Joe liked to eat. He ate and ate and ate, but usually by himself. I guess he was depressed or just found us too annoying to eat next to, which makes sense. So he ate in his office, watching the same channel on the TV but not near enough to be annoyed by us.
The school didn’t have a table, so us students ate standing over the stove or in the living room/ common area on the couch. Once in a while, when there was a pay-per-view on TV, we’d order Chinese or Burger King. Often Joe paid; he could be very generous. He'd get his food, we'd get ours, and we'd all sit watching the same show but not in the same room. We'd shout comments back and forth through the faux wood walls, and always be baffled by Joe's ability to eat. His order was always a “triple whopper with double-double bacon and double-double cheese, dice the onions.”
“My God. Four times the bacon and four times the cheese” I said when I first heard it.
“No, three times,” corrected Terry, Joe's right hand man.
“No, if you have one and you double once, you have two; double it again, four” I calculated.
We had nothing else to talk about.
“No, you add double, then add double once more. That’s three.”
I looked at Terry and had to decide if I wanted to have a stupid argument or just sit in silence. There was no point. Common sense wouldn’t decide any issue at the school either way. I just sat there not caring and making sure not to order a drink. I followed Teddy's lead; he never ordered a drink, but never said why publicly. Later he confided that he figured Javhad was spitting in them. Javhad later confided this was true.
I also heard complaints of food missing from the fridge; thankfully it wasn’t’ me. After everyone complaining about the food thief for days, Marco brooded and became a sullen misery to be around. The Portuguese Prince as we called him was icy to everyone there, including Joe.
"Not cool, bro, not cool," he'd mutter at anybody and everybody. I figured he suspected everybody, including me, and I hated the accusation. I felt like I was acting guilty even though I was mostly sure I was innocent. Mostly sure.
Some people arrive blessedly on earth with inherent innocence, immune to anything being their fault even if they've taken candy from a baby. "The kid shouldn't have had the damn candy in the first place- blame his mom for it" they'll say and, what's more incredible, they'll mean it. These are also the people, incidentally, who can tell strangers to clean up after themselves in the gym and never have their authority questioned. They walk around in an air of bright righteousness that's never even seen a cloud of guilt. Not me. No, no. Thank my parents for that. Guilt has great space in my conscience.
I'm the kind of person who will doubt myself even when the event in question happened before I was born. It's not funny. If I browse in a store, clothing or otherwise, and don't buy something, I make a big show of innocence on my way out, waving my arms and pretending to stretch in weird postures so it's obvious that I'm not hiding anything in my pockets or armpits. And I do this as close to the cashier as possible. I just feel guilty. Inevitably, with Marco scowling at everybody every day in every room, I was almost sure I'd somehow accidentally eaten something of his. I was starting to fear even looking into the kitchen.
So naturally, I was very relieved when, one afternoon, he came out from the kitchen with a big smile on his face and sat next to me on the couch. Our thighs were touching even though the couch seated three and it was only us two. Things between us were almost too cool.
“Ha, I think Terry was the food thief,” he half whispered.
“What makes you think that?” I asked.
“He threw out my Kool Aid saying it had gone bad. How would he know unless he was drinking it?”
I was relieved, but mixed up, and tried to hide relief by asking a question.
“Was it bad?” I blurted a little too anxiously.
“Of course it was," laughed Marco, "I peed in it."
He laughed again, and with a, "Hah, is 'Something about Mary' on TV?" slid an entire inch across the couch. I sat, startled, and pondered the precious gift of knowledge I'd just been given about the ICW wrestling school:
No matter what you do, never, ever, figuratively or literally, drink the Kool-Aid. Thank God I didn't like Kool-Aid to begin with.
Don't Drink the Kool-Aid!