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Writing Teaser
Passion: A Pacman Story
Michael E. Wilson Jr.

“I’m one of those guys they say are more than meets the eye. My appearance don’t give away nothing. I’m in my own class. Type of guy any lady would want. In fact, I’m a bit of an international hero. My story is well written though. I’m no boy scout like Supes. I’m the real deal. I came up on the streets of New York City baby! I’ve seen it all.”

Pacman shuffled his derriere in his seat, looked about the dive bar, and back at his date. He focused his eyes till the two women sitting in front of him were one again. The liquor was doing its job.

“We lived off the J-line in the projects right where Bedstuy ended and Bushwick began. Our stone tower gave us spectacular views of the ghetto. Seriously. Each floor had a terrace in the hallway. I aint ever see it open, but you could see the skyline from it every night. Problem was, you weren’t hanging out in the hallway if you intended to stay out of trouble. And it was hard to avoid trouble.”

Margret laid her hands on the table waiting for Pacman to compliment her star-spangled nail extensions. He seemed to look past her. She could tell that he was pulling up memories from a deep, dense well. He didn’t notice her nails, her canary red lips, her pellet patterned sundress, or her cleavage. He’d been drinking before she even arrived at the dingy dive. Pacman had money so Margret was going to make sure he had a goodnight, even if he was a lush.

“So, how’d you get a name like Pacman? What’s it mean anyway?” Margret leaned forward, letting her dress fall a little off her shoulder.

“I got it from my father. He was a mean Puck they called Pacman. His name was Ricardo but everyone had to call him Pacman. Even mom called him Pacman, bless her yellow soul. See, Pops was always packing. He used to walk up and down the streets of Bedstuy holding a burner. Even the Police were afraid of him. He had the nerve to name me Pacman hoping to pass on his rep. His name the only thing he ever gave me.”

Pacman took a sip of his warm whiskey. Margret tapped her nails against the table with a tap-tap-tap tap rhythm, waiting for Pacman to compliment her. She didn’t come to hear his life story. She hoped the night would be more interesting.

“So your Pops wasn’t the best father. Maybe he was mean even. You don’t think your upbringing influenced you becoming a world-renown titular icon?”

“You don’t think I know that? Pops aint mean no harm.” Pacman sat up and looked away from Margret.

The dive bar was packed with Pucks of all varieties. No one even noticed Pacman. He was a washed-up celebrity who might have been famous in the eighties but now he was a drunkard arranging dates at dive bars to find a woman willing to make him home-cooked meals. He looked at Margret thoughtfully.

“Want to hear a story about Pops?”

“Only if you want to tell it, sweetheart.”

“It was an hour before my bedtime. Pops was drinking Bourbon or something. Six-year-old me was tryna take in the world. It’s the only thing kids do right. I rolled up to Pops and asked what he was drinking. He gave me an eye I grew too familiar with and told me to have some. I grabbed the cup and when I smelled the acrid brown shit, it nearly burned my nose off! So I asked him, ‘Papa, why you drinking dirty water?’ He aint like that. He told me it wasn’t dirty water. It was Johnny Walker whiskey. And that real men drink whiskey. I told him I aint never wanna be a man if it meant I had to drink that. Pops grabbed my little yellow head, forced my mouth open, and poured the whiskey into my mouth. He told me if I aint swallow I was gonna regret it. I mighta only been six but I knew he meant it. So I swallowed the shit. I aint ask my father another question for the rest of his life. You’d think that would stop me from drinking. I used to hate the taste of liquor but when my mother passed, I needed something familiar to fill the void. Haven’t been able to rid the monkey yet. Void never been filled.”

Margret reached over the table and grabbed Pacman’s hand. His hand flinched before accepting the embrace. He let his shoulders fall from his ears. Relax he whispered to himself. His eyes caught Margret’s nails for the first time. He looked up and admired her pellet print dress, her canary red lips, and the cleavage in-between. Pacman straightened his back against his chair and pulled his hands back to adjust his clothing.

