[So, turns out the article went down quite well and I wasn’t expecting the encouragement for a second installment, but what the citizens want, the citizens get. In fact, I’m still nervous and not expecting much from my second interviewee mostly because I’ve never really met him outside of the twitter-verse so, it’ll be a new thing for me, too. Just a little note that BOLD & ITALIC writing is the interviewee, just BOLD is myself.]
I’m tapping away at my phone outside the grind waiting for him. It smells pungent, a daring concoction of stale smoke and piss, it makes me want to heave. I bought a new notebook today that says ‘Badass Bitch’ on the front which doesn’t seem all that professional. I’m tired too, last night was the beginning and end of 2 bottles of Tequila, or as I call it, a dark encounter with Mister T.
He appears from the darkness of the alley between Lou’s and ReLeaf, kinda cinematic if I’m honest because he’s a big dude. Tall, dark and handsome, and it becomes even more apparent as he approaches me. He’s wearing shades and I make the first move.
“Coffee? Or you gon’ need somethin’ a lil’ stronger to spill the beans?”
I ask, not entirely sure how he’ll take my nonchalant attitude to the whole thing, for all I know, he could be serious and/or want to stab me. Kinda looks that way from the way he approaches me. He smirks and pulls a flask from his back pocket, telling me he never leaves home without it. He makes a guess that I’m India -and- he’s right, but I don’t tell him that. I tell him he’s a man after my own heart and that he should stop by Lou’s to taste a recent few new bottles I’d ordered in.
“I get some boutique Whiskies in sometimes.” I tell him. “Recently got a crate of Hibiki Harmony since the first bottle went down like liquid gold. Japanese shit, distilled in 3 casks. Real good.”
Anyone who’s seen me work at Lou’s knows I love to push the Hibiki because it’s a personal favourite. Totally biased. I tell him I’m not India and that I just look like her to steal her limelight. I was joking, but my face is pressed into this neutral expression as I ask him if he’d prefer to chat in the Grind or Lou’s. After a few hard swigs from his flask, he seems to make up his mind.
“Been there a couple a times [Lou’s]. Ain’t no tits and ass to look at though like at the Twister. But the liquor does sound interesting. Think I’ma have to see what they upgraded to. Fuck it… we’ll hit the bar. Gotta get my party started somehow… or keep it going.”
He laughs about the evil twin idea and we cross the road, back over to Lou’s. I look at him over my shoulder, watching him like Max watched me when I interviewed her. He doesn’t seem buzzed right now, but seems eager for a drink and I’m happy to oblige since it lets me show off my bar knowledge, which by the way is TOTALLY UNDERRATED. I tell him that in order to see tits and ass, he should turn up when I’m working, though in hindsight that was probably not the best way to start an interview. I’m engaged, remember? Mierda. I try and recover,
“Lou’s is a beer an’ a shot kinda place. Twister is beer, shot an’ tits in your face kinda place.. I used to work there.”
I reminisced the odd feeling of being watched from every crevice, eyes on my every curve and feeling rather open. It wasn’t for me and I promptly quit. Power to the women that work there though, they’re making their dolla and looking good doing it.
He follows me into Lou’s and I pull myself onto a stool at the table by the window. I beckon Simon over;
“Jus’ bring us a bottle of a few different Whiskies, ‘de new ones, si? Gracias.”
And ask my interviewee if he’s a partier, since he mentioned his party had to start somewhere. He laughs as he comes under the threshold, pulling a stool between his legs and sitting down before kicking a leg up and relaxing on it. He says,
“Na …. not really a partier. I get my moods. My moments. All depends on the crowd and who a nigga is hangin around. Most the time I’m about makin that money. Keeping my hustle on point cause if I don’t do it …. who will?”
And promptly removes his shades. Damn. He’s got a scar across one eye and it looks like he’s blind in it, but the other seems fine. He tucks the shades into his shirt but I don’t even notice the scar originally, instead, Simon has brought over a trayful of bottles, two glasses, and an ice bucket. I pull out my new notebook and flip it open to a clean page, gripping the pencil from behind my ear with my prosthetic. I say thanks to Simon and tell the half-blind guy in front of me about the parties in the streets back home.
