Continued from Novacaine.
Remember when you held me tight
And you kissed me all through the night
Think of all that we’ve been through
Breaking up is hard to do – Neil Sedaka ‘Breaking Up is Hard to Do’
I remember getting back to the house, but I don’t really remember getting in bed. That’s probably because of the beer. I don’t remember taking off my clothes, and the reason for that becomes obvious as soon as I pull back the sheets. I unbutton my wrinkled clothes and start to kick them out from under the covers, savor the blank slate feeling of a good drunk night. But as sleep fades from my head, the creeping flavor of… I don’t know what. Burned cat shit? Road tar and asparagus? … starts crawling up my throat and coating my tongue. I stare at the ceiling. I should shower. I should brush my teeth. I should get a real job. I should have a drivers license. I should have married her when I had the chance. There’s the old magic. The doubts of the day begin to pile up and I heave off the bed like it’s going to do any good.
I immediately stub my toe on something blurry and heavy. More careful this time, I start again and pick my way toward the sink. ‘The maid died.’ That’s what I tell people. It used to be funny, I’m not sure why. Now they just stare. I wipe my face and stare at my bloodshot eyes in the mirror. Looking good. Looking good. I step on something sharp and I’m off balance again. Staggering around in the mess, I start to play back my evening. The barking dogs, the flashing lights… I pick up my toothbrush and get to work on those pearly whites. The kids in the park. Lola… I pick an errant glob out of the corner of one eye. I’m having a hard time remembering it all straight. Then it flashes. The envelope. Panic spreads up and down me. Toothpaste foam drips out of my mouth, and I bound around naked, searching. The toothbrush drops from my mouth and lands in a dirty bowl as I frantically pat my clothes down for the envelope.
All I really have in this world is that I know people. I connect them. And when people set up a tail to follow you around, and give you an envelope, they want you to connect them with somebody else. When they don’t come say ‘hello’, there are implications. When they drive around American cars and pull spooky shit while you’re eating, there are two specific implications. There’s an implied payment for success, and implied punishment for failure. I should have come straight home and checked it out. I shouldn’t have been drinking at noon. I shouldn’t have been blasted by dinner. I should have waited out the tail and not let them punk me like this. I shouldn’t have lost this envelope.
There’s not an expletive strong enough for this situation.
You don’t want your prospective employers to think you’ve goofed up before you even had a proper sit down. If you do, they’ll usually just deal out the punishment now and find some other loser to do the job. I grab the .25 from under my bed and stick it in the back of my underwear, walking toward the door.
I grab the door knob and yank hard. I’m just hoping at this point that the underpants and surprise will let me roll over anybody who might be out there. The cold wedge of steel in my buttcrack is the center of my universe, my hand floating above the grip. Looking casual there, champ. I catch the yellow stain on the front flap. Feeling fit and ready to go.
My brain is prepped for bad news, so it takes a while to cycle through all the worst case scenarios. Cop, FBI, drug dealer, wannabe, has been, vato, meth fiend, and my heart is fluttering so fast I can watch the door opening one degree at a time. This time it’s Special Agent Ortega. This time it’s an enforcer for the Angelos. This time it’s a man with a dirty needle full of drain cleaner, ready to stick me as punishment for some past crime. This time it’s… my aunt.
She smiles at me, looking down at my dirty underpants and gives a little chuckle. She has an envelope in her hand – The envelope.
“Robert, you left this up in my mailbox last night, with a note that said to give it to you when you woke up.”
Always thinking, I am.
“You look like hell young man. Can I come in?”
“No, it’s a mess in here… The maid died.”
She just stares.
Her smile is still there, but I realize it’s not at me, it’s about me. It’s over me and through me. It’s about all of this, the room, the underwear, the gun warming slowly in the small of my back. Mortified, I grab the envelope in her hand and maybe she can hear the “thanks” over the door slamming in her face. My embarassment colors over the panic and I sit down on the edge of the bed, staring down at my bad decisions.
I tear the envelope open and dump it out on the bed.