White Collar Crime
“Never give your life to another man’s company.”
WHITE COLLAR CRIME – an essay by ROARKYD (Aug 2008)
“I guess this is my moment. You know how everyone has that ONE moment in their lives? That single defining moment, as if someone just smacked you upside your head right over the ears with an open-handed windmill Daryl Dawkins type slap and screamed WAKE UP! That’s about where I am right now. Ten fucking years. Gone. Hope. Gone. Belief. Gone. Friendships…Friendship. Gone. Trust. Destroyed. Dreams. Lost. This is it. I’m shaking. I am literally sitting in the corner of my living room, on the floor rocking back & forth, ever so lightly, as if I have a full-body muscle twitch that forces me to sway. It’s uncontrollable. I only wish it was the nice sativa I just blazed. But it’s definitely not. I’m what you’d say somewhat of an expert in the field of herbals and I’m fairly confident this is not related; maybe a trigger, I can give it that much. The pleasure of being a trigger. Fine. At any rate…I rock, attempting to read Shantaram, an incredible novel that in the past 2 days has been impossible to put down. Yet right now, at this very moment, I can’t focus on anything other than emptiness. Here I am. This is my moment. This is when I finally wake up; I finally become my own man; I stop feeling empty. Nobody is holding my hand anymore. Quite frankly, nobody was holding my hand in the first place. I only fed into the lie because I lacked self-confidence and it was a trap to hold me down. Words can be helpful, yet crafted to be so destructive. Whatever the reason I was subjected to this level of betrayal, I understand now, it is the one thing that forced me to wake up and see the world in a different light. And I shouldn’t even say light, since the difference presented was dark and evil. Cunning. Possessed by greed. I was naïve. None the less, I needed to see it. This is part of my journey. A necessary blow meant to damage my soul, but strengthen my will, raise my awareness and propel me forward, alone and fearless.
Knowledge often hurts. But one always gains from it. It’s fitting to me that this moment defines me, as it was my father that, after hearing my twisted fantasy of reciprocating mental abuse and suffering back on those that haunted my living days, jabbed me by simply saying, “You don’t sound like the man I raised.” He was right. He was so right, I yelled at him in protest. I wanted him to be wrong. I wanted to be capable of hurting someone deliberately. I wanted it to be premeditated. I wanted to stab with words. Hurtful truth. I wanted to be evil, even if just for tonight only. I wanted to prove to myself, I could cut them down. But he knows me. He raised me into the man I am today. Nobody in the universe knows you better than your parents. Nobody. And that’s what made me so angry. Angry he was right. Angry I didn’t have his level of peace and ability to just let go. Angry, infuriated with having to confront the truth. As much anger as I felt, as much hatred that festered within, as much retaliation I fantasized about delivering, as much pent up rage that boiled inside me, my father was right. I don’t sound like the man he raised. That’s all he had to say. It was true on multiple levels in my life. My father has a way of getting his point across in a single sentence. He picks his words carefully, but more so, his timing is his magic. Never too soon, never too late, whether you expect it or not, it’s perfect. A true science. And here he was, right where he’d been my whole life, picking the right words at the right moment. My savior. My father. Wisdom. Support. Love. That was him and much more to me.
So I took his words with me to the hotel that evening. The very same hotel where I confronted them not 5 months ago. I had to prepare myself for tonight’s wake up call, “I’ll have a Dewar’s on the rocks please. I’m more of a Mac18 guy, but my guess is I won’t get that with the blue ticket?” My futile attempt at charming the bartender into a premium scotch for a drink ticket didn’t work. “No, sir. Would you still like the Dewar’s?”, she asked. “Absolutely.” God she was gorgeous. Vibrant, sensual, wrapped in leather with beautiful breasts teasing out of her top. Sneakers, tight jeans, a phenomenal ass and daggers of acorn shaped hazel eyes. I was in lust instantly. I knew I was in trouble. Whenever the bartender is beautiful, I end up drinking too much, trying to swallow up enough pride to talk to her and instead I spend a fortune and admire in inebriated silence. This time it wasn’t happening. I was here for myself. It was my moment.
