I pull up to the pump directly behind a galaxy gray Honda Civic identical to mine. It’s a fairly common combination of make and model and body paint, but sudden juxtapositions like this startle me.
The driver of the other Civic is a clean-cut, swarthy little man. Roughly my age. Jeans, T-shirt. Brooklyn accent. “I like your clothes,” he says.
“I like your clothes. I guess they remind me of me.”
“Ah,” I say, even though the denims are all we really have in common.
“Are you into Biblical prophecy?” he asks.
I have a nearly empty tank to fill, so what the hell. “Not really. Why do you ask?”
“Did you see the stock market today?”
With each exchange, he advances a step or two, which sets my lizard brain to safety-off position, but I’m already in for a dime.
“Not today, no.” The pump behind him clicks off. He glances at it, then back at me, not skipping a beat.
He says that man was created on the sixth day, and that seven represents the time of our reunification with God. On the seven-year anniversary of 9-11, he says, the stock market dropped some multiple of seven* and seven more years will have passed this coming September 11. He doesn’t bother to connect the dots. The implication speaks for itself. In tongues, more or less.
“Very interesting,” I say. And it kind of is, really, more numerology than prophecy. An Italian guy channeling Louis Farrakahn. An Italian guy who hasn’t shaved in several days. It’s a good look for him.
“Jesus is coming soon,” he says. “He’s coming to take his people. Are you from up north?”
We’ve changed the subject, I guess. Or have we?
“No, I’m from California,” I say. From the left coast.
“I just sent some money to California,” he says, brightening. “For the drought.”
Same car. Same jeans. Sending relief to the Golden Bear State. Who is this guy? Who gets the money?
“I’m Steve,” he says.
“I’m Tim,” I say. We shake hands. His fingers don’t open quite all the way, so it’s a little like shaking a claw. My pump clicks off.
“I could tell from the way you talk that you’re not from here,” he says.
“Well, I’ll give you this much,” I say, gesturing at the world in general, “something is happening.”
It’s the best I can do for him, but at least it isn’t a lie.
“Take care,” he says.
“You, too,” I say.
As I pull away from the island, I look to see if he’ll wave, but he doesn’t.
*Actually, the Dow closed at 11,433.71 on September 11, 2008, up 164.79 from the previous day’s close and up 1,630.41 from September 10, 2001.