A Man of Distinction

Submitted into Contest #161 in response to: Write about a character who lives a seemingly charmed life.... view prompt

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DAY 1. Judging from his carriage and the way he dressed, he was a man of distinction. He carried that distinct air of Richard Cory about him. Perhaps he impressed us like the imperial slim Mr. Cory, a walking specimen of perfection on earth. Special, but aloof. Would Richard Cory in E. A. Robinson’s delightful study wear an Armani suit like this Cory clone? Maybe, maybe not. Everyone just knew this guy thought he was better than the average Joe. His vibes were a bit tetchy, but he worked a little too hard at narrowing the gap between himself and the ‘little people'. He reeked dough and cologne, smelling to high heaven with the Tom Ford cologne, Fucking Fabulous, eight-hundred-fifty bucks for 4 ounces. I know the smell; I got as far as the tester in Nordstrom’s but couldn’t get beyond the price. The stuff was aptly named. But what the hell was he doing in this establishment? A middle-class bar at best, which caused me to wonder if he had any class, as he was annoying everyone right from the get-go, trying to make friends with everyone at the bar much too hard. I wasn’t the only one who thought so. I could tell by the looks on their faces and their bobblehead responses they didn’t care for this interloper pushing into our sanctuary.

I first noticed this guy at the watering hole. I had asked my girlfriend to join me, as it was Friday, and I told her earlier I had this beer thing going. “I don’t know. Let me think about it. I’ll have to call you when I get out of the spa.” At 5:50, she called me as promised, and we waffle around a little to see if a meeting with beers is possible. “No, Abigail’s is like a zoo on Friday night. Not the Lime Bar either. I hate that place. I don’t feel like having a drink, but I can sit with you, and we can talk.” In girlspeak, that means, "I don't want to go at all, but if I do go, you've got to limit yourself to two. Now, promise me you'll do that, and I'll force myself to go. (And sit quietly and count.)"

I get it. “Look, you’re just not into it tonight (or ever, I don’t add). I’ll just go have a couple, and we’ll pick up where we left off when we go to Mark’s picnic tomorrow. It’s getting late now, and by the time I get to your place and we go out somewhere, cocktail hour is long gone, and we’re stuck listening to some wannabe rock band doing that Rapcrap. And badly off key,” I add. “And the price of beer doubles when the pseudo-band is playing." Truly, I cannot afford those craft beers that I like outside of Happy Hour. Our economy is bad, the country is on the brink of recession, my 401K is in the toilet, those rich bastard congressmen that steal all the benefits are threatening to reduce the insignificant pittance I get from social security, and inflation is zooming. The beers will give me a nice warm rosy feeling about my life. Until two o’clock in the morning when I wake for two hours in a fit of depression and slamming myself for spending the dough on the beers, on not seeing Carole, and a reiteration of the terrible state the State is in. I know this always happens, so I hustle down to the local watering hole before I talk myself out of this little pleasure that is left in my life.

Plenty of parking spaces in the parking lot of CURE, the bar that I go to. A sign of the times. Most of the patrons are middle-class people like myself, struggling to make it through this dire economy, but on occasion, I’ll notice someone a tad better off. I park the car and start walking in when I notice a gorgeous car in the lot, with that funny Trident logo. A Mas? Nah, can't be, not here. I look closer at the beautiful large 4-door gray sedan, and it is a Maserati. Don't usually see those in this town of aging Pintos and Gremlins. I check out the vanity license plate, which reads RCHRD-2, and wonder who the hell it belongs to. A year ago, when the economy was better, I would be standing in the third row behind the barstools trying to get the attention of the bartender for my dose of drafts, the stools covered with lovelies seeking free drinks and horny guys seeking free ladies. Tonight the bar is less than half full. Convenient. My choice of seats. No music yet, so I still have a bit of time to swill my two beers and get a burger if I have enough dough left. I Gotta finish up before the Bang Bang Boys start the Rapcrap noise they screech at around 200 decibels. A guy my age that I plunk down next to and I talk a little about the band, both of us wanting to get the hell out of there before they arrive, and he remarks they all have HPTSD, and I ask what the hell that is. He says it's Hyper Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, his own invention of the acronym. “They’re hyperactive youths with PTSD from all that freakin’ noise. Again, last year, this guy and I would be talking to each other, perfect strangers, and when it came time for one of us to order, we would order two, one for self and one for the ‘new friend.' The economic times have ruled that nicety out, and maybe this is the ‘new normal’. He finishes his beer, bids me adieu, and leaves.

