So I said, "Hey Bill, how are things?"
He looked at me like a kid who just watched his favorite dog get shot. I feared what he would say next. He opened his mouth and, "My son just killed himself."
This silenced even the jukebox.
Ron Granger, hanging onto the end of the bar like he might slip off the side of the world, hollered over, "Well, that's no big deal. Fuck it -- we're just ash and dust. People are nothing special."
Feeling compelled to say something on Old Bill's behalf, I leaned over to comment, "While I may agree we're just meat and guesses, doesn't that make this more of a loss, a waste even? I mean, fuck all, the kid gave up the rest of his life to be nothing. So..."
Ron nodded, "I follow. Bill. Sorry for your loss."
Bill nodded undertstanding. He held a drink up as a salute, proof there would be no hostilities, then a round of condolences came his way in the form of words and shots. As the night ticked along, drink by drink, Sid and I kept Old Bill company. We asked what we felt was appropriate.
Sid asked, "How old was he?"
"Matty was 29."
I asked, "When did it happen?"
"About ten minutes ago."
That brought a pause to the conversation. I reiterated the question for the sake of clarity, and Old Bill responded, "Ten minutes ago."
"Your son literally just killed himself ten minutes ago," Sid said.
"Yep." Old Bill sucked down another shot of $12 condolence.
Assuming shock had corrupted Old Bill's sense of responsibility -- experiencing this tragedy understandably short circuited his brain causing him not to attend to the situation but rather walk the two blocks from his house to Mr. G's -- I asked him, "So what happened?"
"Shotgun." Sid ordered a set of beers, however, Old Bill added, "No, I mean like he self shotgunned. Made a mess all over the basement."
"How's Rhonda doing?" Sid asked about Old Bill's wife. The beers arrived, and we prepped for shotgunning.
Taking his in hand, Old Bill shrugged, "She ain't gonna be too happy when she gets home." We paused as he downed his beer. When he'd finished, anticipating our next question Old Bill said, "She went to the movies with her friend Patty. She'll be getting back soon. I left a note."
Despite the seemingly obvious nature of this next statement, I felt it obligatory to remark, "Bill, you can't let your wife come home to that."
"Why not?" he growled.
I didn't really think an explanation was necessary so I didn't have one on the ready. Looking for assistance, I turned to Sid who said, "You can't let your wife come home to that." I pointed at Sid to indicate my agreement.
Old Bill's face screwed up in confusion, "She's not my woman. We're getting divorced."
"When did that happen?" I asked.
Old Bill glanced at his watch, "About nine minutes ago. The kid was really what kept us together, and now he's gone -- what's left between us?"
"Not a whole lot after she reads that note," Sid said.
"Especially since I mention the divorce in the note."
I rolled my eyes to the ceiling. Maggie was coming by with a fresh round of condolences, but I sent them back. As usual, Old Bill was being true to form. He often came in with depressing stories which gradually, as the details emerged, proved him to be a cunt. Like the time his cousin died of a heroin overdose... the heroin sold to him by Old Bill. Or the occasion of his grandmother's death... as the result of a heart attack... when he tried to lure her into granny porn. One would think that by now the lot of us knew better than to react to the start of his stories. The smart maneuver would be to wait for the full details then react accordingly. Maybe that's why Ron Granger shot off like he did: he knew better. Technically, I did too. However, my New Year's resolution was to try and be less cynical about the world. Old Bill was not helping.
But I stuck with him. All night. And I learned that while beating your son with a hose may not, to quote Old Bill, "whip the gay" out of him, it'll most likely make him kill himself one day. Furthermore, I learned that you have to give people a chance to prove they don't deserve one.