"Are you Mark?"
We're outside Tampa now in the parking lot of a library. We're looking for books to buy and sell. Kristin is walking the dogs, and is out of sight under some palms. A hammered Lexus pulled up close and the darkest young black man with dreadlocks and red stains covering the bottom half of each of his teeth leaned out the window. "Are you Mark?" I couldn't look away from his teeth. I never saw teeth that were fucked up in this particular way. I told him that I was not Mark.
"You're not Mark??" he didn't believe me. What the fuck is with those teeth.
"No" I said decisively. "My name is Chris." as though that would settle the matter.
This area did not look as "crime-free" or "safe" as a sign posted to the outside of the library would have you believe. If it was so safe, I later wondered, why would there need to be a sign telling me so? I don't need a badge declaring that I'm not a rapist.
The Lexus followed me slowly behind a line of parked cars as I walked down a grassy median toward the front doors of the library. As I got to the crosswalk, I was forced to walk in front of the Lexus even as I was trying to pretend I didn't see it. I stepped around a woman who frankly looked like a prostitute. Smooth black skin, but a protruding belly and dark bra clearly visible through her sheer... shirt?
I looked up and saw the sign posted on the wall, telling me my instincts were wrong - this is a safe library. Yes, sir - nothing odd here. You are not being followed by a man with amazing teeth, and no prostitutes operate... say... within about a mile of here. "Lying-assed sign," I thought, as I continued toward the doors with increasing rue.
Entering the library, I found a Friends of the Library book store to the side of the entrance, and finally I did feel safe. At least one white-haired biddy was providing a buffer between me and outside. I started browsing through the books in a small closet toward the back of the store, and five minutes passed.
I was looking up data about the sales history of a book about Faulkner when two hookers barged in. (!!!)
"I NEED TO SEE YOUR ID" demanded the white hooker.
"Whaaaaa?!" I responded; caught quite off guard. The other hooker was the one from outside, and now she had a badge. The puzzle began to make sense now, and I was happy to show them my license when they demanded for a second time. I was never so glad to not be named Mark.
The sign on the library will remain a falsehood until they finally nab "Mark." The rue will be his as the Lexus-driving vampire sorts out business while two hooker-cops hold him to the pavement.