“The iPhone is a piece of shit. I never got sucked into that hype. Never. It would never work for me. I would go crazy if my fingertips couldn’t feel the keyboard. No brother, I have always been a Blackberry man. A loyalist you could even call me. Three Blackberry Pearls is what I used to pack. Back in 2007, when I was at Gieves and Hawkes for a fitting, I ordered them to provide me with four mobile phone pockets. Two on each side. They stared at me like I was mad. Well screw those Saville Row cocks! So what if their royal clientele had never asked for that! Never did use the fourth pocket though. But my suits used to be cocked and loaded with my three Pearls. It has all gone to shit now, but I still do love my Torch. Using its keyboard still gives me a feeling of control. Of power. The whole world may have gone mad for those shit phones but they will have to pry my fingers off this Blackberry before I give it up.”
He slouched there, one hand spinning his phone on the countertop, staring at it. His other swirling the ice-cubes around in his scotch and soda. It was his fourth, but he wasn’t worse off for it yet. He had gone quiet now, but I knew that wouldn’t last. You can always spot the loner talkative ones. They can be a royal pain in the arse. But things were quiet and he was harmless enough.
Odd, but harmless.
“When you wield power, you need to exude class. The Blackberry was class. Not pansy, like a shit phone. Especially in boardrooms. Fat cats sit up straight when you walk up to a table and line them up in front of you before sitting down. Nowadays, even puny runts working in shit jobs try the stunt in bars. But when I picked up two phones and talked into both, one in each hand, I knew the fuckers were watching. In my Gieves and Hawkes or Armani, I commanded attention. That is the key to power. You need to lock up attention. That is like having them by the balls.”
He was looking at me, his hand held out, clenched around a handful of peanuts from the bowl I had been replenishing. He had a wild look in his eyes. Let me tell you, it wasn’t the look of someone holding just roasted peanuts in his hand. Like I said, he was an odd one.
Earlier that evening, he had come barreling in through the doors in his green suit looking like a demented little leprechaun. He stood there, breathless, eyes darting around. He had walked up and demanded a table by the window. “Whithky with thoda” he said climbing onto a stool. I watched him down it in one gulp. “One more whithky”, he lisped at me with a hiss. He sat there, fidgeting, checking his phone relentlessly, glaring around and through the window at passersby. The second scotch must have hit the spot. Mellowed him out. He had wandered over eventually and perched himself at the bar. He sat there. Spinning his phone.
“Yeah, it is sad to see a valued brand like the Blacberry die a painful death. To watch a corporation descend into the sewers. Lose its edge. The killer’s mentality. Have you seen the documentary The Corporation, my friend? Highly recommend it. Corporations by definition are pathological entities, it theorizes. Now people read that and writhe around in sanctimonious self-righteousness. They turn preachy. Point fingers. En-fucking-ron, they say. Hali-friggin-burton, they fume. But not me. I firmly believe in that theory. I am fascinated by it. In fact endorse it. A successful organization should be pathological. Unless you are in it for lily-livered non-profit reasons. Success comes only with the killer’s mentality. If one shies away from the kill, one shouldn’t be dreaming of conquering. I have never been shy.”
I had seen the type. The recession had driven them into watering holes by the droves. They were a sorry sight during those days. Dark-suited and bleary-eyed, they congregated like penguins. Bellicose and angry when they entered, they snarled, ranted and spat out corporate gobbledygook that dripped off their tables and formed puddles at their feet. But their mood sank with every drink quaffed. By nightfall, you couldn’t have happened upon a more depressing bunch. Not this one. I couldn’t grasp it, but he didn’t look like he was going home to stick a loaded shotgun in his mouth.
“Every revolution needs to shed blood to succeed. And you don’t need to be a commie Che Guevara to believe that. Works in corporate glass towers too. One must be ready to do a O-Ren-Ishii, jump onto the boardroom table and chop off a few heads. Let the others see the blood. Be a Marcellus Wallace and throw the pesky competition out of the window. Keeps the clientele and competition twisting in their knickers. As I said, I never shied away from it. Fair play and healthy competition is for wimps in this day and age. And who’s got the time for that shit?”
I looked at him. Well, if he was a revolutionary, then Fidel Castro was my uncle. I would’ve slotted him at best as a used car salesman. Who was he kidding? The only time this sorry green penguin had shed blood was when he nicked himself shaving. But I do patronize my patrons. It’s good for business. I nodded, poured out another scotch and pushed the glass over to him. He took a long sip.
“But even a O-Ren-Ishii ended up being skewered by her ex-partner’s hattori hanzo. Even a Marcellus Wallace couldn’t escape medieval buggery. It is not destined to end well for everyone, you know? As I said, every organization should be pathological to some extent. But if it turns inward and starts attacking its own innards, gangrene results. Amputation naturally follows. And I sit before you now, living proof of that. “I am afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion” said Alexander the Great. Brother, I am the lion who got fucked by the sheep. I am the pimp the whores ganged up on and drove out of town. I am the pusher the junkies stabbed with their needles. Felled in a coup, brother.”
