the perception

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Status: In Progress  |  Genre: Humor  |  House: Booksie Classic

Submitted: May 07, 2018

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Submitted: May 07, 2018

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Looks can be deceiving and appearance means everything.With the right clothes and attitude, you can become anyone you want, and nobody would know.Under the dim lights of the bar, three strangers took their chance and managed to fool everyone.

***

The neon glow of the sign was like a beacon calling me home.It was my first night in the city and of course I find myself outside one of New York’s best bars.Rumor has it, some of the city’s most elite have been seen hanging out here.

 I smiled to myself and strolled to the door where I was greeted by two large bouncers.“Name” the one grunted.A quick glance over his shoulder, I said “Riley Parker.”I hope this works.Maybe I should’ve picked a more masculine name. He glanced over the list, took one look at me, nodded his head, and opened the door.

I expected a sea of people but what I got was a partially empty room with jazz music playing.I was in for an interesting night.I scanned the room and set my sights on the bar, which was surprisingly small.I straightened my jacket, took a deep breath and went to find a seat.Normally, I would’ve sat at the end, but I realized there was not much of an option. I approached the bar and noticed a homeless man.How the hell did he get in here?I thought to myself.He looked dirty and pathetic, must’ve paid someone off.I refocused my attention and glanced to the other end and saw that seat was taken by an attractive woman who looked my age.

I had a list of things I had come here to accomplish tonight.On the top of that list: order a drink, scotch on the rocks.I sat at the bar, drink in hand, taking in all the sights and sounds.  The slow jazz was drowned out by the contagious laughter of the woman next to me and with the grunts and murmurs of the homeless man to my left.  He spoke very little except to ask the bartender for another round.The stench of old cigarettes and alcohol hung over him like a raincloud.He was probably just like the other pathetic, homeless guys I passed on the street earlier this morning.For the sake of filling the uncomfortable silence, I turned to face him, hoping to strike up a conversation.His sad eyes met mine, but there was no “how are you” or smile exchanged, just judgement from me to him and him to me.There was something about him that intrigued me.I don’t know if it was how pathetic he looked or how desperate he must have been to fit in here.The only thing I wondered was how he managed to weasel his way into such a nice place, he wasn’t even dressed properly.Then again, I did it too.His ragged jacket was paired with a stained pair of jeans.I realized trying to start a conversation would be useless, knowing he and I would have nothing in common.I gave him a small nod and turned back to my drink.

I turned to my right, the woman disappeared.Just my luck, now I have no one to talk to.As I turned to get up, she returned, with a mob of men behind her.She was beautiful, and everyone knew it.From the few glances she threw my way, I could tell she was someone special.Getting her to take me home won’t be easy, but it’s worth a shot.She sat at the bar, chatting and laughing with the men as she sipped on the drinks they bought her.I knew I had no chance with her, but I decided to try my luck. I tapped my fingers on my glass, thinking of something to say without looking like an idiot.  Finally, something clever popped into my head and as soon as I mustered up the courage to introduce myself, she was gone again.

***

This is my favorite place to be on the weekends.It’s just me and some of my closest and most influential making fun of those less fortunate. When this bar opened, it was the place to be for anyone who is anyone.The guest list was exclusive and there was even a waitlist and of course my name was always at the top of the list.Nowadays, they let anyone in.It’s unfortunate.When I approached the bar, I saw a homeless looking man sitting in my seat, so I decided to take my place at the other end. 

I was trying to enjoy my drink when a sea of men surrounded me.They bought me drinks, which I accepted only to be kind.After a few minutes of terrible jokes, they finally dispersed and that was when he walked in.He was tall with broad shoulders but looked unsure of his decision. He paused for a moment, gripping his jacket so tightly that his knuckles turned white.He didn’t immediately order a drink, which was odd to me.I noticed him trying to talk to the homeless man in the corner, ultimately failing.Why would someone like him want to be seen talking to some pathetic low-life and not to me?He must’ve been new to town.