It was impossible in such a small space to avoid confronting the men you hated for years, that wasn’t an option. Besides, that is why you are here. This is your moment, I told myself. Might as well drink. The condensation from the iced glass dripped down the edge of my pinkie, wrist & forearm in an endless stream and slipped off my elbow as I took a sip and avoided them in the beginning, unbothered by the water drops on my Nikes. I had to keep my focus. Like a fighter getting wrapped before a fight, walking down the hallway into the stadium, music, lights and millions screaming for him to rise or fall, my eyes were trained on my targets, at all times. After a few sips and a trip to the corner table spread of proscuitto wrapped asparagus, my nerves were set. I think I’m ready. Fuck it. Remember what your father said. “You are bigger than this.” With that circulating in my head, I approached him first, the ruthless businessman. Never any color in his expression; never any sympathy in his voice. I’ll never forget the day I returned to work after my grandmother died. He was talking to me like I’m in little league and I just lost my first game. That kind of awkward adult around kids that doesn’t know what to say. You know, “tough break kid”. I remember feeling so cold in that office, besides the fact that the thermometer was below freezing. Literally and figuratively his office was an icebox. But I could talk to him. In a weird way, I admired his intensity. He eats, shits and bleeds business. Hate him you will, but you have to appreciate that part of him. It was impressive to watch his mind work. He played people. It didn’t matter to him how instrumental you may be to him, he was walking away with your money and enjoying the sport of it. The other I avoided. He was more of a snake to me, probably because he was one of my best friends. He lured me into this trap. He too enjoyed the sport of it, but in a much more twisted and deceptive manner. At least this one, the businessman, didn’t hide his intentions. He told you to your face you weren’t getting shit and then dismissed you as if you meant nothing to him. Money was all he cared about and you felt it. You work harder and more money goes to him. That’s what he thrived on. I could talk to him first, he was easy. “So, how is everything going? Is the new set-up coming together?” I don’t give a shit about your new office. “Yeah man, everything is coming along well. We’re right down the street from you guys.” So what if you’re down the street from me. Do you think I’m going to visit you assholes? Tell him you fucking hate his guts for what he did to you. “That’s cool. Did you get that document I sent over?” I asked. “Yes bro, I did. Thank you so much, it saves me a lot of work.” I never want to help you again, you fucking bastard. “No problem, I’m going to grab another drink, be right back.” Quick exit. That wasn’t so bad. I wasn’t feeling it anyways. There was another weasel sitting next to him that I really can’t stand, so I went back to my object of lust to retrieve another scotch. Like I said, I could talk to this one anytime.
The other one though, I wanted his blood. I hunted him with my eyes for a good 20mins before I found myself next to him at the bar, my hawk eyes distracted by the bartender’s dirty smirk, as we embraced in a brotherly hug. Damn you. Focus. This one is clearly drunk. Before I had a chance to order my 3rd Dewar’s rocks, he spoke first. “Listen bro, it’s a fresh start. Let’s just start fresh from here. What’s done is done, the past is the past, let’s just move forward,” he slurred, eyes blood-shot with shame, stammering around in a long sleeve black t-shirt and jeans. Easy for you to say, sitting on a million plus dollars, with a phat house, Benz and Lexus. Fucking real easy for you to say. You just want to clear your conscience of me, so you can enjoy the wealth you stole from me. Tell him you hate him. Tell him you’re only there to support the staff that you worked so hard with for all those years. Tell him everyone is here for the free liquor & food and that nobody came to see them. Tell him how much you loath him. Tell him now. “It’s over bro. Squashed. I’m not a kid anymore. We’re adults, let’s move on. As far as I’m concerned, it’s over. I told you, I’m above it.” My acting coach would’ve been confused. I hated him, but what I said was genuine. I confused my own feelings. This was the guy. This guy had my trust, my faith. He made me promises. He never delivered. The salesman. This guy mentally abused me for years. This was the guy I wanted to hurt, the one I wished ill will on, the one I fantasized about beating. This was the guy I wanted my revenge on, the one I wanted to feel the full wrath of my fury. This is the guy who was about to face a JATT.