He pronounced it like soup. So that was it? Backstabbed by his cohorts? Lost the car dealership to his feuding partners? But I had to hand it to him. Even amidst his delusional aggrandizement, there was desperate earnestness. And he knew his films. Knew how to milk them for metaphoric excess. I braced myself for the obligatory Godfather reference. Or would he go the way of Patton?
“I have always idolized Alexander the Great, you know? One can’t pick a better role model for a conqueror. Genghis Khan was bat-shit crazy. Not Alexander. If he had only dispensed with the pompous twat Aristotle. What he needed was a Machiavelli. Think of that. Think of that combination. Machiavelli’s theories get a bad rap unfairly. I read The Prince. And I ended up king. But a king can underestimate his cabinet. Underestimate the damage a spineless bunch can inflict collectively. I was their conqueror. I even crossed oceans to plant the flag in far-off lands. I swung the machete to clear out the underbrush. They were happy to follow, set up their lemonade stands and collect taxes from the natives. The end justifies the means, said Machiavelli. And they smiled as I dispensed with the machete and resorted to napalm. I hatched deals with the chieftains for us. I picked and chose the fat cats to fleece. And the coin rolled in. The coffers burst at the seams. They were too busy counting their minds silly. They were good at that. The only thing they could be relied upon to do. I was everywhere. Here a deal, there a deal. Slept in taxis, brushed my teeth at the hotel and changed suits in parking lots. While they sat back at HQ – count, count, count!”
I stared at him. He was some piece of work, this leprechaun. I have heard them all in my line of work, but this was up a notch. The suits were a perpetual yawn when sauced, but he was spinning me a technicolor yarn. I was tickled to find myself captivated by his tale of treachery. A Shakespearean romp in a car dealership!
“Lemmy, of Motörhead once said “I was fired for doing the wrong drugs” about his ouster from the band Hawkwind. Story of my life, brother. I was their ace of spades. But some time during the delirious counting, they developed a nervous tic. Some always had the evil eye. The poison tongue. So we went from orgies to the coup almost overnight. But I should have seen it coming. We had cut every corner as a team. Razed entire neighborhoods in remote air-strikes. Reveled in the smell of napalm in the morning. But when the knock on the door came in the middle of the night, the coterie had done their homework. The caucus had their pistols cocked. They were prepared. I was the lightning rod and they shoved the rod right up my arse. I was under the bus, off the cliff-edge, hung out to dry. A ritual beheading at a christening and I was sacrificial lamb curry. It didn’t take a Woodward and a Bernstein to bring down this Nixon. This Republican party fell over themselves to expedite the impeachment.”
The bitterness was now forming puddles on the countertop. But I didn’t want him to stop now. This was not the drudgery I usually bore with a painted smile. This was gold. I gave the countertop a once-over with a towel and filled up his bowl with peanuts. And waited.
“Yeah brother, I had always wanted to be Alexander. But I have ended up as Napoleon. London is my Elba. Solitary confinement. The lion now cools his heels in this cooler. And the sheep have Versailles to themselves. The orgies are unabated. The counting continues. Count, count, count! But I can only stand outside the gates now and peer through the bars at the lights shining bright in the palace I built, music wafting out of the windows. Watch them ravaging my wine collection, smoking my dope and fornicating with my wenches. Makes my eyes burn and my skin crawl. And they know I am watching. Yeah brother, they do. All they can dare to do is to slam another lock on the gates and post a few more guards. And avoid eye contact. Pretend I do not exist.”
He looked up at me. The eyes were red. I passed him a box of tissues. He took off his glasses and blew his nose. The night had entered the alcoholic’s melancholy phase. To a bartender, this is the excruciating time of the night. There isn’t a more ridiculous sight than a lineup of teary emotional wrecks warbling into their gins and vodkas. But this penguin was melodramatically intriguing. If it was a performance, I was in the presence of a thespian. You could sell tickets to this.
“Elba has allowed me to think. And I am still able. And I don’t forget easily. And they know it too. Nixon had his tapes and the tapes eventually strangled him. That makes them nervous. They fear their Deep Throat in a London parking lot. Follow the money trail, he had said. This trail is a labyrinth. But even the Pentagon keeps minutes of operations being orchestrated from NORAD. And they know too well that the worms will crawl out of the can eventually. Facades will crumble. Dams can be breached. V is for vendetta. I am an impatient man, but this solitude has been my valium. I am a vulture on valium and I smell a carcass. My time to swoop will come. My turn to soar cannot be denied. My craving for the smell of napalm is back.”
He slugged back his scotch and slammed his glass down. His eyes were glinting now. The wide-eyed look was back. I watched him stumble off the stool. He snatched at his Blackberry and stuffed it into his pocket. For an instant, he was no longer leprechaun. With his hand stuck under the lapel of his suit, he was a green Napoleon. He stood there swaying unsteadily.
“I better get going” he said.
“You alright mate? Do you want me to call for a taxi?” I asked.
“Hell no brother, I’ll take the tube to St. John’s Wood” he lisped. “I love public transportation” he added with a cackle as he turned away.
“St. John’s Wood? That’s near the cricket ground, right?” I called as he stuttered across towards the doorway.
He stopped and turned around.
“You follow cricket?” he slurred.
I watched him, as he started to stumble his way back to the bar.