America Day 14 – Luis the car valet

Luis works at a grill in the downtown loop. He is subcontracted in to run the car key station for the valet parking. I picked up his little fold up stool from the roadside, as he was in shock. “Careful you don’t get his blood on your hands.”

I return it to him, but he barely registers. He’s bust up. Shaky. There’s a fair amount of his blood on the stool. Has he been bludgeoned with it? Possibly. Little bastards.

He is in shock, insisting he’s alright but not alright. He cares about his work. He won’t leave his post. He’s bleeding badly and in shock but he still wants to do the best job he can do. I wonder why they attacked him, these shit young men. Why did they beat up this quiet man with his broken English and his work ethic, working a service job for peanuts and tips?

“They wanted my stool,” he tells us, but they didn’t. They dumped it when they ran off laughing.

We don’t know Luis from before, but we are close to him when it happens. We had first seen him across the road as they were kicking him in the head on this crowded sidewalk. The city just keeps moving round.

We go and get the duty manager. Luis is trying to tell us he’s ok, but he’s covered in blood. There’s blood on the pavement. They’ve done a job on him these dumb kids.

The duty manager is quick and honestly concerned. She cares for this quiet and pleasant man and we feel it. She is out the door at a sprint and approaching his injury with love and care. We leave him in her hands and go about our evening, but we carry the blanket of the memory over us. He was what you’d call “hispanic” in this country. Was he Mexican? I didn’t ask him.

Today is Mexican Independence Day, and the streets of Chicago this evening are an explosion of green red and white.


It’s a celebration, and with a hint of civil disobedience. People are gunning their engines and deliberately burning hard rubber at the foot of Trump tower. People are standing on the roof of moving cars in bikinis with flags. Police cars actively try to move the traffic, and to keep the epicentre from coagulating outside the narcissism monument where crowds keep trying to form. The cars get moved on, so they go round the block and come back again. Honking horns, shouting voices, laughter warmth and flags. It’s joy.

We are all swept up in this celebration, broadly smiling, happy to be part of it on our last night in the windy city that has turned out to be sunny.

I find myself worrying about Luis though. The guys who beat him up were not WASPs like most of the shooters that pop up in this country these days. I hope it was just about kids exercising power. I’m worried the division sewn at the top is becoming more and more nuanced.

I find myself trying not to draw a connection between four young men kicking the crap out of a kind sad “hispanic” working man and the surrounding streets shutting down in joyful celebration of Mexican Independence. I felt part of the party as I walked through their active fun and noise. It was truly delightful to witness and experience. Surely it wouldn’t make people who identify as something other than Mexican feel left out and polarise enough to justify opportunistically rolling over a soft target for nothing other than the feeling of power. Surely?

I’ll still miss this city. As cruel as London. Expensive, fast, silly and creative. I could live here in this mess.

Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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