We Saw You
(Even Though You Thought No One Was Watching)
For I Saw U's written by you, click here.
I saw you smoking crack in my Belltown garden and I wasn't going to say anything but then I noticed the bouquet of flowers you'd picked fresh for someone—someone who evidently needed flowers at 2:00 a.m.—and so I said, "Please don't pick the flowers," softly out my bedroom window, and you replied, "Okay! Sorry!" so sweetly that I felt like a dick.
I saw you, or rather your graffiti, on a public dock on Lake Washington, and I agree wholeheartedly with your sentiment "FUCK YOUR BOAT."
I saw you slumped on a 49 bus to the U-District, fanning yourself with a copy of Howl and murmuring about Guatemalan apples.
I saw you walking purposefully down Pike Street toward downtown. You had a large black five-pointed star tattooed on your forehead between your eyes. You glared at me as if to say, "What the fuck are YOU looking at?" Well, sir, I am looking at the large black five-pointed star that you had tattooed on your forehead between your eyes. I am looking at that. The big tattoo. On your face.
I saw you watching a raccoon chew on the wrapper of a Dick's burger on the roof of your Wallingford home. He was fat. I heard you call someone and ask what should be done about the fat raccoon squatting on your roof, eating fast food, and you asked, sweetly, genuinely concerned, "Is it healthy for them to eat burgers?"
I saw you from inside a Pioneer Square coffee shop out on the sidewalk near the train tunnel doing something that the barista called "aggressive tai chi."
I saw you sitting in your car outside Swedish Hospital screaming into your cell phone and sobbing. You saw me see you, and then you rolled up your window.
I saw you wearing something neon yellow and drinking something neon yellow and looking around to see if anyone noticed.
I saw you, a woman and her four sons, trudging across the parking lot of the King County Juvenile Detention Center, the smallest and youngest and most orange-headed of your sons at the back, bouncing an orange basketball.
I saw you stand for a very long time near the checkout stand at RiteAid—not proceeding to check out, not impulse buying, not moving. We both know you were just soaking in some more air-conditioning. You told me so with your eyes, which should not have been so ashamed. On a hot day, an old man is entitled to stand wherever he wants for as long as he wants.
I saw you, through the window, fucking the shit out of your girlfriend.
I saw you crouching on a street in South Park, next to a beat-up car, the right front tire of which you were attempting to inflate with a manual bike pump—an activity that tugged at my heart with its pathos, though not enough to make me help you remove the flat tire and haul it somewhere with a proper pump.
I saw you, lying on your side, clothed except for your exposed wiener, masturbating in the southeast corner of Cal Anderson Park.
I saw you, all six of you, on the roof of Gatzert Elementary School in the 90-plus-degree heat—pulling up thick nails out of the old roof with shovel edges, slicing up and carrying huge rusty metal roof panels to the garbage truck, scraping away the old wood in splintering chunks, lifting huge rolls of tar paper, bending over to nail-gun the sections of new roofing to the roof—and wondered: Why aren't any of you shirtless?
I saw you seeing that woman in the sundress downtown, and that woman in the sundress saw you seeing her, and everyone else saw her seeing you seeing her, and then we all saw you walk away like nothing ever happened.
I saw you taking a leak under I-5 in the middle of the day, near a concrete freeway column covered in painted dragonflies and fish.
I saw you feeding some strange substance to your ever-so-bored but sun-burning baby in Freeway Park, which at the time was alive with smoking, middle-aged women in town for the American Federation of Teachers conference.
I saw you quickly leave the 14 bus by the back door as the police officer looking for you entered through the front door.
I saw you coming toward me on the sidewalk downtown and you weren't giving an inch even though you were on the wrong side and you were slightly cross-eyed in the way that makes a person look dumb enough to do anything and your bright white high-tops were unlaced and your shorts were riding very low and you were smoking a cigarette and staring straight ahead and we played chicken until the last possible second when I completely caved, and when I did I smiled at you and you smiled back.
I saw you slap your girlfriend at Fourth and Union.
I saw you at your little lemonade stand, where you were explicitly, according to your prominent signage, selling LEMONADE, as also indicated by the bowl of fresh lemons on your little table. Crystal Light, my little friend, is not lemonade, especially not for a dollar.
I saw you sweaty with summer sleep at 7:45 a.m. in Volunteer Park, both of you, two teenage heads peeking out of a bright red double sleeping bag, your backpacks and tennis shoes scattered in the grass around you.
