The Tyrant: A Novel
To our greatest drive, the tyrant within us, not only our reason, but also our conscience submits. Friedrich Nietzche
By: Kevin Stephany
© 2014 Kevin Stephany
DISLAIMER: THIS PIECE INCLUDES GRAPHIC DESCRIPTIONS OF MEN AND WOMEN IN THEIR EARLY TWENTIES BEHAVING LIKE MEN AND WOMEN IN THEIR EARLY TWENTIES. THIS MAY OFFEND SENSITIVE READERS.
“Paradise awaits. Let’s go, hermano.” Randy pronounced the h as he always did.
Chance rolled his eyes and cringed. For years he’d told Randy, “The h is silent! The freaking h is silent!” Tonight he let it go. Something much more pressing weighed on his mind. Chance brushed the sweat off his forehead with his sleeve. With his free hand he grabbed Randy’s arm.
“Let’s be clear about this,” Chance said. “I’ve never been on a blind date in my life. I’m doing this as a favor to you.”
Randy stared at his cell phone. He ran his hand through his thick, dirty blonde hair.
“Listen to me!” Chance’s voice trembled.
Randy turned to Chance. “What’s that, hermano?” He asked again pronouncing the h.
Chance paused to find the words. He’d known Randy since high school. They’d graduated college together and now shared a condo. Still, even after all these years, Chance could never find the right way to talk to him.
“Understand that I kinda have a girlfriend.” The words escaped through Chance’s chattering teeth. He cringed. This statement sort of stretched the truth a bit, but without the “sort of” or “stretched” part. His dad had been badgering him for months about “spending some time with” the “daughter of a business associate” from “the club. Chance had even less interest in meeting this “swell gal” than he was of meeting the “tail” Randy hooked him up with tonight.
“I do have a girlfriend,” Randy replied without taking his eyes off the phone. A loud cackle burst from his lips. “I’m waiting to see if she calls me before I go incognito, bro.”
Chance didn’t care for the “bro” form of address, either. The way Randy pronounced the o made it sound like an h.
“Then maybe we shouldn’t do this,” Chance said in such a low volume that even he had trouble hearing himself.
Randy turned to face him. “Stop being such a nice guy. Let’s go see these girls. Wait until you see my date.” Randy smiled and nodded. “You’re going to be real impressed. I mean your tongue will be on the floor when you see her.”
“Okay.” Chance cracked his knuckles. The sensation of small pins pricking his skin throbbed up and down his arms.
“Man, you will be so amazed when you get a look at this muffin!”
“Uh, huh.” Chance had heard this one before, too. He’d never shared Randy’s high opinion of his girlfriends.
Randy prattled on and on. Chance tuned him out. He had the opposite take on the evening. The situation made him uncomfortable: very uncomfortable. He gazed around the room to take his mind off of Randy’s braggadocio. It didn’t help. Chance gasped. He couldn’t believe that so many things could have a golden color.
The room looked more like a lavish ball room from a big budget movie than the dining room of a restaurant. The chandelier hanging from the ceiling high above gave off a gilded glow through the reflection of the clear crystals and golden hardware. A flat golden carpet covered the floor. Gold wallpaper with elaborate geometrical designs hung on the walls. In the center of the floor a long staircase led upstairs. The steps took on a golden glow under the light of the chandelier. The sparkling white marble absorbed the gilt reflection of the other items in the room. Two solid oak bannisters that that resembled a musical F-Clef notation arced at the bottom and flanked the staircase. A sign at the top of the steps read, “Teatro del Arte.” Chance snickered. The real show would be watching Randy attempt to impress his date.
Chance tucked in his shirt. He felt more out of place than a monk at the Playboy Mansion. The opulent surroundings and the nervousness of meeting his mystery date caused his insecurity to boil over into temper. “Listen!” He grabbed Randy by his lapels. “I’m doing this to help you out. All I’m asking is that you understand I’m just going along as a friend: nothing romantic is going to happen.”
“Get your hands off my suit!” Randy pulled Chance’s hands away from him. He brushed his jacket. “I had this thing custom made.”
Chance found this claim as unbelievable as what Randy said about his date. The suit appeared a puke green color under the golden lights. He took a deep breath and settled down. “Sorry.”
Randy returned to staring at his cell phone.
Chance sighed. “The big thing that I’m worried about here is that…” He swallowed hard. “I’m worried that you’re going to leave with this girl and I’m going to be stranded with my…date.”
Randy put his phone down. He flashed a crooked smile. “I wouldn’t do that to you.”
