1. True Love, 1993
Katie and I first moved to Hoboken back in the summer of sixty-two. I had just gotten a job as a reporter for the hometown rag. Hoboken was a swell place to live in sixty-two. I liked it, and I was certain that Katie did too. I had been telling her about it for weeks.
She seemed to like the apartment alright, and the first thing I did was lock her in a closet. She had been under a lot of stress, and I thought it might do her some good. Besides, she kept getting in the way while I unpacked.
Later that night I pulled out a ladder and gathered up all the dead bugs from the ceiling fixtures, and I made her a wonderful meal. It was hard to tell if she liked it or not, since Katie would never let me watch her eat. But come morning, most of it was gone.
Next morning, I let her out of the closet and suggested that we sit in the sun for a while. Katie did not protest, so we went out on the fire escape. Her eyes were like slits as we soaked up the rays. She simply crouched there aside me, staring ahead, thinking god only knows what. I could not read her mind.
I’m an old man now. I had Katie stuffed when she passed away, and I keep her on the mantel place. Sometimes I like to run my fingertips over her reptilian hide and remember the good times we had, but it’s different now. She’s gotten so hard and dried out. That wise, ancient look in her eyes has become a vacancy sign . I still lay out flies for Katie once in a while, and just like always, she won't let me watch her. But the flies are gone in the morning, alright.
I don’t know, maybe the cockroaches haul them away.
I don’t know.
I got no one to talk to these days.
Bob Skye, August 16, 1994
2. Time Flies, 1994
Hector and his daughter are on the uptown train, minding their own business, when some crack-head gets in Hector’s face. The man’s breath is foul, and his face is cratered and gaunt.
“Hey yo, what time is it yo,” the man says, spitting his words.
“I dunno,” Hector says.
“I mean I dunno know what time it is buddy, alright?
I got no fucking idea.”
Hector’s daughter pokes him.
“Daddy…,” she says.
“Oh yeah?” the crack head says. “What’s that on your arm, yo?”
“Don’t touch that.” Hector crosses his arms on his chest.
The crack head eyes Hector’s watch.
“Lemme see that.”
“No,” Hector says.
He guy lurches at Hector, who twists his arm away ferociously.
Hector is sweaty and hot.
“You keep your paws offa me, you hear?”
“Hey yo. Take it easy man.”
“Me and my girl are minding our own business here, so don’t bug us, alright?”
“Daddy,” his little girl says.
The train pulls into a station, and the crack head puts on a sinister grin, showing teeth that are black and worn. His eyes bug out as he snatches Hector’s watch, the one with the golden wrist band. He makes for the door.
“Hey, what the fuck…”
“Shut-up. You coulda told me the time if you weren’t such an asshole.” The guy exits as the door slides shut.
Hector’s daughter moves the hair from his eyes and wipes his forehead with a tiny tissue.
"Why didn’t you tell him, daddy?”
“Why, honey? How could I tell him the time when I don't know tt?”
“He was a bad man, daddy.”
“Yes, sweetheart. He certainly was.”
Hector stares at the dirty linoleum floor of the train. There is a tear in his eye.“I always wore it,” he says. “It was your grandfather’s watch. He wore it during the war. It just had no hands on it, that’s all.”
His daughter put her hand atop his, and rested her head on his large shoulder.
“I’m sorry, daddy.”
Hector kisses her head lightly.
“It’s okay, honey,” he says. "It's okay. It was going to happen some day."
Bob Skye, 1994
3. The Guilt, 1994
There was hardly anyone left at the bar. I was sitting alone. It was very late and the other customers were putting on their coats and getting ready to leave. I was tired, too, and I wanted to finish my drink and leave, but the man sitting two stools away asked if I wanted to hear a story. I didn’t, but I didn’t want to seem rude either.I nodded my head.
“Okay,“ he started. “So I was about fourteen, and she was seven…”
“Whoa, whoa,” I said.
“It’s okay,” he said, and went on. “It’s just that I feel guilty, you see? I carry this thing--this guilt--like a horse collar around my neck. I knew she hadn’t remembered and I tried to explain it one day. Well, vaguely. I kind of hinted at things.”
“Listen,” I said. “I really don’t think you should be telling me these things. I think you should just finish your drink…”
“Then she got AIDS,” he said, adding quickly, “Not from me if that’s what you’re thinking. She was a junkie. She’s was sick about ten years with the AIDS, and I was starting to wonder whether she’s faking, you know? I thought she’d never die. Sometimes I wished she would die and get it over with. People say those things sometimes, you know? It’s normal.”
“Yes. I know,” I told him. I unhooked my heels from the bottom rail of the stool and turned forty-five degrees away. I began to gather my belongings from the bar. “Look, I don’t want to hear anymore. Don't you have anyone else you can talk to?”
Our eyes locked, and the man began again.
“So there was all this guilt over what I did when she was a girl, and how I’ve carried that shit inside me for so many years and I couldn’t get rid of it. They have all these support groups for victims where they can talk about it and cry and hug each other, so that it doesn’t eat them up inside and ruin their life. But it eats me up inside too, you know? It’s ruined my life, too. You ever see a support group for people like me?”
“Listen, that’s it. No more,” I said. “I’m not a shrink. You need someone qualified, not a guy on a barstool.” I stood up to go, but he rose too, blocking my path. I tried to walk around him, but he put his hands on my shoulders and got in my face.
“Hey, pal, easy going, okay?” I said. His eyes became calm, almost weepy.
“There was only way I could kill it. The guilt, I mean. There was only one way. It’s funny how it all began so innocent-like, now this. Not funny to laugh at; ironic I think is the word. I just figured there was no other way out. I had to kill the guilt, you know?”
That’s when he took out the gun.
“I’m not gonna use it anymore, so don’t worry, okay?” he said. “What’s done is done.” He put the gun on the bar.
People were passing behind me on their way out, but they stopped suddenly when they saw the gun on the bar.
The guy lowered his eyes to the floor.
I heard a woman’s voice say, “Someone, please call the police.”
“Wait,” I said. I bent toward his crumpled frame. “Did you do it? Did you kill the guilt?”
He raised his head and frowned at me, as if I'd asked a dumb question.
“What do you think?” he said. “Haven’t you been listening to me?”Bob Skye , 1994