What You Can’t Listen to Later

There’s this homeless guy at the taco shop, and I know he’s homeless because I see the bottom of his shoes and generally you don’t fall asleep on a bench outside the taco shop. Not in broad daylight at least, and it is daylight. Also: there is the fact of his knapsack discarded next to him on an adjoining table. Canvas and with those distinctive holes that come from wear. He has his ankles crossed and his head up against the concrete facade of the building, just left of the entrance. Unshaven. Half-smiling with eyes closed.
I walk past him and into the shop where I order my burrito and hesitate when asked, “For here or to go?” I usually say, “To go,” in which case I usually drive back to work and sit at the white tables outside the Penguin Encounter. But I settle on, “For here.” It’s nice outside and the taco shop patio is small but amenable and my company would be the guy who’s sleeping and the pigeon that’s braving the drive-thru entryway despite the arrows that invite cars.

Halfway through the burrito, the man starts talking. Angrily. And I’m not sure if he’s talking to me, so I prick my ears. I’m sitting behind a pillar, and just out of eyesight, but I hear him say: “…and then I got back to the house and all my toys were BROKEN.”

He’s not talking to me.


The sudden escalation is unsettling and I have a very guilty burrito in front of me. The pigeon has since flushed in a scissoring of wings, escaping a drive-thru fate, and I take pause. I do that cinematic thing wherein I stop chewing and my hand tremors.

He starts again. “YOU CAN’T SLEEP WITH YOUR CHILDREN!” “You can’t sleep with your children.”

I freeze entirely.


And though I’m behind a pillar and somewhat out of view, I see him launch out of his repose; he throws a crushed aluminum can of something out onto the boulevard and it makes a stupid and impotent clink in the street.

He grabs his knapsack and, still yelling, disappears into the drive-thru corridor that the pigeon has since evacuated. He pounds on the walls, away from me and away from his childhood I’m guessing, and it has me shaken.

Cayde’s been texting me in the meanwhile. He’s hijacked Jenn’s phone and is pretending to be her.

“Guess who?”

I guess wrongly on purpose. Of course I know it’s my kid. When urged to guess again, I give the correct answer and Cayde sends me a picture with his thumbs up.

I reply with a selfie funny face thing while I’m getting into my car, now with half a burrito wrapped-up: that something I just couldn’t finish.

Cayde doesn’t know ‘LOL’ but because he knows how to use a phone, he records himself laughing for a few seconds, a video which he then sends to me.

Later, my co-workers and I are all in the Penguin Encounter kitchen, breezing it, and Leah slides her phone my way. There’s that time-hop feature and a few years ago I wrote to her about Cayden who had just had his first listen of Baba O’ Riley. He marveled that you could have piano and guitar in one song, and to which he decided to have a ‘happy-laugh.’

(Finn was dressed in a Who shirt this morning and I showed Leah the pictures).

Jenn texted something an hour later. A link to that Neil Young song about his boy growing up. Which is wise of me to not listen to past the third line and while at work; Leah remarks that ‘Harvest Moon’ is the sure way to make her cry and she agrees that I should ‘probably listen to that later’ which I do.

Some things you can’t listen to later, like that guy pounding his way down the dumb drive-thru, but there are things you can and do listen to and on repeat, like when Cayden was laughing and when he pressed ‘send’.


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