Words Have Power, They Are Magic Pt 7
I did not go to the funeral. I did not want to see Anna. Sweet Anna, who turned out to be a witch. I was angry enough and sad enough to think about writing a sentence and wish for Anna, but then I thought of her children. The kids were missing their Papi. I was missing my friend. I could not go to his funeral and see her. I did not trust myself.
Even though there was the tragic death, I was still let go from my job. Not only was the certifications still necessary but during the investigation, I told the truth. It cost the school a lot of money and they were not happy with me. It turns out that they thought that since I was the only white janitor that I was mentally handicapped, retarded, and therefore, pliable. Just tell the slow, old man what you want him to say and he would say it. Boy, were they surprised when they found out that not only was I not slow, but I was smarter than the lot of them. Not to mention honest. I lost my job quicker than expected.
The first month or two of not working was okay with me. I cleaned my little place, dusting for the first time in about a year, I washed the window, scrubbed the floors. I watched my TV during the day, getting a little caught up in a soap opera until I discovered, that people who were dead didn’t stay dead and it was a twin who was really dead, but not before she had a baby. It got silly and complicated. So, I watched cartoons.
I slept in every morning. I could not remember the last time I woke up later than 5 am. I was waking up at 7 and 8 am. I was also drinking even more at night. I was careful when I was working to not drink as much during the week, I had to go to work. There were people there, at work, who might notice if I drank too much the night before so I controlled it during the week. I had no job. I saw no reason to not drink as much as I wanted. And I wanted.
The night was always hard, it was in the night, when the world was still and even the never-ending clamor from the freeway seemed to whisper, that is when it was tough. That is when the memories were unstoppable. The faces of those who died because of my words like seem to flash before my eyes. Like some kind of a morbid slide show, they would flash in order. I hated it. I knew when I would see Renee’s face. I could not stand to see her face. I did not want to remember. I did not want the pain.
Like holy water cleaning sins off the soul, whiskey removed the memories, washed them away.
During the day, I started going back to the little park I had gone to when I first moved to New York City. Although it was close to where Renee and I had lived, I didn’t have problems being there. Maybe it was because she never came there, and I did not come to the park in the same direction. In fact, I had to take a bus to and then walk a block to get there.
It was almost the same. Maybe some flowers were different; the pansy bed was gone, replaced with roses. The white bench I used to sit on the one facing the duck pond was still there, but it was no longer white or metal. Now it was a green plastic. It was just as comfortable though. I sat and watch the ducks going about their business almost every day, all day. I started to see their personalities and notice little differences in them. Like the one I called Fred. He had a little black mark under each white wing. His personality was just like a regular Joe, the guy you could always count on to be the same, always. There was Maggie, a fussbudget who was always bustling around, picking things up in her beak and putting them down somewhere else. Almost as if, she was decorating the pond. Yeah I spent a lot of time at the park.
I always left the park in time for the last bus. The one time I stayed, changed my life forever,Once I stayed and it was getting dark. The last bus had come and gone by the time I got to the stop. I decided the walk home would be good for me. It was only 15 or so blocks. Except my bum leg had been acting up lately, cause me to limp even more. By the 6th block it I was feeling some pain. I also forgot that, as I got closer to my building that the neighborhoods got worse. Each block, worse than the one before. Cockroaches come out at night, and they were revealing themselves in droves. The gangbangers were standing in little groups in front yards, threatening me, going to kill me if I didn’t leave. The drug dealers were crowding the fronts of the little corner stores, offering me a try. The prostitutes in their underwear calling to me, promising good times for only $20 bucks.
I was almost home, in fact had just passed the barred and gate protected Mr. Chen’s laundry when I was confronted. They were kids. They could not have been more then 14. There was maybe five of them, all dressed the same, pants hanging at their thigh showing red underwear and surprisingly clean white t-shirts.
They demanded my money. Well what they actually said was that I as in the wrong neighborhood, you old mother effer . They informed me that the only way I could be n their neighborhood was to pay them all my money. I ignored them and continued to walk on. They were kids. They had no idea. Although I was older and walked with a limp, I was still able to defend myself. I was older and walked with a limp, and the fact that my left arm was getting even more useless, thanks to my time in the war, because of those reason, I always carried my 9mm. I knew I could not kick ass like I used to so it was my constant companion. That night I was glad of it.
These little punks, these assholes, decided that their honor their reputation as bad asses in the neighborhood was at stake if they let me go. They yelled at me to stop or else. I kept going. This enraged them and they rushed me. I already had drawn the Glock and was thinking I was going to turn around, maybe shoot in the air to frighten them. That was a naive thought. As I turned around two of them had weapons in their hands pointing them at me as they called me names. Without thinking, pure instinct, I shot them both then side stepped and shot one more. One of the punks I hit shot back and hit me in my bad leg. I went down, but I continue to shoot.
It all happened so fast. I watched as the punks ran, leaving one on the sidewalk. Soon I heard sirens and some woman was screaming about her baby. Her baby? I didn’t remember a baby. God, did I shoot a baby? I asked the officer and he said to shut up. I asked another and he shook his head. Soon I was put on a gurney and put into an ambulance. Finally on the way to the hospital, the EMT told me no, there was no baby. The only victims were the deceased and me. Good. Good there was no baby and good I killed the little punk. Maybe his friends would think twice before messing with old people.
I woke up in the hospital and soon discovered I was handcuffed to the bed. Guess I was being detained pending the investigation of the death of one Leroy Liberty Jackson , 19. The officer, who informed me of this, spent a lot of time making sure I understood I was not under arrest. I think I was supposed to take a hint but what he was hinting at was beyond me. Anyway, there was indeed an investigation. A very public one.
