He stood on the street next to the MuniBike rack and looked up at me.
I was three weeks new in the building and had climbed out onto my second floor fire escape to smoke a cigarette.
My daughters were with me that night, already asleep.
The guy on the street raised a cigar to his mouth and switched his gaze from me to the floor above mine and over one unit to 3B. I had met 3B the day I moved in, and already had her over for a drink.
The guy lowered the cigar and switched his eyes directly back to me. Yep, he was 3B’s boyfriend.
Ten minutes later I was inside filling the kitchen sink with water.
Knock. Knock. Knuckles sharp and insistent hit my door. Knock. And forceful.
Last week the shouts and heavy thuds I heard from 3B revealed his cruel streak. I didn’t want to answer the door. I also didn’t want him knocking louder and longer and waking up my girls.
Then he knocked again: two raps, just as hard.
I turned the water off.
He pounded a third time with the hammy part of his fist.
I heard rustling behind me in the bedroom.
“I want to talk to you!” He shouted.
“There’s two kids in here,” I said as calmly as I could.
“Daddy?” my bleary eyed eight-year-old said from the opened bedroom door.
Waved my hands in a panic, “Just go back to bed, Sweetie.” Simply talking to her at this hour – the fact that she was out of bed because of this fuck – caused the blinding whiteness to creep into my vision.
Pound. Pound. Pound. The door rattled in its frame. Whiteness swept in from the edges of my eyes. The calm voice inside my head telling me not to open the door-
Five years have passed. I still remember exactly what happened that night after my vision cleared. The guy, Bill Rogan, was bloody and on my floor. After the whiteness disappeared the accompanying silence switched to cacophony. My eight-year-old screamed bloody murder well beyond the capacity of her lungs. Her body radiated fear. My five-year-old stood behind her shaking and silent. People screamed and tugged at my shoulders.
I literally broke his face – the whole thing. Luckily, he had barged into my apartment and swung first so I didn’t carry any charges.
But then like a vicious tag team my ex-wife took over. The court order was long and detailed. I had rage issues. No visitation without supervision. Anger management courses. Regular shrink visits for my daughters and me.
Four years after the Bill Rogan incident I took my ex back to court so I could get shared custody again. All the counseling, lawyer bills, alimony and child support cost me over three hundred grand.
I was enslaved for five years and worked two jobs. Hooked myself on Adderall after coffee became useless. Four supervised visitation hours per week with my kids. Eight years old became thirteen and I missed my girls’ youth. My hair faded from pitch black to washed-out grey. Bill Rogan.
Yesterday was the first night my daughters slept over in five years.
I thought through all this for the bazillionth time as I saw the train light round the bend into the Islip station.
I took three vacation days a year to track Bill Rogan. He stayed in the city for two years. After his next girlfriend issued yet another restraining order, he moved back in with his parents for two years. He immediately began stalking a girl from high school. Then he moved out to a shabby one bedroom by the train station where his social life consisted mainly of playing Black Ops online.
Tonight, I’m going to meet Bill behind the Kwik-Mart after he buys his twelve pack of Amstel Light. Then, I’m going to jam a sock in his mouth and stick a muffled .22 into his eye socket. Deep.
The woman from 3B will be my alibi. She’s still my neighbor, and just before it rains aches where he cracked her ribs.