8: Wade Omachi

Wade Omachi has an uneasy smile, as if he’s had to teach himself each contour of it individually. But what he lacks in apparent joviality he more than makes up for in his clothes and manner. When Wade goes out, he wears a ten-gallon hat over his black ponytail, flared bluejeans with a patch of oil paint brush strokes on the front of each thigh, and a paisley necktie with the American flag on it. He greets everyone as if he’s welcoming them to his house, except when he’s actually welcoming them to his house, in which case he’s usually distracted by his work.

Wade is a painter. He paints Los Angeles sunsets that take up his entire canvasses and look like an Amazon rainforest on fire. He was a painter in the 60s, and he was a painter in the 70s, and when his friends all gave up and got real jobs in the 80s, he stuck with it. He supported himself as a stonemason, and those years out in the sun have weathered and darkened and creased his face like an old indian. He’s some percentage Cherokee, to be fair, but who the hell isn’t? When his friends got rich in the 90s, he got rich with them, getting hired to paint murals on mansions and do mosaics around olympic-sized swimming pools. His friends never changed much, they just switched from acid to coke. Wade never changed at all.

When Wade talks, it’s always as if he’s dictating the words from somewhere inside a daydream. He pauses for too long, he drifts from subject to subject, he smiles at things that no one has said. But through sheer persistence he’s become sort of a fixture at his local polling station; he’s volunteered every year since he moved to the precinct in ’89. He knows his way around, and he’s the defacto manager now whenever an election rolls around. When the polls are open, he never sits down, always paces. He greets voters by name, and when some saucy old lady has the audacity to wink or wave at him, he flirts right back. And when night falls and he rides his motorcycle back to his two-story apartment in its authentic replica Spanish villa, he has to admit to himself that he’s made good, even though that was never his intention.

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