There was something to be said about human intuition. You know, being aware of your surroundings and what’s coming your way. At least, that’s what Joey Barlone thought. If tragedy struck and bad news was afoot, he could feel the winds chill and the air thicken, no matter where he was. If good news was to come, the sun flared jubilation and Joey was at peace with the world.
On the night’s eve of Saturday, January 12th, the air was so dense, Joey could not breathe. Why should be? How could he? His beautiful wife, Rose, had died from a heart attack. Their quiet evening at a favored steak restaurant resulted in her collapsing as the waiter was writing down their orders. A rush to the hospital, six dreadful hours in the mindless emergency waiting room, only to end in the doctor walking in with the same tired routine of ‘we did everything we could’. Maybe sometimes, everything is not enough.
The hospital offered to give notice of Rose’s passing to her relatives and Joey let them. Crying family was not what he wanted to hear right now, no matter how callous that may be. He needed to leave, this instant. This hospital was sucking the life from him and many others. It was death to Joey, now and forever. He left death to itself and walked down the street, listening to the quiet sounds that the twilight accompanies.
Home was not where he was going. Home was not home without her. His phone was blaring persistently, likely despairing relatives, yet Joey did not answer. Instead, he threw it against a brick wall, silencing its defeating roar.
“Got somewhere you need to be, darling?” came a voice from the dark alleyway. Joey shot his head to the blackness and stared through it.
“Don’t talk to me.” he growled.
A lady emerged, her face glowing from the streetlight. She wasn’t much of anything, Joey judged. Her face was dressed with red lips and black eyes. Her body lacked grace, as every move she made, there was a sharp flash of pain clear in her expression. “Play nice, won’t you?”
Joey scoffed and turned to move down the street. Click, click, click. It followed him a few feet and, when Joey turned around, unsurprisingly, the woman was following him. “Leave.” he snapped.
“What have I ever done to you for you to act so cruel? Hm? Just want a friend, that’s all.” she smiled, brown teeth clearly displayed.
“You’re disgusting,” Joey spat, eyes blazing with repugnance.
“That’s not kind at all, darling.” she said playfully, ignoring his immense distaste. “Tell me, why must you be so hurtful?”
“Why must you be so goddamn bothersome?” he shouted, his fists now shaking.
Her cackles echoed down the sleepless streets. “Oh, you’re feisty! I like that. Isn’t there anything I could do to calm you down darling?” she stepped closer to him.
Joey snarled “Take your filth away from me.”
She stopped, not expecting his intensity so quickly. “Alright, that’s fair.” she said and backed away from the quivering Joey. “What’s your name, darling?”
Joey gave a cold laugh. “As if I would tell you that.”
“Mine’s Louise.” she smiled and held out her hand, proud of their now formal introduction.
“That’s quite an ugly name.” he said scornfully, hoping this would drive her away.
“I think it’s alright. Are you sure you don’t want to tell me your name?” Louise persisted.
“Quite.” Joey snarled. His face then contorted into a look of confusion. “Why am I still speaking to you?” his question was more to himself than it was to her, yet Louise answered it anyway.
“Maybe it’s because I’m intriguing,” she smiled, hoping this was the answer. “that’s what I’d like to think.”
“As much as you would probably like to think it Louise,” he scowled tauntingly. “there really isn’t anything intriguing about you.” Joey was beginning to vent out his anger on this unsuspecting girl and, honestly, it was feeling very good.
“I don’t think there’s anything to your life story that somebody cannot guess. What? Your daddy didn’t love you and so you made a series of bad life choices- the more obvious ones, you know, drugs, bad boyfriends, idiotic friends- and now you’re paying the price for blaming other people for your decisions. That’s all of it, right? Or am I missing something vital? Mum died at a young age? Siblings overshadowed you? Go on, tell me. I’m a pretty good guesser, but you can prove me wrong.”
This was a bit more hurtful than Louise had anticipated. “Well-“ she started, yet stopped when Joey put up his hand.
“I do not want you to answer, darling.” he taunted maliciously. “It was a guessing game. I feel I can already assume I’m right. Now, if you will so kindly excuse me, I will be going now.”
