Not even once had he donned an aluminum foil skullcap. He did not cower in fear of stealthy black helicopters nor did he worry about alien abductions and anal probes. He did, however, hide from electronic eyes that opened doors and he loved to wave at any hidden security cameras that he spied on his jaunts through the city.
Escalators were for the weary, elevators for the infirmed and in his mind every action had an equal and opposite political reaction. In a world where the masses insulated themselves from effort and effect, where bigger was always better and louder always prouder he was a lurker in shadow, a coy camouflaged creature, a brooder of epic proportions. Hows, whys, whens and wherefores punctuated his waking moments and sleep was a luxury for which he eternally yearned. When a sign said “Push” he was forever tempted to pull.
Yet he was no survivalist, not a preparer of apocalypse, nor a disciple of Bear Grylls. He simply knew that a man was what he did, not what was done to or for him and so he opened his own doors, climbed his own stairs, cooked his own meals and found ludicrous pleasure in entering and exiting stores without tripping the electronic eye that activated the opening of said doors.
Ninety years had passed since the birth of MLK and on this, the forty seventh anniversary of the great man’s death, the world was again in enormous heated battle between believers in peace versus those of war, tyranny against freedom, love and hate, gentle Thanatos and screaming Keres with her endless cache of IED’s, and so many shifting players that not even a program could definitively state which player played on which team. Feeling the weight of time, hate, and unreasoned bloodshed he slept little and wept much.
He was usually awake at 4:04 and since the weather was nice and he couldn’t sleep he grabbed his ragged 30 year old bicycle, his 35 year old Citadel lock, donned his bicycle helmet festooned with flashing rear strobe and bright LED headlight, girded his torso with gaudy chartreuse vest replete with retro-reflective silver swaths, hoisted his single speed steed over his shoulder, eschewed the elevator and descended the two flights of stairs from his tiny apartment to the dark and quiet street below. A magnificent full moon bathed him in her ethereal light and this, plus the calm and cool air, greeted him on this early April morning. He set off for his Target awash in the surety of glorious spring on this predawn morn of what promised to be the most beautiful Saturday thus far that year, feeling lighter and more hopeful than he had in six months.
It was late enough to have allowed most of the drunks to have collapsed in place or driven their one to three ton impaired and distractedly driven steel encased deadly necessities home. Saturday mornings were second only to Sunday a.m.’s in his reduced risk meanderings but he had learned to keep an eye out for early morning men and women driving home impaired after spending a night of hedonistic pleasure in the arms of a stranger. He pedaled for a while, stretching his legs, opening his eyes, feeling alive, until 90 minutes later when the palest sliver of dawn appeared in the eastern sky and he descended on his Target.
The Target store had four double doors situated side by side. Each pair of doors had two that would open when movement activated the motion detector as well as a pair of doors that had to be pushed manually to gain entrance or egress. Open 24 hours a day the lights in the store and parking lot burned brightly but the acre of asphalt held perhaps two dozen cars, most of which sat in the lot’s periphery. He rode through the lot and up to the small, green bike rack that was shaped like a sine wave and bolted his old Schwinn to the rack with his U lock. Normally he would have gleaned any accessory worth steeling from his bike and brought them with him but even his paranoia knew limits. Besides, removing and then replacing lights, bags, pumps and other extraneous accoutrement took time and he might need to flee the Target in a hurry.
In all the years he had entered and exited the building he had never seen anyone else choose the manual doors over the automatic ones. He alone in the city seemed compelled to avoid the luxury of a door that opened itself, he alone found the decadence of a door that allowed empty handed people to enter a building without pushing or pulling on a door an abomination. He alone, until he spied her.
He would have noticed her even if she had not skirted the door in what appeared to be an attempt to avoid catching the all-seeing, door-activating great eye and chosen to pull open her own door. Dressed in black Lycra capris and a form fitting, light-weight jacket she propelled herself forward with cat like grace as she managed to enter the building without awakening the slumbering automatic door.
Passing through the Target store’s first set of doors without being seen by the motion detector was an easy task if one approached from a distance and stayed close to the exterior wall. Having caught his eye and intrigued him with her form and actions he watched as she hugged the far left side of the antechamber’s wall and successfully emerged into the main part of the store without arousing the interior doors’ seeing eye.
As many times as he had entered successfully he was properly impressed with her understanding of how wide an angle the camera’s eye stared and her ability to firmly hug the far wall so as not to inadvertently awaken the chained and muzzled Cerberus; his respect dependent on how frequently he failed to navigate the second eye without opening the next set of doors. Someone might open the far left of the two outer doors without activating the twin power doors next to them but to walk through the vestibule and not be seen by the eye took an act of intention requiring knowledge of the doors accompanied by a level of stealthy skill. Her form, her grace, style and performance all caught his eye but mostly he wondered why anyone would want to avoid activating the door.