I saw you and couldn't stop my double take, the obvious wig and drag-queen makeup on your tiny, older Asian-woman body as you scurried around the downtown YMCA women's locker room.
I saw you through your open kitchen window on a warm night mixing two cocktails while talking to someone in the next room and taking a long, secret slug from the liquor bottle when you thought nobody was watching.
I saw you through the window of your top-floor apartment, fucking each other against the piano, almost fully clothed.
I saw you crying on your bike as it coasted down 12th Avenue, weeping there in the wind.
I saw you from afar at the First Thursday Art Walk and pretended I didn't, because you made some art I didn't like and I didn't know how to proceed, because I'm not sure what kind of friends we are: such good friends that we tell each other potentially painful truths? Or such good friends that we unequivocally support each other no matter what?
I saw you out my window carrying three bags and yelling very loudly, "I AM GOING TO HURT YOU!" three times, but there was no one ahead of you, and you looked so young and fresh.
I saw you jaywalk across a busy street with a blue Gatorade in your hand, bolt through a parking lot, hang a right on South Jackson, pull an Afro pick out of your bag, run it through your hair a couple times, check yourself out in the window of Nguoi Dep Binh Duong (CD, Video, Laser Disc, Cassette), and keep walking.
I saw you noticing me noticing your amazing bulgy crotch, and even though you're a straight guy, I didn't feel bad, because if you want crotch privacy, you shouldn't shove all that junk into such tight pants and go traipsing around Capitol Hill, for fuck's sake.
I saw you in a car parked in a Belltown pay lot, where just after midnight on a Saturday, your bare ass kept jutting into view as you banged away at the happy lady lying beneath you in the front seat, and even though you saw my friends and me watching and applauding, you didn't stop until you came.
I saw you slumped in the passenger seat of an old jeep in a grass-and-gravel parking lot, car door open, your T-shirt stretched and sweat-stained, your bare feet hanging out, your nearly blank but slightly sad eyes staring out at the sun-scorched gravel—and when I waved, you silently shooed me off with a weak flap of your hand.
I saw you, shaking that ass.
I saw you pouring champagne for my friend so fast that it bubbled over the rim and made a big puddle on the table, then do the same thing to my other friend's glass, then to my glass, and then you said, "Perfect"—and then we tipped you for some reason.
I saw you flat on your back, after you'd just been hit by a car on Union Street and before you probably realized your teeth were knocked out. I'm glad you were wearing your helmet.
I saw you on a Metro bus, where you sat and ate one Hostess fruit pie, then another Hostess fruit pie, then a third Hostess fruit pie, then drank a Vitamin Water.
I saw you at the lake, Lilo Jackson, you adorable puppy. You are a mix of Chihuahua and Pomeranian. Are you also part bunny? The way you hopped around was charming.
I saw you, drunk and stumbling, outside an apartment building on 16th Avenue at 3:07 a.m. You were yelling a girl's name. A girl who wasn't your girlfriend.
I saw you sitting outside the Starbucks on Fremont Avenue at 7:30 a.m., and in the same chair, in the same clothes, 12 hours later.
I saw you right after I jaywalked across Madison Street and you were holding a cane and you warned me not to jaywalk in that intersection because you had done the same thing at the same place two days earlier and a car had hit you, necessitating that cane. I haven't jaywalked there since and just wanted to thank you.
I saw you walking down Pine Street spitting out bites of quesadilla until you just flung the whole thing into the street.
I saw you at Cafe Solstice, explaining to your new girlfriend exactly what movies and books she would have to consume (Goodfellas, Watchmen, Sandman) in order to be in your opinion a cultured person, somehow not noticing how bored she was with you already.
I saw you, Mr. Newscaster Guy, standing around at Seattle Center, looking brown and crispy, your eyes hungry like you were waiting for someone to notice you, but nobody did.
I saw you cut in front of 50-plus people waiting in line for drinks on a boat. Those lesbians were THIS CLOSE to kicking your ass.
I saw you walking down Third Avenue, wearing brand-spanking-new sneakers, a bright white wifebeater, and baggy shorts, a silver belt buckle gripped by the hand that was not texting someone who seemed to be annoying you very much.
I saw you late Thursday night standing on the Denny overpass in your nice tie and slacks, leaning into the railing and staring down at traffic, and for a moment I thought: Jumper? But then as I passed, I saw you were peeing over the edge, onto traffic, and I wondered: Is this how rich men get their kicks?