Chance caught a whiff of fresh steamed lobster, the appetizing flavor of scallops wrapped in bacon, and the succulent scent of steak. With all of these aromas in the air, Chance could still detect the irresistible fragrance of a vodka martini. Randy always told him that it wasn’t possible to smell vodka, but Chance could. Of all the tantalizing smells, the scent of this one overwhelmed the others: maybe because it came from his own mouth. He’d had one at the local bar before heading over to the country club.
The pricking feeling on the surface of Chance’s arms became a numbness coursing through his veins. His chest constricted. Beads of sweat stroked his brow. But even more than the nervousness, an overwhelming curiosity gnawed at him. His hands shook. He needed another martini. Before that he had another pressing issue on his mind.
“What does this girl you set me up with look like, anyway?”
“Really?” The noticeable lack of the expression “you’ll be impressed” raised suspicions in Chance’s mind.
“Nice!” Randy drew out the word to three syllables. “The muffin texted me. She’s in the dining room. Let’s go.”
Chance hesitated. Something didn’t seem right to him. He detected something missing.
“I’m shutting my phone off so that muffin leaves me the hell alone.” Randy said thrusting it into the inside pocket of his jacket.
There it is, Chance thought. The evening just couldn’t begin until Randy referred to his girlfriend as “the muffin.” Chance had learned to accept Randy’s little quirk. He even tolerated it when he referred to his “impressive” date that way. At least Randy never spoke about his mother.
As they walked through the room Chance felt more comfortable. The numbness started to subside. His muscles relaxed. Walking became easier for him. He didn’t feel as tense or stiff. He reassured himself. He’d reached a point this early in his career where he could afford to dine at a place like this. His mystery date might not be impressed with him, but at least she’d have to respect this accomplishment. Wouldn’t she?
Chance tried to make small talk to ease his nerves. “This is some place.”
Randy didn’t answer. He may not have heard over the din of the crowd or just didn’t care. The man on a mission strode forward scanning the room. Chance struggled to keep up. From the way Randy slalomed around the various tables Chance gained the impression that Randy didn’t need to see the woman he desired: he could sense her.
Randy turned his head. “Hey, Chastity,” his shrill voice hollered.
Chance winced as he jumped back. It wasn’t because of the volume of Randy’s voice from inches away. A sense of dread enveloped him. He recognized Randy’s date.
A voluptuous bleach blonde babe sat alone at a table next to the staircase. A low-cut black blouse tightly hugged her ample frame. A red blazer lighter in hue than her blood red lips fit snug around her shoulders. Chastity served as his dad’s secretary at Paraggon, Inc., the same company where he’d started working. Socializing with co-workers made him uneasy. He crossed his arms to conceal his shaking hands. He needed that vodka martini bad.
Chastity flashed an ivory white smile and waved. Randy, as he always seemed to do when he met with a woman, bit his lip, squinted, and nodded. He went into a mating ritual that Chance called the “Randy Shuffle.” Randy danced over to the table in his usual bob and weave fashion, putting all his weight on one leg while dipping his corresponding shoulder and repeating with the other one. Sometimes he dipped so low that he seemed to shrink a foot in height. Chance found this show somewhat amusing, but what came after always struck him as painful.
Randy sat down and continued his dance maneuvers in his chair. Chance rolled his eyes. Afterwards they became drawn to Chastity. She had high cheekbones and tanned skin that was almost the same hue as her brown eyes. While she looked at Randy his eyes were drawn to the miracles of plastic surgery that protruded out of her dress. Her neck line hung so low that her perfect round breasts curved into cleavage that stretched from just below her neck to the table. As he stared at her a strange realization came over him: he wasn’t so much consumed with lust for Chastity as envy towards Randy.
When he finished ogling Chastity, he couldn’t help but wonder what happened to his date. Had she decided against coming? Even worse, did she somehow find out she’d be dating him and decided not to show? But the most important question that weighed on his mind happened to be: where was the waiter so he could order a martini?
“You look hot,” Randy said arching his eyebrows.
Chastity gasped and placed her fingertips against her chest. “Really?” She tilted her head to the right with her chin pointing to the ground.
“You’re so hot,” Randy continued. “If you went to Hell, you wouldn’t need a jacket.”
Chance spit out a laugh. Randy flashed him a dirty look. “I’m sorry something went down the wrong pipe,” Chance said. He put his hand in front of his mouth and cleared his throat. Chance remembered their mutual acquaintance Rod Slick delivering the right line in front of them. It went, “You’re so hot if you went to Hell it would melt.” It wasn’t that hard to remember. He couldn’t believe Randy could butcher it so badly.
