I Know What I Know

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When God Draws a Man as a Villain…

There is very little he can do but play the part. The man who scared the hell out of the girls at the coffee shop yesterday is one of these men. Tall. Skinny. Early 60s. Boots and wranglers. Nice button-down shirt. He looks strikingly like Kris Kristofferson, rough, cowboyish, but without the Rhodes scholarship. You’ve seen them. They’re the ones who you know instantly are to be categorized as “bad men,” and should therefore be avoided. He ran a short-change con on them yesterday, paying for his coffee with a $10 bill, but insisting that he gave them a $20. He accused a couple of people (I was one of them) of stealing some of his money. I left before the shouting match began, but I heard about it later.

I left because I know this particular villain.

Once, as I was tearing down after a 4-hour set at a local tavern, he approached me and extended his hand. There was a $10 bill in it, a tip, he said, for playing well. After he left, the bill fell out of my pocket, and I realized that it was, in fact, a $100.

The next week, as I was tearing down after another 4-hour set at the same tavern, he approached me again. This time, he told me that I had no soul. He told me that I hadn’t played from my heart. He told me that I was an embarrassment. When I thanked him for his open criticism, he continued. More villainy poured forth. I eventually told him that I didn’t want to talk to him anymore, and asked him if he would please walk away. He did.

But a few minutes later he came back and began again. I stood there, nostrils flaring, furious, ready to attack this 60 year-old man, ready to smash him to pieces with the mic stand I held in my hand. Ready to bash him over the head with my guitar. Ready to fly at him like an animal, with teeth bared. Ready to watch myself transform into some monstrous comic-book character. I swallowed my rage and told him, this time sternly, that he was making me very angry and that it would be best if he would please not speak to me anymore. And so he left.

I noticed, a couple of years later, that he was back in town. He had left, I heard him say once, because he “had to go to Maine to kill a man.” With the killing accomplished, it seems, he at last returned here to terrorize the girls at the coffee shop.

This morning, there were many questions for me when I arrived. Do I know his name? Did I hear what had happened? Have I met him before? Do I think he’s dangerous?

Yes. I did. Yes. I do.

“You were right to be afraid,” I told the girl as she fixed me a glass of iced tea. “He’s not a nice man.”

As the morning wore on, others arrived who had witnessed the scene, and that was what everyone discussed. The tension was lessened somewhat by the bizarreness of it all, but it was there nonetheless. People laughed nervously.

The villain’s return this morning didn’t help matters. He sat out in front of the shop, reading a hardback book with a pink cover and haranguing passers-by. There were nervous looks to me. Was that him? Yes. There were quick phone-calls to the bosses, who were asked to come down.

I don’t know what happened. I left before the rage could well up again and before I found myself brandishing my laptop like a club–not with the flat parts, but with the edges–to drive him away, to banish him from this place and order him never to return. I left, in other words, not because I feared the violence of which he is no doubt capable; I left because I feared the violence I am.

I will return to the coffee shop in just a little while, where I am sure there will be a story to be heard.


Written by srogers

July 2, 2011 at 2:03 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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