Vaughn found himself in a place that was regrettably neither new or surprising as he stumbled, blitzed, out of the watering hole shouting, “Fuck Nike!” at a young woman wearing a pair of lime trainers.
His breath stunk of the Jameson he had been guzzling with sprite, or was it gingerale? He wasn’t sure. He had been in the booth for a while, and half of the drinks came from friends of his who he bullied because, “he bought the Uber here.”
A bit heavy-set, hair disheveled, his green button up that he had slipped on minutes before leaving, because “Oh shit it’s St. Paddy’s day,” was wrinkled and sweat stained. Still, he seemed to think he was a charmer.
The woman, who herself was wearing a cute emerald skirt, did not turn around, as he didn’t really say the expletive to anyone in particular, just all of those in the 100-foot radius on the crowded Los Angeles street corner. And after all, women are conditioned not to look at scary, drunk men.
Or maybe the noises were muffled by the taco man serving as a barrier between them.
The Hispanic man, dripping in sweat from a long day, stood over his make shift fire. He rigged a camping propane tank under a cookie sheet. It all lay precariously atop one another in a grocery cart as the base.
His eyes darted to him and the various meats he was cooking. It looked delicious, but he was also almost definitely breaking 100 health codes in selling this food to the public.
But still, $1 tacos. That’s a bargain that even Johnny Law can turn a blind eye to. As long as he slips them a couple of Al Pastor tacos with that flaming hot red salsa and grilled pineapple chunks.
“Fucking broad was wearing Nikes. They are ruining mom and pop shoes. It’s like the Taco Bell of the sneaker industry.”
The man looked up and simply nodded.
Vaughn looked down at the food in front of him, chronicling his options.
Vaughn looks the Taco Man over some more. Perhaps a joke.
“No corned beef?”
“What? Where’s your Irish spirit?”
Vaughn moves closer to him and the man backs up a little bit, unsure where this exchange is headed.
Vaughn pauses, staring him up and down, and then after the silent moment puts his hand on his shoulder.
“Ahh, I’m just fucking with you. Two asadas, and load them up.”
Vaughn pulls out two crumpled dollar bills and slides them to the confused man.
“You must get a lot of crazy people out here. I mean this is a hot block.”
He turns around to the sound of his name to see his friend Chris, wearing an all green Adidas track suit, standing at the entrance of the bar.
“What are you doing? Where did you go?”
“You heard the music in there, I don’t fuck with that spot.”
“You can’t just run off.”
“Fuck you, I’m an adult.”
Chris strides over and puts his arm on Vaughn’s shoulder.
“What the hell are you doing out here?”
“I’m getting us tacos, so you should thank me.”
Craig turns to the taco stand, his eyes a little hazy unable to focus on what is in front of him. He pulls up the slightly loose track suit.
“Hey how you doing tonight man? What you got out here?”
“Pastor, asada, pollo, carnitas.”
The Man points at the mountains of meat in front of him.
“No corned beef for the holiday? Man you’re missing out on a hell of a marketing opportunity right there.”
“No, I forgot it was the holiday.”
“I already made that joke.”
“Shut up, Vaughn. You forgot? You didn’t see all the green everywhere.”
“I’m not Irish, so…”
“I could have sworn you were. You sure your people aren’t from Dublin?”
A beat as the man tries to figure out what is happening.
“I’m not Irish either. English, actually. I don’t even think that I’m supposed to like the Irish.”
Vaughn stands over the two of them, leaning on Chris.
“But I mean, how am I supposed to say no to whiskey and beer, you know what I mean?”
The Man genuinely laughs at this.
“My man, where my Asad – Asa – asada at?”
The taco man plops two tortillas down on a paper plate and slides some meat on to both of them.
“Salsas and stuff are there.”
He points to the cooler next to him.
“I thought you said you got us tacos.”
Vaughn dips down and starts digging for the perfect salsas in the cooler.
“I see two.”
“I got us taco.”
“Don’t worry about, I got myself.”
He looks over the offerings.
“Do you have quesadillas?”
“Let me make you one with carnitas. I’ll grill some onions.”
“What? No. That’s too much.”
The Man throws some diced onions onto the pan and stirs in some of the shredded Carnitas. He watches closely as they begin to develop some color, transforming from pearly white to a rich brown. He cuts a piece of lime and squirts the juices over the mixture.
“Yo, is this all of the salsa you have?”
Vaughn holds up an almost empty bottle of green salsa in his hand.
“I will get more once this is finished.”
Vaughn picks at his naked meat, unsatisfied.
The Man slides down the flour tortilla on the grill. He scoops in the meat and onions, coating it with cheese. He pulls out a bottle of green salsa and sprays it into the tortilla.
“What the fuck? Where were you hiding that, fucking Houdini?”
“Chill out Vaughn.”
“He has his Chef’s select back there and he is giving us plebeians the fucking scraps.”
The man shakes the bottle for Vaughn.
Vaughn takes it, throwing down the empty one.
He coats the tacos with the green salsa, greedily.
The Man watches as the cheese melts and a golden crust forms, folding it in half, flipping it and then folding it in fourths.
As it finishes he cuts it, surgically, as the cheese gushes from the sides.
“This looks fucking good.”
The Man nods and he slides it on the plate along with some cilantro and onion.
“Wow, thank you so much. How much do I owe you?”
“What? I paid fucking $2 for these shit tacos and no salsa.”
Chris pulls out a $5 and hands it to the man.
“Thank you, have a great night. I can’t wait to dig into this.”
The two friends walk down the street through the hoards of green.
“Give me a bite of that shit.”
Vaughn reaches over and grabs a chunk of quesadilla, shoving it in his mouth. He immediately begins coughing.
“Are you alright?”
Between gasps, he is able to say, “went down wrong pipe.”
Chris holds his back until:
Vomit spouts everywhere as Vaughn stands there motionless, no longer in control of any motor function.
He blasts the cement and Chris backs up quickly. The crowd of people nearby recede as well.
Out comes the whiskey gingers and beers he pregamed with back at his studio apartment. In total it will be $81.23 in losses, counting tips, enough to have covered his busted left turning signal that he has been avoiding dealing with for the last couple of weeks.
He finishes up and digs into this tacos. Unaware of what he just did.
In the morning he will wake up with vomit stained clothes and a pounding headache, which he will say is strange considering that he did throw up. He will lie in bed as all of his chores he needed to do that day: laundry, the dishes, grocery shopping; pass him by.
Eventually he will order Postmates, probably a big greasy sandwich. And say something to the effect of being in your 20’s is hard. Despite the fact that he is on the back half of 27.