“Back home we used to have these insane street parties where people jus’ got fucked up till they nose bleed an’ they passin’ out in they own vomit. I like to party but ain’t no point if you ain’t remember shit.”
I reach for the neck of the first bottle and that’s when I notice his scar, his eye too. I’m openly staring and craning my neck to get a good look, no ounce of subtlety. I joke and ask him if he was in a bear fight whilst pouring the first whiskey into a glass with an ice cube and push it towards him. I decide to talk about the Whiskey to fill the silence that followed my question on being in a bear fight.
“Port Charlotte. Is Scottish barley an’ cut wit’ Islay spring water.. Think halfway between Laphroiag an’ Lagavulin. If you know ‘dem but I ain’t blame you if you ain’t heard of them. Too many whiskies an’ not enough days in the year to try ’em all.”
I pour him a drink but my eyes are still fixated on that scar, he knows I want to know more. There’s a bartender behind the bar, I don’t recognize her, though. She must be a new hire, but she doesn’t seem bothered by our presence, so seems to carry on with duties, I’ll catch up with her another time. He tells me,
“Read the article you put out …. when was it? Yesterday? Day before?” he shrugged like he’d lost a day somewhere. “Was some pretty good writing. You gotta talent for shit like that.”
Within seconds, his glass was finished with a swig and he let out a low grunt and tells me it’s good shit. I tell him, I know. He tells me he doesn’t party often anymore because he’s grown and “Grown folks gotta handle shit sometimes.”
I’m still staring at his scar, he finally answers the question or lack thereof.
“Lost it to my brother… he’s a fuckin bear I guess you could say. Gouged it out to prove a point while a nigga was doing time.”
But I’m not convinced. It seems like there’s more to that story, but the way his posture changes slightly, like he’s thinking too hard, but I never pry where I’m not to pry. This is meant to be fun for both parties, after all. I finish my drink and he pours us both another, telling me about his Whiskey endeavours with a grin.
“Got my bar stocked with all kinds of whiskies and still haven’t tried them all yet. But I got all the time in the world.”
I take my drink and throw it back, albeit a little slower, and tell him I wasn’t expecting the praise I got from the article on Max. I tell him it was an idea I had on shift since Lou’s is a watering hole of information. I learnt my shit back in the Favelas at home and just got kinda good at it. I’m writing stuff down, but it’s nothing legible, just words. I’m still surprised at the answer he gave about his scar.
“Well.. ain’t that some shit. Hopefully my sister ain’t fuckin’ gouge my eye out. Pulled a bullet from her today. Fuckin’ trigger happy cops all over the place.”
He goes quiet, so I grab the second bottle for him to taste, pouring us both a glass.
“Lagavulin. Full an’ intense, sweet an’ smoky. Some spiciness in ‘de back of the mouth. Bit of fruitiness there, but you really gotta look for it.”
I rattle my words off like I’m giving a seminar I’ve given thousands of times even if he’s just interested in the whiskey and not the story. I know he works at the Poison Apple Parlor, so I ask him if he studied art, but he seems to continue with my talk of the HPD. He doesn’t seem to be too fond on them. He tells me he’s familiar with the Favelas from his business travels, but wouldn’t say there longer than he had to. It’s bittersweet to hear of home from someone who doesn’t love it the way I do. I tell him,
“Can take ‘di girl out the favelas but ain’t no takin’ the favelas out ‘di girl.” almost like it’s my mantra.
He likes the Whiskey. Tells me he’ll add it to his collection.
“Yeah at the Poison Apple. And nah, never really studied art. Was just something I did back at the islands before I came to the states. My tribe taught every man since they were boys how to do traditional inking. The pe’a means alot to the men of my tribe. It’s the only ink I wear and add to it. Only when I got to the states did I start learnin’ how to ink with all them machines and shit. About twenty-five years now I been doing it. Ink, branding, scarifications, piercings …. you name it.”
