“Welcome to Bushwick” by Matthew Wallenstein

“Okay, I got one. So, back when I was living in Brooklyn – industrial Bushwick- before Bushwick was East Williamsburg and you still had to watch your wallet on the way back from the Jefferson stop. Anyway, I was living in this converted factory.”

“What were you doing there?”

“I was playing in this band. In fact, this whole thing happened two days before we were supposed to go on a full U.S. tour. But so I got woken up at 5:10am.”

“That is pretty precise.”

“Yeah, well, I remember this because I had been up all night arguing with the girl I was with at the time. We finally fell asleep a half hour before that, and I remember being really pissed that it was that early. So I’m all the way on one side of the bed and she is all the way on the other side of the bed, and of course she has all the blankets, and I hear someone downstairs calling to me. I jump out of bed and toss on my pants and head down. There’s my neighbor and I say ‘What’s up?’ and he says ‘Come on’ and I follow him down the hall.”

“Yeah, so what happened?”

“I’m getting there. So we’re going down the stairs to where the front door is and he tells me he heard this sound like a bomb going off while he was in bed with his girl and went out to check it out. Apparently he saw my van had been smashed, real bad, like destroyed. The other car hit it so hard it ended up on the other side of the street facing the other way. It was a little thing, totally crushed, the driver’s-side door and the trunk were open. So he goes running down the street and finds the guy.”

“How’d he know it was the guy?”

“Because he was the only person stumbling down the street covered in his own blood at the time. Well, that and that before my neighbor even said anything to him the guy says ‘Hey, you hit me man!”

“That’s rich.”

“Yeah. And so Chris – that’s my neighbor’s name – says, ‘So, you’re telling me that my friend’s van, which was parked and no one was in, hit your car?’ The other guy, reeking of booze and covered in his own blood, says ‘Yeah, man you hit me, man.’ Chris said he didn’t know what to do. He wanted to hit him but didn’t want to screw up anything with me getting the insurance money. And nobody likes to call the cops.

“But then he hears sirens and so he runs back to the van. The cops aren’t there yet, but he sees the ambulance with the back open and the drivers are loading all these shoeboxes in the back. I guess the trunk was filled with boxes of brand new Nikes. They saw this and snagged them. Chris asked them what they were doing and one guy said ‘Welcome to Bushwick’ and then they drove off.

“Well, by the time Chris had come to get me and told me all this and we got out there the cops had already shown up. They told me they had to get a second ambulance there to pick the driver up because the first one never showed. They told me the case was pretty open and shut. That the guy had gotten out of jail the night before, stolen a car, got real drunk and hit our van going 60, and somehow didn’t die.”

“They never asked about the shoes?”

“They never asked about the shoes.”

“So what happened about the tour? I mean, you couldn’t go, right?”

“No, we went.”

“But the van was totaled, right?”

“Yeah, the frame was all bent up and the back window exploded. But we wired the bumper back on with a coat hanger and replaced the back window with cardboard. Our drummer, Weezy, was a mechanic and he jerry-rigged the rest. We did the whole tour. And when we got back we claimed the thing as totaled and collected the insurance money, which was just enough to cover the money we lost from going on tour and buy us a pizza dinner.”

And they cracked jokes and drank and tipped the person bringing the drinks and argued over which women in the place would be the most fun to take to bed. Then the storyteller stood up and walked to the door. His hands ached from the coming rain. Age had given him that, the ache that came when the weather changes. He felt it worst in the third knuckle, the one he broke punching a wall when he was twenty and told everyone he fought off a mugger.