I saw you riding down Fourth Avenue toward Denny Way and when I caught up to you at a light you asked, "Wanna race to the next red light?" I laughed and said, "Sure," because I'm in great shape and my bike is a road bike and you looked slightly diseased and were riding a total beater. And when the next red light caught us blocks later, it was a tie. Which really means you won.
I saw you and your son playing poker inside your empty store in the International District—a store selling ginseng, medicine, and seafood and containing beautiful huge jars of loose tea—and when another customer came in and distracted you, I saw your son, all of 11 or 12 and wearing brand-new Nikes, get up, sneak a Red Bull from your refrigerated case of American beverages, whisper to me, "Shhhhh," and then add, pointing toward you, "That's my dad," and disappear up the store's back stairs.
I saw you order Jägermeister at the 5 Point at 10:21 a.m. and overheard you telling the waitress your doctor just told you you have one of the lowest vitamin D counts on record.
I saw you inside the cavernous Autopro auto-repair shop, and you were greasy and it was hot, and I had a slight crush on you until you tried to throw in a $1,423 brake job along with my $13.99 oil change. Then you said you didn't have change for a $20 bill.
I saw you playing with your little girl at Magnuson Park and she had a crooked ponytail and bare feet and when I introduced myself by saying, "I want to steal your child," an admittedly creepy thing to say, you just smiled and said, "Thank you."
I saw you trudging toward me at the bus stop, your sexagenarian face set in permanent disappointment; you asked me for 35 cents and I dug out some coins from my pocket without looking and handed them to you, but they didn't add up to 35 cents, so I fished for some more and I think I ended up giving you 43 cents, which was enough for you to keep dolefully shuffling westward on Denny, perhaps right into Elliott Bay.
I saw you—a frail yet totally sane-looking middle-aged half-black, half-Asian woman, outside QFC wearing a parka, even though it was 80 degrees at 10:45 p.m.—and had to admire your coolness.
I saw you in full drag on Harvard Avenue, sweating through your makeup, somehow still beautiful.
I saw you, the ever faithful, ever homeless guardian of those blocks between Northeast 40th and 42nd streets and Eighth and Roosevelt, sitting on a stone wall and covering your sunburned bald head with your hands, begging for a hat.
I saw you downtown at the corner of Third and Stewart. You are a wolf on a leash. WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE? Has anyone ever told you that you are an actual wolf? Eat that asshole who's holding you prisoner and go back to the tundra.
I saw you sigh as you walked onto a tennis court to join a nighttime game of dodge ball your friend (boyfriend?) talked you into playing, then immediately get hit in the head by an overzealous participant, then stomp off into the darkness of the park, muttering under your breath.
I saw you doing a slow balancing dance on a downtown sidewalk crowded with shoppers and office workers leaving for the day, you big and shirtless and wearing a cowboy hat, standing on one leg, making arabesque gestures while you eased down and touched the sidewalk with one hand, then easing back up and switching to the other leg, over and over again, while a cop leaning against a building with his arms folded watched you with a perplexed expression that seemed to say, There isn't a law against a big shirtless man with a cowboy hat doing a slow balancing dance on a crowded downtown sidewalk, but there should be.
I saw you sitting on the sand at Golden Gardens the other night, near that party of muscle gays, puking and puking and puking.
I saw you walking your dog, your immaculate tie-dye stretched over your big Humpty Dumpty belly and tucked into your khaki shorts, and at other end of the leash a perfect butterscotch-colored silky mop. You were both moving forward—you like a zeppelin, it like a cartoon—in the cooling evening air.
I saw you barreling down Roosevelt Way in your wheelchair, sun hat on your head, blue dress flapping.
I saw you at Madison Beach at midnight, kissing on the ladder up to the diving platform, one of you half in the water, one of you half out, while your friend did "the businessman" off the high dive. You looked like young love.
With reporting by Gillian Anderson, Matthew Bathan, Hannah Calkins, Bethany Jean Clement, Paul Constant, Christopher Frizzelle, Eric Grandy, Jen Graves, Dominic Holden, Brendan Kiley, Cienna Madrid, Charles Mudede, Kelly O, Matthew Richter, Eli Sanders, Dan Savage, David Schmader, Dave Segal, Jesse Vernon, Galen Weber, and Lindy West.