A sneeze takes me as I glide out of the shade of the building into the street.
The sun beats down on the city like it does every day. A long, overgrown palm tree leans across the sky. Lonely and prehistoric. I squint and can see the high fronds just barely swaying. It's hard to believe there is a breeze up there. Down here it's a hot stagnant air that only moves when a bus barrels by. I pull on my goggles and stretch out my neck. Crack. Crack.
Easing into traffic I push forward, passing 2 cars, 4, 6, 7, 8... towards my first traffic light. I realize this light has told my fortune every day this week. Please turn green for me. Please. I need an easy day today. Yesterday I almost got hit by a car full of tourists.
This is one of the last cities to favor cars over public transportation, so visitors always "take advantage" of the "when in LA" situation but they usually have little to no driving experience and it's just a nightmare for the rest of us. Yesterday this light was a red light. The day before that, I got a red light and slipped on an oil spill which destroyed my favorite pair of shorts and the package I was carrying got banged up. The drop off didn't seem to notice and confirmed reciept right away and left, but I've been on edge ever since. On a I'm-trying-to-ignore-it level, I'm waiting for my CASH balance to be lighter than usual. I know most people who use the service know better than to complain since there isn't exactly a manager to complain to, and every transmission a customer makes costs them another contact fee, or so I hear. But I'm sure there are cocky assholes out there who are only used to above ground transactions. Jerks who haven't learned that this isn't Whole Foods. You don't get to act like a brat until you get things for free. No underground business transaction is free. And if you act like a jerk, you get cut off. There are more than enough respectful people out there who need underground help to work with. The underground won't crumble because some self-entitled children withhold their business. But is the underground really that different? We are still selling garbage to people who don't need it with imaginary currency. Who knows if that person I delivered to is important in the underground or the item was ultra rare, and they were just spiteful?
I won't be able to see the light until I'm on it because an elevated freeway runs in the way. Cars buzz across the high road, concealing my fate. "Please be green, please be green, please be green." I chant with the music as I push forward. "[Please Be Green, Please Be Green, Please Be Green,]" I repeat in spirit tongue. Not that anyone who may inhabit that light could probably hear me from here, but who knows. I pass under the highway. The sun is blocked and I am released from the solar heat momentarily. The remaining dry, dusty air remains but my skin cools for a moment, and I am blinded by the darkness, aside from the red glow of tail lights. But in a moment I can see the stop light ahead of me.
It's green but I'm not there yet.
Oh shit please stay green.
The cars in front of me are moving along but I get nervous and pump my legs to get under the light before my fate changes. I slip between 4 more cars, 5, 6... It's still green! I glance down the cross street. No police. I zoom through the intersection. My heart is flittering. Yes. Yes. My good luck is back. Today is going to be great. I'm going to the library downtown and maybe stop at the arcade, eat lunch at the Automat. It's going to be great. I look back over my shoulder at the light, to thank it. "[Thank...]" I start, but I see it change from yellow to red.
What? How? Was it actually yellow when I went under it? It couldn't have changed that fast. I look back. Red. It's glowing red. Traffic is flowing across the intersection like angry water out of a hose.
Does this mean I lost my luck after all?
No. It doesn't count. It was green when I went under it so it counts as good luck. But how could it have changed so fast? I was moving pretty fast, much faster than those cars, and they are the ones who have to be able to stop at the light. Whatever. It was green.