He stayed quiet, except when he was telling his lame jokes to the bartender, who laughed out of pity.I caught his glance a few times, but he only smiled.As a woman, I refuse to make the first move.I’ve never chased a man and never will.They always chase me and that is the way it should be, right?He could obviously see that the other men in this bar were fond of me, so, why wasn’t he?The last time I caught his glance, I flashed a flirtatious smile and tipped my head to him and he raised his glass to me. Pathetic.

I couldn’t help but notice the homeless man at the end of the bar looked as if he has not had a proper shower in days.I could smell him from where I was sitting.  He too is quiet, except when he grunted to the bartender for another drink.It is so tragic that they would let someone like him into this fine establishment.I can’t believe he is spending the money he was conned off innocent people on alcohol.What a shame.I couldn’t help but to feel sorry for him.Not everyone can live a privileged life, but they should do something more to help themselves out.

***

This was my third night in the bar.Same seat, same bartender, but different people around me.I think.In my drunken stupor, words came out disgruntled and not making any sense, so I just grunted when it was time for a fresh drink. I don’t remember the last time I was sober.I went to rehab and fell off the wagon as soon as I came back home.I watched as people came and went when I saw Jacqueline Rhodes walk in.What a snob.She wouldn’t know good taste if it slapped her in the face, what is she even wearing?Jacqueline was a the regular here, always surrounded by men trying to get into her pants, and tonight was no different.When she walked in, she was alone and before I could call her name, I noticed a new face walk through the door.He was young and seemed unsure of where he was.He froze as soon as he got to the bar but managed to collect himself and sat just a few chairs down from me.

I sat at the bar and listened to the annoying cackle coming from Jacqueline - she sounded like a hyena. She was just another wannabe socialite that would do anything to get money and power.Whatever phony shit they were feeding her, she was eating it up.I saw her as she sat there, one leg crossed over the other, throwing her head back laughing as loud as she could.She just wanted attention and they were eager to give it to her. They would probably give up their souls too if she asked nicely enough. Ridiculous, naïve men, if only you knew what she did.

The man to my right looked well-dressed but a bit of a fraud.When he sat down, he ordered his pretentious top shelf liquor and has yet to take a sip – he just sat there swirling it around. Just when I thought he was about to leave, he turned my direction. Great, I’m either going to be lectured on my smell or he’s going to try and talk to me about changing my life.  He looked me up and down, obviously judging and assuming like everyone did and quickly turned away.  He downed his drink, and grimaced, almost like he couldn’t handle it.  He tapped his fingers annoyingly on his glass before he turned to the Jacqueline.Good luck with her.

***

As the night progressed, the bar finally came to life. The once empty bar was not packed with people from all walks of life. Riley had never been around so many influential people in his life and had no idea what to do with himself so he just sat quietly, waiting for someone to come to him.If he only knew that in New York, that’s not how you get things done.It might have worked back in St. Louis, but not here.If you don’t make yourself known, then what are you doing?

***

It was time for last call and the three strangers were in the same seats as they were when the night first started.The homeless man stayed glued to his seat, and it was probably for the best. In the seven hours that he was at the bar he had more drinks than someone would have throughout the course of an entire day.His speech grew worse and he eventually became mute, only relying on glances. Riley couldn’t believe that the bartender didn’t cut him off, that couldn’t be safe.Riley noticed the woman was now alone once again.The way she was sitting seemed like she was relaxed. One arm was draped over the back of the chair while the other was twirling her hair.Her stiletto heels now lay on the floor by the foot of her chair – she seemed approachable, so Riley took his chance.He got up and made his way to her end of the bar.When she saw him coming her way, he relaxed posture turned rigid and the smile faded from her face.He took this as a sign and walked right by her and to the restroom.

“Seriously, this is last call this time” the bartender said as he began wiping the bar top.He smiled at the homeless man and Jacqueline, hoping they would get the hint and leave. They didn’t, they sat there for another couple of minutes and Riley finally returned from the restroom.He looked at the two strangers he had just spent all night with and although no words were exchanged, he felt like he knew them.