Chastity knitted her brow, but smiled.
“You know it baby,” Randy said continuing the shuffle.
“Why thank you.” Chastity leaned forward and placed her hand on Randy’s shoulder. Chance noticed her fingers clench and squeeze it. He watched as she leered at Randy from his head to his crotch and back again. The two locked gazes seeming to become lost in one another’s eyes. Chance felt an intense sensation of loneliness envelope his whole body as his jealousy boiled over.
“Sorry, I’m late,” Chance heard a soft voice behind him say.
He turned around. His eyes widened and his jaw opened. Hope, the chestnut haired woman from the Accounting Department, stood in front of him. He never would have thought she was available, let alone would feel it necessary to go on a blind date. The numbness surged back into his veins. His chest muscles constricted making his breathing difficult. He had that thing about socializing with co-workers. He had an even bigger thing about talking with ones he found attractive.
Hope’s delicate voice intoxicated Chance’s ears. “I got tied up at work.”
Staring at Hope put Chance into a trance. A white blouse hung loose on her petite frame. She had on a black skirt that came to just above her knee. Around her shoulders she wore a hot pink sweater with the arms tied in a knot just below her chest. She tied her hair back in a ponytail with streams of it hanging down past her ears to her shoulders. Her dainty hands were folded in front of her and held a small black pocketbook. Light traces of freckles were scattered around her face like the stars on some ethereal galaxy. Her eyes came to rest on Chance. Her thin lips moved, but Chance couldn’t hear what she said. The sparkle emanating from her emerald eyes hypnotized him.
After a few seconds, Chance stood up and went to pull out a chair for Hope. His feet moved so fast that they tangled causing him to trip. He fell back into his seat. Blood rushed to his cheeks in embarrassment. He didn’t want to look at Hope, but he just couldn’t help himself. His gaze met hers. Her pink lips parted in a smile.
“I didn’t expect to see you here.” Hope’s voice trembled. She drummed her fingers against her purse.
“Nor you neither.” Chance winced. He always used awkward phrasing when he felt nervous…and excited.
“Is it okay if I sit down?”
“Okay.” Chance started to get up. His spirit willed him to take another shot at pulling out the chair.
Hope beat him to it. She sat down.
Chance’s muscles tensed up again. He had never been tortured with such anxiety; a unique combination of terror and eager anticipation. He felt as though sweat gushed out of his pores. A numbing pulsation raced through his veins.
Chance smiled at Hope. He tried to act as calm as he could. In spite of feeling so tense, he picked up the napkin in front of him. Without much effort he untied the silk bow that surrounded it. He removed the silverware and arranged it in the proper order. After wiping his forehead he looked down at the napkin. There wasn’t a trace of moisture on it.
Hope rubbed her lips together as if blotting lip stick. Her fingers drummed on the table. “So,” she said.
“So,” Chance replied.
“I’d ask what’s new, but I just saw you a couple hours ago.” Hope laughed and stopped. A rosy hue colored her cheeks.
Chance couldn’t take it anymore. He wished Randy and Chastity would say something to break the tension.
“You look real sexy tonight.” Randy licked his lips.
Okay, he wished Randy would say anything but that.
“Oh, you,” Chastity drew the words out into several syllables. She extended her hand again. This time it came to rest on Randy’s chest. “What am I going to do to you?” Following a momentary pause she added, “I mean with you?”
Randy’s eyes widened to the point Chance worried they’d pop out of his head. Chance could hear the loud “gulp” sound coming from Randy’s throat over the din of the room.
“Oh, dear.” Chastity placed her hand over her mouth. “I seem to have dropped my napkin.” She kneeled down on the floor in front of Randy to pick it up.
Chance didn’t think it possible, but Randy’s eyes seemed to get even bigger. He watched Randy’s mouth open and the tip of his tongue stuck out.
After another well timed pause Chastity got up from underneath the table. “Found it,” she said.
Chance noticed Hope frowning and shaking her head. Her face was as red as Chastity’s jacket. He wondered if she felt angry or embarrassed.
Just then the waiter showed up. “Good evening ladies and gentlemen. My name is Barry and I’ll be your server.” With perfect diction he rattled off a list of the evening’s specials. Most were foods Chance had neither heard of nor could pronounce. It made him think that he should’ve clarified with Randy how they were going to split the bill. He dismissed this thought from his mind. What could possibly go wrong?
Barry made eye contact with everyone around the table. “Now could I start you all off with some drinks?”
This time Chastity’s eyes looked like they were about to burst out of her head. “Hey, let’s do shots!”