I always wonder what exists in people's minds.

Almost everyone I see, at least repeatedly.

What complexities grind behind subtle, unconscious body language, directionless small talk and social culture? What do they think? And how much of this seeps out from that barbed, bolted fence that corrals what we deem necessary to hide?


About a year ago, in a time where schedules were a funny joke I told to friends, I found myself washing my clothes at a\ 24 hour laundromat down the road from my house. During the witching hour. This wasn't an uncommon occurrence; in fact, I preferred to feed those sickly shiny, dented white boxes my exhausted skin at an ungodly hour, watching them gurgle and thump as the lights seemed flutter like they housed thousands of moths, if simply to avoid other people. Plus it's fucking hot in Florida.

I didn't really notice him at first. Occasionally people think like I do; sometimes they come in, see me and leave; sometimes they fill dozens of milk jugs with water from the bathroom because they didn't pay their water bill. Sometimes people just don't need a reason.

After the cursory and customary nods in the other's direction, like a worried ritual to a fickle and unpleasant god, I continued to look busy.

"Here late, huh?"

I gave the man a second look; really the first, the glazed passing of vision notwithstanding. He was old. Not aged, but old. Tired. Worn. Like a frayed, patched pair of abandoned jeans shivering on a windy highway. An old BMX ballcap shaded his eyes from the, now that I recall, incredibly bright lights of the laundromat. Grey hair curled out from every presumable side of the cap. He had a crooked nose, probably a gift (earned or not) that led to a pair cracked, dry lips the color of sand; smoke lazed out between them, dragon-esque. The nicotine dragon. His pointed chin led to a neck with stubble like a dying wheatfield; it quaked when he laughed. He was wearing a white t-shirt that looked like it may have once belonged to the victim of a gun-based crime--holes littered the shirt, especially around the neck, like craters on a cotton/polyester-hybrid moon. It was surprisingly clean and stain free. A pack of smokes hid in his chest pocket, like a perfectly rectangular mouse. His jeans were grey. They hung on him like a lingering addiction, ready to disintegrate but clinging to existence with all the tenacity of human habit. A pair of shoes which had long expired their usefulness and original color long ago adorned his feet.

"Yeah. Yeah, I suppose so."

"You never know who you're going to meet at this hour, you know? Ya know?"

I'm going to die. That thought really did pass through my head. Thanks to my girlfriend, I watch way too many horror movies; that late at night, completely alone, that kind of b-side cliche line carries a lot more weight.

"I guess. It's kind nice when there's no one here; it's not as hot, either."

He laughed, like old wood cracking.

"Damn straight. This heat, huh? This heat..."

He trailed off, presumably thinking of ways to hide my mangled corpse. A few minutes passed as I pretended to be incredibly fascinated by the washing machines as they bumped around angrily in response to my uneven, improper loading of them.

"You kids have it lucky."

"We do?"

"Yeah. You kids ain't gotta do shit. Shit. Ain't gotta do a damn thing and you can do whatever the hell you want, whenever you want. Ain't that nice?"

"I wouldn't call laundry whatever I want, but I suppose."

"I'll bet you still live with your parents, huh?"

I didn't; but apparently he didn't know that, and I certainly didn't look it.


"See? What are you doin' with your life? Parents give you everything; I'll bet those quarters ain't even yours. Right?"

The gears in my head going in opposite directions:

"No, they're mine."


He starts ambling towards the rear exit, stops and about-faces before the neurons signalling a sigh of relief can be fired.

"I don't look it. I don't, but I ride bikes. Not dirk bikes; not that shit. Real bikes. I used to ride them professionally, I was the fucking best. Before it got big, before it was even called BMX, I was doing it. Back in California. I invented BMX. I can see you now, you don't believe. You think I'm full uh shit, huh? Think I'm a goddamn lunatic."

"I believe you." I said, as I wondered what cocktail of narcotics, alcohol cigarettes could make a man detach himself from reality.

"Haw." More weathered lumber submitted.

He turned to me, suddenly.

"I used to be in the army, too. I could kill you, right now. No shittin'."

In that moment, I really could not say what went through my mind. In the 20 or so minutes that had, thus far, transpired, the thought of a random murder ripped from a low-budged slasher film intro actually happening began to fade an inverted, black and white Polaroid picture. Now it was in 3D Technicolor.

He reached over to me.

Oh God.

"Come here. Ahhh, man, I ain't gonna hurt ya. C'mere."

Before I could acquiesce or get the fuck away from this disheveled BMX commando, he lightly grabbed my head and made a quick, jerking motion--the kind you'd see in a movie where people's skeletons are made of sugar glass. He never actually touched me, aside from the initial hold.

"Like that. BOOM!" Hand met machine, loudly. "Dead."

Another laugh; he reared his head back, revealing teeth the color of dead dandelions.

"You'd be so dead."

"Yeah-h-h, man. I'd be pretty dead."

"Damn right.

An angry noise signaled the end of the drying cycle. An alarm clock in a vivid dream.

I opened the dryer. The machine belched out a wave of sickly heat, damp and unpleasant. I began flopping my newly cleaned skin onto tables that had probably never even felt the spray of disinfectant, one wash closer to falling apart, but no longer smelling like the unpleasant baking cycles that passed as a Floridian day.

"Let me help you with that."

And so he did.

"You know, man, I can tell you don't believe me. That's cool. It don't bother me one bit. I know what I am, who I am. All I have is what I am, and what I've done with my life--I don't wear this shit because it's cool, ya know?"

I found this incredibly, and genuinely, hilarious.

"It shouldn't be about impressed anybody. To lie to people, you gotta lie to yourself; it don't matter if people don't believe ya, believe what ya did or seen. It matters if you do. Fuck all'a them. Say what you mean. Say what really happened. I did BMX before it was cool, before it was even BMX; I was in the army, and I know how to kill a man. I've killed someone. And you'll probably never see me again, avoid this time a' night. Eventually you'll forget. This won't have happened."

He helped me finish folding my laundry, his pile much neater than mine. His hands were a story book of scars and poorly set broken bones, each finger seemingly unique in relation to the others.

As I left the laundromat, he called out to me, a lit cigarette hanging from his lip a bizarre growth.

"I never told you my name."


"Well, I ain't."

That was really the last time I saw the old, probably homeless, retired veteran and pioneer of BMX. As hesitant as I was to avoid what, closer to the actual event, was a rather unsettling and unnerving event, I eventually returned around the same hour a few times, nothing but discarded soda cans, religious pamphlets and lost moths to keep me company.

What happens behind those eyes is usually hidden, sometimes as if ashamedly. I guess to some, the world inside and the one out are the same--the only questions is in which direction the projection comes. The memories we keep, the ones most carefully etched into our memories are the ones we generally don't intend to keep--unusual things, silly things, but that's what we are. Unusual, silly things.

The world and the people in it are different in the middle of the night. Different, I suppose, but not wrong.

Hark, the witching hour approaches!