Seeing that the two had not yet left, he decided to sit back down.He tapped his fingers on the bar and glanced in both directions.Now or never Riley, time to make a move, but he couldn’t.He felt paralyzed.He sunk down in his seat and waited for someone else to make the first move.

Another hour passed and the sun began peeking through the window.By this time, the bartender had left, leaving the three of them alone.With a long sigh, Jacqueline stretched and began to gather her things.With her shoes in one hand and her pride in the other, she strutted towards the door.Seeing this as another opportunity, Riley was right behind her, hoping to at least introduce himself before she was gone forever.The door opened and sunlight poured into the dark bar, giving it a new life. The homeless man covered his eyes from the blinding son and made his way towards the door.In the sunlight, the three strangers could see each other for who they truly were. 

***

Riley Parker is not my actual name, its Jonathan Brickman.I grew up in St. Louis with an alcoholic mother and absent father.I am 34 and a conman by trade.When I was sixteen, I dropped out of school and bummed around the streets of Missouri before making my way to New York.I have lived here since I was 20 but I got into some trouble a few years ago and had to leave before they found me.I figured it would be safe to come back now that I am older and look much different. The suit I’m wearing, well I was lucky enough to find it at Goodwill.I’m not actually a stock broker or lawyer like I tell people, I’m homeless and have been for a while.I was couch surfing for a while but now I live out of a beat-up van that I stole.Every other night I find myself in a new city with a new identity, looking for someone to take advantage of.Tonight, I was looking for a rich woman that would take care of me until I got fed up and left.Nothing gets me more excited than crushing someone’s dreams.

***

My name is not actually Jacqueline Rhodes, it is Geraldine, I changed it when I moved to New York.I grew up in a trailer park in rural Oklahoma with my six siblings and grandparents. Saying we didn’t have money was an understatement at best.Having your grandparents, who are too old to work, try and take care of you was my childhood.Ever since I was a little girl, I dreamed of becoming a model or an actress.When I was eighteen, I moved to the city in hopes of those dreams becoming a reality.I was here for a few years before I met my now ex-husband Sawyer Degraw, the son of an oil tycoon.His family had everything I ever wanted: money, big houses, and fancy cars.We fell madly in love and got married when I was 22.After twenty years together, things began to change for the worse.Our marriage was perfect, until it wasn’t.Sawyer was always a social person and I knew that would eventually get him in trouble.Before I knew it, he was out partying all the time and eventually he started dating other people and not coming home.His once mellow temper had turned into rage and anger.I remember the night he came home after being gone for weeks, looked possessed.When I told him dinner wasn’t ready, he was enraged and threw a glass at the wall just inches from my face. Even after that night and everything else he put me through, I stayed, hoping this was just a phase.The last time he didn’t come home was for good. It was in the news that he found someone else, much younger and more naïve. He left me, just like that and I was back to how I started, poor and unhappy with my life.

I started going out more lately now that I have come to terms my life. Everything I went through with Sawyer gave me a new outlook on life: relationships are for fools. I think Sawyer had it right when he began dating all those women. Before my divorce, whenever I went out, men rarely paid attention to me. Now, I can’t seem to fight them off, even if I wanted to and I still had everything I could ever want and the best part was, there was no commitment, I felt so free, but that feeling only lasted a few months.I was out one night with some girlfriends, when I saw on the news that Sawyer and his mistress were not only getting married, they were expecting a child. I was outraged, the twenty years we were together, he always told me he never wanted kids because it would only bring us down.This news was the last straw, I had to do something to stop this from happening.I knew some people who had been in prison and were willing to do whatever I needed them to do, if the price was right.Everything was planned but at the last minute, one of the guys got cold feet. He was worried if he did this and got caught, he would be sent back to prison for good.With no other choice, I decided to do it myself.

