Archie followed the silver Subaru, which had to be at least ten years old. He kept up a constant patter to himself, “Come on Chip, let’s get off this busy street where we can be alone and talk about things.” Instead, the Subaru took a left toward downtown. “No, no, no, no,” Archie said. That’s not helping me Chiparoo.” He looked helplessly as the neighborhood exponentially gained witnesses and he continued to chat himself up into a lather of lunacy. The Subaru signaled to parallel park and Archie eased into a drive behind it, blocking any possible incoming and outgoing traffic from a locksmith business.
Chip parallel parked with the confidence of someone driving a beater, assured that any accident would result in the insurance companying totaling out payment at minimal value. The lookout was for others who had something to lose; a collision, causing accelerated depreciation like time-lapse photography. The dumbass left the door open, standing in traffic while fiddling with a coffee mug or other items he needed. Archie wouldn’t doubt if Chip still smoked and was reaching for his cigarettes, spending $82.00 a carton to smell bad and ash his lungs until they crumpled in on themselves.
* * *
Archie was leaving freshman English class. They were excused early on the first day of class. As he exited the door he was attacked. “Wilding” was the term that later stuck in Archie’s mind when he imagined the incident. A few feet beyond the doorway he was assaulted from behind by three or four boys from in the classroom wielding graphite shivs. He didn’t see all of them. Archie was 6’4” and his assailants struck from the waist with hypersonic bowling motions, jabbing him in the ass and thighs with sharpened pencils. Sent home by the nurse and refusing to say what happened, his Mom took Archie to the clinic to remove the graphite that had broken off under his skin.
Years later the only attacker he could remember was Chip. Archie remembered admiring Chip’s Sunoco work shirt on orientation day that made him look simultaneously tough and cool. He could see the logo skewered by a red arrow as he reflexively glanced back, not realizing at first what was occurring. He also recalled that the next day in class, Chip recoiled when Archie walked by his desk. Archie suddenly felt guilty it had never even occurred to him to retaliate. The strike had been executed with shock and awe and Archie felt helpless in the aftermath.
Although Archie was very tall, he was also praying mantis thin; approximately 35 pounds underweight. Archie remembered the weight because the next year he lied on his first driver’s license, adding twenty pounds to get to what he felt was a respectable one-hundred sixty-five.
The doctor could not remove all the graphite since much of it was embedded too deeply. “It will work its way out later. The body rejects foreign objects,” said the doctor knowledgably and as it turned out, falsely. Years later in light hearted post-coital moods Archie would show his partner his lead plugged ass and relate the story to display a combination of vulnerability and whimsy.