A trio of people comes in, and they’re looking for three contiguous stools at the bar, and the only place with a promise of that is next to me. There are two open stools to my left and two to my right, so I offer to move to my left by one, allowing the threesome to sit. Actually, the offering is a defensive move on my part. On occasions when something like this occurred, and I didn’t notice it in time, two would sit to the right, and one to the left, and I’d be in the middle of their lively conversation. Dreadful. The move brings me closer to the couple sitting at my left, and I can’t help but notice. She’s sitting with Mr. Cory/Armani who smiles at me friendly-like and mouths, “Hi.” WTF? She’s an average-looking 30-ish girl dressed plainly in a skirt and a blouse. He’s around the same age, a really good-looking guy, actually, but something very odd is going on here. I tried hard not to listen in, but…you know. They probably met on Match.com, that’s my thinking. He leans at such an awkward angle it invites inspection. He has turned his head, with his left elbow on the bar, so that his face is practically in her face, nearly touching. She looks very uncomfortable, and I think she is tolerating this because he’s buying drinks, and times are tougher for a girl than a guy. Okay, I understand, but geez, she should tell the guy to back off a little. I don’t think anything you said to him would offend him; I am sure he’d heard it all before. Lord, what if he has halitosis? If it’s bad enough, it’s going to melt the enamel on her teeth; he’s that close. He’s impeccably dressed in the Armani, with a hundred-dollar silk tie, another thing I notice. Much better than the rest of the folks here. My mind, in free fall, equates the Armani with the Maserati. I’ll bet it’s true. If it takes me seven beers, five of which I really can’t afford, I’m going to wait until he leaves to see if I’m right.

It is so painfully obvious that ‘Mister Cory/Armani’ is trying to get the young woman to shack up with him tonight. I notice he is extremely handsome in a Rudolf Valentino way, swarthy complexion and a big college ring on his hand. Before she agrees to his intentions, she has a couple of questions to ask. “Well, I need to know certain things about you first. You’re not telling me anything about yourself.” “What do you want to know? I’m an open book.” “Well, I don’t know, just stuff. Like how do you react when you’re angry? Do you just sulk, or do you get physical?” “I never get angry.” “Aw, come on. Everyone gets angry from time to time.” “Not me. You’ll see.” He’s in her face, and he’s not taking ‘no’ for an answer, but he stops mid-sentence sometimes to smile or wave or say ‘hello’ to just about any stranger who walks by in an almost obsequious manner. Strange. Finally, he goes to the men’s room, nodding to everyone as he does, and while he’s gone, I look at her, and I want to ask her, “what the hell is wrong with this guy? He’s in your face, and everyone in the bar knows he wants to get in your pants. You don’t have to put up with that crap.” But I keep my mouth shut. While he is gone, she asks for the check, and I think, good deal, she’s going to sneak out on this guy before he gets back. Wrong.

He gets back with the tab sitting on the bar in front of them. I’m waiting to see what he’ll do, but he looks the other way, anywhere but at the tab. After a couple minutes, she pulls out her wallet and puts a credit card on top of the tab. He says nothing and makes no move to stop her. The bill is rung up, and she lists the tip, puts the card back in her wallet, and they get up to leave. I watch them walk out, and I can’t believe it. He’s holding her hand like two high school sweethearts. I think he must have caught her off guard when she wasn’t expecting it. When they walk out the door, I am quick to move to the window to peek out and see if Mr. Cory/Armani is also Mr. Maserati. I see the Mas, but I don't see them. Ah, there they are. He's walked her to her eight-year-old Prius and is kissing her goodbye. He's holding on to her like a drunken sailor, and her body language tells me she is squirming to get away. He finally releases her, and she jumps into her vehicle, not wanting to chance another wrestling match, and leaves. He walks back to his car and opens the door. The Maserati is his. I surmise his name is Richard from the license plate, and I am intrigued by him. I must find out more about him.

Day 8. The very next Friday, I convince Carole to meet me at CURE. She’s a bit more receptive this time because she feels like a drink. She also suffered through last Friday alone, as did I. Come on, you know why I wanted to go back to CURE. I wanted to see if Mr. Cory/Armani/Maserati would show up again, maybe with the same girl or maybe with another. Or maybe he’d run out of victims and would be alone. We enter, and I want to sit at the bar. That’s not really the route that Carole wants to go, but we’re in love, and love conquers everything, including a man’s right to sit at the bar when it pleases him. She’s a good sport and goes along with it, only if the bar stools have backs on them. Luckily they do in CURE. Carole's got more money than I have, and she doesn't mind picking up the tab if I’m short. Not that she's loaded, but she gets by a little better than me. I tell her I'm pretty broke, and she says she'll get the tab tonight even though it means she has to watch her expenses for the rest of the week.

