I’m not allowed to carry a gun in Chicago so I am turning my body into a weapon. I do hundreds of sit-ups every day. Bike two hours a day. Wake up early in the morning and lift weights. Every two weeks I go to a barber shop in my neighborhood and get a fade so I’ll look more like a weapon. I don’t want to hurt anyone. I just need to be sharp. This world is coming to an end. Don’t ask me how I can tell, I just can. I am usually not wrong about these things. My window is closing and I need to be prepared.
My barber is a 24-year-old Puerto Rican guy named Sal. He gets very excited when he’s talking about something he’s interested in. The other day he cut my hair and told me about the history of my neighborhood.
“These streets all used to be made out of wood, bro. There were storage areas under here. Everyone had a front garage under ground. Capone would run shit under there. They couldn’t stop him. He owned the underground. He ran that shit.”
I ask him if he thought there was any treasure left down there. He said no, the city came and cleaned it out years ago. Sal grew up in my neighborhood but moved up north. All the old buildings are getting sold to developers who are making big profits. My building was built in 1883. It’s falling apart. Young white people who want to pay cheap rent move here to retire, he says. I ask him what he thinks about it. He says it seems fine. Makes the neighborhood safer. His family owns two buildings so he doesn’t care. Sal says his new neighborhood is full of hipsters. Says he thinks white people are all trying to look like Seth Rogen or something, wearing big nerdy glasses that don’t need to be that thick, dressing like lumberjacks even though this isn’t Canada. I laugh. I tell him I don’t think it’s the worst thing in the world.
“Yes it is. Being a nerd is bad. Everyone knows that. Guess white people forgot. Trying to sound smart talking about shit from books they pretend to have read. I have hipster friends. I know they aren’t reading all that shit. I see what they do. Just sit around wearing big glasses getting high. Playing games and shit. I don’t get it. I read shit. That’s all I do. Just look shit up. You know what the problem is? Everyone started being too nice. It’s like we forgot about Ghengis Khan. How we all got that Mongol blood cuz he raped like 50,000 women. Fucked up but that’s how we got here. That’s who we are. Like Apocalypto and shit. You see that? That’s real life. And now all these girls stopped shaving their armpits. Fucking gross. Why?”
I tell him why I thought some girls don’t shave their armpits. He reiterates that it’s gross. I tell him I think that some hipsters will come out of retirement, that they’ll grow up and become yuppies. He asks me if that’s what I was doing. I say yes. My roommate Carl happens to be passing by and sees me sitting in the chair through the window and laughs at me. The conversation turns to government and religion. Sal asks me if I’m religious. I say I’m not sure. Sal looks concerned and explains to me why religion is bullshit.
“So Apocalypto, right? You see at the end of that movie how the Catholics are about to come in and wipe all the Myans the fuck out. ‘You don’t believe what I believe?’ Fucking dead. Columbus with those big ass dogs ripping people in half. Brutal. Fair though, in a fucked up way. Don’t think it’s ever been any different. This world’s fucked up. Don’t you think so?”
I agree that it is. Every time Sal gets excited about what he’s talking about, he stops cutting my hair so he can gesture with both hands. This adds a lot of time to our sessions. His friend, a goony-looking guy with a flat brimmed fitted cap comes and sits next to us. Sal tells him to go get him some pineapple soda from the corner store and he leaves to retrieve it. In the meantime, Sal lectures me on the importance of organic food.
“There’s not going to be enough real food for all of us. We’re already at that point. It’s all this fake shit. GMOs and shit. McDonalds, that shit that doesn’t go bad ever. Too many preservatives. That shit doesn’t break down in your body. You want to eat real food? Gotta build a garden in your backyard. Or move out to fucking Wisconsin, middle of nowhere. Grow your own shit. Might as well. When this all burns down, you think you want to be in the middle of all this? Highways are going to be closed, bro. Trapped in here with all these desperate motherfuckers? You aren’t getting out alive.”
Sal’s goony friend returns with the pineapple soda. They talk about their favorite kinds of organic milks while I stare out the window.
“Almond milk is fire, bro,” Sal’s friend volunteers. I turn to look in the mirror. The skin on the sides of my head is showing. A fine gradient becomes gradually darker as it crawls up my skull. Nice. The hair on the front of my head is as thin as it’s ever been. Sal snips off an inch that’s thicker at the tip than it is at the root. I accept it because I have to. Sal goes on about the gold standard, 9/11 conspiracy theory, the military industrial complex, and so on while his friend smiles and nods. Then there’s a lull in the conversation.
“What do you think is going to happen?” he asks. His tone is less cocky than it had been during his declamation. He seems earnestly curious so I tell him what I think.
We settle up and shake hands. I will be back in two weeks. His friend says it was nice talking and I say likewise and ride my bike home down Ashland avenue.