RIK, THE VILLAIN
I saw Rik at the grocery store.
He was in the produce aisle holding an empty box, looking incredibly stoned and staring at potatoes.
I needed cilantro.
‘Ayyy,’ he said smiling. ‘I taut I reckanized you. Hows it’s going man, I’m like I know dat guy!’
Rik was very short/small and always wore a backwards baseball hat with this one comic book villain on it—a villain known for his joking ways.
Because Rik idolized this villain.
He even had the green hair himself.
‘What’s up man,’ I said, ‘how you doing.’
‘Dahhhh, I’m doon good, doon good.’
Tapped his top teeth on his lip ring.
Rik and I used to work together at a wedding hall, him in the downstairs kitchen for the restaurant.
Our first encounter, I was sent downstairs to check on some pizzas for drunk wedding guests.
He was a dick about it so I yelled at him and we’ve been cool since.
And sometimes after work—but before meeting up with everyone at the bar—Rik would stop home and dress up like the villain.
Purple suit [already had the green hair] and face paint to look like scars around his mouth, heavy mascara.
He explained to me once—on the bar’s back patio, dressed as the villain and holding two beers, me in my serving blacks, hands in pockets—that the power of this villain was that he embraced being a villain.
This villain was committed only to the joy of destruction.
The destruction was the main course, you might say, not a consequence of some longterm goal.
Yes, this villain even found humor in it, reversing the power of others’ judgment.
Viewing the world as a joke.
Victorious in advance by just laughing.
I listened carefully, ultimately offering a fuck yeah.
Because it all made sense.
Seemed like a plan.
A toast, to the villain.
‘Yep, just workin here now,’ he said, tapping the box idly.
I kept looking at the same three bundles of herbs, none of which were cilantro.
‘Hell yeah, man, I thought about applying here too.’
‘Yeah bro,’ said Rik. ‘Dey made me frozen manager already. That crazy? I was here for like a week haha.’
Manager of the frozen aisle.
But I knew that.
Hell, who didn’t.
It was all over town.
A friend of mine—who’d also worked at the wedding place—she sent me a video from Rik’s social media.
It was him from a low camera angle, sunglasses on, backwards comic book hat, walking home from work, explaining that he’d just been made frozen manager, that it was causing drama and, here we go again, he’s always the villain.
‘It’s like everywhere I go, I gotta be the villain, the bad guy,’ he said, in the video, lifting his hat by the brim and lowering it.
He kept adding, ‘Dahhhhh’ as a filler, which became something I couldn’t hear and then recover from in time to be able to listen to most else of what he was saying.
Probably something about always being the villain.
‘Yeah it’s crazy,’ he said, tapping on the box. ‘I was only here what, a week,’ pointing four fingers at his chest and leaning forward, ‘and now I’m frozen manager? Mmmad drama. It’s cool tho, dey guarantee 36 hours a week witda position, so I mean, ha, yeah I’m good.’
‘That’s awesome man, congrats.’
Parsley, oregano, something else.
‘Yeah, hell yeah,’ he said. ‘My unemployment got cut off so, ha, ey, show’s over folks.’
‘Oh did it.’
‘Yup yup. Ya know, I hate to say it, but dahh, the last year and half, minus the whole virus ting of course, man it was maybe the best year of my life probably since, man—since I’s a kid to be truthful.’
Neither of us spoke for a second so I added, ‘I mean nothing is bad for everyone, right.’
‘Yeah no, furreal man. I had free-time,’ teeth clacking the lip ring, ‘money. I was going out all the time, spent a ton of money on booze and shit, wax, did a ton of coke haha. I mean, dat’s not a good ting but, ya know.’
‘I was buying Legos, all kyna toys, I fuckin bought some expensive ass [anime playing card things].’
‘Broooooo. Them mfuckers cost 500 a piece, I bought chree of em fuckers haha nahh. But furreal. I just kept buying em, I got the’ [at which point I didn’t understand what he was saying but he extended his pinky finger, then ring finger, then middle finger and was increasingly excited.]
‘You spent 1500 dollars on three playing cards.’
‘Yeah bro, haha dey’re badass. You battle widdem.’
And I remembered how—one night after a wedding—a group of people went to his apartment, which, at that time, didn’t have electricity.
So we sat around in the cold dark with just a camping lantern as people drank and smoked weed.
And he freaked out when my friend touched one of his holographic anime playing cards.
He kept yelling, ‘Not my holos man, not my holos!’ and sort of tackled my friend in the lawnchair.
It was crazy he was like hyperventilating or something.
‘Fuck it,’ I said, offering up my choicest cut, forgetting exactly what we were talking about.
‘Fuck it,’ he said, laughing. ‘End of an era ha. Nah I had a blast tho. But I mean, actually, I was tinkin about it and, man I taut to myself,’ he lifted his hat by the brim backwards, and put it right back down. ‘What if I had saved all that money, ya know. I’d have it now. Like if I just held on to it, how much it’d be.’
‘Yeah for sure.’
The produce sprayers came on.
Rik spun the box, corners against fingertips. ‘Ah well.’
‘Fuck it,’ I said.
We both laughed.
The intercom came on and they called Rik to the front to bag.
‘Anyways, yeah man,’ he said. ‘Good talking to ya. I’ll see ya.’
‘See ya man.’
Last night I had a cigarette with my two senior citizen neighbors, who convene at Rose’s lawnchairs to smoke. Rose and Joe. After talking about mosquitoes for a while and then the heat, Joe said it was gonna be a bad winter. He struggled to pull a breath through clenched teeth then coughed, retching. He was the kind of person to say you could predict the winter by a squirrel blinking a certain way, you see. Cold, bad winter. Didn’t snow as much as it used to though, they agreed. Joe said hell. Nope, said Rose. They began describing different severe snowstorms, talking over each other for my attention. Soon to leave their chairs and do slow, creeping highsteps explaining how they had to walk. Rose saying, ‘It was bout that high’ with a hand motion. And Joe, wheezing, said, ‘Oh thaddain nothing’ with another hand motion for a different year’s snowstorm, which was, of course, worse. They took slow, creeping highsteps for a while in the cricketed silence. It went on much longer than I thought it would.