This is another story I initially published under the pen name Eli Lindy. The characters in the story are very closely related to people I knew growing up. There actually was a guy called Chocolate Face who went to the same church as I did and the Wayner is based on a crazy friend Weaver and I graduated with. (CL)
"Hey Chocolate Face. Is that you, Chocolate Face?" Todd Wayne asked me from the other side of the sparsely populated bar. I hadn't seen the bastard in years. I'd been to this bar (Norma's) once before - it was near where I grew up - but I'd never had any run-ins with my old piers. The last time I'd seen the Wayner, in fact, was at our high school graduation eight years ago.
"Oh, hey Wayner," I added a touch of false enthusiasm to hide the fact that I hated being called Chocolate Face, "it's been a while." Shaking his hand, I smiled.
The Wayner hadn't lost a bit of his oafish, muscular physique and I swear to God he was wearing the same stained, powder blue UNC sweatshirt that he stole from Jimmy Preston in our ninth-grade gym class. A solid cache of chew tobacco filled his right cheek. The Wayner spat a stream of cola-brown saliva into a beat-up, translucent Solo cup, which was about 1/3 full of the nicotine-saturated swill. It made contact with an audible plop and the resulting waves au brown shimmered as they reflected the blue neon light that was being cast from the beer advertisements in the window. This frothy, minuscule, muddy sea might have struck me as something quite beautiful if it hadn't been lukewarm, virus-laden human spit produced by the contemptible Wayner.
"Still makin' them porno movies?" The Wayner coughed up his trademark hyena-esque laugh.
"You mean the CPR videos? Uh, nope, I'm in graduate school - anthropology." I forced a chuckle - an old trick of mine. You see, lowbrow-humor naifs like the Wayner are really only out to make themselves laugh, you know, to sort of boost their own ego. A little laughter from an educated man like myself helps the fool to think that his comedic education actually advanced beyond urinating on the bathroom floor in second grade.
The Wayner stared at my face, stared at THE spot - the place where the birthmark used to be. "So you finally decided to wash that crap off yer face?" He slapped me on the shoulder.
I tensed up a bit. It had been a while since I'd seen anyone who had known me before I had that damn thing removed. "Oh, the birthmark, yeah, I decided to do something about it, you know." I had gone to the bar to be alone, to think. I wasn't expecting to be harassed by a dimwitted ghost from my past.
"So you ain't Chocolate Face no more?" He inspected the former home of the birthmark, looking for remnants, looking for it to reappear. "You're still Chocolate Face to me. Hey," his eyes continued to scrutinize my face, "remember when we were in sixth grade and I asked you for a Dorito and you didn't want tuh give me one so you said, 'no' and I took one and you cried like a pansy?"
"Not really, no," I lied. He actually never asked for the Dorito, he demanded it. I sat across from him at the lunch table and started to bawl. He got the Dorito he wanted and all I ended up with was a social downgrade from dorky outcast to pariah. "So Wayner," time to change the subject, "what do you do for work these days?"
"I bust my balls up at the Strick fact'ry," he spat into his cup again and looked away. A drop of his tobacco spit splashed onto my pant leg, but he either didn't notice or didn't care. "It's a pain in the ass, but it keeps me local." He stared at the dim reflection of the bar's patrons in the window. They were a weathered and sorry bunch, the type of people who drift from two-bit job to two-bit job and get arrested for hunting deer out of season. "Got laid off from the last two jobs I had." The Wayner fit right in. "This one's my third in three months and boss is talkin' about the possibility of movin' the place tuh Mexico. He don't wanna, but the douche bags who are above him might do it. It ain't bad work either, I mean, as far as work goes." Here he was, the mighty Wayner, school bully, ruffian, and chick magnet, reduced to a measly shift worker earning minimum wage at a factory that's one step above a sweatshop. I studied the Wayner's face and, for that moment, he nearly encapsulated the tortured sadness of the existence we call an average human life. He looked up at me with thoughtful eyes, as if he wanted counseling. I was ready to reach out and help the Wayner, to let him know that it would be OK, that he could rise above adversity. I thought about telling him how I left my horrible past behind, went to college, forgot about the pain of mockery, high school, scrawniness, and that God-forsaken birthmark that was the scourge of my youth. How I graduated first in my college class, beating out all the good looking, well-bread, pink-skinned, yellow-haired rich kids. I guess I could forgive him for being such an jerk to me in high school. That was eight years ago, people grow up and change.
The Wayner spat into his cup, "Hey, Chocolate Face," he said softly, seemingly about to begin his confessional, "have you banged a chick yet?"
"Yer still a virgin, ain't you?"
"What the hell?"
"I don't think yer a queer like that fruit Steiny or nothin', but I just don't understand how you could go so long without tastin' a little tang." The Wayner stared at me earnestly, not even a trace of a smirk on his lips. He really wanted to know.
"I mean, I've had girlfriends, I've done stuff."
"But you haven't."
My face got hot and I scratched the place on my cheek where the birthmark used to be, "I've pretty much done everything else, I mean, jeez man," my hand stayed there, covering THE spot.
"See that chick over there?" He pointed at a skanky looking girl playing pool with a few of the interchangeable locals. She had strawberry blonde hair, teased in the front. The grip of her tight acid-wash jeans enslaved her. "She'll bang anyone, even you. Buy me a beer, Chocolate Face, I'll introduce you."
"No thanks," I rubbed my cheek and tried to turn away.
"Come on Chocolate Face, I'm thirsty you pansy."
"I'm not Chocolate face," I mumbled and stared at the ground.
"Hey Crystal, Chocolate Face over here wants you to meet his friend, Peter."
"Hey, come on," I wanted to call him an inbred son of a bitch, but I didn't have the mettle. I started to shake with a nervous anger.
I glanced up at the Wayner's eyes. He smirked and looked over at Crystal, beckoning her with a 'come here' gesture. "His name's Chocolate Face and he's a giant," the Wayner's hyena cackle returned.
"OK, dumbass," I stood up and shoved him, "cut it out." My voice quivered. I stared at the Wayner and continued to shake as I put my coat on. His chuckling continued and Crystal cracked a smile as she began to saunter toward us.
"Where you goin' Chocolate Face, yer about to have your cherry popped." He motioned to Crystal to move faster.
My face felt like it was on fire as I sped through the thin crowd to the door and attempted to exit. My coat, unbuttoned, caught the doorknob and I had to struggle for a few seconds to break free. The Wayner, Crystal, and a few of the dregs sitting about the place watched me and laughed. The door finally slammed shut, but I could still hear the Wayner cackling.
Shuddering with rage, I walked to my car and, after about six attempts, inserted the key into the door and unlocked it. My eyes started to well up with tears. I got inside the car, started the engine and, 'crying like a pansy', I drove off, leaving the Wayner's laughter and my hard-earned dignity behind.