But my father was right. He knows me so well. I did mean what I said to him. It was over. It had to be for me. It consumed far too much of my life. I had to put an end to this right now. Right here and now, let it go. My empathy is my weakness. I care for the people around me. I cared for this weasel. And as much as I tried to let it go, I couldn’t, inside I still felt the hurt. I still felt the pain, the loss, the betrayal. I still remember that day, 5 months ago, the last time we talked, when he treated me like you would a AT&T customer service rep who can’t seem to figure out why you’ve been over-billed for text messaging. As I stood there in a circle with less than half of the company that showed up to bid them farewell, I felt sorry for them both. They were surrounded by a group of people that hated them. Their justice was served. And even if it wasn’t, it’s not my job or place to determine when and where that justice will strike. They will answer to Karma. As for myself, I felt shame. I felt shame for admiring them as they stood there. Free. Free to do what they liked. Free to leave the mess they created. Free to begin a new life. I also felt abandoned. After 10 years of struggle, dedication and friendship, I felt like I was being left alone. And I was. No help. No guidance. As I looked around, the sounds of the room started to blur into silence. The clank and smash of the bartender making the perfect Mojito. The chatter of people from every corner of the room. The elderly couple looking at a picture of themselves from WWII. The Sex & The City crew of women behind the pillar, eyeing our snacks in the corner. The waiters ushering Pinots to thirsty patrons. All of the bustle of the hotel muted out. And I could only see him. The salesman. My friend. Tonight, we say goodbye.
A few people spoke about the past and how they got to know the two of them. I was asked earlier in the day to say a few words if I liked, but I felt my presence was more than enough. Besides, if I tried to speak, I would be so full of emotion and nervous with anxiety over the hypocrisy of what I was saying, it would be obvious to everyone in the room. This was my moment. And in that moment, I let it go. I didn’t speak on their behalf, I listened, I raised my glass in praise, I put my arm around the businessman, pulled him close, shoulder to shoulder and gave him a stern, loving grasp on the back of his neck. He felt the warmth and returned it. I kept thinking, my father was right, I am the man he raised. I did feel sad. I wasn’t going to leave on a bad note. I had to be kind. It is my nature. I love. I don’t hate. The problem has always been my passion. After a few people spoke, they each gave a speech. The businessman was never a good public speaker and he did not disappoint. A generically bland, boring, heartless speech that you can apply to any scenario. It’s what we all expected. Unforgettable.
The other one though, his speech was a plea for forgiveness. And he chose to directly honor me, acknowledging my silence, but feeling the love in my eyes, underneath the pain he knows will never go away. “The fondest memory I have wasn’t even in the office. It was on the 4th of July. I was completely wasted on the beach, running in circles and I passed out face first into the sand,” he started. “ROARKYD stood over me and said, ‘That’s my boss!’”. Everyone erupted in laughter. I forgot about that day. I spent the last 4 years building up so much hatred towards these two that my memory was completely void of anything good. Nostalgia was hard to come by with them, but in that moment, he touched my heart. He said he was sorry. He said I’m the most important person in that room. He loved me and felt bad about what he did. That will haunt him for a lifetime. I know it. He knows it. But I was happy for the memory. It brought a smile to my face. The good old days. When I trusted you. When I would’ve given you my life. When we were friends. Those days have long since passed. I am alone now. Uncertain about my future. But aware that it is now my moment. My father was right. As I stepped on the cobblestone sidewalk outside the hotel’s entrance, I saw them for the last time. Everything I wanted to say all those years, I didn’t. I walked up to the guy I trusted for years, my friend, the salesman, didn’t say a word and embraced him in a deep, warm, loving hug. I held him in my arms longer than a normal hug should be, silently conveying to him I care, I forgive you, but I can’t forget and with a final, lasting squeeze, this is goodbye for life. I walked over to the businessman and repeated the sentiment. He felt it, pulled me off and said, “I love you brotha”. He meant it. “Don’t be a stranger,” I said. I didn’t mean it and he knew that.
As I walked to my car, I got lost in the world around me. The smell of cured meats, burgers & fried chicken down the street, the hundreds of people fresco dining under the warm California night. The city was alive. I was alive. And I was alone. This was my moment. My father was right. I didn’t have it in me. I wasn’t raised that way. I climbed the concrete stairs to the second level, sat in my car, turned the key in the ignition and cried. I cried soft, but deep. I cried because I felt alone. I felt sad. I cried because I knew we were never going to see each other again. I cried because I was hurt. I was robbed. I swallowed my pride that night. I rose above. My father was right. I rose to the occasion. I did the right thing. I closed that chapter in my life. A new one begins now. This is my moment.“