Waking up at 4:00 am to go to work at McD’s, where homeless were the main customers, wasn’t enjoyable to Jonathan, anymore. To add insult to injury, imagine when it was a rainy morning. Thankfully, though, his house on De La Vina Street was about five blocks away from his work, which made his reality a bit less painful. That morning, walking under the rain, with nothing but a plastic trash bag he used as a shirt and a McD’s tray shielding his head, he wished he wasn’t working that day.
He had a feeling.
A weird one.
Nothing he ever felt before.
The streets were half-deserted at 4:15 am, only the Shell Gas station on the corner of Chapala and Carrillo sheltered a couple of hobos drinking coffee under its roof, protecting them from the rain. He walked further onto Carrillo to step onto State Street. Then, he turned left and looked north, somewhat thankful he was three blocks away from his final destination.
The rain was getting a bit heavier, which caused sprinkles of water to slither through his neck, soaking his shirt inside. “Damn it!” he said. “I need a fucking umbrella!”
He saw another homeless under the roof of a jewelry store, sipping coffee and talking to his dog; the dog was looking at his owner with attention, trying to understand his language.
“This is bad,” Jonathan said, “these homeless people drinking coffee at four in the morning and I have to go to work?” He shook his head, thinking just how unfair life was. “I hate these people.”
When he was walking by the corner of Anacapa and State, next to the one and only Old Navy store in town, he saw a person (indistinguishable because of the distance) sitting on a bench outside the McD’s store, holding a blue umbrella.
Jonathan thought it was Joaquina, the woman he worked with, someone who’d been working at McDonald’s for 25 years! Furthermore, she was the proud recipient of a McD’s pin for every year she spent working there, following the same dull routine every single morning. “I still have all the pins. Hidden in a safe place,” She’d said once, pride shown on her face.
Personally, Jonathan thought it was horrible to collect pins, instead of raises or a job promotion which didn’t come as often. I mean, he thought, isn’t that stupid? McDonald’s was wasting money in pins rather than paying its people more. “I’ve done this job for six months, and I’m already tired,” he said to himself, praying for a change in his life.
He looked at his watch. 4:20 am, it was. “Too early for Joaquina to be here.” They always started working at 4:45 am, and she wasn’t much of an early bird herself. “Whoever that person is, doesn’t work at the restaurant.”
Maybe It’s a hobo, he thought. “No! That’d be really unfair! A hobo with an umbrella and me wearing a trash bag and a tray I borrowed from the restaurant yesterday?”
He was right. The thought of that was outrageous.
Usually, he’d walk past McD’s to buy a coffee at the Starbucks on the corner of Victoria and State, but this time, he wanted to stay there, just to find out who the person with the blue umbrella was.
“What do you care?” A voice in his head asked. “I mean, homeless or not, it doesn’t make any difference, does it? you don’t have an umbrella, anyway.”
Jonathan nodded, conceding with the voice in his head. Then, after a second thought, he said, “Whatever.” He shook, suddenly, after a fresh breeze splashed his face with rain. “I don’t want coffee today,” he claimed while approaching the restaurant.
Approaching the restaurant, he sat in a corner, under the roof, looking at the door to get a reflection of the person sitting on the bench. Unable to have a better look, he was about to say something, but he wasn’t that friendly to start a conversation; at least he could say good morning, but truly, it wasn’t that good of a morning.
“What time do you open?” He heard the person ask, which made him jolt because he could’ve sworn he heard the voice so clearly it seemed they were standing close together. But they weren’t; the distance was about ten feet, and the rain was loud enough to keep farts from being heard.
He whirled around to have a better look at the person with the blue umbrella.
It was a woman. A rather pretty lady cladded in an elastic, black outfit, similar to that from the Catwoman movie. Her lips were glamorous, shining red that gave him the impression of a ripe apple. Her hair was blonde, combed to the back in a short ponytail and her heart-shaped face gave her a somewhat angelical look.
Her eyes… Jonathan couldn’t distinguish which color they were.
And her voice (or the voice he heard) was….
“Excuse me!” She said, louder, noticing he was staring at her round breast. “What time do you open?”
He blinked, “Oh, sorry. We open the doors at 5:30. I’m just waiting for the manager to come so we can get everything ready.”
