The Apostolic church’s bell rang as Romeo walked into the gas station. He made his way to the register where a young man was chewing gum and blowing bubbles while looking down at his cell-phone. Romeo waited patiently and while he waited, unfolded a piece of paper that was in his shirt pocket. The man standing in line behind Romeo was the one to get the cashiers attention after clearing his throat loudly. The boy looked up at him and then at Romeo. Romeo said to the boy,
“Hi there. I was supposed to meet a friend over at the church but I can’t seem to find her. I know she lives near here because she told me so but i’m not sure exactly where.”
Romeo held up the piece of paper up and showed it to the cashier. It was a screenshot he had taken of Valarie that he had printed out. The boy looked at the picture for a second and then told Romeo he had no idea where she lived. Romeo then asked about the various apartment complex’s around the neighborhood and narrowed his search when the cashier told him there was only one in the neighborhood that was a two story complex. Romeo thanked him and asked if he knew of somewhere nearby that he could buy some flowers. When he did that, the man behind him cleared his throat again, this time louder than before.
Romeo turned to look at the man in line. He was looking back at Romeo with a look that said yeah, that was me, so what? Romeo didn’t pay him any mind and instead turned back around to the cashier who told him of a nearby flower shop. Before leaving, Romeo thanked the boy before walking out of the gast station. He stood outside for a minute, scanning around for the two story complex he would find Valarie in. During that time, the man that had cleared his throat behind Romeo in the station walked outside.
“Hey man, between you and me, going in there with a picture of some girl like you’re a detective is mad creepy.”
Romeo looked at him without saying a word.
“You got nothing, huh? Yeah, I’d be embarrassed too. Especially with that printout you have in your shirt pocket. Looking for a girl that stood you up and letting everyone else know it happened. Do yourself a favor and forget it bro.”
Romeo opened his car door, determined to ignore the man. He put one foot inside and was ready to put it all behind him when the man said,
“Fuck that bitch man. All that love bullshit is exactly that, bullshit. You got all dressed up in your little cowboy shirt and now you’re gonna go buy flowers like your rewarding her for standing you up. Fuck her!”
Romeo pulled his foot out of the car and closed the door. He placed his hands on the roof of the car and took a deep breath before walking over to the man.
“Please stop that.”
Romeo pleaded in a calm, monotone voice. He stood an arm’s length away from the man and looked at his eyes which were covered by his sunglasses. All Romeo could see was his own reflection.
“I’m on your side, bro. All I’m saying is that bitch isn’t worth it. I know, I’ve been there before and-“
“Stop calling her that.”
Romeo got a little closer after saying that. When he did, the man’s shoulders straightened up and his chest began to poke out with bravado.
“Man, you’re not gonna tell me what to do. No one tells me what to do. I’m the master of my mother fucking universe. All I’m saying is just cause some bitch doesn’t want to be around you that doesn’t mean you gotta go looking for her. You gotta be a fucking alpha dog, Just like right now you’re stepping up to me and I don’t like it man. I’m in control of my shit and if you don’t back up you’re not gonna like what comes to you.”
Romeo took a step back and the two looked at each other silently for a moment.
“You’re in control?” Romeo asked.
“That’s right. I’m in control. You do something I don’t like and guess what? I can put a stop to that shit. You take too long in line, all I have to do is clear my throat and you hurry the fuck up. You made plans with some girl and she didn’t show up so now you’re running around in circles like a chicken with no head. You think you’re all in love and your shit gets all twisted and stops making sense. Not me. No sir, not me. Fuck you and the bitch that stood you up, you miserable fool.”
Romeo looked down at the ground and laughed slightly.
“You think you’re in control? You think-“
“I just told you I am.”
Romeo’s grin faded away now. He looked at the man with a scowl,
“Don’t interrupt me. You are not in control. A couple nights ago I was in a hotel room in Texas having a conversation with someone that would eventually put me here, at this very moment, in front of you. I drove here, that’s almost 1,500 miles because of a conversation you had no part of. You did not orchestrate this moment. All you did was exist and this moment was thrust upon you.”
“And I reacted. Because that’s me taking control. That’s me-“
“Stop talking. You have no idea who is standing in front of you and you have no idea of the lack of control in the situation that you are in.”
The man drove both his hands into Romeo’s chest.
“I am in full control and I’m about to beat the shit out of you to prove it.”
Romeo kicked the inside of the man’s knee, forcing him to the ground. As he tried to get up, Romeo punched him in the head and made him crumple onto the floor again. When he hit the ground Romeo continued his attack, throwing kicks at his abdomen and stomping all over his body. Hit after hit connected until the man curled into the ball accepting his defeat. Romeo used his boot to nudge the man’s head.
“How are you feeling alpha dog? At what moment is this going to turn in your favor. When does your control take over?”
The man began to crawl away from Romeo. He couldn’t get far though. Wherever he crawled Romeo walked along side him and then would stand directly in front of him, directing him like a cattle herder. Eventually, the man gave up his efforts of getting away and laid on the ground. Romeo hovered over him before kneeling next to him.
“Friendo, in my line of work there is no falling in love. The other day I met a woman, the one you keep referring to as ‘bitch’ and I fell in love. The second that happened, I abandoned all control and have been strong along only by fate. You might want to call it destiny, I’m not sure what you prefer and in all honesty I don’t care. What I am saying to you is what I have been saying and what you need to remember, you are not, and will never be in control. The best you can do is roll with the punches.”
Romeo laughed a little after saying this. He looked down at the man and felt some pity. It was the same pity that he felt whenever he put a man in a body bag. He stood up and still looking down at the man let out a big sigh before saying, “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go buy some flowers.”