“Hah!” he said to himself as the door closed behind her and he realized that he was unnerved by an action in another that he performed regularly as a supplicant in ritualistic sacrifice to the god of human power. Watching her go through the second set of doors piqued his determination to gain the store’s interior without disturbing the eye. Hugging the far left wall and moving slowly he rounded the door frame and emerging into the store proper he went around the electronic security alarm, waved at the surveillance camera just inside the door and entered his Target triumphantly.
The Capris Cat, as he had christened her, was just rounding the store’s far corner and appeared headed to the back of the store. His mission this morning was simply to pick up some bananas and half and half and then head home for a well-earned breakfast. He grabbed the nanas and followed CC to the rear of the store where the dairy aisle was and where he found her looking at yogurt. He was seemingly staring at her shapely legs when she looked up and caught his eye. “Nice shoes,” he said, indicating the cycling shoes she wore on her feet.
She looked at him for a moment with lips pursed, head turned to the side and brow furrowed- a case study in quizzical- before comprehension reached her brain. “Yes,” she replied with a smile. “Yours too!” she said as the realization that both of them wore the same make and model of Specialized cycling shoes penetrated her comprehension. Grabbing the half and half he smiled at her and said, “Have a great day!” and slid past her and back up to the front of the store where he made his purchase.
He thought about her as he walked over to the exit doors. When she’d looked up and spoken to him he’d realized that she was far older than he had at first thought. Her firm, fit body and graceful walk had made him see a youngster but the laugh lines around her mouth, crow’s feet around her eyes and the barest hint of waddle around her neck declared that this was not a child but rather a woman of maturity who knew the value of self-care and preservation. Unbeknownst to him she was returning his earlier scrutiny from her spot in the checkout line as he now navigated the more difficult task of exiting the store without tripping the electronic exit door.
To avoid the seeing eye of the exit one had to swing far to the right well away from the direct path of egress. Whether through planning or happenstance the electronically activated exit door was harder to circumvent than was the entrance, which made sense since the vast majority of customers would be leaving either with a shopping cart or at least with arms full of grocery sacks. If getting in without being seen by the motion detector was difficult getting out was at least twice as hard.
It did not take a genius to know that going around the security device on the way out was far from the same action as going around it on the way in was so he stayed as far to the right of it without going out of bounds and managed to get through the first door without tripping the electronic doors to his left. He was almost out of the second set of doors when a young woman who held a cell phone to her ear with her left shoulder, carried an armful of Huggies disposable diapers under the same arm and sipped from the Starbucks cup in her right hand walked through the first door, eyed him strangely and exited toward the minivan which idled in the parking lot.
The early morning multi-tasker had ended this round of play by tripping the electronic door so he had no way of knowing if he could have exited in stealth mode or not. Since the game was over he walked back to his waiting bike, stowed his scant groceries in his bike-bag, unlocked his ride and smiled at the barest hint of red that appeared in the eastern sky. Retracing his steps he found CC at the far end of the store, her bicycle sitting upside down with its wheels in the air and with a disgusted look on her face.
“Hey,” he greeted her as he rolled to a stop next to the sidewalk where she was opening the quick release lever on her Specialized Ruby. “Looks like you’ve got a flat. Need some help?”
She met his eyes, inhaled and replied, “That would be great. I’ve got a flat kit here but I’m not very good at this. Do you think you could help?”
“Sure, love to. Back one?”
“Of course; isn’t it always?”
“No sweat,” he said as he pulled his bike up on the side walk, accepted her offered rear wheel, grabbed his frame pump and took the inner tube she had already dug out of her bike’s seat bag.
“I’m Sandy,” she said, extending her hand.
“Bryan,” he replied accepting hers and then sitting on the curb with her wheel and the necessary flat fixing accoutrements. It took Bryan less than a minute to remove the blown tire, find and remove the small metal shard that had punctured her tube, replace the tire and put the new tube in and begin pumping with his decades old Zefal HPX-4 frame pump.
“Oh,” Sandy said, “I have a CO2 cartridge.”
“Nah, I like the pump. It’s a little slower but it works every time.” He then laid the wheel on the ground, supported the presta valve with his shoe and pumped exactly 101 pumps.
“I can’t believe how fast you did that,” she said, putting her CO2 cartridge back in her bag.
“Lots of practice,” Bryan replied smiling. He reinstalled her rear wheel, set the bicycle upright and checked her front tire pressure with his thumb. “That should do ya.”
“Yes, thank you so much! Uhm, I have a strange question. Were you trying to get in and out of the store without activating the electronic doors?” she asked with a sheepish half grin.
He guffawed. “Yes. It’s a silly game I play. You too?”
“Yes! I’ve never seen anyone else do that before!”
“Me either! Hey, uhh, where are you headed?”
“Over to the northwest side of town. You?”
“I live up the road a little ways but if you don’t mind I could ride with you a little bit.”
“Well, for a little bit would be nice, at least until the bike trail.”
“Great,” he replied. “Ready?”
“Ready,” she said.
Their world was full of chaos and anger, people rushing, pushing and screaming but today was a beautiful spring day and for at least the short amount of time the world allowed it he was going to enjoy the good things the world had to offer.