Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sometimes we need a good friend to help us make it through


To read this story from the beginning, please go HERE
This is a work of fiction based on a true story.... 

Tony's jeep barreled into my driveway and, momentarily, bright lights illuminated the wall in my front room. "Come on, Gina. I can't wait forever," I heard Tony yelling as I opened my front door.
    "All right! All right!" What was this guy's deal? When I'd been dating The Schmuck, I'd gotten to be pretty good friends with Tony. But since dating Mark, I hadn't had much time for any of my friends.
    I jumped into the jeep before Tony gunned it, peeling down my tiny street.
    "What spurred this on?" I asked. "A hockey game?"
    "We need to talk," he said. "But first," he shoved two flasks and a huge glass bottle of whiskey into my lap, "fill these up!"
    "What? You can't be serious!"
    "Gina, don't tell me you've gotten boring. The Gina I knew would try anything."

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    "Fine!" I unscrewed the whiskey's lid and began expertly pouring the liquid into the flasks, not spilling a drop despite the bumps and curves of the road. "I'm not boring. Never will be."    "Okay, kid. Okay!"    He ALWAYS called me kid, even though he's only in his forties. And I looked up to the man, wanted him to think I was neat. After all, he's the same guy who isn't afraid of nothin'--the same guy who will go hiking and caving nearly anywhere. He's the same legendary man who won a ham at a bowl-off last Christmas—then gave the prize to a man in need.     He's part Filipino, part tiger, and damn it I wanted to seem like a badass too!    "So what's new with you, G?" he asked.    "Oh, ya know. Just livin' the dream."    "How are things going with that Mark guy?" He turned into an overflow parking lot not far from the hockey rink.    "He's an amazing guy, but I just don't know if we'll make it. He wants a kid and all that. He's a great guy though, really."    "Really. What does a word like good mean to you anyway? You loved my friend, The Schmuck; you thought he was good. You always go after the bad guys though, Gina. Always."    "Loved The Schmuck. Ha! This guy is different. He's honest and kind. He'd never cheat on me."    "You're wrong, Gina. Every man will cheat. Every man."    We walked quietly amongst the shadows that thronged the rink's entrance, and his words loomed ominous like our surroundings. 
     "Not every man. Men are like women, some have consciences about cheating and others don't."    He shook his head. "Live long enough, kid, and you'll lose that optimism. You'll start to see the world for what it is. But until then, let's enjoy! Tony had grabbed the flasks and he quickly put them under his shirt as we walked along.    "What are you? Pregnant? You look absolutely ridiculous! Give those to me!"    So he handed me the flasks, and I quickly shoved them into the front of my pants, and adjusted my puffy coat to hide them.    "Gina. I've missed you." He raised his brows, impressed.    "Don't be an idiot. You haven't missed me at all!"    We walked up to security, and they only asked to see my purse.     "Is that all you want to check?" Tony asked one security guard.     "Don't you think she looks suspicious?"    I could have killed him. There I stood, pants filled with liquor, and he said things like that. I'd take all of the blame for his whiskey if they caught me.    "She couldn't hurt a fly," the old guard said. "Have a great time, sweetie. Don't let the language bother you too much at this place. People really get into hockey around here."      I smiled. "I'll try to enjoy the game anyway."    "What a load of crap!" Tony said as we bought a couple of large Sprites, then rushed to the stairs leading to the nosebleed section. "Quick, pour yours in, and I'll put mine in too."    "This is gonna be so strong," I balked.    "And no one will ever know but us!"    We picked seats right next to the highest railing, kicked out legs through the bars, and sat side-by-side, watching an old-school hockey game in the wrong part of town.    It wasn't long before the whiskey hit both of us and we were laughing and jeering at the players, completely uninhibited.     At one point, a puck shot through the air and hit a player right in the helmet. "Oh SNAP!" We laughed and laughed. "Dude, Gina. You're such a dude. What kind of chick likes to see shit like that?"
    "Girls who drink whiskey?"    "It'sssss true." He smirked. "But you ain't perfect. Not. You kind of suck actually."    "What the hell does that mean?" I asked, turning to look at him squarely.    "You're going to say goodbye to The Schmuck. That's a dumb thing to do. I expected more from you, kid."    "You're one to talk! You let him text me from your phone."    "Hey, he's bigger than me. The man's built like a house and hung like a—"    "Save it! I might not go see him. But what's it to you?" I'd completely forgotten about the game, or the whiskey, or the fact that my leg was twisted in a weird sort of way and the railing was digging into my thigh.    "Listen, Gina. He wants you back bad. He's been telling all of the guys at work how you'll see him again and end up being with him whether he stays married or not. Then he can have the two women he loves."    "But that's not—"    "Just hear me out!" Then as a mess of blubbering drunkenness, he told me everything he should have told me a long time before. "The Schmuck has had so many affairs," he said. "In the beginning, you were one of many. The first time he told me about you, he had this dirty sort of look in his eyes, saying he'd really hit the jackpot. All the guys from work stood around, and he showed us a picture of you naked."    "What?! All those guys? How did he even get that?"    "It was from the back; you were walking away or something, probably didn't even know he'd taken a picture. He said that day he'd been with you and his wife."    I could have thrown up.    "But somehow after time, things changed. I met you in person. I didn't know how damn likable you'd be. I wanted to tell you he was married, but I didn't have the heart. You seemed so happy. He'd bring you to my house, then invite me over to dinner at his house with his wife. I was torn, more than you know, trying to lie to both of you."    I sighed and took a huge swig of my drink.    "But if I was a mess, you should've seen what he went through," Tony said. "You kept trying to break things off. See, girls normally chase after him—and they NEVER find out he's married. He'd never had a chick break up with him before—and no one had ever dated him long enough to talk with his wife. So I think that's why he doesn't want to let you go. He thinks he's in love with you, but that ain't love. That ain't…. I was in love once. It wasn't about all that garbage. It was about me being willing to do anything for that girl."     His feet kept swaying back and forth through that damn railing, making me so dizzy. And I had a slight premonition that our dangling legs might bring us some not-so-great attention. But I was too busy listening to his sea of words to really think much beyond that.    "I was jumped once," he went on. "These thugs came out of nowhere and beat the shit outta me. The girl I loved was there too, crying as she watched me. She could've ran away, but she didn't—she stayed, and before long, they started hitting her too." 
