflection to his words.
Jon stood there, not sure what to say. The man continued pacing and smoking, and it became clear that he was a lunatic. He stopped and looked Jon dead in the eye.
“Tell me you hate me,” he said as he motioned his head forward.
Jon was speechless.
“It doesn’t have to mean nothing. Just tell me you hate me.”
“Doesn’t have to mean nothing. Just tell me you hate me. The only way I can trust someone is if they tell me they hate me.”
Jon was in disbelief. The man was dead serious, twitchy, and had a look in his eyes like two lightbulbs, flickering from shoddy wiring. “I’m not gonna tell you that. I don’t feel comfortable.”
“Alright, well if you don’t tell me you hate me, then I can’t talk to you. I can’t do any verbal.”
“Alright man, that’s cool.” The man went back to his frantic pacing. Jon took a final drag of his smoke and walked back in the coffee shop. He sat down at the table, where I was looking at a newspaper, and let out a sigh of relief.
“You see that sign up there?”
I looked up.
Meanwhile, back at the Cal Hotel, someone was living on the edge. Hell does not scare them.
San Francisco. The crazy never stops.