Not in love. Just looking, thanks.

Sometimes it’s difficult when you are twenty something and you think that the only important thing in life is when you’re next going to be held.
Sometimes in life it’s also very hard to realise that not only are you alone; but everyone else from the opposite sex wants not to hold you but just to get in your pants. It’s difficult then, to distinguish the difference between that good guy and that bad guy.
The Good Guy: he doesn’t call as often, doesn’t reply to many texts, and he isn’t really the smooth talker either. This all doesn’t sound like he should make it under the “good guy” category but its the other things he does that really matter which bring him on top. He spoons you, and when lying next to you he encourages you to put your head on his chest. He moves the hair from your face as you speak, kisses your forehead just because and holds your hand in front of people. He hands you your favourite Haribo from the packet without you even asking and makes sure he always brings enough BBQ sauce for the both of you when at McDonalds. The good guy is the one who will watch Eastenders with you even though he hates Sharon Rickman, just to make you happy and only complains before it starts, never during. The good guy will be your boyfriend and your gal pal, listen to your dramas and keep your feet on the ground.
The Bad Guy: he says all the right things and is always telling you about how fantastic your body is. He calls you gorgeous and makes you feel like a million bucks for the five minutes of intense attention he does spend on you. He skilfully helps you undress and gives you a gaze hotter than the sun (ugh gross… sorry…). But then you think to yourself that he never really helps you get dressed again. Nor does he romantically hand you your knickers from the floor when it’s all over. He doesn’t spoon you and tell you cute things about himself, he just turns around and falls asleep, there is no pillow talk. There is no sweet, heart-warming, tingle inducing moment. And when you wake up the next morning he’s fully dressed and halfway out the door with a “Take care, darling!” The messages begin to dwindle and the phone calls stop altogether. He doesn’t want to hold your hand anymore, but then you realise that he never did in the first place…
Maybe it’s just me? Maybe having had a relationship where trust and loyalty and friendship were a given, I’ve been led to believe that I can have it with any man, that all men will offer me the same protection I felt. Perhaps I had something I’ll never find again. But half the adventure is getting out there, window shopping, wading through the bad guys, to find the good, right…?

Aside

Spider Rickey

They say to be one of the tough guys you have to make your first kill in cold blood. You gotta have your gun at point blank and shoot without flinching.

They say for you to be a man you have to leave all your childhood behind with your mother, ‘cos you aint going to be needing it no more.

They also say that to be one of the Slim Jims, the Cool Cats, to be in with ‘Machine Gun’ Kelly and ‘Lucky’ Luciano, you gotta to be a full blooded Sicilian animal. Now we aint talking about no half Sicilian half American blood here. We’re talking about the full 100% Italian.

I’ve managed to tick two out of the three statements above on my check list. I aint got no mother or other family anymore, but when I did have them they were as Sicilian as the Cosa Nostra. There’s only one thing standing in my way. One thing that will take me from being a run around kid pouring the drinks and lighting the cigars, to one of them. One of the big guys, the top cats, the killers and the givers, the fixers and the breakers. A tough guy. A real gangster. All I have to do now is whack a man.

Holding a gun in a hand that two years ago used to hold a school satchel is a chilling thought for some. For me, its progress. Two years ago I had no idea what I wanted from life, what life even had to offer me. Two years ago I was a nobody, I didn’t even know how to make a White Russian or a Dry Manhattan. Now I got myself a full working memory of all kinds of drinks, guns, suits and even a few names of the top level guys.

Two years ago if you asked for Spider Rickey, not one soul could tell you who that was. Now you ask for him, you get a smile and a nod towards the back of the bar where I pull a few shifts, making things sweet with my landlord as a way of paying for my bed upstairs.

Making a life for myself as someone who carries a gun can go two ways. Either I become a good time cop, taking a salary, a wife and a kid who likes to brag about his old man in class to all those bullies that I teach him to stand up to. Or I take to the back streets, with my name on the pin boards of every cop and police station from here to Hell’s Kitchen. No kid I can disappoint with the lack of support. No wife to slap silly because she’s asked “Honey! What’s happened?” when I come home with bloody hands and a bruise on my eye the shape of a fist. It may not seem like the good life, but I know I aint going to be no rooky cop for the rest of it…

I look down again at the gun I carry in that hand. I raise it so the guy can see I mean business. I’m not alone, I know I’m not. There’s always a couple of the big boys to make sure I do the job right, to make sure I don’t miss. Miss? How can anyone miss a skull a few centimetres, millimetres away from the barrel? I’m getting nervous, edgy. It’s okay, Rickey, I say to myself. But there’s only so many times I can say it before the effect of being okay wears off, and all you feel is the feeling of not being okay. I’m starting to ramble. I can’t back out now, I’ve given up my whole life to be a part of something big, something bigger than the law, something stronger and greater than anything I’ve ever been a part of.

