Saturday, November 26, 2005

Chapter 26 (44941 words out of 50000)

26.

I have had a fucking Peppermint Latte every day this week. They give me a headache – there’s so much fructose in one of those goddamn things I can feel my teeth corrode with every fucking sip. Agatha likes when I meet her here, though – gets her all giddy and shit which is where I want to keep her for the time being if I can. Same shit though, every fucking time I come here – I get a sad excuse for a latte while she finishes up her last few orders, we get lunch at Quiznos or some god-awful equivalent, it’s all the same shit food when you start slumming around like that, take a walk – she likes to walk around in the cold for some fucking reason, hold hands and shit, she pulls in close to me on big gusts of winds and smiles – it’s pathetic, really. She’ll keep cracking jokes about how it’s warmer in Orlando and how we should go out there – if she only knew what she was really asking for. I like putting it off, I like keeping her in this state where I’ve completely broken her, no more games, I just get what I want and know in the back of my mind that she has what she deserves coming to her. Two days ago she convinced me to get our picture taken with fucking Santa Claus at the thirty-fourth street mall – it had to be one the most degrading things I’ve ever sat through – the fat loser fuck actually asked me what I wanted for Christmas and I said a puppy – Agatha laughed like I knew she would – she likes stupid fucking kid jokes. He asked me what kind of puppy and I told him a pug, I noticed how Agatha always likes to stop and play with people’s pugs – she must have a thing for them so I figured I might as well use that to my advantage and get something out of the fact that I needed to sit on some child-molester’s lap. Agatha told tubby fuck with the bloodshot eyes that matched his fucking dirty suit that she wanted some new boots – how goddamn typical can you get? But, whatever, if that’s what she wants that’s what I’m getting her – give them what they want, right? Keep them happy. Make them reveal their complexes. Take advantage.

Fucking repeat.

I snuck a peek at her shoes when she was taking a shower – size eight – one things for sure, I sure as hell will not be going into nine-west or DSW or any of those fucking beggar’s shoe stores, I picked out a pair of Manolo Blahnik boots that she’ll have a conniption over when she sees them. She’ll have no idea what the fuck they are, probably classify them as the “cutest boots she’s ever seen” as if I picked them up at a fucking Nordstrom. I’m going to be sickly cute with it as well, get her all gushing – I’m going to take them out of the box and wrap them individually so that they look like nothing but boots covered in wrapping paper – play some silly “couples” joke like “guess what they are first” so that she can shake it and ask if it’s a DVD and I can give a hearty laugh and say, “Yes, it’s the complete first season of Dallas.” It’d be even cuter if I put the first fucking season of Dallas in the boot. She’d get a kick out of that.

That’s where I want her – that’s where I keep her.

“Good afternoon, sir, can I take your order?”

What the fuck? “Ed?”

Stupid. Fucking stupid, fucking not paying attention. He recognizes me. He’s looking right at me and he fucking recognizes me – this can’t be right – I’m missing something here, I’m sleeping at the wheel, I’m getting too comfortable. I fucking missed something and now I’m in this situation.

Walk away. Just walk away.

“Hey honey!” He looks at her and smiles. He fucking got me – this bastard’s been planning this, he had to have been planning this – he’s looking back at me now, smiling, he knows – this fucking guy got me – he fucking knows – I’m missing something.

“Oh. Hey Aggy.” He’s smiling – I know that smile, I use it all the time. It’s the type of smile you get when you know you have somebody – when you fucking broke through – when you get an edge, a one-up. It’s that goddamn mother fucking arrogant as shit smile.

“Ed, this is Joseph – my man.” Even when she’s ruining everything she tries to be so fucking cute – she just said “my man” in a way that panders to Joseph blackness – as if she’s down – as if she’s going to grow fucking break dancing on a cardboard box after work and wants Ed to come along with her.

“Yeah – I know Joseph.” He’s not going to let me live, he’s no going to let this pass. He’s going to ruin me – this fucking twenty-two year old wet behind the ears punk is going to fucking ruin me.

“Ed used to work at Allied.” Just play it cool dude, play it cool – you missed this – you fucked it up – he’s here for a reason – just play it cool. Let him think he has control – let him power trip, that always buys time. “What are you doing at Starbucks?” Shit. That pissed both of them off – I tried to make my tone as neutral and non-condescending as possible but neither of them went for it.

