“I couldn’t care less!” announced Roger, sucking down the last drops of champagne from the flute, fashioned of Baccarat crystal, he held fast before refilling it.
“But what did you do to be banned from the restaurant? ” asked Tanya.
“I simply said the music was too loud, and the paintings were not up to scratch.”
At this, Tanya eyed him with some suspicion.
“I guess they are getting all high and mighty,” she said.
“Perhaps I said it twice.” Offered Roger, in a lower voice.
To herself, Tanya thought, “Only twice? That would be a first.”
“The Contessa was with me. She saw the whole thing. All I said, was that the music was too loud, and then I saw the band leader come over to thank Nick.”
“What do you mean, thank Nick?”
“What the fuck do you think I mean? The band leader walked right over, and thanked him…”
Roger’s famous temper was flaring. Again. His face turning red and blotchy.
“And after all the business that you brought them…” said Tanya, in a conciliatory tone.
“The Contessa is my witness. She saw the whole thing. All I said, was that the music…”
“I heard you, Roger. The music was too loud and the paintings were crap. I got it.”
“The music was deafening. You know how loud it can get? Well, it was even louder than that, and the band leader came over to thank Nick…”
“So…Nick was doing him a favour ? Letting him play that loud, and blast the place to hell?” she didn’t quite comprehend.
“What’s wrong with you? I’m just telling you that the band leader came to thank him.”
“Right…” Tanya knew better than to point out a few historical facts. Why risk it? But recently she’d noticed that his manner, always exaggerated, even grandiose, was becoming more erratic. Ordering a cappuccino at the local cafe, he’d begun to wag his finger at the waitress in a peculiar way. Incapable of self-reflection, Roger was oblivious to the abrasiveness of his own comportment and consequently, the now resentful waitress’s scowl.
Tanya concluded it’s better to be banned from your favorite restaurant than to admit you are an arsehole after all. Next time they had a coffee at the cafe, when he wagged his finger, she joined in with him, wagging her finger at the waitress too. He laughed at that and even the waitress smiled.
She didn’t remind him that a month earlier, he’d gotten drunk and shouted abuse at Nick. What would be the point ? She could predict what he would say. That one event had nothing to do with the other. After all he’d been back to apologise and his apology had been accepted. Done and dusted.
He couldn’t see that the magic was gone. Once someone saw the ugly side, they couldn’t unsee it. It was unforgettable. Up until that point, he’d been like the Godfather. Sitting at Nick’s restaurant, at a corner table, with a bottle of champagne, or at the bar, greeting his friends and looking so important. Everyone thought he was “someone,” because he behaved like he was “someone” and maybe he was. The facade was convincing and it had worked for so long.
That bad temper. It was always there. No one was more familiar with his temper than Tanya, and until now, it had been reserved for his nearest and dearest. She wondered if the famous facade was crumbling, due to old age. There were now holes in the fence and the world was watching what before only Tanya saw. The flaws, that for so long, she had bent over backwards to hide.
“Even this year you introduced new customers to Nick’s place, and they’re serious spenders. You can be sure he’s shooting himself in the foot.” Tanya foretold.
“I don’t care.”
“Nick must have taken this personally.”
“All I said was that the music was too loud….”
“How many times are you going to repeat that? I told you, I got it the first time.”
“I don’t usually repeat myself. You are the only one that I have to repeat myself to.”
“So what will you do now?”
“I’ll go to the restaurant next door. I’ve never gone there before, but I guess I’ll go there now. “
It’s happening, she thought to herself. The choices are being made for him because of his misbehavior. He’s not a bad person. It happens because he doesn’t question himself. He is so sure of himself. He has convinced himself that he is beyond reproach. He is certain that everyone else is at fault, not him. Or else it’s the opposite. He fears that he is a fraud and is afraid of being found out.
“Actually, I prefer it at Freddi’s Bistro. The room is just as nice, and the food is better.”
“Nick is just an ordinary Joe. He’s no loss to you.” She was saying something she didn’t mean, to see where it would lead. How could she convey that he was cutting all his lines loose ? And if he wasn’t careful, he’d soon be adrift and all alone. But maybe, just maybe she had it all wrong. Maybe it had all happened as he recounted. Maybe it was Nick who was going through a midlife crisis. All the same, and here she felt quite vindicated, he was out of order, like a geysers shooting up, frequently with no pressure at all.
What amazed her most, was how he continued to find new people to admire him. They’d get taken in by the front, the impressive walls and large gate, and that distant look that implied I’m beyond your understanding. I am a man of substance. I am thinking lofty thoughts. Don’t take me Lightly. Sucking down his booze with the kind of dedication that would shame a baby.
But is it so? Is there a palace behind the impressive gates, or is it a decaying dump? Tanya couldn’t make her mind about that. Though she could read his mind, did she really know him ? And if not, was that important? He was a human being, full of flaws like everyone else.
Unless he was an alien. He could be so heartless, so programmed, so circular in his dialogues. Repetitious, as a broken machine. Or was that his most human trait? There was a terrible aggression in repetition, like hammering nails into a wall. It drove her insane with a rage she had to swallow each and every time. You can’t have two people living together and both losing their temper with each other. They wouldn’t be living together for long. One of them would have to be a wonderful person. God knows, it takes stamina to be wonderful. To eat humble pie. To be bored out of your mind. And well, blow me if the other half doesn’t go and congratulate himself for having survived so long.
“What are you thinking?”
“Oh…Nothing.” she said, somewhat distracted.
“What did you say?” he insisted.
“Nothing. I didn’t say anything. Since when are you interested in what I think?”
“I am interested. Of course I am. It’s just that you always interrupt me.” Roger corrected.
“Right. Anyway, Charlie says that it’s a badge of honour to be banned from “Nick’s. His wife agrees about the noise. They are all fed up with the noise.”
“So you told Charlie, did you?” Roger sprinted to accuse.
“It’s not a secret is it?” asked Tanya.
“It’s none of your business. It’s my business. It’s up to me to tell.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Must be a coincidence but Nick’s has been quiet since you’ve been banned.” Tanya confided.
“I don’t care one way or another. I don’t wish them any ill will.”
“And Tanya knew he was telling the truth. Roger really didn’t. His outbursts were brief and tempestuous, but once vented, they blew over, as if nothing had happened. It was only the people on the receiving end of them that obsessed about his tantrums. Tanya contemplated the question… Can a brilliance simply disappear? Be hidden, forgotten somewhere, deep in someones mind? Would that brilliance, dying to break loose, remain forever locked in, because of a simple lack? The ability to let it find it’s way out?