The call came from Pacific Coast Highway, from a place that’s not so easy to pick up an Uber ride. “Nicky” was standing in the far-right lane, blocking cars from slamming into me.
He jumped into the passenger seat, announcing “Today is a perfect day. A good day. Want to know why?”
I slid the destination across my screen . . . Nicky was headed to Mission Viejo. He was just short of wired, in a natural way, looking as if he might jump out from his torn-off jeans.
“Why?” I asked. Sometimes I wonder why I do this. Oh, I’m a writer. Or just curious.
He leaned as far as he could, almost in front of my face, and said “To get new teeth.” He grinned, without teeth. Not one tooth peeked through his lips.
It was one of those cases that I hoped for a proper response. One came from experience. I am a Sharks Hockey fan. His smile looked like the shots of the team in the game program, with or without their smiles fixed. I had a crush on Mike Ricci . . . now in Arizona.
“You played hockey?” I love rhetorical questions. On medium Uber rides.
“I used to, when I was younger.” He couldn’t have been more than 30, but without teeth it was hard to nail a year, let alone a decade. “I’ve spent my life pushing the edge. The older I get, the more dangerous my quest. Boogie board, shredding into nothing, climbing up cliffs one isn’t supposed to, but I live.”
“Except without your teeth,” I said. “Maybe your teeth have gone to outer space and you’ll get them back when you visit that last place that takes your life,” I have no idea why I said this. The ‘wired’ was contagious.
“Ah, you know, then. I figured it out, you have an old soul.”
“No,” I said. “I think this is my first time on earth.”
“No. You’re 5,000 years old. Been here many times. I know. I think I saw you land. It was on a ship, just south of the nuclear power plants, San Onofre.”
“I didn’t land here. I arrived in Seattle. I am certain,” I said. I was at the off-ramp, to a road taking us up to the medical building.
“You take care,” Nicky said. “I’ve had this dream about America. You will survive. Many won’t.”
I was going to ask him about what would happen to him, but he jumped out of the car and dashed across the parking lot. He turned, at the door, and pointed to his mouth. He was smiling.
I could swear he already had his teeth in.