Tuesday morning was warm. A nice change from the bitter, cold ones that had recently made their way into the Valley. It was early as hell and The Van Man was awake, folding the bedding and slipping into work clothes. Election Day. Van Man thought he might try to cast a vote or two before work. But the lack of coffee made him rethink that idea.
The van drove north on Hollywood Way. People were out to rock the vote. The van just rolled down the street.
A quick stop in a corporate coffee den had Van Man waiting in line. He glanced around, looking for I VOTED stickers. None to be seen. The masses were not that different than him. They needed the tar-colored fix, too.
"Yeah, can I get a tall blonde?", requested Van Man. To him, the only way to order a cup.
"Sure", replied the busy barista. A man leaned over to him.
"You can order those here?", asked the man with an inquisitive gleam.
"That's why I come to Starbucks", said Van Man with a sly smirk. He grabbed the coffee and was off.
The work day commenced. Van Man and his Teamsters walked the lot, preparing cars for the day's moves. Van Man conversed with a fellow Teamster, a black brother from another mother. Someone he considered a friend.
"Those props, man. I'm voting for legalizing pot and no condoms in porn!", exclaimed Van Man.
"Me 'n my brutha was talkin' 'bout that. How they supposed to creampie with condoms on?", retorted the Brother From Another Mother.
"Yeah, I know, that's why I want 'em outta there."
As the drivers dispersed, Van Man's shuttle pulled up to the gate. A white-haired gatekeeper with googly eyes and a lunatic smile greeted him.
"Let me see if I know what your name is", said the Gatekeeper in a fay, New York accent. "John? George? Richard? Lenny? How about Kevin? Wait, Ethel! It's Ethel."
"It starts with a V", grumbled Van Man.
"Victor!", yelped Gatekeeper, amused at his own antics. Van Man was not amused but gave his name.
"Oh! That's really good, I'll keep an eye out for you", warned Gatekeeper, throwing side shade at Van Man. He drove away. Election Day was real and brought out the weird in people.
Hours later. Van Man stood in line, waiting for his turn to vote. The results were trickling in from the East Coast and gunmen were shooting up polling places. Then a face from his past emerged from the voting booths. His first landlord in LA, ten years prior when Van Man was more idealistic and less wrinkly. He stopped the Landlord and re-introduced himself. The recognition was quick.
"How are you, my friend?", asked the Landlord in broken English.
"Good man, how 'bout you?"
"I got married", Landlord replied as he held up his left hand, showing off his one-size-too-big wedding ring. "Three and half year", he said with a smile.
"Ah, man, that's great!"
"She died in July."
"Whaaaaaat? Noooo..." Van Man was shocked by his friend's tragedy. "Whaaaaaat? I am sooo sorry...who...who was she?"
"I met her in church", replied the Landlord. This time with a saddened demeanor.
"I can't believe that..."
Van Man, quite simply, did not have the words. He shook the Landlord's hand and wished him well, watching the nice man walk away. It was his turn to vote, but the reason to do it seemed to evaporate.
In his van, under a streetlight, Van Man sat. Many had voted, many more had not. Where was the world headed? Would the country survive? Would Americans ever be happy again? He did not know. The Sun would rise the next day, a rich man would be President, marijuana would be legal and a widower would go to work. But The Van Man would be in the van, keeping an eye on the lonely and an open heart for the sad.