I realize the music I listen to may be a few decades behind anything you listen to but if you have the heart to do it I want you to find the song “It Makes No Difference” by The Band. Honestly, that probably sums up my feelings about you and my whole situation – indeed, my entire life – given the fact you won’t be seeing me for a long while. They say the law always catches up somehow and perhaps I’ve broken a few bones too many in my line of work. Still on the eve that I go away, my thoughts are not of my impending imprisonment but of this song and of course you. It’s amazing to think that I saw you every week for five years and never once told you how I felt about you although I know you’re smart enough to guess. I think now more than ever you deserve to know and the words must be said. There’s a line in that song that goes,
“Now there’s no love as true as the love that dies untold.”
As many times as I’ve heard that song over the years that line had always failed to resonate with me until now and it’s really because it rings true for me. There’s something about unrequited love that makes life both bittersweet yet nourishing to the noble soul. It just makes me think about the prospect of never seeing you again and how even though it’s for the best, it still hurts. The regret is still there even though there’s nothing I can change about what caused it.
Who am I kidding? I’ve never been a poet nor am I some highfalutin philosopher qualified to quote song lyrics as if I’ve just discovered the meaning to life. I could barely string together a few sentences on most occasions but since you’re so important to me it’s the most I could try to do so I only hope I make sense and you understand me. I’m nothing but a runner for a bookie, but you know that already. You knew that from the first night we met. I walked up to your cash register and ordered my Big Mac meal with no pickles and you gave me a wink but then as the evening wore on and I conducted my business that frown appeared on your face. You even told the manager that I was engaged in illegal gambling activities and that perhaps he should do something. Little did you know the franchise owner himself sanctioned my little operation. He knew I worked for the Duke of Earl. That’s all that needed to be said, but then how would you have known that. I mean a kid like you, how would any one expect you to be familiar with the ways of us low lives.
I apologize if this is a bit awkward to you, but there are things that I’ve been wanting to say and even though a lot of time has elapsed I still don’t quite know how to say it or even how to approach you. The briefest way to say what I’ve been wanting to tell you for years is to just admit that I have feelings for you, but as you may know, things are bit more complicated than that. I’ve been attracted to you for a long time probably since the first time I saw you behind the cash register at our McDonalds on Nostrand Avenue. I just instantly found you to be a bright, warm, intelligent, beautiful woman with a good sense of humor and I always looked forward to seeing you every week so that’s why I made it a point to make our McDonalds my personal place to conduct my business and over time I coordinated my business meetings to coincide with your shifts so I’d have an excuse to see you – I know it sounds pathetic but I have very few real friends so try not to be creeped out by that. You know what I do. I set up meetings with the Duke’s clients, hand out winnings to the winners, collect money from the losers, and anyone who didn’t show up at the appointed time at our McDonald’s . . . well, let’s just say I tracked them down and taught them a lesson, but this letter isn’t about me and what I’ve done it about my feelings for you.
I remember the night things changed between us like it was yesterday. You had just been promoted to shift manager and as luck would have it two thugs walk in just before midnight and decide they want to hold the place up. I needed to bide my time before making any sudden movements but the look of panic that crossed your face gave me a chill down to my spine. I knew what I had to do. I saw it as my duty to protect you. Just as they had asked you again about the safe, I walked up behind the shorter of the two guys, grabbed his ski mask, pulled it up and stuck my gun right in his nose as he turned around. You woulda thought the guy shit his pants. I looked at you and saw a look of relief. I stared the other guy down.
I told them, “You two better leave right now or else things will get ugly starting with this motherfucker’s brains on the floor!”
I got the bigger thug to take off his ski mask.
In all their nervousness the bigger one replied, “We weren’t going to hurt anyone, Yo.”
I said, “Do yourselves a favor and never come back here again. You come back here and I’ll make sure The Duke will hear about it. You understand?” Then I added, “Smile, you’re on camera!”
They all too eagerly nodded in agreement.
Then I said, “You want to hold some place up why don’t you give those liberal yuppies over at Starbucks and Whole Foods a scare. Better yet, go to Whole Foods and suck each other’s dicks there so you fit right in.”
Out of my peripheral vision, I could see a smile reach the corners of your beautiful mouth. I think it was the first time I ever truly saw you smile. The two thugs left and you sat down at my table with me and we talked until the end of your shift.
I said, “I don’t know about you but all this organic food shit is just turning everyone into a bunch of pussies. That’s why I come here. Fast food may be poison but at least it doesn’t sell you some liberal self-aggrandizing fantasy either.”