I paid a little visit to Charlie, the mistress.When she opened the door, she was surprised to see me.I couldn’t blame her, I would be surprised too. Initially, I went to visit her to tell her how much of a mistake she was about to make.She tried to reassure me that he had changed, and things were different now.I knew this couldn’t be true and my anger grew with every passing minute and before I knew it, my fists were flying towards her face.In my blind rage, I don’t exactly remember what happened, all I know is Sawyer happened to walk in in the middle of it and threatened to call the cops.I couldn’t have that happen, so I went after him, but he didn’t fight back. After a few moments, the two were lying dead in the living room, with me standing over them. I got out of there as quickly as I could and never looked back.

*** 

My name is Kyle Long and I am just a simple man with simple problems.The bar I just spent the past three nights in is mine and the bartender is my son.My life was great up until a few years ago.I grew up in Washington, met the love of my life and we came to New York to make our dreams come true.I first came up with the concept of The Legacy when I was 21 and when I was 26, it finally became a reality.I was newcomer to the bar scene but it was an instant success and I couldn’t have done it without my wife by my side.We have two amazing kids.My son Matt, who is the manager and head bartender and Lilly, who keeps the place running, which hasn’t been easy. When my wife first passed, alcohol and gambling were the only things that would numb my pain and has gotten me in trouble. Shortly after her passing, I was playing poker with a few guys who frequent the bar and lost over $30,000. I was desperate and determined to get it back but I had nothing else to offer except my bar, which I ended up betting. I lost the hand and thankfully the guy I lost it to had too much pride to kick me while I was down. He knew what I was going through and let me keep it and pay him back. I don’t know what I would have done if I would’ve lost this place, it means everything to my kids, it was my and my wife’s legacy.

Yesterday was the anniversary of her death, one of the hardest times of the year for my family and me.Back in December of 2015, my wife was in a car accident.It was an unusually snowy winter that year and she decided to go out for groceries before the storm got worse.I begged and pleaded for her not to go but being the headstrong woman she is, she insisted.She was on her way back from the store when the car in front of her began spinning out of control and hit her head on. Fortunately, the crash didn’t kill her instantly, and we were all hopeful she would make it through, even though the doctor said it would be a long shot. Her injuries were just too severe and if she did make it through, she would need constant care and have to go to rehab all the time. She was in the hospital for months, undergoing extensive treatment and getting surgery on almost every surface of her body. I felt terrible for leaving her there alone, but she told me to focus on things at home and she would focus on getting better. 

I still have the message her doctor left me the night she passed away. I was busy at work and didn’t get to the phone in time. Her doctor called my phone, he called my son, and even the bar trying desperately to get ahold of us. When I finally heard his message, I could hear the sorrow in his voice and new something was wrong. I didn’t even finish the message, I just rushed right to the hospital, but it was too late, she was already gone. That is something I will never forgive myself for. I should have never let her alone.

***

When the sunlight hit Jacqueline’s face, she was no longer the beautiful woman that was at the bar only hours earlier.The pounds of makeup she used to cover her wrinkles was now faded and the tight blue dress now formless, giving her an odd shape.Not to mention all the varicose veins that she hid under the bar.Her secrets were out and there was nothing she could do about it now.When Riley saw her, his heart sank, he finally knew where he had seen her before.A few years ago, when he was taken into custody, he was looking at the bulletin board that had all of the most wanted criminal’s pictures hanging up and one of them looked like Jacqueline.The only thing was, the woman in the photo had blonde hair and her name was Geraldine Goldstein –the woman who murdered her husband and his mistress.Riley could not believe that he had been sitting next to a murderer all night and didn’t even realize it. The sound of the bar door opening startled him and when he turned around, he saw the homeless man walking out.In the sunlight, he didn’t look as dirty as he did in the bar.His jacket was still tattered and his jeans still stained but his face was soft and he was even sporting a smile. 

The sun signaled a new day, meaning the strangers could start fresh.Riley planned to head west to California to see what kind of trouble he could get into.Jacqueline had no plans of leaving the city anytime soon, it was always her dream to live here.Kyle on the other hand also had plans of leaving the city.It was not doing anything but bringing him down.


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