“It’s just temporary until I find a new job, need to pay the bills, you know?” He’s being accusatory, even Agatha’s picking up on it – that’s ok, as long as I play it cool he’ll ride this out – he’ll keep it all a secret because he thinks that there is power in it – he thinks that there’s ace up his fucking sleeve for as long as Agatha and I are together. “I can’t get an references out of Allied, obviously, and employees get freaked out when they see I was fired after two weeks.”

Just keep him here, he wants to be in control, keep him in control.

I fucked up.

“Oh – honey – you didn’t tell me that. I’m sure Joseph can get them to say something for you – he’s big shit at Allied.” He teases me with the information, he’s not going to tell, you can see it in his eyes, you can see it behind that smile – he’s going through scenarios in his head, thinking of how he can ruin me as if he even has a chance of stepping onto my fucking playing field.

“No – not when you consider the circumstances under which I was fired.” He’s trying to talk like a fucking James Bond villain – it’s actually kind of comical – if I had the freedom to do so I’d laugh. The important part, though, is that he’s toying. People who toy are never a threat, I can phone this one in – just keep giving him what he wants and fuck him up when he loses his position.

“I can at least ask.” Nice delivery. Humble. Begging for forgiveness with the inflection of my voice in such a way that only he would realize what I’m doing. And he bites; he gives his head a little shake – a little nice try.

“No. No – I’d imagine there’s plenty of bad feelings towards me there.” Not a James Bond villain – a fucking comic book villain. Like right now he’s this “super-smart evil genius” trying to manipulate the Hulk.

“Why’d they fire you?” Moment of truth – does he take me out now or does he give me a chance to fucking destroy him later on.

“Not a good topic of conversation for a Starbucks.” You’re dead asshole, you should have took it when you had the chance. People get too fucking greed these days, they get a taste of victory and all of a sudden they’re fucking Vince Lombardi. That’s fine – mission fucking accomplished as far as I can tell. “Maybe I’ll tell you at happy hour.”

Happy hour?

“Oh, that’s right. We’re going to Happy Hour this Friday, baby, do you think you’ll be able to come?” Man – alcohol is not good for the situation we have right here. There’re two things that can be happening here – the first thing is the fact that he’s just going to try and ruin my life, tell Agatha all about Atlanta and my real job as I described it to him. If that’s the case this whole thing is over but, whatever, I’ll deal. The second possibility is that his revenge might come in the form of attempting to steal Agatha – as if he even has a chance with her. There’s something in that look. Of course, if I were him, my play would be to tell Agatha about her douche bag boyfriend and use her fractured state to fuck her in the ass. But I don’t think Ed’s that smart – if he was he would still be working at Allied and I would likely be jobless at the moment.

“Friday? Yeah. I have to pick up my mom from the doctors at four and drop her off home so I probably won’t be able to make it until five-thirty.” There’s no fucking way in hell I let Ed have friendly non-work conversation when I’m not there – if he says shit I’m going to have to be ready to counter it quick.

His cell phone – shit. The fucking pictures.

“Your mother’s living with you now?” Agatha laughed. Or smiled – her mouth opened a bit though as if she was going to laugh. She finds this funny – she finds Ed’s digs amusing – that can’t be good. I really fucked this one up.

“Just for a little while.” I’ll take this shot, it’s better than the alternative.

