Underground

Underground
The first thing: he looks out of place. He doesn’t look like a beach person or even a morning person, for that matter. Flak jacket, dingy old green t-shirt with some sort of faded black logo, and serious jeans. Serious, like jeans you wear if you really work—dungarees, hard core. And also he didn’t even meet my eyes when he came in the donut shop, just headed straight for the bathroom. I mean, it’s a donut shop, okay? Just about anyone coming in for donuts in the morning is already in a good mood, already checking in with a conspiratorial sugar-and-fat induced grin, but not this guy.

Comes out of the bathroom, slides into a booth nearby and takes out his phone, hunches over, thumbs a text to someone, god knows who, his drug connection, his gangster friends, his underground terrorist cell. I mean, he’s got dark hair, right? Okay, that’s not right, I know. Things are so crazy, too crazy. People pushing all this paranoid bullshit about who’s a regular american and who’s not, and by their armed-to-the-teeth white male standard, would pretty much mean I’m suspect too, and, oh yeah, also means most of the world. Remember that excellent scene from Being John Malkovich where everyone in the restaurant, everyone, old ladies, kids, everyone looks exactly alike: John Malkovich. Maybe the guys stirring everyone up would actually dig the hell out of that.

So. Here I am, having a donut with my friend, keeping an eye on Flak Jacket because, well, Flak. Jacket. ok? I watch him check his phone again and again, and then go to the bathroom AGAIN. What is up with him? No donut. No coffee. It’s like he’s just waiting for something. What is he waiting for? Suddenly I can’t even hear my friend talking because all I can think about is Flak Jacket! In and out of the bathroom, texting, no donut, no coffee and come on, this is Seattle! No one in Seattle doesn’t drink coffee, which is a double negative, which means Something is Definitely Wrong.

He comes back from the bathroom, sits down at the table and checks his phone. Almost imperceptible nod and a little twitch of a smile. He puts his phone in his pocket, gets up and leaves–whoosh, right out the door! Not a word, not a glance, nada, just leaves and heads west down the street. I’m blown away by this, my head is buzzing with anxiety, when I hear a tiny voice from far away–my friend! Talking about the lecture she went to last night at the university and I realize I haven’t heard more than a word or two. I nod and try to catch up while another part of me expects to hear an explosion down the street, or see cop cars speeding by, or something! Something that might explain what Flak Jacket was doing. I’m sure it was something bad!

Later, as I drive west towards my home, I happen to glance at the big construction site near the beach—one of those monster houses, four or five thousand square feet of glass and steel and who do I see feeding a long bundle of cables into an underground channel that runs under the monster house? Yeah, you guessed it: Flak Jacket. He’s laughing, and flipping shit to whoever’s on the other end of the cable, they’re working, just working a regular old job. And that’s when I think: seriously, maybe it’s time to turn the internet off and come up for air.

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