“Where’s my money?” Brian had his thick hands around my neck. His spit was unintentionally getting all over my face. He was angry enough that I thought I could take him in a fight, but my girl was in the next room and she’d never talk to me again if I caused another scene. “Give me my 700!”
“I can’t give it to you now.” I threw Brian my empty wallet.
“Fuck!” He punched the bathroom wall with all his might. He flinched at the impact. It probably hurt his hand, but he wanted to keep his rep as a big, bad enforcer, so he grabbed me with his other hand. “I guess I’ll just have to beat the money out of you.”
“What good is that going to do? How about we settle this a different way. What do I owe you, a couple hundred?”
“I’m having dinner with my girl and she brought along her single, gorgeous friend. How about I introduce you to her and we call it even?”
“I’ll even pay for dinner.”
“I thought you were broke.”
“I got a credit card. Come on, I can tell you’re lonely otherwise you wouldn’t be picking fights in public bathrooms. Shes a real good girl. The kind you never get to meet. We got a deal?”
“If I stay more than five minutes I’ll cut it off by a hundred.” He shook with his left hand.
“OK. And if you marry her I get to be best man.”
I took care of the reason why I went to the bathroom in the first place and then Brian followed me out. The restaurant was fairly empty. What were the odds the one violent idiot I owed money to would be eating there? The food had arrived. The girls were already eating their pasta.
“Sorry for the delay, ladies. I ran into an old friend. Brian, this is the love of my life, Veronica. And this… this is Ramona.”
I could tell by the way Brian shook her hand that I only owed him six hundred now. Ramona always flattered people when she first met them, she flattered Brian by simply smiling at him. He was a big guy and his face was all red from our earlier altercation, so it wasn’t like she could compliment him on his complexion. “Brian just got in from out of town and his refrigerator was empty, so he was going to be eating alone. I told him that was ridiculous. Would you ladies mind if he joins us?”
“Not at all.” Ramona said as she moved over. When just I could see Veronica’s eyes she let me know she knew something was up. I would have married that girl if she didn’t know me so well.
Brian took his seat. Things were awkward for him since we had our food and he didn’t even have a drink. Ramona asked, “Where were you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Weren’t you out of town?” she asked.
I shouldn’t have made up a lie. Brian didn’t seem like someone who could ad-lib, so I stepped in. “He was in Chicago.”
“I love Chicago!” Ramona said. “Did you like it?”
“It’s OK, all the cities seem the same to me.”
Brian was hurting for conversation so I threw the little doggy a bone, “Ramona’s a world class traveller, so you better be kind to her favorite cities.”
“I went to Europe once.” she corrected me.
“So I was right. You’ve been around the world, you’ve got class, and you’re a traveller.” I felt a kick under the table. It could have been any of them, but my money was on my girl. A second later she excused herself. Ramona also followed her to the bathroom.
I egged the big galoot on, “I think she likes you. Why didn’t you tell me you’re such a ladies man?”
“Shut up!” He was embarrassed. He really did like her.
“How about we take another hundred off?”
“We had a deal.”
“The deal was for five minutes. It’s getting closer to ten now.”
“You’re a son of a bitch.”
“I’m not the one who sucker punches people in the men’s room. That hurt.” I looked over. The girls were headed our way. “You better make your decision quick. I have to figure whether I go home with a headache or I suggest we head to another bar.”
Brian was sweating it out. The girls were coming closer and closer and then he relented. “Fine. You owe me 500, but no less.”
“And you pay for dinner.”
He probably would have hit me again, but Ramona came to the rescue. “You guys seem in a heated debate.”
I couldn’t stop myself. “Brian offered to pay for dinner. I said that was ridiculous. He didn’t even order anything, but then he said…”
I’ve got to hand it to Brian, he took it like a real champ, or chump, I’m not sure which. “I’ve got it.”
“I wasn’t going to let him pay, but Brian reminded me he owed me.”
“You’re a real prince.” Veronica said sarcastically.
We walked down the street and I never saw Brian with such a hop to his step. I knew I was doing a good deed and like the Bible or Benjamin Franklin said, “No good deed goes unturned.” I must have had a real wide smirk when I saw Ramona brush her hand against Brian’s because Veronica asked me, “What are you up to?”
“Just playing cupid.”
“He better not be another of your jerk friends. Ramona’s a real good girl.”
“Brian’s a real good guy.” Before she could ask me to elaborate I pulled her out to the dance floor. She shook her hips the way she did. It wasn’t often that we danced. She was excited and she was begging me to take her home. We walked up to Ramona and told her we were going to leave. She looked like we told her there was no Santa Claus. But Brian offered to take her home and then I didn’t hear much from either of them. Brian never even called looking for the money I still owed him.
Veronica left me a little bit after that. Last I heard she was in Vegas tending bar. I remembered this whole series of events when I went into another bathroom. Ever since the incident with Brian I stay on my toes when I enter a public facility. But as I stood in front of the urinal I read an advertisement for a beer. It had all kinds of bullshit homebrewed wisdoms, but one of the adages made me think I misjudged Brian. It read, “If you lend a friend twenty dollars and never see him again, it’s twenty dollars well spent.”