There are people like myself who were raised in fucked up environments but try growing up RC in Belfast. Gerry Nevins fought his way home from school everyday, dodging bottles and rocks from Unionist hands. That strife ended for him when his family moved to Queens, New York. Gerry immediately became obsessed with baseball. He played stickball in the street, baseball in the park, he dreamt of striking batters out and hitting home runs. He joined a little league team. A natural athlete, but Gerry was competitive and short tempered. Gerry was quick to swing at a first pitch and on a person. He played to win.
Gerry’s first love was a ginger haired girl he kissed once when he was twelve and never saw again, his second love would be the New York Mets. His blue collar father brought him often to Shea Stadium to cheer on their favorite underdogs. He loved the neon silhouettes that lined the outside of the stadium. I didn’t know everything about him, only what he shared, and he didn’t overshare. I learned over two years that both his parents died young, different bouts of cancer. He became a citizen to enlist in the navy after they had passed.
When Murphy introduced us I thought he looked like one of those hip gym teachers, muscular and ready to quip. The first thing Gerry asked me when we were introduced was where I was from.
I said, Queens.
“Queens, you say. Alright. What part?”
“Aye, I live in Whitestone. Now here is the real question. Fucking Mets or Yankees?”
Once he said he was from the same neighborhood as me I felt uneasy. There was a small fear of him knowing my parents. I hated when someone knew something about me, especially something like that. People were judgemental, myself included, if he knew them and disliked them, I didn’t even like them, I’m sure I could guess whatever assumptions he would make about me if he knew them. I hated the feeling that someone had something on me.
“No question, Mets.”
“Good man. Well, we are off to a lovely start. You can’t trust a man from Queens who roots for the fucking Yankees. Bloody disgrace. I got my eye on you, lad.”
He was initially a quiet man, reserved in my presence, choosing his words carefully. I think he also had a difficult time trusting people, who could understand that better than me. I trusted no one. I never trust. I never rest. He was extremely guarded with personal details of his life. He was fun to be around after we established a friendship but still tight with details. I don’t think he thought of most people like that, everyone to him was an acquaintance but we were friends.
He’d pretend to cough loudly to mask the sound of a Budweiser can opening in the coat room of the lobby. He was in his early 50s, in great shape with a steady diet of domestic beer and a calisthenic routine he practiced religiously. A minimum of 500 pushups, crunches and squats a day. His white hair was always buzzed short and faded neatly. He had a four year old German Shepard named Ichabod. Ichabod occasionally accompanied Gerry to work, with surprisingly no complaints about the pup. Ichabod, was a beautiful and affectionate dog, registered in Germany and of a renown bloodline. I wanted to have a dog like him one day.
Gerry lived alone in a single family house in Whitestone. He had two empty bedrooms and a bare attic. He never ate in his dining room. He occupied less than half of the square footage. The house had been paid off for over a decade. He didn’t need to be a doorman. There was a time where he just wanted his name on the books. A front, I presumed. He had alluded to a criminal past but made no omissions. There was no doubt he was well versed in some level of criminology. He had an extensive baseball card collection and other baseball paraphernalia lining the walls and shelves of his den.
Inside his cluttered garage where all things went to rust was a 1986 Harley-Davidson blue and gray softail. Manufactured and purchased in the summer of one of the greatest years of Gerry’s existence. The New York Mets won the World Series and he was there to bear witness to the event. The motorcycle had only clocked 21,000 miles. Gerry would loudly cruise around the neighborhood, he loved the sound and the look of the bike but found it to be an uncomfortable ride. One day he put it in the garage and without making a conscious decision about it, never took it out again. Though he spoke about the bike fondly and often as it was aligned to the championship in his memory, it leaned on its kickstand, dormant.
He never married. Those trust issues carried over into his relationships so he stopped dating though he was handsome and did well with women. Gerry was content to satisfying his urges with a yearly rotation of high end call girls. He never wanted to find himself caring about someone, or worse falling in love, better to keep it to a transaction. He built a rapport with the girls before engaging in any sexual activity, it wasn’t amorous, there were no delusions about that, but he wanted to establish a level of respect. He wanted it to be as enjoyable as a job could be. There was no chance of falling in love. This was no movie. Love was the only thing in the world that made him uncomfortable.
When we worked together in the lobby on a three to eleven shift we bonded, those shifts were some of my most enjoyable times working at the building. Gerry was a math wiz with an endless fountain of trivia stored in his brain. He loved stats and quotes. He devoured all the magazines that got thrown away by the tenants. He read anything and everything and his witty mind retained all of the information. Our conversations were always tangential, and towards the end of the shift he’d bust out his flask and he’d relish every drop of Tully while I sipped reluctantly, fearful of getting caught by a tenant. The tell tale sign of Gerry’s intoxication was his tie, sober was a nice tight knot, if the tie was off then he was feeling no pain.
“You know something like a quarter million seabirds died as a result of the Exxon Valdez spill,” Gerry said, tucking the flask into the inside coat pocket of his uniform jacket.
“That’s so sad,” I replied.
“Irreparable damage,” he said, with a folded National Geographic in his hand. Every night was a different bit of knowledge. “So 80 percent of rape cases are date rape and the most common date rape drugs are rohypnol, GHB and ketamine,” said Gerry, swigging Budweiser from a Mets Mug, leafing through an issue of Cosmo. “Date rape is not an accurate term because the perpetrator is often not someone the victim is dating. Once the person’s ability to consent or resist is compromised, the sexual act is assault.”
“It’s usually someone they know or someone they think they can trust,” I said.
“Drug facilitated sexual assault is punishable up to 20 years in prison. That’s fucking pudding cups. It’s nothing. It should be life behind bars or the electric chair.”
“They should be drawn and quartered, dirty fucks. And castrated prior.”
“A person can bleed out in as little as two minutes from a severed carotid artery. If opened up properly,” Gerry said, reading an article from the Journal of the American Medical Association, dragging a thumb across his neck, loosening his tie.
“You know from experience?” I asked.
He gave me a wink with a quick suck of his teeth.
“What do you do on a first date?” I asked.
“Easy. I show her my baseball cards.”
“It’s a good thing you’re paying.”
“I’m a ball player, son,” he said, smiling. “David Wright had 181 hits, 26 home runs and 116 rbi’s this year,” said Gerry, proudly.
“Yeah, how can you not love that dude.”
“When I played for the Mets…”
While Gerry made no confessions to me, or anyone else for that matter, my intuition told me he had put some people in the ground. Murphy trained to be in fighting shape, I worked out to alleviate my anxiety, and Gerry stayed in shape just in case of retribution. A chest in his trophy room, as he referred to his den, had 58 baseballs inside it, all signed by him, with the initial of the first name and the entire surname, in terrible penmanship, and a date underneath. Game balls. A bit of personal memorabilia, little spherical trophies. Not one of those names belonged to a baseball player. Each name on those baseballs represented a man that when they took their last breath somebody, somewhere rejoiced. The death of some people should be celebrated. Some people don’t deserve to live.
A lonely black leather doctor’s bag sat on top on the mantle of Gerry’s fireplace, a pile of various knives and scissors, a hacksaw and a small hatchet lay inside. The doctor’s bag and its sharp contents stewed, fretting with impatience and desperate for some attention.