    He voice shook then. And I thought how strange it was to hear this story, and share this moment in the nosebleeds of a stupid hockey game. "I watched them beat her so bad, Gina. I can't tell you how that felt, but it was worse than getting beat close to death.... I couldn't do a damn thing to help her. Then they threw us in the gutter outside of a bar. I knew she could've gotten away, but she stayed because she loved me. We were taken to a hospital soon after that. I don't know how we got there or who took us. Anyway, she stayed. She should've gone, but she wouldn't have left me, ever."    "But you're single now, Tony? Why didn't you stay together?"    "Someone…died. I've told you enough tonight. I'm done talking about her…."    The crowd cheered as two players collided and hockey skates flew into the air. But I didn't care much, instead, I thought about Tony's words. Maybe true love to him was enjoying the good and bad times together—no matter what. That was pretty thought-provoking. Would I stay if Mark was getting beaten in a gutter? Would it even matter if I stayed? Or was that truly an action only love could inspire? In my heart, I hoped I would be the kind of girl who would stick by his side regardless.    "So, The Schmuck… Gina, he won't leave you alone. But I still don't think you should meet him. He said he's going to lie to you, tell you he really is divorced and that his ex-wife has been lying about the whole thing. But you have to know—he's married. He always was married."    "I know," I said. "It's a good thing that we live in a small town; almost everyone and their dog knows The Schmuck and his wife."    "But you're still going to see him again?" he asked.    "If this were a movie, would I go see him?" I asked. "Honestly, would I?"    "Yes. You would." His response was so reluctant. "But this isn't a stupid movie! You could get hurt. You aren't strong enough. You still see the good in everyone." Then my friend, who had always seemed so jovial, began hollering so loud. "Don't be an idiot! He wants you to be his mistress, his second woman. He has no respect for you. You're better than this. Look at you—goddamn it, look at you!"    My face heated, and faster than I'd meant to, I stood, glaring at Tony. "What, Tony? What? Tell me what you mean by all of this." He stood as well, and I was about to step closer to him, so angry, when someone grabbed my shoulder, and then Tony's.     "Calm down, you two. Give me your drinks," a young security guard said.    "They have some downstairs if you'd like your own," I said.
Tony's eyes widened and he couldn't help but shake his head. My anger from moments before turned into shock.
    "Hand-it-over," the guard ground the words through gritted teeth, but I couldn't respond seriously. He looked so little to be giving orders.    "Okay-dokey." I handed my drink over. "I used to be a security guard." I smiled, and batted my eyelashes.    "Sure you were." The guard pursed his lips. "You must've been one heck of a guard. You don't look scary at all AND you illegally drink in public venues!"    I tried looking innocent, then I hiccuped.    Tony put his hand over his face, and stared at me through splayed fingers, pleading with his eyes, begging me to not act stupid.    "I'll give the two of you a choice," the guard finally said after sizing us up. "You can either stop yelling at each other, give us your drinks, and leave… Or you can go to jail."    "How kind of you. Tony, wasn't that swe—"    "We'll take option one!" Tony grabbed my arm, and dragged me beside him as we were escorted out the back entrance. It was a dizzying walk, but a fast blur of excitement. The guards slammed the metal doors shut and locked them behind us.    As we stood out in the cold, so much adrenaline suddenly hit me. I jumped up and down, and ran my hands through my hair. "Holy shit, Tony! Now THAT was fun!"    He suddenly burst with laughter. We ran to his jeep, both of us too scared to look behind us. "Quick! In case they change their minds!"    We slammed the jeep's doors as if we were chased by monsters. We both jabbered so quickly recounting the whole conversation with the guards. As we talked, Tony drove to a diner really closeby, so he could sober up before taking me home.    That night we didn't talk anymore about The Schmuck, or his wife. We didn't even talk about Mark. Instead we laughed like old times, telling stories, and geeking out about the fact that we'd just been let off the hook.    "I used to be a security guard," Tony mimicked, then slapped my arm. "My hell. You almost blew the whole thing!"    "No way! That's why he let us go."    "Not likely," Tony said, chugging his coffee. "Ya know, kid. You have a good head on your shoulders. No matter where you go in life, follow your intuitions. If somethin' don't feel right, please listen and get away quick."    "Okay," I said.    Later that night, after Tony dropped me off, I thought about what a good friend he was. It had felt good getting out like that, appreciating life instead of worrying so much.
    Just before I went to sleep, Tony called me. "Tony? What's up?"
    "Gina, I'm kind of shook up." His voice was low and serious.
    "Why? What's wrong?"
    "Someone came to my house while we were gone. They bashed-in my mailbox, and left it on my front lawn."
    "You don't think it was--"
    "Yeah. You know who I think it was. If he finds out we're still friends.... Just promise me, if you go see The Schmuck, please be safe."
    We hung up, both shaken. I sure was grateful to have a good friend like Tony. Little did I know, that was one of the last times I'd ever talk to him.

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