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My Nemesis

obormottel Sunday, 03 August 2014

It was a long hard day. The presentation had to be perfect. The future of the company depended on it. The livelihood of 12 families depended on it. They all depended on me. No sweat. I knew we had a good product. I knew how to sell it and I knew who to sell it to.

I was just wrapping up the final details and attaching the last of the documentation when I decided that I needed a little break. A breath of fresh air. I deserved it. I had long since said good night the last of my co-workers and was bearing the load alone. Even my boss had left as he mumbled something about knowing that he was leaving it in good hands and headed for the door. I was getting tired, a little muddled, and even feeling a bit sorry for myself.

I stepped outside, craving a cigarette to help me unwind. I took a short stroll down an unfamiliar alley near the office. My head turned to the sound of blaring music, garish lights and a noisy crowd of people I would never think of associating with. I picked up the pace of my stroll to distance myself from the scene but nonetheless was drawn by unhealthy curiosity to see what had animated those people. The imposing tattooed bouncer and the glimpse of the spot-lit stage confirmed my hunch that this was not a place I wanted, er... was supposed to want, to enter. On my nonchalant stroll back to the office I cast another wayward glance in that general direction. It was then that I noticed something moving in the trash near that establishment's dumpster. I cautiously edged in that general direction and in a poor attempt at cool control, kicked over one of the trash bags.

I recoiled at what I saw. It was a huge muscular man of indeterminate parentage and race, bound and gagged, struggling mightily to free himself. I smiled wanly to indicate that I wished him no harm, not that I knew how to harm him if I could. When I bent down, I noticed that his grimy T-shirt was emblazoned with the none too encouraging words: "I AM NOT YOUR FRIEND!" He smiled back at me with a broken toothed smile and shrugged his shoulder sheepishly with regard to the anti-social messaging on his shirt. I pulled at the slimy rag stuffed in his mouth and tied around his neck. Upon freeing it, I was rewarded with an odor of sweat, cheap alcohol, stale cigarettes and poorly digested food. I proceeded to untie the unfortunate gentleman and release him from his bondage. I stepped back to further assist him, when I suddenly got a very brief view of the largest fist I ever saw. The blow shattered my glasses, while the impact and intense pain blurred my vision. I unceremoniously sank to the dirty pavement, barely aware of what hit me and wholly unable to take control of the situation.

The sound of cloth ripping and the uncomfortable breeze along my upper leg indicated to me that the none to gentle giant had ripped my pocket clear off my pants to access my wallet and keychain. In a flash he was gone. I was not worried about my car because there was no way he could know where it was parked and there was no way he could know the security code to the immobilizer on the vehicle. But my house was a different story. He knew my address and he had my keys. There was nothing other than a short cab ride stopping him from entering my house, my home, my mikdash ma'at. Nothing other than me. I had not done such a good job of protecting myself. But my wife, my teenage daughters and young children, that was a different story. No one messes with them and I have what it takes to protect my family. I ran back to my office where I have a spare set of car keys, I gave a last wistful look at the computer with my unfinished work and ran down to my car. I slammed the car into gear and raced off.

As I was driving like a madman, I wondered how I had gotten myself into this mess. I knew the chronology of events, but couldn't understand how I did not foresee the consequences. My reverie was broken as I reached my block and noticed the now familiar hulking figure exiting the cab a few buildings away from my home. He must have cleverly asked the driver for an address other than my own in an attempt to cover his tracks from the evil he was fiendishly planning.

As the cab pulled away, I saw my chance. I switched off the headlights and gunned the engine. The car responded nicely as I noticed my new foe perfectly framed against a trash dumpster. In a shockingly powerful impact of metal against metal, I knew I had caught him solidly between my now crumpled bumper and the formerly undented municipal dumpster. The unpleasant thought of the extensive body work needed by my car paled into insignificance relative to the need to stop this fiend. But I stared openmouthed through the cracked windscreen of the vehicle as my nemesis heaved the smoking wreck of my car off his lower body. He writhed free of his intended entrapment and headed resolutely towards my home.

