Picture 4


This happened a looooong time ago, but it’s a story I keep rattling around in my head, especially on these post-Ferguson nights.

“Hold on one sec,” he said. Tall African-American man, I’d say thirty, six feet something with a baseball hat (curved bill tonight, not flat) and a wardrobe fitted for a mythical man three times his size: black hoodie halfway zipped, glistening basketball shoes with the wide flat laces, and stone-washed black jeans, the expensive kind, with white accent threads and fabric piled around the sagging bottoms, folds of cloth accumulating around his shoes like Michelangelo’s Pietà, or Alexandros of Antioch’s Venus de Milo.

“Aw, sure,” I said. We were driving something down Third Avenue, either a 3/4 or a 1/14.
“I know I got it.”
“Oh, it’s cool.”
He kept fumbling around, searching for his transfer.

What would a fellow of his look be up to on a night like this? Ten PM on a weeknight. Sometimes it’s polite to not ask. I don’t ask specifics of the guys I know are dealers, for example. We talk about things like weather. I really ought not to assume though–haven’t seen this fellow before–so I decided to venture.

“How’s your night goin’?”
“Iss been good. I just dropped off my son. We went and checked out the ferris wheel.”
“Oh, cool! Did he have a good time, your son?”
“Yeah, somebody said it was only three times they go around but we got a good three, four times. It was dope.”
“Perfect. And it’s a nice clear night, good for that,”
“Awesome. I haven’t been on it.”
“It’s good, yeah.”
“What time they stop runnin’ that thing?”
“I think it closes at ten… man, I know I had one. Truly.” He was still searching his pockets.

“It’s all cool. D’you need another one for later tonight?”
Heartfelt: “truly.”
“Here’s the goods.”
“Thank you man, I appreciate it.”
“Dude, thanks for lookin’ for it! I appreciate you!”
“Man, I had it.”
“It’s all good. I trust you.”

Sometimes people just pretend to look for transfers. He really did have one. Finally he showed it to me, excited to prove his honesty. “See?”
“You’re awesome! Thank you!”
“Yeah, I just met a new lady,” I continued. His eyebrows went up in a half-smile as I went on–“so I been thinkin’ about places to take her. That sounds like a good one.”
“Definitely. I been lookin’ for stuff to do too.”
“Oh, nice!”
“Yeah, my lady, she thinkin’ about other things, but I’m gonna bring it back. Gonna get it this time.”
“Bring back some a that old magic.”
His eyes twinkled in the darkness. “Yeah.”
“That’s beautiful thing,” I said. The effort.

His concerns were about the same as mine. I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Article Author

Nathan Vass is an artist, filmmaker, photographer, and author by day, and a Metro bus driver by night, where his community-building work has been showcased on TED, NPR, The Seattle Times, KING 5 and landed him a spot on Seattle Magazine’s 2018 list of the 35 Most Influential People in Seattle. He has shown in over forty photography shows is also the director of nine films, six of which have shown at festivals, and one of which premiered at Henry Art Gallery. His book, The Lines That Make Us, is a Seattle bestseller and 2019 WA State Book Awards finalist.