I’m not exactly a courteous person.

Photo by Jeff Brown / Unsplash

by Jason Sanchez

It’s bullshit, man. It’s all bullshit. That’s the last thing he said to me before he faded back into the shade of the city street. I never saw him again. 

I’m not exactly a courteous person. Sure, I’ll help an old lady cross the street once in a while, but that’s more out of social obligation than anything else. I can be a little selfish, but who isn’t nowadays? It seems like the dog-eat-dog world we’re in now got more ferocious and hungry. But every once in a while, I take a chance on humanity and see what the universe brings me. And like how the stars align every once in a while, there was Josh. 

Fulfilling my duties as the photographer for the San Francisco elite and their elementary school fundraiser, I stepped outside to take a break from all the suits throwing money at each other like pillows at a sleepover. It got a little stuffy inside. I found myself in this quaint little alleyway where all the Latino chiefs and servers were, smoking their last bit of freedom away. As I pulled out a Camel, one of the chefs gave me a nod as if to say, Enjoy it, Chico, before they get to you. I could feel how good the cool menthol would feel, and it gave me the first bit of relief I’ve had all day. Right before I could light up though, some guy came up to me and asked me a question. He had rags draped over his body that didn’t leave much up to the imagination. He had these shoes that looked like they would’ve been new months ago. They were disintegrating. I still had my headphones in, so I pulled them out and asked him to repeat it, and he asked for a cigarette. The alley was dark, so all I knew was that this tall-ish, haggard man was looking at me with soft eyes.  I have a philosophy on cigarettes wherein I give what I take, like karma and such. If I ask someone for a cigarette and they get me, I give one to the next stranger who asks for one. It’s only fair. Thing is, I finally bought my own pack, as I got tired of the constant rejection from others. Dog-eat-dog world, right? This was my first pack, of my first cigarette, on my first break of a ten hour shift. I wanted to tell him to ask someone else, but I looked around to see the rest of the workers gone, back to the stove fires and bottle service. I was completely alone, and with no scapegoat. But I thought to myself, man, give him a break. How many times how you asked for a cigarette and got brushed off? This guy is someone not even half the city would even interact with (the half being implants and tech bros). Let me give him a chance. 

I said sure, and gave him my very first one. I thought I'd get extra cosmic brownie points, as I know some people save their first cigarette by putting it upside down and saving it for last. Some superstitious shit about it being a “Lucky Cigarette”. My friend did that, and he swore every time he smoked that last one something good would happen to him. One time, before he even lit it up, he got a phone call about some position he was gunning for in his field and he actually got it. I don’t know if I believe it was cause of the cig, but who am I to say what’s what.  Anyways, I give him the cigarette and he thanks me. Profusely. To an extent I didn’t know was possible. He thanks me, my father who raised me, my mother who birthed me, and just about any other family member that could’ve had a hand in my generosity. I tell him it’s cool, and we start talking for a bit. Josh, from what I can only call a marathon of words being blasted in my direction, was just a guy outta luck. He was from Santa Cruz, and through a series of machiavellian mischief and bad women, was suddenly thrown into the streets of San Francisco. No money, no car, and no ID. He’s been trying to get to the DMV to try and regain any sort of identification, but no one would help him or even look at him. 

“I’m li-li-like a fuckin’ ghost or somethin’! I just need directions or a place to stay or somethin’, anythin’, man!” I looked up the DMV on Fell Street and gave him some directions with a pen and a napkin that had the logo of the fundraiser on it. He seemed a little out of it, but he seems like he got the idea. My alarm goes off and I tell him I gotta head back inside, but he should keep safe. I tell him good luck with everything, and right as I start heading through the door, he grabs my shoulder. Not in a threatening way, but like how you would when you see someone in a crowd and want their attention. I turn around and I finally get a good look at him through the glow of the kitchen. He wasn’t that disheveled. He was just tired. His eyes turned from soft to piercing. As if he got struck with a moment of consciousness, he tells me only six words. 

It’s bullshit, man. It’s all bullshit. 

I am a college student from San Fransisco who is looking to be a writer in the future. I am starting my fall semester in SF State after transferring from Skyline Community College. I am half Guatemalan and Filipino, and I am the first of my family to go to college. I like to write fiction, though I dabble in writing stories from my life. I also write about my queer experiences as a bisexual man, and like to write about social issues like capitalism, social norms, and what it means to be a creative under a suppressive society.