I was incensed at his audacity to survive but was not without recourse. I was home on reserve duty, so I had my army issue fully equipped M-16 in the trunk of my car. Shrugging off the mounds of paperwork and explanations I would need to provide to my superiors for using my personal weapon, I unlocked the trunk and hefted the familiar weapon. Knowing my neighborhood better than my stubborn foe, I raced up stairs and across rooftops to get a clear shot at the oversized outlaw as he climbed the outdoor steps to my heretofore inviolable fortress of a home.

I loaded a steel-jacketed round into the chamber and stared resolutely down the sniper scope as he came into its crosshairs. I could swear that I saw him smile as he stared back at me. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly to center myself and squeezed off the golden shot. The "third eye", as we are taught, appeared in a reassuring puff of blood, skull fragments and brain matter. It seemed as familiar and easy as in the mindless computer games I played in my youth. He crumpled to the ground and wriggled in what I thought were his death throes. But this time the intended victim didn't stay down.

I knew he was strong but didn't realize how superhumanly strong. No problem, I loaded a RPG shell into the under-barrel launcher. The shell launched with the reassuringly familiar metallic thump and raced the short distance sputtering sparks until it hit. The explosion, which would have destroyed an armored vehicle, shockingly only left a scorch mark on his ratty T-shirt. The sooty remnants gave him an even more sinister impression. His T-shirt now read "I AM YOUR END". "No! You are not" I shouted silently to myself. I half-heartedly emptied the rest of the clip in his direction. Most of the bullets found their mark but I knew they were veritably useless against this monster. He neared the door of my home with a leering grin on his ugly face as I jumped from my vantage point, one flight above his location. I was not going to let him in to my home, even if it killed me. The stench of his hellish odor was nearly enough to overpower me. He stumbled as I landed on him and punched, kicked and scratched at any part of his body that I could reach. He recoiled from my onslaught and shrunk away from me, but I did not let up. I knew the battle was mine and I had to finish it. He smiled up at me from the ground as I had my heel on his neck. He sputtered out, "You win today, but tomorrow is another day". It wasn't a threat or a promise, it was just the truth. I was shocked at the revelation and he took the opportunity of my distraction to disappear.

My wife opened the door as she heard the commotion and asked in a startled tone, "What happened? You look terrible!". Realizing how little of my battles she or anyone else was aware of, I told her that I totaled the car as I swerved to avoid hitting a cat. The lie came easily and was easily believed by my eshes chayil who knew nothing of my vices, lies and battles. I looked down at the laptop bag slung across my shoulder and realized that my nemesis was nearer than I ever let myself believe.

I woke the next morning after a fitful and unrefreshing night's sleep. I looked horrible and felt worse. My eshes chayil prepared a nice nutritious breakfast that I ignored as much as I ignored her. I grabbed the aluminum insulated travel coffee mug, hoping that the jolt of steaming sugary caffeinated liquid would compensate for my poor sleeping habits. As I headed for the door along with my ubiquitous laptop bag, I looked ever so much like the image of a successful frum businessman I tried so hard to project. I could see my wife's concerned if not anguished expression but I did not have the emotional energy to meet her gaze. I gently shut the door and reentered my world.

Having crashed the car the night before, I had to take the bus. This was already a step down from my ego catering lifestyle; sitting among the lower echelons of society was downright distressing. I mentally mocked virtually each fellow traveler as I wished to explain to the world that I belong in a higher plane of existence and that I am only temporarily here because my car was in the shop due to my unfortunate accident last night. Needless to say, no one received my lame explanation and obviously no one would have cared either. I wondered if any of these simple people fought the battles that I fought. Did they already lose? Did they win?! Did they care??

My reverie was broken when I realized that I was the last person on the bus and the bus was no longer in a neighborhood that I recognized. The bus driver turned around and shouted at me "End of the Line!" as the recognition that it was none other than my erstwhile foe in the driver's seat hit me. I let out a horrified shriek of recognition and jumped off the bus. I heard the cackle of his horrible gloating laugh at my plight as I ran. I searched for a quiet corner to collect my thoughts and reorient my game plan. I had the critical business meeting at 1:00pm and about an hour's worth of preparation before the meeting. I still had some time to kill before I needed to head off to the meeting. I sat on a park bench and began touching up the presentation. Some good quality photos would really enhance the visual impact I was shooting for. The problem was, that there was no wireless coverage where I was sitting. Using my laptop as some sort of high-tech divining rod, I followed the bars to a street corner near where I needed to be. I noticed an abandoned shell of a building that would provide me with the privacy and shade I needed to finish my work. I started to search for the photos that I needed and was sort of shocked when some unintended photos joined the visual parade of images assaulting my eyes, brain and soul. The first couple of images didn't throw me, except perhaps off-balance, as I felt that they didn't affect me. But one particularly appalling and appealing image did in fact finally suck me in.