It turned out that the little gang this young man was in decided to make it a race issue. Leroy was black, I was not. They spent a lot time on the TV, giving interviews, bemoaning the death of a good boy at the hands of a Vietnam vet who was probably crazy. It was bulls hit and eventually the investigation ended. I was let go innocent of any charges it was indeed self-defense. Everything I did was on the up and up including my gun registration, much to the chagrin of those protesting the death of their saint.
I was brought home in a patrol car. There was a huge crowd in front of my building. There people with signs calling me a killer and there were signs calling me a saint. There was so many reporters and they threw a million of questions at me as I was escorted up the stairs into the building. The door shutting out the crowd.
When I got to my apartment, I Iooked around. The officers had been there and the place looked as if it had been torn apart. I picked up a picture of Renee that had been fallen face down. I wiped it off and put it back in its place. I walked over to the couch, picked up a cushion off the floor and replaced it fixing the other cushions as well. I peered out the window; there on the sidewalk was the same crowd. They noticed me at the window and some began to point, others aimed cameras. I stepped back from the window. Went to the kitchen and pulled a bottle of whiskey off the counter. I opened it and took a big swig. The warmth going down my throat and into my belly, made me feel normal. I took another. And another. I walked back to the window, opened it and yelled, “HEY!” When I got everyone’s attention, I flipped them off, closed the window and went back to the couch, where I finished that bottle.
I stayed holed up in my apartment for couple of weeks, thinking the crowd would leave they would forget about me. Not so. The interviews still happened on the TV and the crowd stayed on the sidewalk. It was a dilemma. I had finally looked at the pile of mail in the floor by the front door. In it was notices. I was late on the electric , I was late with the gas. I was late with the rent. I was out of food, never did have much food in the house anyway, carrying groceries was a little hard on me so, I tended to go every other day. Since I did not write, even checks, I had to go cash my checks so I could pay the bills. I need to go get food. Most of all, I was almost out of whiskey. I had to leave but the crowd was there.
I called the cops but they said they could not provide me with an escort every time I wanted something. Assholes. I asked them to disperse the crowd so I could they said no, it wasn’t against the law. I tried to ask my neighbor but no one would answer their doors, one of them even calling me a kid killer. I caught one of them walking out their door, it was Miss Sofi. I called her name and she screamed and ran back into her apartment. For the love of God. I was getting pissed. I had protected myself and now these people whom I have lived next to for over a century , were now afraid because of what they watch on the tv. It was ridiculous. Not one of them had even asked me. And I was done with it.
I was done with people; I was done with society, just done. I needed to get the crowd away. I didn’t even have pencils or pens in my house. It didn’t matter. I went to the fireplace and in the thick dust on the mantle, I wrote.
“I wish this crowd would disappear and that everyone in it would never bother me again.”
I grabbed my last bottle of whiskey, moved a chair to the window and sat down, looking down at the crowd. Of course they noticed me, and has I saluted them with the bottle they took pictures. I smiled and waited. I drank and I waited. This time is was fast. It did not take long at all.
I had just finished the bottle and was thinking that maybe I had some more liquor somewhere in the apartment, I had gone through a period where I had hidden my bottles, and even though I no longer did that, I sometimes found some in the strangest places, like the in the tank of the toilet bowl. And maybe like the fireplace? I had never used the fireplace, would I have hidden some there? I got up to look when I heard gunshots and squealing tires. I turned around to look out the window. There was a pickup truck with some guys in the back they were shooting into the crowd. People in the crowd were dropping, some were trying to run but as they did one the guys in the truck shot them. The rest of the crowd had been so packed together that they were just milling around trying to get away .
I opened the window to better see and one of the guys, the one with the baseball cap saw me. He waved and yelled something I could not hear. I watched as he reached down and grabbed something. It was a Molotov cocktail, he lit it and threw into the crowd, it exploded and instantly they were engulfed in flames. The guys in the trucks gave a rebel yell and drove off. The people in the crowd were screaming. Soon fire trucks arrived and put them out. It was too late of course, there was nothing but a piled of smoldering flesh and clothes. The smell was terrible. I closed the window.
I looked around my apartment. I did need some things. I stuffed a backpack full of clothes, mostly socks and some sweatshirts. There was, indeed, a bottle of whiskey in the fireplace. I put that into the backpack. I took my wallet out of my back pocket, pulled the bills out of it, stuffed them into my pocket and threw the wallet on the table. I grabbed my heavy winter jacket, might need that and left my apartment.
I went downstairs, the smell on the first floor was really bad. I never really had flashbacks but the smell brought me back to Vietnam. The guards would burn the bodies of the dead at the camp but only about once a month. So we would smell the dead bodies rotting in the sun and then the smell of the burning. It was the same acrid rotten flesh, smoldering smell I was smelling. I felt myself getting anxious. I ignored it and opened the front door. There was a firefighter standing right there directing a stream of water off the side of the porch. He look startled when he saw me. I smiled, gave a little wave and walked down the stairs. Careful not to step on anything or anyone I walked down the sidewalk. At the bus stop the bus was just arriving, I got on ti and looked out the window as the bus went by my apartment building. I waved hi to the same fireman. I smiled. I even gave a little laugh. I was free. I was free from people, from societies viciousness, from everything , everyone. And I was responsible. I was the one who freed me. I had written the words. I had made it happen. I was glad, yes for once I was glad that words have power, they are magic.