Joey turned around to continue moving down the street. “You’re not very kind.” Louise shouted after him, beginning to get angry herself. “I see that ring on your finger. I pity your wife for having to deal with someone like you. Unless she’s just as bad?”
Joey stopped abruptly. He turned back to Louise and grabbed her by the shoulders, ignoring her screams. “What?” he seethed.
“Nothing, sir, nothing at all.” Louise attempted to go back on her words and was struggling to release from his tightening grip.
“You said it, you know you did. You’re saying something about my wife, hm? Didn’t anyone ever tell you, Louise? Don’t speak ill of the dead.” Joey threw Louise to the ground and repeatedly kicked her ribs, thighs, red lips, black eyes, anywhere and everywhere.
“PLEASE SIR, STOP, STOP!” cried Louise, blood trickling down her face.
Joey stopped abruptly and stood in silence, listening to the injured girl’s cries of pain and sorrow. He fell back, tears welling in his eyes. He burst into tears, crying away memories of his dead wife. The moment had overtaken him, the intensity of his feelings from the night’s events. He turned to look at his doings.
“Oh, Louise, I’m sorry, so, so, sorry.” he cried and tried to crawl towards her, but she scrambled backwards, towards the wall and held herself, taking note of her various injuries.
“What kind of monster are you?” she whispered, tears flowing freely down her broken face.
Joey trembled and choked out “The worst kind.”
The silence fell over the broken couple, both of whom were staring each other down. Joey put his face in his hands and then, spoke.
“Joey.” he said through his hands.
“What?” Louise asked.
“My name. Joey. Husband of the late Rose.” he took his face out of his hands and stared at the beaten girl. “She died from a heart attack earlier today.”
Louise said nothing. Her sorrow for the girl in no way impacted or lessened her hatred of this man. “What do you want, hm? You finally tell me your name and your sad story and I’m supposed to forgive you for beating me?” she hissed through her teeth.
Joey shook his head. “No. You’re never supposed to forgive me. I told you because you asked my name and why I am so cruel. That’s why Louise. Because the love of my life is dead.”
She laughed again, yet this one was cold, no longer her playful giggles from before. “Well, we all have our sob stories Joey. You know your little game from earlier? My life story? You’re wrong. My parents died from a car crash. I entered the foster system and got pregnant in my late teens. I do what I do because I have a kid. Life’s given me hard situations and choices too, yet do you know what I don’t do? I don’t beat the crap out of people who don’t deserve it. I don’t make it someone else’s problem. Maybe people are right, when they call me a tramp, a prostitute, a whore. But, when I get home and see my son staring up at me, loving me like no one ever did before, well, it makes it all worth it.”
Joey nodded solemnly and lowered his head in shame. When he looked up, he saw Darcy struggling to get up. He moved to help her yet back away when she glared daggers at him, a clear motion for him to move away.
“I’m sorry.” he apologized, yet again, once she had reached her feet.
“I’m sure you are.” she replied, her voice devoid of understanding.
Click, click, click. Her heels limped up the street, away from the sitting Joey. She stopped and turned around once more, staring Joey in the eye. “You want to know something?”
Joey looked up and nodded, feeling it was the least he could do.
“My son’s name is Joey.” she chuckled.
“You want to know something else?” her eyes glared with contempt. “I hope to God he doesn’t end up anything like you.” Her voice was quiet and yet the words hit Joey with such force, nearly knocking him to the street.
Click, click, click. Away Louise walked, towards her home to patch up wounds and play with little, little, baby Joey.
The night was silent once more. Joey Barlone moved to Louise’s old spot in the alleyway and sat there, thinking to himself of better times. He wished he could be left alone. Yet, as the yellow gaze of the sun glared down upon him and the town’s morning groans began, it was clear that wasn’t going to happen.
Joey Barlone, being the broken man he was, rose up from his pitiful spot and began to walk back up the street, the way Louise had left him hours ago. He arrived at the hospital in the later hours of the morning, his lowered in distinct shame. Joey was greeted by grieving relatives that he had ignored. Their questions of his whereabouts flew past him and instead he sat down and began to weep. They crowded round the inconsolable man and looked as a nurse opened a shut window, letting the suns rays creep into the room, showing them a bright new tomorrow.
And so it goes…