My eyes are fixated on him, trying to burn through his exterior to know more, and it’s then that I realize, I hadn’t even asked where he’d come from or his name. I’m not cut out to be a journalist.
“You right on that. Can’t take it outta ya …. no matter how hard ya might try. I Come from the Maori Islands. Part of the Samoan islands but my tribe is smaller. Much smaller… And the name’s Iosefa Apuono Aveau… but most in Hell just call me ‘Sefa’. Easier for them to remember. Shit’s a mouth full.”
He gives his name and I blink, rapidly. What was with these long-ass names? Why were these people with names like royalty in Hathian?
“Tribe was more a tradition for my family…until shit hit the fan. But I tried keepin’ up with it. Learnin’ the traditional ways of my islands and tryin’ to practice them while in Hell. Gotta tell you tho… people look at you mad funny when you practicin’ the haka at the beach.”
I tell Sefa I’d come to get some ink from him, but I’m 90% covered apart from my feet and -like fuck- would I let anyone near those. He shrugs and looks around the bar, then his eyes drift to me. He looks me over slowly. He’s looking at my ink and I feel a little smug, I feel badass with my canvas, and ask him if he came to Hathian for a new life? A new beginning?
“Shit you a full canvass doll …. no vacancy.” His jaw clenches. “Somethin like that … but ain’t that what everyone comes to Hell for? To get away? Some kinda fresh start? Or just a second chance …. shit think that’s the only thing we all got in common in Hathian.”
By this point, I’ve given up on the Whiskey tasting and I’m now just free-pouring as if Satan had walked in and there was an early bus leaving for hell, and I wanted on it, but I kept my cool. I’d let him dabble with the bottles and if he had questions pertaining to the whiskey, I’d answer them with as much elegance as a Spanish brute can. I tell him that ‘Apuono’ sounds Greek, but that I like his name. The image of him doing the Haka on the beach nearly makes me laugh, so I busy myself with refilling our drinks as there are some new arrivals in the bar. I feel a little on edge again. I had to put my boss-lady hat on for a quick second as I made sure the new hire was all good. I put my pen down and listen as he randomly selects a bottle. I tell him we’re all running from something or other as I stare at the empty glass in my hand.
“Told you I ain’t from the states.” He lifts the glass and throws me a wink before taking a few swigs. “Na Apuono is most def from the islands. Iosefa is Joseph …. but Sefa kinda just stuck since I got here.” My stifled laugh caused him to point and wiggle a finger at me, “Don’t lemme find you laughin at a nigga if you see me doin’ it on the beach now.”
He stops and hesitates before speaking again.
“Yeah …. we all runnin from somethin. But ain’t that everybody’s story in Hell? Father raped someone. Mother killed. Brother witnessed it all. Father beat brother. Brother took it to keep kid brother safe. Until the day he died …..Fuckin life right? Welcome to Hathian. No one really thinks they gonna be here long, but it just works out that way.”
My teasing died down as Sefa rattled off a load of properties for the general citizens of Hathian, but it seemed a little too defined. My fingers are stationed around my glass as I hold it there, silently and listen. I refill it and throw the liquid back with vigor and a grimace to go with it. I decide to tell him a little bit about me but his words stuck. I put my hands up when he scolds me for almost laughing and possible laughable scenarios to come, should I ever walk up on him practicing his Haka.
“You put ‘dem words in my mout’ so you gone hear my laughin’.. an’ you gone deal wit’ it. Might be scary an’ big but if somethin’ is funny you sure as shit gone hear me laugh. I’m from Valdemingomez, a quarter in the center of Cañada Real. Raised wit’ a monastery but I ain’t even know what happen wit’ my real parents. Never asked.”
“From a monastery to Hell.”
“Guess you can say you came full circle then huh? Fuckin irony right? But sometimes not knowin’ is better than knowin’.”
He refills his glass and lifts it up. “Cheers…” and throws it back in one, the glass hitting the table.