Pep Boys, James and Activated Charcoal

So I’m waiting for my Pep Boys oil change after driving from Indiana to Philly knowing damn well I needed one a week ago. After realizing I didn’t pack any toothpaste from home in my pink and blue patterned hygiene bag, I go to the Target next door. I discover that toothpaste politics have joined the realm of the quixotically complicated. I consider the activated charcoal toothpaste; the box is mad pretty. Activated charcoal, fluoride free, vitamin B and “other” vitamin supplement toothpaste. I hope, if only slightly, that this toothpaste makes you vomit? I discover, after a quick google search, that if you are not crippled by ten years as a medic, activated charcoal, in small doses, is generally used as an absorptive agent to “capture or bind-up unwanted materials and gas, which are safely carried out of the digestive system.” I remember then, that duh, I knew that, but somewhere along the way I decided that all detriments and curatives exist only in their most extreme fabulations. Some people call this catastrophizing, or Theodor Adorno or whatever. I wish, if only for a moment, while I wait for my gingerbread latte with almond milk and whipped cream, that important things will gain the right to be more complicated. I figure that I will get in about a thousand words of writing before my oil is changed and I pick the kids up from school and make dinner at Cal and Aisha’s house. So I sit down at the little Starbucks cafe in Target with my activated charcoal, vitamin B, all natural, gluten and bovine hormone free toothpaste and a value size box of Gushers. There is a kid across from me behind a big red Hp laptop who looks like Fat Albert with dreads. He’s wearing Beats headphones and grinding on some project that probably has him fucked up, since he shakes his head and grimaces with every other keystroke. There is a little girl black girl walking back and forth presumably while her parents get coffee, she’s prolly like six. She asks me how tall I am and I say six-thousand and six-hundred feet and she says, No, you lying, and pokes me with her finger, her barrettes, a head full of the thin plastic ones of every color you get for a dollar a bag jingle and I can’t help laughing. Why you laughing at me! She says, which only makes it funnier. Her dad comes over with what looks like an Oreo Frappuccino. Girl, what you doing? He says. Then, Ain’t you used to play ball up in the Northeast? I realize that this nigga is my age and that we did indeed used to play ball in the Northeast but it prolly doesn’t matter.

There is a white man named James talking at this Puerto Rican girl across from me. The girl is a college student, probably early twenties at most, probably goes to La Salle. James looks like he is around thirty. He has a half-sleeve tribal tattoo and a short ponytail with a receding hairline and a beard. The only reason I know his name is James is because the girl keeps saying it in response to his talking at her. That’s great, James. No, no I had no idea about that James. James reminds me of every strained and failed friendship I’ve tried to have with a white man. James says that he knows something she doesn’t know about Iphones because of his tech work, well he used to do tech work but not anymore, and also, he says: would you like to know something else about politics and world religion? I am also, James says, a trained professional wrestler, and I act, and are you familiar with Reiki? Do you know about the Luchadores? He points to a tattoo on his other arm. You know, he says. No one even told me any of this, I was actually sitting beneath a tree when I was just four years old, looking up into the sky and I figured it all out. Do you understand the terminology of Malware? It has so much to do with global politics. Well, he says, let me tell you about Chi energy,  even though, well, I don’t use Reiki specifically. And I also know a lot about language because I’m a writer and I lived in Louisiana where I was taking subsets of data because the second language is French. Norton is a joke, I wouldn’t use Norton if you payed me. Plus, Africa, you know is the only place where true blacks live, where the real African religions are and I spent a lot of time studying their politics as well. A black girl with a long princess braid down to her waist turns around and starts laughing. And Hey, James says. He looks at me. Have you ever been to Louisiana man? James, I say. I think you should go mind your fucking business and die. What? He says, not to me, but to the black girl. Then he says, I have a political science background and I’m just trying to help. He walks away, sulking. I pick up my bag of pineapple Trident gum, value pack Gushers, gluten free toothpaste, two-for-four Red Bull and Fallout 76 mug to walk back across the street to Pep Boys. James is at the Starbucks counter. Too many people think about Africa as a country, he says. It is an entire continent, with complex politics and religions and that is the problem…


Security is walking towards James but they won’t kill him. Maybe the cops will come and shoot security for disrespecting James. James will stab the black girl on the subway and call her a black bitch and we will all act like nothing happened. James said he’s not a republican. James just wants to be your friend and why are people so divisive. James is very constitutional. No one is willing to listen. I try to pretend I’m not thinking all of the things I really think including all those I won’t write. It would be catastrophizing. James is talking about all of the families who really own most of the United States. In politics, he says, I try to remain neutral and base everything on just the facts.

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