And now for something completely different….
My Hit Man
I threw it on the ground and burst into tears as I watched the light bounce off the gold ring that had, at one time, held so much promise. It rolled on the pavement and stopped dead when it hit the curb.
Jumping into my car, I drove recklessly, saturated with anger and hurt. I needed to drown myself in a strong drink. I’ve often wondered what possessed me to choose that particular bar. Fate? I don’t believe in fate. Bad luck? Good luck? I’ll probably never know.
You see, I had just received the fatal blow in my crumbling marriage. All the money was gone. He had said it like it had grown legs and walked away. The affairs? So stereotypical and pathetic. But leaving me broke to start over alone, well, it caught me by surprise.
Tear-stained and disheveled, I was relieved I’d chosen a dark little place where I could drown in self-pity undisturbed. As I climbed up on a bar stool, a bartender materialized and asked me what I’d like. I caught myself as I started to order my usual glass of wine. This was a big girl night.
“Tequila” I said.
As my eyes slowly adjusted to the dim lighting, I scanned the room and took in my surroundings. Dingy wallpaper with a sad pattern of stars and hearts. The faint smell of ammonia.
There was one other person in the bar, sitting a couple of seats away from me. His back was to me but I could see a helmet of unnaturally black hair that Hurricane Katrina couldn’t budge. He was wearing a shiny silk shirt and popping peanuts into his mouth nonchalantly. He gave me a glance, nodded and went back to his original position, leaning on the bar, popping those nuts.
The bartender placed my poison in front of me. I knocked it back in one shot and felt the familiar fire. However, this wasn’t college anymore so I proceeded to choke. Loud and hard. I was starting to wonder if I’d pass out when I felt a meaty hand slap my back. I turned to see who was beating me and saw it was my peanut-popping friend.
“You OK?” The accent was East coast, out of place.
“Yes.” I croaked.
I gratefully took the glass of water the bartender put in front of me, sipped it, and asked for that wine.
“You don’t look too good.” Who was this guy, Joe Pesci?
“I’m well aware of that.” I snapped.
He shrugged and took a long pull off his beer.
Now I felt bad. “I’ve had a very rough day.”
“Wanna talk about it?”
And here’s the really weird thing. Before I knew it, I poured the whole, ugly story out to this stranger. It was like a projectile confession.
“Now I see how manipulative he was. How he controlled everything, especially the money.” I was slurring. “And, as I grew older, he started to look younger. He dyed his hair. He looks like a geriatric Backstreet Boy.”
He laughed at this and shook his head.
“So pathetic.” I said, smiling.
There were now several empty glasses lined up in front of me and I was leaning heavily on the bar. This wiseguy was a surprisingly good listener.
“You must think I’m pretty stupid,” I said. And, oddly, I cared about what he thought of me.
“I think you’re a nice woman who got stuck with an a-hole.”
That was sweet.
“What is your name?” I asked, suddenly realizing I never asked.
“Vitorio, but most people call me Vito.”
“Like Vito Corleone?” I asked, facetiously.
He drained the last of his drink. “Somethin’ like that.”
“Wanna whack him? Give him cement wingtips?” I thought I was hilarious.
He smiled, paused for a moment, then leaned in to me.
“I could take care of the a-hole for you,” he whispered to me.
“I make a call. Problem solved.”
I looked at him for a moment then burst into laughter. “You are good. You sound just like one of those guys.”
“Listen, this guy is nothing but pollution. I’m very into cleaning up.”
This was getting weird. Well, weirder. But there was something about it that sent a shiver up my back.
“So, are you saying you’d kill him?” I asked, incredulous.
“No, I wouldn’t do it.”
I felt instantly sober.
“Excuse me. I need to go to the ladies room.”
I staggered to the bathroom and looked at the haggard, messed up face in the mirror. Don’t be ridiculous, I said to myself. But, that shiver up my back persisted.
Once I felt a little more in control, I walked back to the bar. My hit man was nowhere to be found.
“The gentleman paid your tab and I’ve called for a taxi to come pick you up.”
“Oh…thanks.” I said weakly. Relieved, I gathered my things and started toward the door.
“Oh, miss,” the bartender stopped me, “Your friend asked me to tell you to consider your problem solved.”
I ran out the front door but the street was deserted.
Sitting in the cab, my mind raced. What do I do? I grabbed my cell phone. No signal! The ride back to my house took an eternity. Once I got home and finally had service, I dialed. Voicemail, damn it! I hung up. What was I supposed to say anyway? I’d sound like a lunatic.
I woke late the next morning with a well-deserved hangover. It was while I was in the shower that all of the events of the night before came rushing back to me. In the light of day I felt pretty stupid. He was probably an actor working on a part. And Vito? Please!
So, that’s what I chose to believe.
And now, as I stand here, throwing a handful of dirt on my husband’s coffin, I wonder again; was it fate? I don’t believe in fate. Bad luck? Good luck? I’ll probably never know.