“I could imagine it being…frustrating.” He looks to Agatha with a knowing glance and she coyly dips her head away. He’s got one coming to him for that one. I’m going to be honest. People have played against me in the past and have played well. Agatha is a great example. There was also this guy who used to run my network, named Steve. Quite possibly the most unassuming man you’ll ever see – just a down-home white boy with blonde hair and blue eyes, a square chin and fucking dimples in his cheeks. This guy used to try too hard, though – he didn’t know how to play it. Within a minute of talking to somebody he’d ask them what they did and turn cold if he wasn’t interested or hot if he was. What he never understood was that you always stay neutral. The people who don’t have something that off the bat gets you going will likely know someone who does – people like to keep low-maintenance friends, people who are beneath them, it makes them feel more real. There was this one guy, Willis, he was a fucking janitor or whatever the fuck you call the guy that works in a large apartment and unclogs people’s toilets on Thanksgiving day – whatever you call him it’s a shitty fucking job. I lived in this one apartment once that was managed by this vile woman – this old, shriveled, white smoking woman with huge red hair and thick fucking glasses. She had this guy Willis working for her, doing all the real work – Willis was cool as shit and put up with this wretched fucking woman. One day my fucking dishwasher explodes on Martin Luther King Jr Day – just fucking explodes and there’s water and soap suds everywhere. So I go down to the office thinking that this fucking bitch, Fay, this epitome of white, would be working on Martin Luther King JR Day. I open the office door and Willis is there – no Fay. I ask him where Fay is and he tells me that she took the day off. I just kind of stared at him, I had no idea what to say, finally he just nods and tells me, “I know, I’m quitting soon.” Well this guy, Willis – if Steven met him at a party he’d be instantly dismissed – not even a fucking hello – he’d see the dude was obviously living low-class so he’d just ignore him the entire time. Me, if I were to see a guy like Willis at a party like the kinds I roll to – I know he’d have something to offer. Willis was just the buildings super until I saw him at a somewhat high-class party – turns out this cat knows more about boxing than almost any mother fucker on this planet and the mother fucking boxing commissioner of New York City is his goddamn cousin by marriage. I’m practically best fucking friends with this guy now and I get front row seats to every fucking fight at the Garden. Steve – he noticed that his technique wasn’t working and became a bit jealous of the way my shit was going. So instead of trying to follow up my moves he just started trying to poach the people I was with – he was the socialite equivalent of a fucking cock-blocker – he’d wait until I went to the bathroom and find ways to say nasty shit about me. But the thing is – I always played it cool – so these people would come up to me and tell me Steven was saying some nasty shit behind my back. I kind of laughed it of for a while but eventually I had enough and I decided to fuck with him – I switched up my strategy and started leading him onto to people that weren’t worth working. There are some people whose offering isn’t worth dealing with their complexes. Like this chocolatier I met at a charity function for fucking feline leukemia (rich people and how they spend their money boggle my fucking mind sometimes) who was extremely delusional about where he fit into the grand scheme of things – you hear this guy talk and you think he made chocolate by crushing diamonds with Gwyneth Paltrow’s ass while cherubs played harps in the background. So, you think about the trade-off – do you really need a guy that makes fucking chocolate that bad? Especially when people in Belgium and France do it better? Fuck that – but that’s the kind of guy I was getting Steven onto and the more parties he came to the more depressed he got – the more he felt like a loser that couldn’t just work this shit right. And he saw me – always happy, always at the center – always getting whatever the fuck I wanted – and it fucking killed him. He ended up moving to some low-maintenance city like Denver or Tampa where the people are easier but that’s because they’re also a bunch of fucking losers worth nothing in this world. Phoenix is the bottom – Phoenix is where players go to die – at least he didn’t go there off the bat although I’m sure he’ll find himself there eventually. I let him work my turf for a little bit but when you try to encroach on my shit – it’s over.

“Joseph?” Fuck, zoning out again.

“Sorry, what?” I have several looks going, the lady behind me is tapping her foot and huffing up a fucking storm because I’m keeping her fat ass away from her caramel macchiato.

“Peppermint Latte, right? Or are you switching it up today?” Who tried to change the subject first? Fuck, I’m fucking up left and right over here – I feel like I missed something – there’s a tension here – I wonder if Agatha said something or gave him a look or whatever. This fucking guy. Ed. Lasted a week in my world. Who the fuck does he think he is, keeping something over me?

“Yeah – grande. So, who’re you interviewing for, Ed?” I’m taking control of this mother fucker again. I don’t know why I was even scared of him.

“General Motors, Sirius – Motorola interview tomorrow to help them market their next-gen camera phones.” Was that a jab? Was that some lame excuse for a fucking threat? I can’t believe I was actually backed against the wall with this guy. “Great resolution to catch someone in those embarrassing moments – the kind of pictures you’d love to share with friends, family – significant others – anyone who’d get a good rise out of them.”

“That should be your slogan. Get a rise out of Aunt Felicia.” He shoots me a dirty look, he doesn’t like me playing – doesn’t want it – this is his moment. In his mind, at least. “She can be in a wheelchair, too. And her husband shows her a picture that the audience doesn’t see and she flips out, gets out of her chair – rises up, if you will.” He’s turning red, biting his lip – I have an audience and they’re laughing and it’s driving him insane which is good – I’d have to have to deal with a sane man. “And then she, I don’t know – kills the husband by cutting his head off with a Dean Martin LP.” He’s furious – you walk away now and show him you’re not afraid of him – he has no control over you.

“Aggy, I’m going to have to take that to go. Big day at the office today. Power Point Presentations and speech lessons.”

Ed eyes me hard – he’s not going to take this and that’s exactly what I want.

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