“How do you like your drink?” It was time to change the subject.

“It’s fine. A basic Long Island Iced Tea. This shit-hole aint got no vodka worth shit. Why a guy like you come to a place like this?”

“Dive bars are cheap and unassuming. No pressure to look like somebody. No pressure to pretend. I might be famous but no one gives a fuck here. They see me, and I’m just another dude tryna get a four-dollar IPA. I can relax here. Them skyscraper bars are all flash. The skinniest lady Pucks show up and have photoshoots for an hour and drink one fructose fueled cocktail. The dudes, wearing a hundred-dollar t-shirt and a twenty-dollar blazer, get a shitty beer for ten bucks. Everyone hangs out for an hour then heads to a dive bar to get smacked. Them fancy places are for people who don’t know what it means to be honest with themselves.”

Margret leaned forward and pouted her lips. She hadn’t ever been with such a grounded man. Of course he would be a has-been lush. But there was something underneath all that pain. Passion. Margret wanted to know it personally.

“It’s a shame your wife left you. That woman a fool. I can see that now.” Margret brushed his cheek with the nail hosting a solitary star. “She’s missing out on quite a man.”

She gently palmed his cheek. Pacman blinked slowly, allowing her little hand to support him for a moment. Margret accepted his surender with a soft smile.

“Sweetie, how about I treat you to a round? Margret here for you tonight.”

Empowered by her show of empathy, Margret sashayed to the bar to order the next round. The last round. There were more interesting ways to spend the evening.

The smile that crept its way to Pacman’s face surprised him. He hadn’t felt safe with a woman in years. He hadn’t felt seen. Margret was obviously trying to hook up, but Pacman was starting to like her. Maybe he’d see her again after tonight. Not tomorrow. He’s not desperate. Plus he still planned on hooking up with the Puck he swiped on Tinder. Margret would have to wait till he visited her level.

“I got a plate of fried pellets for us to share,” Margret mused, gingerly placing the plate between them. He couldn’t remember the last time a woman fed him. His ex-wife took his name and his job. Didn’t even leave him a frozen dinner.

“Got you some more whiskey too. I got me a white wine. Little FYI, wine makes me horny.”

“Then you should drink up.” He gave her a flirtatious wink. “So, why a beautiful girl like you single?”

The yellow Puck flashed orange at Pacman calling her beautiful. She heard it all the time. From cat-calling construction Pucks. From horny road-raged drivers. But it’s been a while since a man she was interested in said it to her. Pacman had money, chivalry, and besides his glossed over whiskey eyes, he was handsome.

“I don’t know. Not many men interest me. They not interesting enough. You’re real interesting Pacman. Too bad your wife couldn’t see it. Well, I guess, lucky for me, right?”

“Ex-wife!” Pacman delivered a haughty shiver. “You know what she said to me the day we met?” Margret shoved innocently. “She pointed at me — the weird point where your palm facing up — she said ‘And so it goes.’ I didn’t know if I should be insulted or impressed. She vindicated me with a single phrase,” he said thoughtfully. “I couldn’t help but love her from that moment.”

“I don’t see the big deal,” Margret responded, freeing her hands for air quotes, “So it goes. Honey, you’re too easily impressed.”

The whiskey numbed Pacman. It numbed his lips and his heart. He could be honest now. He drank to be honest.

“It’s a quote. It means that you can let someone go because they’ll always be there in your memory,” he sipped gingerly on his truth serum. “That’s all I am to anyone, a memory. She knew it the moment we met.”

With a heavy head, Pacman stared into his half-empty glass. He felt his chin being lifted. Guided. His eyes met Margret’s. She leaned in and kiss him. Pacman could taste her lust. But there was something else. Passion.

“Why don’t we close out our tabs and make some memories? Something to wash down the bad ones.” Margret held onto Pacman’s chin. She wasn’t going to let him go. Not tonight. Not ever. She found her man.