The historic streets adjacent to the University of Arizona in Tucson are famed for their oddity shops and restaurants that sell unusual art and bold the house-made seitan on the menu. It’s only logical to conclude that places that advertise the unique likewise attract the… unique.
Last week I just wasn’t in the mood to shoot the breeze with the hobos, so I attempted to be urban and have my coffee at a more upscale place that caters to the rich and retired snowbirds.
After driving toward the mountain foothills I found a coffee shop in a Wal-mart Neighborhood Market. Taking this as a sure sign the place would be weirdo-free, I ordered an espresso and sank into an overstuffed chair across from the only other customers: a mid-aged woman attached to her Blackberry and a half-asleep grandpa.
And as if on cue, in walks an African-American man sporting two Bluetooth ear pieces, black leather gloves, combat boots and a bulletproof vest. He must have noticed me rolling my eyes and said he thought I’d be a pretty brunette if I smiled. I halfheartedly did, so he introduced himself as Al and sat down beside me.
My annoyance turned to amusement and I asked Al why he would torture himself with body armor in the already torturous heat. That’s when he set his driver’s license on the table to prove he wasn’t really Al, but Alyoso The Bounty Hunter. My amusement turned to annoyance, but Al thought that I was interested in hearing the purpose of the various in his vest pocket: Four bottles of tear gas, a pocket knife, black tape, nails a tiny ball made out of rubber bands, and even a ruler.
These Harriet the Spy-like gizmos help Alyoso, The Bounty Hunter “get the job done.”
“Where’s your gun,” I asked, “what do you mean by ‘get the job done,’ and who was the last person you captured?”
I decided to play because I’d never met a weirdo quite like Al before. Al must have noticed my sudden change in attitude, and like any male would, he used my enthusiasm meant I’d been hooked and attempted to reel me in by fluffing up his resume and belittling the competition. Once Al shot fight scenes with Denzel Washington, but his elusive employers wouldn’t let Hollywood get a hold of them, because they’re unhappy with the parodies of the Dog The Bounty Hunter TV show.
I lost interest and began to play with my phone. Al noticed and in a last-minute attempt to impress me, he pulled out a wad of cash from the leg of his cargo pants and began to talk about all the benefits of being a bounty hunter. The feds have to pay him under the table because, while is job is entirely legal, there are certain perks that can’t be made public.
“I made $3,000 in one day,” he says. “You just never know where you’re gonna run into a sucker.”
So that’s why he’s at this secluded café, I thought.
Circle K, parks, and upscale shopping centers are typical hotspots, he said, adding that he’s even caught a fugitive taking a leak on the Interstate. “The job is dangerous and you have to be a tough Alpha male to clean up the mess,” he said, watching for my reaction. “But you also gotta have a little heart.”
Aww, Al, you’re a tough guy but sensitive too. That means you’ll never cheat on me.
Al made the most of my response by edging his chair a little closer and doing his “I’m a decent person capable of affinity” speech; he’ll sometimes let criminals flush a few drugs down the toilet before taking them in.
Since invading my personal space is a good way to piss me off, I told Al that I’m writing on deadline and have to finish my work in the next hour.
He apologized 13 times too much and excused himself to the table an arm’s length away. During his 6 minutes of exile, Al stared at the newspaper, reorganized his vest and gulps down his water.
Then he collected his things and left without saying a word. Just like that, he walked out on me, like any man would.
I’m hurt and surprised. After the time we spent together, I was expecting a “Good luck with that,” or a “Nice talking to you,” or even a smile and a nod of acknowledgment.
But Al pretended he never knew me.
I looked out the window and watched him put his things in the trunk of his car, and for a brief second think he just wanted to store his belongings and will probably come back inside.
Al crushed that thought when he climbed in his car and drives away.
Amused that I’m still a little offended I looked around the room and wondered if anyone noticed what just happened. Then I started to think about Al and analyze every thing he just told me.
I came up with two different theories: one surface-level and true, and one more intimate and real.
I like to build-up to intimacy, so I’ll start with the first: Al’s not really a bounty hunter but like many men, he never made the transition from adolescent to adult. And who can blame him? Lego’s, G.I. Joe, cops and robbers; the world of superheroes has no boundaries, and fantasy is so much more fun than the real world. Al gets to wear his bounty hunter vest and combat boots and play in the terrain with his various gizmos and gadgets and search strange lands for bad guys. Like any man would, he dreams of victory, without ever even identifying the enemy.
The second theory is that Al, like any man, just wants women to notice, praise and congratulate him. He works hard and he wants someone to appreciate it. Maybe he grew up in a home where hard work was expected and never acknowledged. Perhaps Al is an actual bounty hunter, and he’s tired of people giving him flack for it. Maybe he’s married to a woman who thinks his job is ridiculous and constantly pesters him for it. When he saw that I was even remotely interested in what he had to say, he thought ‘yes, finally someone appreciates what I do, and values my contribution.’
Either way, he’s not excused for shamelessly walking by me and disrespecting the time we spent together. And what kind of bounty hunter drives a Toyota Corolla anyway?
Yusra Tekbali moved to DC to escape weirdos like Al. She now works in a Congresswoman’s office and converses with Arizona constituents like Alyoso.