(2nd part to “-dice-“)
*by someone who doesn’t know
if he’s won more fights than he’s lost*
(frankie leone, just a man)
*the street fight has stopped being romantic for me.
there was a time i’d drain a pint bottle to its last cheap drop. it’d dull my mind to sharpen principles of streets that don’t have any. then i’d prepare.
everyone has a different ritual getting ready for work. two bic lighters would find their way into my pockets. (one gripped in each fist lands blows with twice the consequence.) a heavy buck knife would tuck itself into the back pocket of my levi’s. (plan b.) laces would pull steel toe doc martens tight around my feet and ankles. (they’re appropriate for certain kinds of dancing.)
the driver seat of an old cadillac el dorado would fill with my body, and it’d drive me towards another haunting memory. a cool feeling of calm would sweep through me during the ride.
looking back from the last stop i know why. i found relief in the possibility i’d found an adversary who could finish a job i didn’t have the courage to complete.
during my time behind balled fists i got in a few scraps. sometimes over women. sometimes about money. sometimes strangers. sometimes friends. there was only one common denominator through it all- me.
during my existence i’ve looked down on bleeding boys and men, and i’ve felt my own crimson soak into concrete. each time the feeling was the same. it never satisfied. i never came across an opponent who could give me the brawl i wanted.
now, after unclenching my fists and putting down my weapons, i’ve found him.*
*i can’t remember if he called me out, or me him. doesn’t matter. i’ve come to face him.
our meeting place is east river state park in brooklyn, two blocks from the converted factory i’ve lived in for some time. him and i used to play dice here.
it’s been dark for a while. in fact, i can’t remember feeling daylight.
whether it be for friend, foe, or lover i pride myself on showing up, and on time. sometimes i fall short, like tonight.
*sitting on a large piece of driftwood he waits by the water.
he’s staring over the east river towards the island of broken promises. i soak in his features- unusually tall, lanky, and covered in a patchwork of tattoos. his attire is appropriate- guinee-tee, levi’s, and a black bandanna wrapped around his brow in a headband. couldn’t have done better myself.
a familiar pain creeps through me looking at him. he stands and his voice floats through the air. it has a feathery softness.
“you’re late,” he says looking me into my eyes with a calm intensity. his eyes (and what should be the whites around them) are still black. i falter into seconds of silence.
“yes,” i respond.
the left corner of his mouth draws back into a half smile.
there’s no point lying. not to him.
i whisper, “when am i not?”
his smirk fades, bringing his face back to its default expressionless state. he nods.
“at least you’re honest.”
after a pause i say, “i’m tired of talking.”
“you do so much of it already. a little more may not kill you.”
“what’s there to talk about,” i ask.
he answers, “the rules.”
“we don’t have those.”
he shakes his head slowly.
“we make our own.”
“i won’t be bound by our rules anymore,” i reply.
his crooked grin returns.
“you have since you could swing those hands at another person. you always will”
i stay quiet and eye him up and down. i know how he fights. we learned together.
he won’t talk anymore, use surprise, and come in faking a left jab following with a strong right straight. he’ll aim for my nose or throat. if he breaks my nose i’ll be blinded by tears and blood. if he connects with my throat i won’t be able to breathe. either way i’ll be done for the night. (or probably a lot longer.)
he doesn’t move and cuts into our silence after a long moment.
“ok. we’ll get to business. take out what you’re holding.”
he’s upping the ante already. fuck it. i’ve come this far.
i take my buck knife out of my jeans and open it. it’s gripped blade up in my fist. (i was taught amateurs hold it steel down.) the smirk chiseled onto his face disappears as he reaches into the back of his levis. he’s reaching high on his waist. i lose hope.
our pistol still has an evidence tag on it. i recognize it. a colt commander, .45 caliber. i’d only take it out of my top drawer on special occasions. it taught me there’s no bad situation a gun can’t make worse.
i whisper, “cool with the boys at the precinct now?”
“think i only played dice with you? there’s lots of other losers out there,” he responds.
he can hit a street sign twenty feet away holding it with one hand. we were never coordinated enough to be decent at sports, but are sure-shots with a pistol. we’re only standing, slightly slouched, seven or eight feet apart. i stare into his black eyes.
i wait for him to raise the piece of metal. this is it.
he presses the release on the magazine, it falls to his feet, and he snaps back the slide. a hallow point flies out of the chamber hitting the sandy ground without noise.
his smile returns and his arm goes to work. the colt’s rocketed into the east river. the throw is impressive. it flies too far to see a splash in the darkness.
he turns back to face me.
“come at me,” he says in a full speaking voice.
knife at my side, i gaze in disbelief. he knows he can’t win now. but he has.
he’s here for the same reason as me.
i think for a few moments of infinity as i look at him.
then, against everything i’ve learned about facing an enemy, i turn my back on the devil to walk the streets (home).*
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