We’re there around ten minutes, and Mr. Cory/Armani/Maserati shows up. Alone. But he is sartorially splendid, dressed in a different color Armani and silk tie. I’m checking out the whole package now, and I look at his shoes. Italian, probably Bruno Magli. He’s got on a pink-colored shirt with a white collar and white French cuffs with gold-colored cuff links. He sits at the bar right next to us, next to Carole, actually, and as he puts his arms on the bar, I notice the watch, A Rolex Oyster, and I’m praying it’s a knockoff. He turns to us smiling, “Hi, I saw you in here last week. How are you? And is this your lovely bride? My name’s Richard, and you are…” and he gestures for us to fill in the blank like a used car salesman. “I’m about to fill in the blank with “Hungry,” but Carole knows me too well, and before I can produce my snotty answer, she introduces herself and then me. He says Enchanté, and I want to give him a knuckle sandwich. That should enchant him.

Continuum. I stop back over the next few weeks, and it seems he’s always there. He must have made this his base of operations. He’s friendly with everyone and attempts to elicit conversation, but they all seem to ignore him. He tries way too hard. Carole’s right, though; I have no right to judge him. He sits next to me whenever he comes in, and I do my best to tolerate him. His mode of speaking is always spiked with a little malice, but in a politically correct way that fits in with the times. He always inquires about the whereabouts of my ‘lovely’ young lady and then goes into detail of how he enjoyed speaking with her. I stay with him, and I am as nice to him as I can be, but it’s tough, and I always leave just before I know I’m going to puke if I listen to any more of his drivel. I cordially say “Goodnight, Richard” through clenched teeth, and he nearly begs me to stay for just one more. “Thanks, Richard, but I really have to go.” I once asked him if they called him Rick, or Dick, or Rich, and he said, “Puh-leez, it’s Richard.” I never saw him in the place with another woman after that first time, and I'm almost tempted to ask him if he got lucky that night, but that would be downright cruel because I know what the answer would be. I consider changing bars but then rationalize, why should I? I like it here. I like the young lady who is my bartender. She’s less than half my age, and we were both born in New Britain; and she’s a really nice kid that listens to this old man and his tales. Why should I change?

I didn’t see him over the next month or so. I didn’t have the money to go to the bar most of the time, and when I got a few bucks ahead and wanted to splurge it on beer, he wasn’t there when I went. I finally went in one night, and my bartender was excited and came over to talk immediately. "Did you hear what happened?" I didn't have a clue what she was talking about, and I told her so. "That guy that always talks with you when he comes in? You know. Richard? The guy who is the only one who comes in here with a suit?" "Yeah, I know who you mean. What happened?" "Two days ago, he killed himself." "What?" I nearly fell off the barstool. "What, how…" "Well, he was in here that night and looked depressed. He was talking with anybody who would listen. But as soon as he started talking, they moved away. The next morning, they found him in his fancy Italian car with the motor still running. He was slumped over the wheel, dead. He had put a big hose from his exhaust pipe into the car and went to sleep. The CD in the car was in constant cycle playing Kid Kahlid tunes at full blast. What a way to go.” "What was his name," I ask. "I know his first name was Richard, but I didn't know his last. Do you know what it was?” “The Newspaper says his last name was Connors.”

Strange, I think, and I go home and look up a poem I remember from English Lit 101 and read it. It is one of my favorites, and somehow, I feel a connection, and I wonder.

Richard Cory

Edwin Arlington Robinson

Whenever Richard Cory went down town

We people on the pavement looked at him:

He was a gentleman from sole to crown,

Clean favored, and imperially slim.

And he was always quietly arrayed

And he was always human when he talked;

But still he fluttered pulses when he said,

'Good-morning,' and he glittered when he walked.

And he was rich - yes, richer than a king -

And admirably schooled in every grace:

In fine, we thought that he was everything

To make us wish that we were in his place.

So on we worked, and waited for the light

And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;

And Richard Cory, one calm summer night

Went home and put a bullet through his head.

August 27, 2022 14:22

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Rabab Zaidi
14:39 Sep 03, 2022



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