Monday, May 9, 2011

The Night I Felt Sorry For The Mafioso

Back during my Providence days, I insulted a Mafioso. Fortunately, he was a lower level Mafioso. Otherwise, I assume, I would now be dead. I had the day off before Thanksgiving that year, and on Tuesday night I went out and got a touch blasted. Once my binge ended in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I attempted to recoup at a downtown coffee shop. There I encountered four other guys. One was this Vietnam veteran truck driver. Another was a black guy dressed in hospital scrubs who worked as a male ER nurse. A third was a fellow who had just been charged with possessing a firearm in Massachusetts without a license, was out on bail, and could very well spend the next year of his life in prison. This fellow wore his knit cap crooked, causing the top of his left ear lobe to stick out at a right angle to his head. He did not seem too bright. Altogether, he had the vaguely discombobulated look of a person who should never be allowed to carry a gun, legally or otherwise. The discussion amongst these three was lively, and was all about guns. The Vietnam vet - an ex-Marine - royally dissed the M-16 and confessed how, when he captured an AK-47 off some dead Charlie dude, he smashed his own rifle against a tree trunk and carried the AK-47 instead from that day forward. Or so he said. The male nurse, on the other hand, just shook his head and waxed all High And Mighty about The Damage A Gun Can Do To The Human Body. After which, he convulsed with the chuckles, slapped the counter and admitted, "But, you know, at least it keeps me employed." Meanwhile, the guy with the gun possession charge sat by just looking confused and gunless. So very, very sadly gunless. And clueless. I couldn't resist their conversation, and eventually I got myself invited over to their booth. Oh, and I almost forgot about the fourth guy. This was the Mafioso. He was sitting all by himself at the counter, smoking a cigarette and staring at us. He had the look of an eighties Providence mobster. A light gray suit, a chocolate brown silk shirt, this sort of weird albino paisley tie with a raised weave that had all the psychedelic paramecium patterns that paisley usually has but was all white - and a toupee worthy of Howard Cosell, let alone Buddy Cianci. Eventually, he kind of slithered his way up to us. He fluttered his sallow eyelids at both me and the black guy, trying to seduce us with mumbled promises of cocaine. "You're with the Mafia," I said, cutting him off mid-flirt. "You're what they call a Mafioso." His eyes got shifty and he sputtered a little. "A gay Mafioso," grunted the Vietnam vet. "A gay Mafioso with a toupee," I added, and everybody at the table laughed. Except for him, who stood above us, shaking a little and still smoking. The black guy and I winked at each other, and the black guy said, noting the odd asymmetrical bulge in the lower part of his silk shirt, "A gay Mafioso with a toupee and a colostomy bag!" Now all four of us at the table, even the gun possession guy, howled without mercy at this poor nebbish for all his mob connections. It was cruel, this behavior, not to mention homophobic - but at the same time I at least felt that you could not accuse me of bullying the helpless or the pathetic, because if this dude was what we thought he was - and, perversely, we hoped he was - he could have had us killed if he wanted to. What good is laughter without risk, after all? But he didn't want to kill us. He never denied his Mafioso status, but he didn't suddenly pull rank on us either. Our rejection just confused him. His voice seesawed Andy-Devine-ishly as he answered our taunts, then he gave up and staggered away. He was even drunker than us, I imagine. He began to weep a little, lit another cigarette with even shakier hands, and returned to the counter. By sunrise on Thanksgiving Eve, he had slunk back to his hole back up on Federal Hill or wherever. When it got to be 7:00 AM and my coffee shop companions decamped for a local dive that had just re-opened, I didn't go with them. I wasn't that much of a drunk. Instead, I went for a long, long walk. I covered 17 miles that morning, trying to walk out my hangover as I shook my aching head at what assholes we had all been the night before. Then again...

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