We all stared at the screen that nearly covered the south wall. I sat on my stool and picked at nachos while two men in jeans with store bought rips sat on stools beside me. The one with the gaping tear at the knee kept comparing each person on screen to those of fame or personal acquaintance. As he was likening a bald-headed black man who looked nothing like Magic Johnson to Magic Johnson you squeezed in between us. Without a stool you stood uncomfortably, your arm pushing into mine in an implied manifest destiny. At first I was annoyed. I returned the awkward forearm pressure with my own and looked repeatedly up into your grizzled old face with mild fury. Then I realized that you just wanted a place to stand, like anyone would want or deserve. I felt embarrassed and moved my stool over to give you room. You immediately left. “That dude looks like a Mexican Tom Selleck, huh?” The friend nodded.
I’m not sure how you keep getting back into my apartment. While I make dinner, when I watch the Daily Show–you’re there. Flittering about as if you pay the rent. I knew enough was enough when you started inviting your friends, two-three at a time, making yourselves comfortable on my walls and cupboards. The blue plastic ruler reserved for guiding straight lines on the limbs of drawn robot dogs became an instrument of death. Pulling back its head and letting it snap forward like a violent cowlick. At first I’d clean up the scattered limbs and innards but after you and your cronies’ persistence I decided to let the viscera sit and crust. A warning to all of you not to fuck with me, because I may sit on the computer for hours at a time but help me god if I won’t occasionally get up to smoosh one of your moth asses.
There was ill intention behind each throw of the dart. It stuck in the board with a thud that crossed the room. You’d wait for everyone to settle before throwing another, making sure their eyes were resting on you. Between goes you hovered around our pool table, keeping your own eyes on her. You watched as she laughed and unconfidently measured her shot. This was your chance. Your in. Your riding-boot-clad foot in the door. “Here, let me get this one for you,” you offered, taking the cue as if you’d just relieved her of brown paper bags full of groceries or parallel parked her mini-van in a tight spot out front of the salon. You immediately blasted the cue ball, which hit and sunk the eight, giving my team the win and you the loss of your boot, and an embarrassing walk back to your beer.
I got up to leave, frustrated that I’d forgotten the proper paperwork. You were very helpful in the process all the way up to my blunder. There was no condescension in your voice as you suggested rescheduling our appointment for the next day. I told you I’d forget my ass if it wasn’t duck taped to me. You didn’t laugh but that was alright. I know there’s no room for levity in a taxman’s tool belt. There was a moment of hesitation when I put out my hand to say thanks. You slowly stood and extended your fingers like a pair of tweezers and grabbed the tip of my middle finger as if it were the beak of dead crow your schoolyard friends had just dared you to pick up. After a quick jiggle you released it and I almost apologized–for what I wasn’t sure. I made quick steps for the door.
You stood in the middle of the dance floor like a fencepost in a wheat field. Smiling bodies swayed and held onto one another as you denied their movements. With the hood of your rain jacket pulled up tight over your head it was hard to make out your face. I saw it masked by a damp sheen. As we’d circle around you in a bastardized, beer-sloppy waltz, I did my best to make sense of your situation. On our third revolution a strobe light flashed, giving a clear view: you were crying. Your tears moved in line with the sweat that poured down your face. I understood completely. This DJ was terrible.
For fifteen years you’ve watched people eat. Looking down with marble eyes on hungover party-goers scarfing sausage and drooling toddlers mashing scrambled eggs down their shirts. It has been fifteen years since you were first placed on your lookout. Fifteen years of listening to Ken tell your story–the restaurant’s story–to every new customer. Fifteen years of being a symbol. Fifteen years of hearing glasses crash to the floor and fifteen years of eavesdropping on who fucked who from the night before. Fifteen years of having people like me look up at you and imagine riding on your back like a stallion, tearing through the streets, always finding a parking spot and never having to worry about locking the doors.
In big, red type you announced that if I clicked on the link provided I was going to see nude photos of people I know in my neighbourhood. I was curious. Would I see the buttocks of the man who tends the flowers outside my apartment? Shriveled and divided like a walnut kernel, inviting the sun to roast as he lay beachside? Perhaps a full frontal of the Transit officer who is always making jokes with the passengers; her breasts stuck in an upward swing as she liberates a full-belly laugh. Or maybe a worn Polaroid of Uncle Fatih; his left hand full of uncut salami while the right keeps busy with another uncut meat. I wondered if seeing the peripheral but steady characters in my life, in the buff, would alter the way I currently interact with them. I put a pause on my illegal mp3 download, clicked on the link and made the first step towards finding out.