It was a prelude to the “dog days” of August.
May typically doesn’t bring about “riot weather”, the colloquial term for a volatile blend of oppressive humidity coupled with a few hits from the crack pipe and an afternoon of binge drinking. Now and again, expectations are sideswiped by life’s little surprises. The mercury flirted with 90 degrees, and the banalities of fruitlessly studying in vain for finals we were assured to flounder through faded as the final weekend of the semester dawned upon us. Nonetheless, we were compelled to be productive with the luxury of free time.
Sergio hollowed out a few cigars and rolled an eighth of exotics in the mix, while Kemal scrounged for the other essentials - notepads, a Canon discreetly tucked away in a paper bag, and enough cash from our collective legal pool, tossed in a satchel to cover us in lieu of having to post bail. I was at the helm of the Canna-Bus, an old Chevy Astro that sputtered motor oil, and had virtually no suspension left but was tastefully plastered with posters of Carl Sagan and Jimi Hendrix and contained all the writings of every astounding philosopher thrown in a wooden trunk that lay in the back. The heaping pile of rust, by some kind of miracle, managed to plow through every five foot deep pothole that North Camden could throw in our path. We pushed for State Street, the gleaming avenue of cocaine that made up the most of the neighborhood’s career opportunities, next to selling stale dutches out of a bodega. I sparked one of the blunts as the Canna-Bus heaved in a cloud of exhaust.
We debated the legal ramifications of roving through an open drug market.
Sergio leveled with reality…
You know damn well that Camden Police are on the prowl for white drivers, and you’re a f@#$ing moron for pushing it this far. You’re going to ruin us.
Indeed, I had to take this fact into account. Ninety six percent of loitering busts on State Street involve whites, and no Reagan-ist hyper-conservative could try and cry reverse discrimination on this little statistic. A lawyer wouldn’t do me any good if I was arrested on State Street for loitering. Anyone from my hometown put in a situation like this would try and counter with horse$#!% “white privilege”. Grinning and shaking hands with an officer like it was some f@#$ing gentlemen’s disagreement, and then hopping off to Princeton in a Lexus, laughing about that wrong turn made in Camden over wine and caviar.
That doesn’t fly in riot weather, when the humidity makes anyone trying to police a precinct with a volatile reputation understandably gung-ho with the issued nightstick and a pair of handcuffs. Whenever $#!%’s about to hit the fan, I picture my father snidely chastising me.
Three students cruising around a neighborhood with crack fiends and highly opportunistic criminals. It’s a miracle they didn’t have you for dinner, son. I’ll entertain the notion of posting bail, but for now, enjoy Camden County Jail for us.
The Canna-Bus narrowly dodged a brick thrown at the windshield. We were certainly not welcome here. A crowd converged on Bailey. We peeled off on a nondescript avenue southbound for the campus, hoping that the van wouldn’t break down right then and there, where we’d be subject to booking for loitering in a drug infested neighborhood, or worse … . A dozen police cruisers burst out of an alley right in front of us. Shots rang out of the Crown Vics, and after a few rounds, the body of a man brandishing an assault rifle had been stapled to the curb, where the cops had the nerve to handcuff a dead body.
Let’s get the f@$k out of Dodge already, you moron.
I made that left turn out.
Ryan Fallon is a staff writer for Rutgers-Camden's Gleaner. He has also written as a columnist for The Inner Condition, a blog that features prose and poetry. Ryan Fallon is also a chain-smoking, cynical, lapsed Catholic c@#t of a novelist who resides in Camden, New Jersey. Follow more of his shallow cultural ramblings at genericginger.tumblr.com.
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