The gun begins to softly shake and I realise that it’s my hand that’s shaking it, the nerves that are causing my hands to move without me asking them to. Breathing is the hardest part. The thought that I might be breathing the same air as a person who’s going to take his last breath next to me because of me, is something that stays with a person forever. I look at his face and think of all the things he could have done to land him here in front of Fat Al, Big Jim and me with the slender beauty of the pistol stuck on the side of his head.

“Do it, kid.” Big Jim’s hand on my shoulder gives me the extra drive. But it’s more than that, much more. I’m not encouraged by his words…I’m enraged. I feel the need to pull the trigger and then turn it onto Jim’s face too. Do it, kid. The words begin to replay in my head, until I just being to focus on one. Kid.

I forget about the others in the room, I forget about the curiosity I had over what this guy had done to have a bullet fuck his skull. I remember why I’m here, to have my picture on the wanted list, to have people speak my name with fear and respect. At the end of the day, that’s all everything comes down to, respect. At the end of the day I’m here to be a man, not just some kid.

I press the magic button that throws me into my new manhood, and with the spray of blood against my face I welcome my new beginning.

The other guys take care of the body, no need for me to do that, I should be celebrating. Some people have Hanukkahs, some have birthdays, rituals and get given gifts. For me it aint nothing like that. For me it’s better. Because for me it isn’t just a show, it isn’t just family and friends pretending that you’ve turned into some man who’s left his childhood behind. For me this is the big leagues.

“Good job, Rickey. Welcome to the family,” Big Jim says to me and I look up and smile as I hand him back his gun. “You keep it,” he says, “You can go a long way with that smile. You can go a lot further with the smile and a gun.”

The Accidental Affair

It’s quiet. But that’s normal. It’s the custom around her for it to be quiet in such a dreary room, where all you can hear is a symphony of laughter from the apartments above and below you. Where the radio makes a mundane crackling static noise in the back ground, and the forgotten cigarette, by the glass of golden malt whiskey, is turning from a line of wrapped tobacco to a line of ash. It’s routine for him to sit there, in his vest and unbuttoned trousers that barely hang on him. It’s typical for him to just sit there and wait for something to happen in his dreary room of his dreary clichéd apartment. But nothing ever does. He takes a swig of his whiskey and clenches his jaw as it travels down his throat. The harsh flaming taste of the liquid scorches his naked throat and reminds him of a woman’s wrath.

Rapping on the door makes him jump, and the attention he had on his drink moves onto the wooden entrance. He opens the door and there stands in front of him a thing of beauty, a specimen of dreams, a feast for the eyes. She leans against the door frame and a stranger’s name escapes from her lips “Oh Johnny…!” But before he can even question it she takes him by his arms and pushes her thick scarlet lips on to his mouth. His confusion is quickly overtaken by lust and he greedily grabs at her breasts. She presses herself onto him and moans into his mouth softly as his hands caress her back and gently tug at her hair. They stagger and stumble towards the mushroom coloured mattress he calls a bed, he is already half undressed. His mind should be wondering what the beautiful stranger is doing touching him let alone taking his clothes off, but instead he is too intoxicated with her seductive scent. His ex-wife’s picture on his bedside table is dropped face down as he suddenly questions why it is there in the first place. But the thought it quickly ignored as the stranger’s red dress falls to the ground, to reveal the most ravishing figure. Her kisses descending along his happy trail until she reaches her destination and his eyes spring open as his head drops back as if on a hinge. They make love. At least to him they make love. To her it is a mere transaction, an agreement.

It is over now. The air is still hot and humid, but it is over. The strike of a match is heard and the glow of the fire creates dark dancing shadows. She hands him the cigarette and looks deep into his eyes. “The agreement?” she speaks with a stern and cold tone…she has changed. He looks at her with a blank expression and she tries again to remind him, “We spoke on the phone, Johnny, I don’t just come over to any stranger’s home, you know. And this isn’t some hot-shot place you got here either, nothin’ like what you said. So come on, don’t blow me over like this, you know I need the money!”

“Harry.”

“What?”

“My name…its Harry.”

She looks at him intensely and she realises he really doesn’t have a clue about the situation, about what just happened, about why she was even here. Maybe she took a right on Second Street but took a left; there isn’t any time to think. She picks up her clothes and leaves the scene of the accident. He doesn’t even call her to stop her, how can he, he doesn’t even know her name…