Who’s That Dude?

About 15 minutes later I was starting to get annoyed, as Manny hadn’t shown up yet.

It was just then that a blue minivan pulled into the parking lot, driven by an an older Asian lady. She looked me over and smiled at me, giving me a little wave. I smiled back tentatively and raised my hand as I identified her.

Thuy Nguyen, Senior Administrator (E3)

I didn’t recognize the name. Was this someone that the previous version of me had known?

The sliding door on the passenger side of the van opened and a smartly-dressed young Asian man hopped out. He was wearing a light blue button-down shirt and khaki slacks, accented with matching black leather belt and shoes hopped out. He looked over at me and then back to the driver.

“Great mom, see you in 20?”

Whoever this kid was, he was making me nervous. He looked at me like he knew who I was. I’d never seen him before, and again I reflexively identified him.

Minh Nguyen, Learner (F1)

Mother and son, obviously. The name didn’t seem familiar. I stood up and made sure that I could reach my gun if I needed it. The bulk of it in the small of my back felt reassuring. We were all in the light, but still.

Minh grabbed a nice, brown leather satchel off the back seat of the van and slid the door closed.

The woman driving the car leaned over the passenger seat to yell out the window. “Work hard today Frank. Come for dinner soon.”

With that said, she looked ahead and pulled out into traffic. I recognized the voice and the accent immediately. That was Manny’s mom. So if that was her, who was this stranger she was dropping off? One of Manny’s brothers?

Minh walked over to me, a quizzical expression on his face. He was young, clean-cut and I didn’t feel any threat from him, but it was still weird when strangers approached you like they knew you or wanted something.

“Hey, Bro. Sorry I’m late, we had to get gas. Mom always goes to the cheapest place and it’s a bit out of the way.”

Something about this guy’s voice tickled my brain. Like I should know who he was. I just didn’t.

“Hey, do I know you?”

“Seriously, Bro?” Minh asked, and then making sure no one else was nearby added. “It’s Manny.”

Mirror Broken

Minh Nguyen has relinquished the protection of the shadows.

You will now be able to associate the Light and Shadow selves of Minh Nguyen/”Manny”

With that, everything that had happened in the last few minutes suddenly made sense. The woman driving the van was Manny’s mom, and of course I should’ve recognized her voice. The guy standing in front of me was obviously Manny, and always had been. His voice was the same and he didn’t even speak differently when he walked in the light. Hell, I even knew that his real name was Minh, but somehow didn’t connect that.

“Shit, bro. What the hell? I was 100% sure we had done that already.”

I gripped my head as whatever magic the mirror employed put things right in my brain. It was disorienting, and I didn’t like it.

“Trippy, isn’t it?” Minh said, grinning at me.

I just nodded, shaking it off.

“I’m just sorry I didn’t get a chance to say hi to your mom. She’s a nice lady. She invited me to your grandma’s party, but it seemed like it was more important that I sell today. Otherwise, I probably would’ve said yes. Would that have been cool?” I asked.

“Hell yeah, Bro. She’s been bugging me to get you to come over for dinner since she found out about your dad. You should! When company comes, she pulls out all the stops and the food is amazing. She doesn’t always go to that much effort when she’s cooking for us, so the sooner the better.”

I laughed. “Sure, sounds good. So hey, is that my new bag?”

He gripped it possessively. “Nah, Bro. This is mine. This one wasn’t cheap, so get your own. I’ve got your weed in here though.”

He lifted the satchel’s flap and pulled out a white, plastic grocery store bag. It was something I hadn’t seen in Los Angeles for some time, so either Manny’s family had a stash of them from before the ban, or here in San Tadeo they didn’t believe that forcing everyone to use shitty paper bags would save the environment. I hoped it was the latter.

The bag was stuffed with dime bags of weed, and he handed it over.

“Another ounce. With how you did yesterday, you might need it.”

“What if I don’t sell it all?” I asked. “We going to meet up later?”

“Uh, we can, I guess. This party’s going to go late, but after I get back home I can probably sneak out and drive over here, or wherever. It’s going to be real late though. Maybe close to midnight. That can be cool with your curfew?”

I was pretty sure that it wouldn’t be. But, despite my uncle’s harsh words on my first day, he hadn’t been some kind of insane martinet. It wasn’t like he searched my bags when I entered and left. As long as I didn’t leave the pot unattended in my room, it was unlikely he’d find it if there was any left over after I was done today.

“No, it’s fine. I’ll hold onto it tonight.”

“We’ve got to get you a car, Bro.”

I nodded. “Maybe we should go see the Lyle Street Soldados when we get a chance. They said they could hook me up with a car.”

“Maybe. The guys I got mine from are total dicks, so it’s worth a shot.”

It didn’t feel good sitting there on the sidewalk with two plastic bags full of junk in my hands, so I excused myself to pop into the phone booth nearby and change. I’ll tell you, getting changed in a phone booth isn’t as easy as superheroes make it look. Unlike them, I couldn’t simply spin around really fast and exit in my new outfit. Still, I made it happen.

This time I kept my running shoes on. The sandals completed the weed-clown look, but running in them sucked. If I had to do it again, I’d want my shoes. I left the sandals in the booth instead of keeping them.

I took the opportunity to fill all my cargo short pockets with weed. They were more than enough to hold it, and for a moment I regretted not bringing my book. If it was quiet today, I was going to be bored. I put my light side clothes in one of the plastic bags and exited in shadows a minute later.

“All right, you better get going. I don’t want my mom to see me hang out with somebody walking in shadow. She’s kind of like your uncle Martin that way. She thinks it’s sketchy.”

I nodded, totally understanding that. So far, she wasn’t wrong. I gave Manny a quick bro-hug and left him there to cross Florence Ave.

I needed to get to the park, and without a car that was going to be painful. Taking the bus was an option, but I was done with those. At least, if I could help it. Screw buses.

Without a smart phone and ride-sharing apps, it took me a minute to realize what I needed to do to get a taxi. Back to the old school once again. I ducked into another booth to call a cab.

Luckily, I didn’t need to call directory assistance or find a phone book as the inside of the booth was plastered with stickers for services of all kinds. Lots of prostitutes, a fair number of locksmiths and a wide variety of taxi companies. I picked the one with the fanciest sticker, picked up the phone, inserted a quarter and dialed.

I requested a taxi to the corner I was standing on and five minutes later, it pulled up. It seemed that even without the Internet’s tentacles in every aspect of life, some things could still be efficient. I hopped in.