I could tell you appreciated my sense of humor even if you didn’t whole heartedly agree with the sentiment. To be honest, I don’t even agree with half the shit I say. I just say whatever I think might get a rise out of someone, but after that night things changed. Whenever I’d walk in, my eyes instantly searched for you and I suspect your eyes greeted me with a warmth I hadn’t known until then. You started sitting with me on your breaks and we’d talk about current events, movies, sports, or anything really. I sometimes found myself ready and willing to lose myself in your beautiful brown eyes but I always reminded myself that we were in public and obviously it wouldn’t do me any good for any of the Duke’s clients to think I was some puppy dog in love with a girl at McDonald’s. One time this middle aged degenerate gambler, Marco caught on and started teasing me. I waited for the next time he lost and made sure he knew not to do that again. Headlocks do that to people, I suppose.
Don’t think me a violent guy. I mean I don’t resort to violence unless I have to, but in my business you find that no matter how much you may wish to avoid a conflict, conflict always finds you. It’s unavoidable. Working with the public, I’m sure you understand. How many times have you confessed to me that you were so close to slapping some bitch because she complained her coffee was too hot? Or some uppity college kid who wants to return his burger because he asks for no pickle? Or how about the fucking drug addicts that somehow manage to get the key to the bathroom and leave all their paraphernalia for you to clean up once they finally decide to leave hours later? Or what about those bozos who think that McDonald’s employees are beneath them and that you should worship the ground they walk on because they occasionally drop some money there? They remind you that you’re not smiling or chastise you for conducting their transaction too quickly when they want to talk about the weather with you? All those people give you grief and you’ve told me all about it. Well, I have to deal with similar things although it’s different. There’s always the guy that doesn’t want to pay because his bet “wasn’t heard right.” They’ll come to me and say, “I took the over not the under. Why don’t you give me a break?” There’s the fucking young yuppy liberal generation types that like to look down on me when they lose. They’ll say things like, “I bet you’re real proud of yourself. You just took the money my Dad gave me for books. Guess I’m failing that class.” Then there’s the ultimate no-no that always happens when a guy says, “Talk to the Duke. I’m good for it.” Hehe. “I’m good for it” is code for “I don’t have the money please don’t rough me up.”
The point is we both have our ups and downs in our jobs. That’s something we have in common. We both work thankless go-nowhere jobs only the difference is that for you your job is a stepping stone to a future honest living. For me, well this is as good as it’s ever going to be for me. Once you’re born a low life, you stay a low life. There’s no getting out of it once you start. My future was doomed from the first day I made my first collection for the Duke. Sure, maybe the Duke might give me some more action and recently he’s allowed me to put some of my own money on the street, but that’s all coming to an end now.
I’m sorry, I know this letter has rambled on and on about things that don’t matter. I have a habit of doing that. The point is that I care for you very deeply and I think you know the reason why I’ve never told you before but let me say it anyway. A woman like you deserves better than me. Maybe if I had moved up in the hierarchy to the point where I had a decent no-show job so we could lie to your family about what I did maybe then perhaps if you felt the same way we could be together, but even then I know I could never truly measure up to being the man you deserve. You deserve an honest man – someone who does something better than being a runner for a bookie, someone you could be proud of, someone who could lavish all their attention upon you, and give you all the love and affection you deserve. It’s funny how getting to know you gave me an opportunity to just imagine what my life could have been like if things had gone differently for me. I think the happiness you’ve given me by allowing me to be your friend will be enough to sustain me in prison. I know I’ll spend many nights imagining a life that could have been. Hell, I’ve done that for many nights already and that’s something prison could never take away from me.
The pathetic thing is that this isn’t even the first love letter I’ve written you. There have been many over the years but every time I came close to giving one of my previous letters to you, I always stopped myself and reminded myself why I don’t deserve you. It all goes back to that song by The Band, “It Makes No Difference.” There’s another line in that song that goes,
“These old love letters / I just can’t keep / ‘Cause like the gambler says read ‘em and weep / And the dawn don’t rescue me no more.”
Do me a favor and listen to that song just one time and think of me. Then, move on with your life. Get back in school, become one of those liberal yuppies I make fun of and make something of yourself. I know you have it in you to rise above your circumstances. You’re so smart and you’re good at everything you do. Don’t hold yourself back. If you take away anything from your time with a loser like me remember this: Keep your head high and don’t be a sucker. It’s the last piece of advice I’ll ever give you so take it to heart and stay away from men like me who may have a big enough heart but lack the ambition and drive to be better than who they are.
Take care, Liz, and listen to that song when you can and let that be my goodbye because “It Makes No Difference” really does sum up my life completely.