I’m staying at the Friendly Bike Guest House. This guest house stands tall on the lively St. James Street. Some drunk hipsters have painted the back walls with psychedelic shapes and “modern” art. Many remarked how beautiful it was. I remember nodding along. Surrounding trees protect the Zen of the whole place and give a defined direction to the pathway to the only door which everybody ignored. The shining red door gleams in sunlight and requires a combination to get in. I wonder how many drunk strangers have spent sleepless nights sitting outside, helplessly trying to remember the numbers. A clean doormat is geometrically placed outside the entrance, leading to a common room. The air inside smells as pure as it gets, with only a slight hint of a funky alcohol smell. The naked walls complement the welcoming couches in an ineffective way. I feel purposeless sitting on them, staring at a red corner of otherwise immaculate rug.
As I make my way to the bedroom, the alcoholic odor grows stronger and a tiny house fly steers her way across my face. What a shame for the cleaners. The bedroom door feels heavy to open. Finally, no more low quality doors in cheap places. I closed the door behind me as I walk straight to the window to appreciate the view outside. I had a street full of bars, another hipster wall art, and drunk people, all to myself. The funky alcoholic odor has somehow grown stronger. Another house fly crashes straight into the window glass and dies. I pick her up and turn around to throw her in the trash, but instead, I drop her on the floor, along with two bags on my shoulder. There are two dead bodies hanging on the inside of the door by their collars.
Poor Jack and Tyler.
They were not that bad of human beings. But remind me what good person has made it through alive? I don’t know anyone either.
How I know Jack and Tyler is a completely different story.
They say, life has a funny way of making things happen.
They say, it’s a small world. Shit happens.
They say all kinds of things to explain everything around them.
I say, bullshit.
Life doesn’t make shit happen. If it’s to be, it’s up to me.
How I met Jack and Tyler was, well it’s quite a story. See casinos are full of anxious first-timers gambling away their hard-earned money. You can see the hair on top of their hands all cautioned, tiny drops of sweats trickling down their heads with their hands supporting in dismay, shivering when they deal that money for chips which they’re confident of that they’ll lose in the next half an hour. Even though nothing stops them from coming back and dealing more chips. But this night, the night I met Jack and Tyler, it wasn’t a frightened player. It was a new dealer who had just started working at the Mirage. This guy was working behind a roulette table which had three serious looking faces playing for a few thousand dollars. The massive wade of cash handed to the dealer got him a little bit flustered as he tried to collect himself for the first spin. With his hand trembling at this point, he dropped the ball in but it flew straight back out and got wedged under the door to the kitchen. That’s when sweat trickled down his forehead. He smiled and apologized for fucking up as the waiter returned the ball.
He gave it another spin and the same thing happened. Except this time it landed at the feet of drummer on the stage. At this point, I was pretty sure he was wondering how many minutes he has got until he’s fired. The guy made spinning the roulette ball look like rocket science. Those three men at the table, waiting to realize their destiny, just stared at him, confused. As the waiter handed him the ball again, half the casino was looking at him at this point, praying for him to fuck up again.
They say, third time’s the charm. Well guess what? This time the ball flew out and landed in the whiskey glass of the person sitting next to me at the poker table, splashing it all over me. This guy sitting next to me had no idea what in the fuck had just happened. His buddy came over to apologize for the spilled drink and offered me some tissues. I kindly accepted the offer and started drying myself when I saw his extended hand.
“By the way, I’m Jack and this is my friend Tyler.”
I excused myself out of the game and moved aside. I looked them up and down while cleaning myself. They looked more relaxed than they ought to be given the situation. Even though I was drowned in whisky, which by the way had multiple layers and a complex presence in its rich flavor aroma, I could smell the oily herb odor which lingered around them. Both of them were dressed up for the night, with food spots on their nice shirts. I figured they’d knew about them, since they were highly visible. As I threw away the tissues, I saw them explaining to a girl what had happened. This girl had short matte black hair, big eyes the way they are in Japanese animation, her body skim milk thin, and buttermilk sallow in her dress with a wallpaper pattern of purple roses. I made my way back to my spot over the cries of “folds” and “calls”. This new girl decided to join the game and started with a high bet, and this call was soon followed by both Jack and Tyler. I carefully followed the game for a while and smirked at the new girl.
