“Damn, I wish I had done more with my life,” Nathan Leer said to no one in particular. He sat alone on sat on his main-floor balcony reflecting on his life. It was April Fool’s Day.
And he felt like a fool.
He was unhappy with the direction of his life.
But actually he hadn’t done all that badly considering his circumstances. Born to a poor, dysfunctional family in a tough lower class neighborhood of Brantford, Ontario, he vividly remembered his father beating on his mother repeatedly.
He was six years old.
He felt defenseless. He wasn’t, though. He remembered, during one such beating, he attacked his father, leaping on his back and pummeling him in the back of the head.
But all it took was a swift jerking motion, a left hook, and his father sent him flying across the room, crashing into the wall and crumpling to the floor.
Little wonder he left home when he was fifteen.
After experimenting with a myriad of drugs and violent involvement with street gangs, he quit school, packed his bags and headed to Vancouver, British Columbia, on the west coast of Canada. He wanted to see firsthand all the pristine beauty of nature he had read about.
Although he tried numerous jobs, he was too much of an independent thinker and could not fit into a nine to five routine. And, since he thought most of his bosses were not that bright, he had a problem with authority.
And his years growing up on the tough streets of Brantford had taught him never to take shit from anyone.
He had an edge.
A bit of a recluse, he didn’t feel the need to seed his individual identity in with any group identity to accomplish a sense of self. Nathan had a sense of self, however fucked up it might be.
His thinking then, and now for that matter, was that if people didn’t like the way he was then fuck them. Shit attitude, he knew, but it had served him well in the world.
He was a survivor.
If he had to psychoanalyze himself, and he often did, he would say the rejection he was dealt by his father (who always told him he wouldn’t amount to shit) was being handed out to the rest of the world.
So for Nathan meeting people wasn’t always that easy. If he felt someone invading his space, his reaction was not always positive. If he felt someone staring at him, unless perhaps it was a beautiful woman, his immediate reaction was not always to smile at them. He would frown, sometimes even glare, depending on his mood.
In spite of his tumultuous upbringing, he was happy with his own company, his own thoughts.
But he had tried to change, to be more positive, more people oriented.
After graduating from Simon Fraser University with a Bachelor of Arts degree, literature emphasis, Nathan started his own magazine distribution company.
A job that meant he had to talk to people. Which, he didn’t much like but he managed well enough.
But it was a lonely existence. Driving his van, stopping at various venues. Mindless chit chat. Sign here. I’m getting the fuck outta’ here. Sometimes he couldn’t wait to finish the day so he could be by himself.
Oftentimes he’d sit in front of the television for hours. Other times he’d call a friend for a game of tennis or a beer. Although a loner, Nathan did have a few close friends. They loved him for his loyalty, off-the-wall sense of humor, and irreverent attitude about life.
Nathan didn’t want too many friends. He had trust issues. Friends betrayed your trust.
He stirred from his contemplation. Or am I wallowing in self-pity? He reached for his pack of Colts Mild, slid one out and lit it, inhaling deeply.
Tastes like shit. He gazed out at the moon in the distance. The stars. Exhaled. How nice it would be to escape the world of materialism. A grey blanket of clouds rolled over the half moon, obscuring the light. A lone white ray shone through a tiny pinhole in the bubble of clouds. Then, like a candle snuffed out, it was gone. The clouds passed and the moon brightened the night sky.
Make a plan. Organize yourself and get yourself out of this shit.
Along with his magazine distribution business, he was also a partner in Sal’s, a failing coffee shop in the city center. He had foolishly borrowed against his properties, a riverfront acreage in BC and his apartment condo, and maxed his credit cards to buy a fifty per cent ownership in the fledgling coffee shop.
He did this to bail a friend, Frank Hancock, out of a financial crisis. Combined with Nathan’s poor management and the ailing BC economy, Sal’s was taking a nose-dive. Nathan couldn’t afford to take a dime out of it now, although the first year of operations it had performed admirably. And, in addition to subsidizing business debts with his other business income, he was also foolishly using credit card advances to pay the coffee shop debt.
As well, his interest in his relationship with his girlfriendLenawas beginning to wane. He loved her but thought they were very far apart intellectually.
The phone rang, jarring him out of his thoughts. “Fuck off,” he proclaimed loudly. It rang again. Should I screen the call? Fuck it, I’ll take it. He walked into his apartment, picking up the ringing receiver.
“Hello,” he said, trying his best to muster a positive voice.
“Nathan,” Frank said. “Are you sitting down?”
He slumped into the couch. “I am now. What’s up?”
“Sal’s was broken into tonight. Someone crashed through our display window, made off with about $5,000 worth of cigarette inventory and about $4,000 worth of other shit.”
“Fuck,” said Nathan. “Are you there now?”
“Yeah. I’ve managed to get the window sealed off for now with plywood. The cops are coming in tomorrow to take a report. You should come in early tomorrow to do a clean-up. Call in an extra staff member if you have to.”
Due to a rash of store break-ins in Vancouver, insurance companies had decided to discontinue covering tobacco inventory. The tobacco black market was booming. Increasingly, heroin junkies in need of a fix had turned to stealing and selling black market tobacco.
The city was getting worse.
Nathan looked at his watch: 2:56 am. He realized he had been sitting on his balcony and feeling sorry for himself since about four that afternoon.
“I’ll be in at six,” he said. “I’ll call Sarah to help me clean up. Do we have insurance on the rest of the stuff and the window?”
“I think so. Listen, I’ll be around tomorrow afternoon. We need to talk.”
“Okay, see you tomorrow.” That’s the third time the shop had been broken into. Nathan walked to the fridge. Cracked a can of Kokanee beer. Took a long pull. Went to bed.