Poets, I think, sift words while writers construct. The thing, the real thing, is to be able to sift or construct or weld or meld at will. This ability or this inability defines the work of an artist of any sort.
To wit: The obstacle of the day would be the lack of a keyboard because I’m in Starbucks and I do not own a laptop. I loathe writing by hand but the Demon Muse very politely asks me to write and I know it will be the last time She is nice about it at all. Being in public can be a plus even though there is a guy in front of me that is overloud. That’s not the big deal right now though. The big deal right now is I had to sit here because it’s the only place in the building I can be directly behind and therefore invisible to, the companion to the overloud, The Wife Beater.
In a city where there’s the better part of 50,000 souls you’d think I wouldn’t run into one of the few people on earth I rather not see again, ever. But then again, you have to hear this story because while I was sitting there I realized that it was the one that needed to be told. The Demon Muse is delighted. What good fortune to have a story delivered with caffeine and an ink pen!
Many years ago, this guy, this one right there, no more than six feet from me, honestly, I think he can hear me writing he’s so close, moved into the apartment downstairs from me. He was one of those men who were going through a divorce and was on a mission to make sure everyone on earth heard him refer to his former as “that whore”. The single most salient feature of their marriage wasn’t their kids or the time they spent together or anything other than the fact that she was no longer Mrs. Wife Beater, no, she was now “that whore”. I’ve got a theory on men who have to define someone they were once married to like that, or for that matter, any woman. I didn’t know he was a wife beater when I met him but I knew there was something there that I didn’t like. The word “whore” when used by a man says a lot more about the man than the woman, I have discovered.
When he sold me a handgun dirt cheap I immediately registered it with the local cops because I already had a permit to carry but I also wanted them to know where that gun was, just in case. I still have that gun, by the way, but I no longer carry. The best way to never use a gun is to never have one.
So TWB was all set to move out of the apartment after many months of fun and adventure and he had hooked up with a woman very much younger than he. I had met a woman and when she came over for the first time she saw TWB and declared, “That’s the guy who beat his wife and kids up!” and so I heard the rest of the tale. Seems the guy had a drinking problem and a temper. He came home in a rage and put his wife, who was a nurse, in the ER and then slapped the kids around a good bit. The nurse’s friends at the hospital took a ton of photos so TWB went to jail and then got taken to the cleaners. That was why he sold the gun; he needed money desperately.
So now the story changed a bit. Because I now knew someone who knew him, TWB’s story also included the part about her being a pathological liar as well as “that whore”. He seemed convinced that every time my friend came over we were going to talk about him so he started trying to come over every time she walked through the door. It got to the point he seemed fixated on her and this drove his young girl friend to get into a screaming match with him one night because he went for the door every time my friend showed up. We could hear them and it was surreal as hell. The cops were called before blood flowed, and honestly, when cops know you’ve beaten up a woman and two kids, well, they don’t listen to you after that. They are more than delighted to put some cuffs on you and put you in a car. They will also allow you to talk your way deeper into any hole you’ve dug and at least one of them was willing to get into the ring with him, if he really wanted that sort of action. TWB had to assure the cop that he wasn’t looking for a fight. We really and truly thought the cop was going to take him down hard, and secretly, I think whole scene made my female friend just a little…happy. He was sure I called the cops and after that, we didn’t speak again.
So here I am, six feet away at the most from him and I’m amazed at how much like himself he looks. Same hair style, same bushy moustache, same glasses, and he looks pretty much the same as he did many years ago, but older. It’s odd to be writing about someone who is sitting that close to me yet unaware that soon, part of his past will be part of my writing. It’s odd that of the four people who were there that night, other than the cops, he’s the only one I’ve seen again in decades. I wonder if he would recognize me. I wonder how his kids turned out. I wonder what happened to his wife who I hope found happiness.
I wonder if a man who fell low enough to stoop to hitting his wife and kids really wants to drink coffee with someone who knows this about him. I’ll never know. I finish this and slip away with the Demon Muse, who is happily planning to use this person in my next story that needs a murder victim.