See, poker is a lot like sex. Everyone thinks they are the best, but most don’t have a clue what they are doing. And this new girl coming in and Tyler and Jack unknowingly playing along with her isn’t a coincidence. That’s how you bluff as a team. As the game carried on and more and more players started folding, leaving the center stage with nothing left to their name, it was just four of us at the table. And trust me when I say this, the shittiest cards were dealt to me in the next round. In times like these, I always say to myself, it’s not whether you win or lose, but how many bad beat stories you were able to tell.
All in, I told the dealer as I swept away all my chips to the center.
All three of them looked at each other through the corner of their eyes and shrugged cleverly. I was glad they made it this far. If you’d have asked them who the sucker was, they wouldn’t be able to tell you. Why? Because if you can’t spot the sucker in the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker. Needless to say, I stood up and collected all the money.
Money won is twice as sweet as money earned.
Jack and Tyler shook my hands, and introduced me to the new girl as we were walking outside.
“This is Marla”, Jack said.
“Marla, I like that name. Although you could have done a little better hiding those eye contacts on that table”, I remarked.
“I didn’t know we were going to run into a professional tonight. We’re just starting out.” She said. “I still can’t believe we lost all that fucking money.”
“Well, how about a round of drinks on me to ease some of the pain?” I suggested.
We all nodded in unison like a group of children.
Six rounds of drinks later, the whole place seemed a bit blurry, and funny. At least this is how Jack described it to me. We were out on the streets, just standing at the traffic lights in the middle of the night. The white man appeared, blinked and turned red. Everything around us was cohesive. It all moved together, and stopped together in an unorthodox rhythm. As we were walking, Tyler suddenly stopped in front of a little store which was closed for the day, staring at the window. Behind the glass, there was a picture of a little boy playing with his toy. Marla took his hand and tried to drag him forward, but Jack exchanged spots with him and was now staring at the picture. The kid must be around 9 or 10 years old.
“What’s up with the kid and staring?” I asked, curiously.
“It’s nothing. Nothing at all.” Marla replied.
“We can tell him, can’t we?” Jack stuttered as he looked towards Tyler.
Marla stared at them and shouted, “There’s no fucking way you both are talking about that.”
“About what?” At this point, I was dying to find out.
Suddenly, I saw Jack sobbing. I walked up to him and he looked ashamed like he had done something bad. Clearly he was too young to have kids of his own, so I thought maybe it reminded him of something.
“What is it? Did your kid die or get hurt?”
“Maybe your younger brother? Did you do something bad to him?”
“What else could be there? Did you fucking kill a kid or something?”
He lifted up his head and looked at me, sobbing.
Marla came running over to me and took me aside. I was still trying to get in touch with what had just happened. These guys, these people, who were they?
“It’s not what it looks like.” Marla tried to explain.
“Did you or did you not kill a kid?”
The next few minutes made everyone sober up because what I heard was completely inhumane. Tyler and Jack had been huge drug addicts. Cocaine, to be specific. They used to live in this apartment with a landlord. This landlord, James, had a 10 year old kid, who used to play outside with his friends all the time. Once, Jack and Tyler were dealing cocaine on the streets when this kid saw them and promised to tell his father, James, about what he saw. Scared to death for their lives, Tyler lifted the kid up and brought him to their apartment. Both Jack and Tyler literally begged the kid not to tell anyone about what he saw today. I guess some kids are raised with true integrity and honesty, and this kid was one of them, so he didn’t agree. High as they were, Tyler got aggressive and began scaring him. It didn’t take too much time when the scaring turned to actual beating and it only stopped when Jack pushed Tyler away after he saw some blood coming out of kid’s mouth. The kid was never able to tell anything to anyone after that. They both got rid of the body and ran away to a different place, where they met Marla and decided to do something better with their lives.
