He dove into the darkness, tethered by wires from his headphones. They were old and huge and looked like they should be atop a crew cut, directing airplanes. They blocked out everything. Fast drum beats drilled into his skull. Carefully, he dipped a safety pin in ink and continued the permanent doodle he was adding to his arm.
Jake had never been poor. He felt poor, but he wasn't. Poor is lack of potable water. Poor is digging through dumpsters. Rich made enough money to live. When he wasn't inside the valet booth, he was inside his headphones, and he was happy.
The other valets wore short sleeved shirts in the tropical heat. Jake wore a long sleeve shirt to hide the scribbling and notes and reminders he had spent years giving himself. The scars and the tattoos wouldn't fly at work.
Being a valet was cool. Jake liked it. He had found some interesting things in cars he parked. Money. A watch. Necklaces and earrings. He took them. All the valets did. No one could ever prove anything and his manager didn't care. He knew he'd be fired eventually. The only thing he ever found and didn't take was an envelope.
It was one of those big envelopes that people call "vanilla" when talking to people who are too embarrassed to correct them. Inside, there was a .38 and a bag of white powder. Jake had thought for a second, and then he'd put everything back the way he'd found it. Heart in his throat. That night he had listened to The Velvet Underground and wondered who was waiting for their man. And he smiled when he thought how pissed they would have been if he'd taken the stuff.
The room was still dark, but Rich was stoned and the cherry on the end of his blunt was fire orange. He stared at it and waved it lightly, writing his name like he had done with a thousand sparklers. In his former life.
On the cusp of sleep (and between songs), Jake heard a pounding on his apartment door. He'd been waiting for it. He smiled and didn't move. They could break the door in. He thumbed his phone and put on an old GBH album. He turned up the volume.
When the cops splintered into his apartment, knocking the door to pieces, Jake was still in his room, lost in the music. The first cop he saw was holding a flashlight and his gun. Jake laughed. The cop was yelling, but he couldn't hear a word he said. He tried to picture the other cops in the living room, the blood on the walls. The cop with the flashlight was joined by two more officers. Jake smiled at their purple faces.
He couldn't hear what they were saying, but he knew. In a flash, he grabbed the phone and pointed it through the murky light and lingering pot smoke. The first bullet took half his face. The rest were for good measure, he supposed. He closed his eyes and listened to the music and waited to die. It did not take long.