Friends With Shadows – Chapter 1

This is me filtered.

The man stares at me, unsure if he should be afraid.

I tell him usual line so he knows what business I’m in, “First Class Mail.”

“So, what do y-y-y-you want?” I can tell he’s trying to maintain his composure. Interesting how a person can add four syllables to one syllable words when you’re in fear – his voice is trembling.

I give him reason to take me seriously, five of them right beneath his eye.

This is me acting out. This is me, pretending to be tough.

He knows the deal. The fact that he’s frightened means he can’t pay. And when they can’t pay, I have to do things that burns in my brain. I use my best “street voice” and tell the man that has a proclivity to panic and adding four syllables to one syllable words he needs to provide payment for services rendered. He knows, he’s new to this and is trying to get out of it.

He lives in a domicile like everyone else’s on this side of town. Twenty-five more just like it to the left. Twenty-five more just like it to the right. More above, more below. One room. One bath. Embarrassingly small kitchen and no room to entertain anyone unless you mean drugs or other illegal activities. Certainly, this is no place to put respectable refreshments. Beige paint. Small front window with bars. But the doors, these peculiar doors, are painted a soothing blue; everyone’s door is that same blue. Makes me wonder who decided or what committee voted on the color of these doors while everything else is less than inviting.

When you do this job long enough there are certain phrases that first-timers will always use, with minor variations. He delivered the number one hackeneyed excuse in that same tough-guy-panicky voice, “I-I-I-I have th-th-th-the money. I-i-i-it’s just at my friends p-p-p-place.” Four syllables.

As a negotiation tactic to find out if people are lying, ask them a question that yields a “yes” or “no” response which should not be an issue if they are soothsayers. I ask him if we could go visit his friend just so we can get this payment issue resolved.

“W-w-w-we can’t. H-h-h-he won’t be b-b-b-back until th-th-th-this evening.” Four syllables. His cadence could keep the beat in a symphony. One and two and three and four and….

“Look, I’ve got other people to deliver mail to and I don’t have a whole lot of time to deal with this. Go get the money and I’ll be back this evening. Can you do that for me?” This is me, feigning sympathy.

“Yeah, sure. N-n-n-no problem. You got it. Absolutely.” His exaggerated affirmative statements tell me he won’t be home this evening when I get back.

“Just so you and I care certain there is no misunderstanding, I’m going to leave my friends Andrew, over there, to make sure you’re here when I get back.”

“Who?” His question is not without good reason since I came here alone.

I point down to the Law vehicle across the street that periodically will park and monitor the area – it’s really more of a deterrent. Besides that, I don’t know any Andrew, nor is there anyone even in the vehicle – I saw the occupant go on break in one of these apartments. But, this guy doesn’t know that. I find it adds credence to a statement if you can name and point to someone of alleged higher authority, regardless of reality.

Delinquency on payment for mail isn’t like being a day late on rent and spending a month locked up. Late payment for mail is worse. A lot worse. So, I tell him that he has until the end of the day. Door closes. I hear him tearing through his apartment without method. I head down the stairs with a swagger to my step until I round the corner. I collapse against the wall and push everything from my lungs. Then, with tornado fury, drag it all back in, burning up every last molecule of oxygen and converting for the exhale. My head throbs with euphoria since putting oxygen back into my blood. I’ve been depriving myself of breathing, trying to control my inhales and exhales to mask my nerves. Blood, coursing through my arms and legs, feeling weak, trying to regain composure.

To be continued…

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