By better, I’m pretty sure they didn’t mean weed and gambling.
After promising all of them at least seven times that I won’t tell anything to anyone, we sat there in complete silence, exhausted. The white man appeared, blinked and turned red again. The moonlight reflected on everyone’s faces. Jack sat there staring at the ground while Marla tried to console Tyler, who was nodding his head to his own words.
“Why did I do that? Why did I even…”
“I live in the next block. Do you guys want to get something to drink?” I asked.
We all looked at each other, nodded in unison, and proceeded towards my place on St. James Street, which shone brightly under the luminescence. Few drunk hipsters were busy painting something on the wall. One of them waved over and shouted “’Sup?” I looked over to him and nodded my head. He probably thought we were going to get high. I wouldn’t blame him, it was just the way we looked as a group. Quiet. Slowly walking towards my place. Stumbling.
Perception is reality. Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.
I entered the combination on the door and we all got in. Everything still looked as perfect as ever in there. I went over to my room, and after looking cautiously at Jack and Tyler, I handed them my tequila bottle.
“I’ll stick with this red martini here”, Marla insisted.
“I’ll keep you some company.” I said as I poured us two glasses, accidentally spilling some of it on the carpet.
You could feel the mood lightening up as the alcohol started to flow again. Tyler and Jack took charge of the tequila and turned on the music. It didn’t take too long to leave the sad part of the night behind. Soon, the room was full of smoke and the high and the drunk leaned on each other, waving at the life as it was happening.
“I’m going to go”, Marla said figuring out what time it was.
“What about these two?” I pointed towards Jack and Tyler, who were lying drunk on the floor, laughing hysterically as they observed the ceiling.
“They’ll be fine.” She replied.
“Let me drop you outside.”
As I was walking back in, I picked up some paper napkins, mops, air fresheners and trash bags from the basement. The owner of this place has been particularly good about sharing supplies. After all, it was the Friendly Bike Guest House. I walked in to find both Tyler and Jack passed out on the floor in my room. I put on my “Favorites” playlist and got to work. Starting from the kitchen, I worked my way to the common room, but I couldn’t get a red spot cleared from the corner of the carpet.
Damn those red martinis.
After making sure everything smelled good, I moved to my room and put the music out. It must have been close to 4 AM in the morning. I picked up my phone and dialed a number.
“Everything done?” The voice on the other side demanded an answer.
I looked at the empty tequila bottle lying on the floor. “Yes.”
“Are you sure?”
I glanced over Jack and Tyler’s faces. Their eyes were open, and shocked. Like they have seen something horrifying before going to sleep with their eyes gazing in a distant universe and their cheeks numb. Their bodies were rested, free and unified elsewhere.
“Good. Meet me tomorrow at 10 AM.”
“See you then, James.” I disconnected the phone.
They say, karma’s a bitch.
They say, life is full of luck. Like getting dealt a good hand, or simply by being at the right place at the right time.
I say, bullshit.
The sun rises up and I am standing right in front of the hanging bodies with my bags full from last night’s earnings and a dead house fly on the floor.
I walk out of the house with my bags, locking the door and returning the supplies I borrowed last night. A drunk hipster guy is still painting on the wall.
“Dude, how was last night?” He asks delightfully.
Isn’t it funny how a change of perspective can make all the difference? Last night, if you ask me, I remember willingly taking a seat next to Jack at the poker table, showing off some poker skills and leading them to a round of drinks, purposely taking the route home after getting them drunk with the kid’s photo in the shop, making sure only Jack and Tyler drank the poisoned tequila, cleaning up later to leave no trace, and calling James, the father of the dead child that Tyler and Jack were responsible for, to let him know that the job he hired me for is done.
“I stayed up late playing poker with Tarot cards. I got a full house and two people died.” I told him, while walking away slowly towards a car with Marla in the driver’s seat, smiling at me in the same old familiar way she always does.
“Right on, man.” And he goes back to his painting.