When it first happened, I cried. The tears came almost unconsciously. I didn’t think about it. I didn’t question it. I just cried.
But a selfish act is nothing to cry over. It happens despite itself. There is no sympathy. There is nothing. Before, I could have helped. But the selfishness. The fucking selfishness. I needed to go somewhere.
I had never drank Canadian beer before. Molson Canadian. It wasn’t bad. I wasn’t trying to get drunk or anything. I just wanted a buzz. A little equilibrium. I usually stuck to the Mexican beers—or Crown Royal—but this was a pleasant change. It was a lighter beer, kind of pale gold, not similar to the Mexican beers to which I had grown accustomed, but it definitely wasn’t a dark beer. Not by any stretch of the imagination. It went down smoothly, and you could taste the freshness in the back of your throat right before you finished swallowing.
I bought two. Sitting in the back of Gauchos. The back of my right hand gently absorbs the condensation from the neck of the first bottle. The back label fittingly reads, “IT’S OVER.” My mouth forms a half smile. I run my thumb over the label. There’s a picture of an opera singer below the words. A fat lady, if you will, singing.
I turn the second bottle around to read the back label. “LOOK AT MY SHOES, YOU’LL BE IMPRESSED.”
My left forearm is on the table, supporting me as I lean forward. I take a sip. I place the bottle back down onto a coaster. I always use coasters. They’re practical, really.
I have the table to myself. It’s a booth. One of the corner booths, with the semi-circular seating. The tacky, red padded seats are torn due to old age. Some of the original holes have been patched up with even tackier, red duct-tape. All in all, the seats aren’t half bad. Comfortable enough.
The table slightly wobbles. It has an awkward shape, as though it were made specifically to fit this exact booth. It probably was. I make sure not to lean too much weight onto the table, so as not to spill either of my beers.
I look around the bar. This used to be the place. “Let’s hit up Gauchos.” They’d always say it. Shit, everyone would. There would be a line at the bar. A girl would be singing Aretha Franklin on the karaoke machine. Either that or someone would program Garth Brooks’ “Friends in Low Places” on the jukebox. Either way, people smiled. They laughed.The men would buy pitchers. The girls would sit at the tables. Oh, the girls. They would always dress to impress. Skirts. Backless shirts. Heels. Most of them were blonde. A lot of them were brunettes. Not a whole lot of redheads would come through these doors. But, oh, the girls.
Not anymore, though. Those nights seem forever ago. They were a blur at the time, even. I look toward the bar. Everything is so uncomfortably clear. There is an old man. Not old. But older. He has graying hair. He wears a white button-down shirt with a brown and blue pattern. The top two buttons are unbuttoned. It looks as though he has had a long day. Seven and Seven. That’s his drink. I had noticed the bartender bring at least three to him already.
On the other side of the bar are two other men. Hispanic. Probably in their late 20’s to early 30’s. They drink from a pitcher of golden beer. Probably the cheap stuff. Miller Lite. Maybe Bud. Who knows?
No girls. No singing. No laughing. No Garth Brooks.
The bartender watches Sportscenter on TV. It’s the third time tonight that the same episode is airing. He probably has it memorized at this point. Every time it shows the Knicks highlights he says, “Fuckin’ Knicks…” as though he didn’t know the outcome already.
I try calling Brandon again. No answer. He wasn’t going to answer. Fucker.
This is where Brandon and I became great friends. Gauchos. In the glory days, we’d come here to drink, illegally, of course. Before we ever had fake ID’s, this was the only place that wouldn’t check. Brandon looked 25 back then anyway, so it was never a problem for him.We’d sit at our table drinking from our pitcher. We’d eye the women who walked by. They’d always look back, smiling. Not at me. Brandon was smooth. He never said anything. Somehow the girls would always come. They’d come and sit with him. Flirt.
Without Brandon, I probably wouldn’t have ever gotten laid. I’d pick up his stragglers. I’d go after the second-best friend. It was a surefire plan. And I wasn’t complaining.
That selfish son-of-a-bitch. Seriously. He was probably the type of guy you’d peg to be an asshole, anyway. His perfectly styled brown hair. The mysterious, dark eyes. He used his smile sparingly – always to his advantage. Even if a woman didn’t want to sleep with him, she always wondered what it would be like. He was never entirely real. Not to anyone.
After four years, I thought I was on the inside, though. I never thought his selfish ways would affect me. Not our friendship. Not the bond we had. The tag team we were.
But then he fucking proved me wrong.
I finish my first Molson. I put it down on the table, gently. The empty bottle faces away from me. “IT’S OVER.” I reach for my second beer. Big sip. I get a drop on my shirt.
I try to call once more. Why do I even try? I leave a message this time.
“If you ever fucking hear this, I just want you to know you’re a prick.”
Click. I swallow hard. Pissed off.
The last time I saw him, I didn’t know anything. I remember we were leaving some restaurant. Roberto's or Filiberto's. Somethingberto's. It doesn’t matter. You don’t know the place, anyway. He got in his car. He showed me the gun. I didn’t even pay attention, really. He told me he was going to do it. And I didn’t say anything important.
That was all I could muster.
He probably held the gun up – this was back at his house, 20 minutes after leaving the restaurant. I remember having looked at it closely. It was metallic silver. 9mm. The handle had a little bit of black on it. The trigger was the same color as the barrel, only slightly duller. While his finger was on the trigger, I probably just looked at my watch. 8:42 pm.
He was crying. Panting. He never cried. His hand was even shaking. I couldn’t have possibly known. Looking back, I acted like a child. Naïve.
He was yelling something, I bet. Maybe not yelling. But whatever he was saying, he wasn’t calm.
It happened fast. In a split-second, I realized exactly what happened. By the time my awareness triggered, there was probably already blood on the wall to his right. It dripped slowly, each drop trickling down its own separate path, as though it were racing the others. His eyes rolled back in his head. I imagined watching him hit the ground. He held onto the gun until his hand crashed against the hardwood floor.
“That would be a bitch to clean,” was my first thought. I could never do it. Of course I could clean it – I’m talking about the other thing. I wouldn’t be able to rationalize it. Making someone clean that up.
You don’t register everything at the time, of course. You can’t comprehend the magnitude. All you think about is the mess.
I look at my watch. 1:22 am. I finish my second Molson. I put the empty bottle next to the first one. I belch once, exhale, and then slowly stand up.
It’s time to go. Enough. He was a dick, anyway. He never cared about me. The only way I can justify it.
I need to clean.
Not only was he selfish with his life, but he doesn’t even have to clean.
And I’m not happy about that.