Think about it. Ever look in a closet or under the bed, when you're alone in the house, to ensure that an intruder isn't hiding there? Now, if you really believed that the Man in the Black Ski Mask was lurking in those places, would you behave the same way? Of course not. But it's more comfortable to believe the danger only in the abstract, and to act on it only half-heartedly. That's denial.
Finally, and most obviously, there is laziness. Who has the time or energy to inspect the family car for improvised explosive devices before every drive? Who can afford a two-hour, roundabout route to get to a place that could have been reached directly in ten minutes? Who wants to pass up a restaurant or bar just because the only seats available face the wall, not the entrance?
Rhetorical questions, but I know how Crazy Jake would have answered. The living, he would have said. And the ones who intend to go on that way.
Which leads to an easy rationalization, one that I'm sure is common to people who have taken lives the way I have. If he'd really wanted to live, the rationalization goes, I wouldn't have been able to get to him. He wouldn't have permitted himself that weakness, the one that did him in.
The yakuza's weakness was his addiction to weights. Who knows what fueled it--a history of childhood bullying that made him want to appear visibly strong afterward, an attempt to overcome a feeling of inadequacy born of being naturally slighter of build than Caucasians, some suppressed homoeroticism like the one that drove Mishima. Maybe some of the same impulses that had led him to become a gangster to begin with.
His obsession had nothing to do with health, of course. In fact, the guy was an obvious steroid abuser. His neck was so thick it looked as though he could slide a tie up over his head without having to loosen the knot, and he sported acne so severe that the club's stark incandescent lighting, designed to show off to maximum effect the rips and cuts its members had developed in their bodies, cast small shadows over the pocked landscape of his face. His testicles were probably the size of raisins, his blood pressure likely rampaging through an overworked heart.
I'd also seen him explode into the kind of abrupt, unprovoked violence that is another symptom of steroid abuse. One night, someone I hadn't seen before, no doubt one of the club's civilian members who liked the location and thought that rubbing elbows with reputed gangsters made them tougher by osmosis, started removing some of the numerous iron plates that were weighing down the bar the yakuza had been using to bench-press. The yakuza had walked away from the station, probably to take a break, and the new guy must have mistakenly assumed this meant he was through. The guy was pretty sizable himself, his colorful Spandex sleeveless top showing off a weightlifter's chest and arms.
Someone probably should have warned him. But the club's membership consisted primarily of chinpira--low-level young yakuza and wanna-be punks--not exactly good Samaritan types who were interested in helping their fellow man. Anyway, you have to be at least mildly stupid to start disassembling a bar like the one the yakuza was using without looking around for permission first. There were probably a hundred and fifty kilos on it, maybe more.
Someone nudged the yakuza and pointed. The yakuza, who had been squatting, reared up and bellowed, "Orya!" loud enough to vibrate the plate glass in the front of the rectangular room. What the fuck!
Everyone looked up, as startled as if there had been an explosion--even the new guy who had been so clueless just an instant earlier. Still bellowing expletives, the yakuza strode directly to the bench-press station, doing a good job of using his voice, either by instinct or design, to disorient his victim.
From Hard Rain: A John Rain Novel by Barry Eisler, copyright © 2003 Barry Eisler, published by G.P. Putnam's Sons, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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