It was 7 hours later when I looked down in horror at my cell phone; 18 missed phone calls. I check my email and noticed among the trashy spam a sickening trail of "where are you?" emails. The emails and phone messages start off with an encouraging "I hope all is A-OK with the presentation" from my boss, continue with a "Call me when you get a chance", go on to "did you change the meeting time with the client?", and then "Where are you?" and "Are you OK?!", and "If you are in trouble then OK, but if you are OK then you are in trouble!!!". Some more messages from my wife and co-workers trying to track me down. Unbeknownst to all of them, I was not far from where I was supposed to be.

I looked around in the shell of the building where I had been holed up and noticed that some other nefarious characters had joined me in my presumed solitude. The snickers on their faces indicated that they had been peering over my shoulder at my indiscretions. I recognized my nemesis and some of his cohorts but he did not look so scary anymore. In the dim light he even looked vaguely familiar. He looked shockingly like me.

Before I could react, a bright light was shone into the dark cavernous room where we had been holed up. My nemesis and his cohorts scrambled to escape the bright light. Men in black suits of armor charged into the mayhem. Some of the miscreants went down without a fight, others struggled futilely until they were subdued. I looked on with a sense of detachment, pleased at the triumph of the approaching forces. That was until I was caught up in the assault. Gruff hands threw me to the ground. I tried to protest but a knee in my back and the awkward position of my arm behind my back precluded any physical resistance. I shouted that I was not with them and not part of their anti-social behavior. I reached for my laptop with my free hand to show them that I was a fine upstanding businessman. The officer kicked the computer out of my reach as he told me, "Go tell it to the judge!".

A crowd of onlookers gathered at the perimeter of the police line surrounding the incident area. They looked disparagingly at the motley crew of misfits being hauled up from the bowels of the construction site. The glare of headlights and rotating strobes merged with the flashes of camera crews covering the incident. I blinked and shielded my eyes from the blinding assault on my vision. "Is that you?!" a voice shouted at me from the behind the cordon. It was my boss and I wished to avoid him more than anyone else. The cameras had already captured my identity and were rapidly if not instantly transmitting it to their news desks.

My boss reached over the lines and grabbed me by the lapel of my now rumpled suit and begged me to explain. I had no explanation for him or anyone else. The presentation I had invested so much time and energy into was ancient history. The clients had decided to give a multi-year contract to our competitor for his inferior product. There would be cutbacks at our place if not a shutdown, because of my failure. The financial repercussions in each of the homes to be affected were beyond comprehension.

I noticed my wife standing off to the side, holding her coat closed, hugging herself as if for warmth, though it was not a particularly cold evening. She looked tired and worn but still exuded that stubborn strength that I always admired. The thought of losing her as well was more than I could bear.

I could see the news reporters having a field day with the story - "Frum Guy found in the depths of decadent depravity". People who knew me and used to respect me would cringe at their memories of me. Thousands of others would use the story to concretize their self-serving negative bias against frum people. My children would be embarrassed to show their faces in school or around the neighborhood. I could only imagine the taunts that they would receive. My wife would be assaulted with feelings of insecurity and anxiety. The Chillul Hashem would be of biblical proportions. I could not imagine facing Hashem in tefilla ever again.

My despondent thoughts were interrupted by the words of the incident commander who addressed me sternly. "This time, we weren't looking for you! We found the pervert we were looking for! - You are free to go." I surprised myself at my lack of enthusiasm for the reprieve. I was half hoping for some brutal punishment as penance to help settle the score.

I gathered up my computer, knowing that it secrets had been laid bare to the officers in charge. I shuffled out of the huddle of brawny special tactics officers towards the perimeter tape. I bent down low to get under it. As I stood up, the tape knocked the yarmulke off of my head. I bent down and put it back on, squared my shoulders and walked off.

How does the story continue?

That is up to you.

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