She nodded, slowly, without taking her eyes away from him. This made Jonathan feel uncomfortable. There was something about her, something weird behind that beautiful face. What was she doing there, in the middle of the rain? Jonathan looked briefly at the sides, hoping to see if she was carrying something like the hobos do. She wasn’t. The only thing she had with her was the blue umbrella.
The torrential rain reduced to a lackadaisical drizzle. “I’m not a homeless,” the girl said, knowing what Jonathan was thinking.
“I-I didn’t think that,” he said, nodding, his body language contradicting his words.
“I could’ve sworn you thought that, since you don’t like them,” she said, matter-of-factly.
That was weird. Jonathan hated homeless people, that was the truth, but how did she know that? “And how comes you know what I am thinking?”
She gave him an I-got-you smile, “because you just confirmed it yourself.”
That’s right, dummy! A voice in his head said. You just gave the truth away.
“Are you a clairvoyant or something?” He said, not knowing why he was talking. Really, he didn’t like to talk to people he didn’t know. But she was…
“No, I am not,” she said. “You’re a transparent person, that’s all.”
“Yes,” she said, but it came out like yessss, giving her lips a sexy look as she pronounced the ‘s.’
He looked at the umbrella, then at her face, waiting for her to say she knew what he was thinking now. But she remained quiet, staring at him with a hypnotizing look. He didn’t know what else to say.
“You’re unhappy to be here, aren’t you?” she asked.
He frowned, “Don’t tell me you can also see that? I haven’t said or shown any-“
“Yes, you’ve shown something,” she said, “your eyes are the windows of the soul. I can see that you don’t like to be here at this hour, you’re not really a friendly person, you don’t like homeless people, and even worse, you don’t know what you want to do with your life.”
Jonathan wasn’t sure whether he felt scared or angry. Maybe both. “Wait,” he said, his right hand up as if signaling her to stop. “Have we met before?”
“So why are you judging me?”
The corners of her mouth rose in a mocking smile.
He didn’t like that. “What are you laughing at?” he yelled, but later, he wished he hadn’t done that.
Her smiled subsided and her quiet stare transformed into an angry look. “To begin with, you have to know the difference between a smile and a laugh,” she said, stood up, and suddenly, she was in front of Jonathan. Startled, he dropped the tray on the floor. He was shaking, too, unable to understand just how she did that. Now that she was close to him, breathing his air, he knew that yelling wasn’t going to be his next approach.
Hell, he didn’t even know what to say at all!
“You don’t want me to judge you when judging is what you do all day?” She asked, too close it seemed she wanted to kiss him. He looked up. The umbrella was now covering them both.
He couldn’t talk.
He was scared.
“I-I,” he said, trying to come up with a sentence that wasn’t there. He was cornered. There was no way out. And her eyes…. Now he was able to see her eyes.
They were black. Completely black. Where everyone was supposed to have the white, distinguishable sclera, this girl had nothing but a vast darkness that made Jonathan shiver even more than the rain ever could. He closed his eyes, hoping that by the time he opened them everything was going to change. When he opened them, Jonathan saw the same black intensity. He then looked at his watch. 4:20, it was. “What the fuc-” he tried to say, noticing how time had stopped.
The girl with the blue umbrella put a piece of paper in the pocket of his pants.
He jolted, feeling her cold hand going deep into his pocket. He breathed rapidly, fearing this was his last day on this planet. Then, he closed his eyes….
“Jonathan! wake up!” he heard a woman yelled.
It was Joaquina.
“Jonathan! I am trying to wake you. You didn’t do it,” the woman said, as producing a bundle of keys from her purse. “It’s 5:00 am. you didn’t call me to tell me I was late!”
Joaquina kept on talking as they walked in. But Jonathan wasn’t paying attention. He then looked towards the bench. Nobody was there. Did I just have a bad dream? He asked to himself, while Joaquina kept complaining.
He smiled. Relieved.
“Put your cellphone in the locker before you start working!” Joaquina demanded.
He walked to the breakroom, still smiling, grateful it was just a nightmare. He reached for his cellphone, took it out, and put it in the locker. Then, his smile faded away, after seeing a piece of wet paper stuck on the back of his phone.
His eyes widened. It hadn’t just been a nightmare….