By A.J. Llewellyn
My best friend Tony came and spent the weekend with me and as is his wont, we crammed into three days what most people manage in a month. I love him to death, but was a little relieved that he was leaving last night.
At any given moment, he can say, "Mate! Let's do such-and-such." I wanted to be accommodating and the truth is, I spend an abnormal amount of time working, so I agreed to everything...including walking the dog at dawn, using flashlights...but I digress.
So late yesterday, he was supposed to get the airport shuttle to LAX and somehow missed it. So I was forced to take him myself. Half way down the 405, we spotted a disabled vehicle on the shoulder.
"Mate!" Tony yelled. "It's a lady. We have to help."
"No, we don't!" I shrieked. I admit to a certain selfish distress. I had a book deadline and I needed to get back to work.
"We are disciples of Daisaku Ikeda. You think HE would keep driving?"
"You BIG shit!" I screamed and pulled over.
Yes, she was a lady. I very scary looking lady I put at around 60. Tall, skinny, black and missing most of her teeth, her jalopy had curls of smoke wafting from under the hood.
Long story short, she had no money, no credit cards, no Triple A and when I called Triple A on my card, I discovered I had used up my calls for the year until November.
Tony started poking around under the hood, muttering darkly.
A Metro truck rolled up and the driver also looked under the hood and by now, the lady was hysterical.
Metro is a great service. They'll bring you gas, tow you to safety...and this is exactly what the guy did. Towed the Town Car off the freeway to a surface street. The lady was a wreck and could not get home.
I traded glances with Tony. Mr. Metro took off to the scene of a freeway accident and that left Tony and me to take her home.
She didn't live close...she lived in Watts.
Which if you are a white male, you don't want to hang around in.
"Mate," Tony said, as we headed to the blackest of black hoods, "in case we die in a drive-by shooting, I just want you to know you are the best mate a bloke ever had."
"Fuck you!" I screamed, thinking my animals would be orphaned and would this ever happen to my mentor?
In Buddhism, we chant. We chant for all kinds of reasons and believe me, I started chanting in my mind. I just wanted to drop the lady off and make it home safe. Tony by now had missed his flight and we were still nowhere near Watts.
The lady announced she had lost her house keys and asked us to drop us at a friend's house. I took her there, but I swear I saw movement at the windows, but nobody opened the door.
"Take me to my other friend's house," she instructed.
That turned out to be a bust too, and soon, she had a new request. Another house. Another three miles' driving.
I took her to the third house. Nobody answered the door there either.
"My boyfriends is all turnin' out to be assholes," the lady said. "Can you lend me $20?"
She could see I was not thrilled to be giving her money, so I guess she decided to sweeten the deal.
"You ever made love to a black lady?" she asked, her tongue protruding between the massive gaps between her front teeth.
Tony rolling around the back seat, trying to hold his laughter in.
I dropped her at her neighborhood liquor store, gave her ten bucks (the only cash I had) and she snarled in fury.
"My friends is gonna be pissed at you. Wait right here."
I drove off as soon as her skinny legs were out of my car.
I am pretty certain my mentor would have done the same thing.
As for my best friend in the whole world getting to the airport today?
He is on his own.