John had always been an angry man- prone to violent outbursts and fits of rage. I never did figure out the reason because quite frankly, I didn't care. It would have ended there, it should have ended there, but for unfortunate happenstance. He was a casual acquaintance, the kind of person who drifts into your life at the most inopportune moments.
The most recent meeting was at a dry cleaner's in the city. I have a regrettable habit of leaving pens in my pants pocket, often leading to explosions of blue, black, and occasionally, red ink. But that's neither here nor there. I walked in the front door and heard John's familiar high pitched yell. He considered himself a "manly man," but his voice unconsciously rose in pitch at the slightest perceived offence. This was detrimental to that image, I thought, but he was too narcissistic to notice. I quickly contemplated turning on my heel and running, but a bell on the door announced my presence. He turned, eyes blazing with hateful recognition. I said nothing, our eyes were locked- it was a standoff.
The girl behind the counter seemed grateful for the interruption. I wasn't surprised, John often preyed upon individuals in a position of weakness, and this was no exception. She was flushed, near tears, and I filled with righteous indignation. John was silent now, save for a slight nasal whistle that always reminded me of squeaky wheel. His malicious stare continued, and his unusually small black pupils darted back and forth furtively, as if plotting their escape from their ocular prison. On the counter was an expensive Brooks Brothers suit, with a slight tear in the right lapel. The reason for his fury became apparent to me.
He seemed to lose momentum now that he had an audience. A cowardly man, his will evaporated in my presence. He still stood there, seething at his robbed prize. The tension hung heavy in the air, and mixed with the scent of cleaning chemicals, gave the most unpleasant metallic taste in my throat. I walked to the counter, and he seemed to shrink before me. His squat figure pressed against a nearby wall, and he shoved his hands in his pockets. Without a word, he slithered along the wall towards the door, and was gone.
The girl, Dana by her nametag, heaved a sigh of relief. She had a haunted look in her eyes, and a gaunt tightness across her face. She gave the impression of being strong, and full of spirit, once. Too many Johns had worn her down, like a carpet walked on for too long, her soul was threadbare. She tagged the suit and quickly put it away, as if anxious to be rid of any last vestige of the man. She smiled, but was only going through the motions. With forced good cheer, she gave me a receipt slip, and I left her to her thoughts.
It had started raining, which suited my mood rather nicely. I reflected upon the life of such a man as John, and could find no excuse. What drove someone to such careless hate? I brooded on the subject for many days afterwards, and found no resolution. I felt ill at ease, and had a nagging feeling I hadn't seen the last of John.