He was an ______. Everything hateful about the teenage brain. Ignorant yet opinionated, hateful, and crude. “You want to be remembered? Find some fucking ten year old kid with an ice-cream cone and shove it in his face. Bloody his fucking nose if you can. I guarantee you in fifty years, he’ll still be telling that story. That’s fuckin’ immortality, yeah. That’s being famous.”
It was easy to dislike him, even on sight. The semiotics of his clothing said he was aggressive, stupid, and mean. His uneven buzzcut matched his acne scars, matched the half smoked American cigarette that sat behind his ear, (looking like he’d fished it from the floor of a dirty men’s room), matched the cheap nylon sports jacket, matched the greasy whine of his voice. His accessories all looked stolen.
I was sitting across the aisle from him on the bus, on my way to see Michael for the last time before I left town, trying to concentrate on reading my lovely new book, and instead building up a quite justifiable loathing for the redneck prick loudly mouthing off beside me. He sat facing backwards in his seat, feet braced against the backrest, all the better to dispense his wisdom to the lapdog thug-kids he was talking to. Within reach, I thought.
“What you do is you shit on the pile of coats, fucking piss all over them, then fade back into the party. Someone will come out, say something fucking stupid, like, “hey, I think someone’s maybe shit on everything,” ’cause no one wants to be the fucking guy who says there’s shit, right? And you don’t say a fucking word. No one will know!”
My first impulse was to spook him, my second to drag him off the bus and pop him in the head. The story I was reading spoke of redemption, hatred, the torture of self-knowledge laid bare. I opted for my first idea. Less messy. Only gods and brave doctors know what he might have, anyway. One split knuckle is all it takes. Yuck.
Back in the day, I used to work for this six foot five Russian cowboy ‘from Old Country’ named Boris. A secretly teddy-bear NYC bouncer turned Toronto nightclub owner, he could be easily be the scariest man you might ever meet. I’ve only got one photograph of him, sadly, but in it, he dwarfs everything. It wasn’t his size, though, that was so intimidating, it was how he used his voice.
As the bus pulled through the intersection at 14th and 11th, I stood up, borrowed every actor’s trick of body I know to make myself seem as solid and immovable and as confident and nasty as possible, and I put my hand down hard on the boy’s shoulder. He looked up at me, rattled, surprised, people don’t touch strangers in the city, and I leaned down, met his widened eyes, conjured that wonderful Russian terror and very quietly said, “In my country, we kill children like you.”
Then I got off the bus, met Michael, and we had a lovely pot of tea. So there.