"God no. Please God no." he pled.
I laughed, twirling the matchstick between my fingers as I did so.
"Why the fuck would you do this?" he spat. Spittle flecked my face and I used the back of my hand to slowly wipe it away, leaving a sadistic smile in its place.
Behind the man, who was tied with a thick, white nylon rope to the pole that the tides and water temperature sign was hung on, the black water—made darker by the lack of moonlight—lapped steadily against the pier.
I flicked the unlit match in my hand at the man's face and watched as he closed his eyes and turned his head to the side. The match spun in the air, bounced off a flesh cheek, and fell down between the worn wooden planks we were standing on.
I took a step closer, our noses almost touching. His breath was hot and ragged, with the slightest hint of wintergreen. The wintergreen smell did not linger long, for the gasoline the man's clothes were saturated in overpowered it.
"You ruined my life." Each word came out sounding as if it had its own sentence.
"What the hell did I do?" he screamed, convulsing against his binding. I couldn't help but laugh.
"Oh, you know." I slid another of the wooden matches out of the small box and held it up before me.
"What? Can't I have a smoke?" I said with a sneer. I took a pack of cigarettes out of my pocket and pushed the top of with my thumb. One lonely cigarette leaned across the entirety of the opening, enjoying the extra room.
I showed him the box. "Oh look, one left. Perfect."
I put the cigarette in my mouth and put the match head against the rough strip on the side of the box.
The man began convulsing again, the rope keeping him securely immobile. "No, you sick fuck," his voice cracked and screeched as he screamed at me, "What the fuck is wrong with you?"
"I told you before," I said calmly, "You ruined me. You fucking fucked me over. Ass-hole."
"How?" he screamed. He screamed so loud that a seagull closer to shore called back. I looked from where the bird might be sitting
I smiled. Was he that naïve? Must be. I pulled the match away from the box and stared at him. He was breathing heavy, still trying to push against the rope. In the darkness, I couldn't see the lump on his forehead I knew would be there. I knew it'd be there because that's how he got here.
He thought he was slick sneaking out to the strip club when his wife was out. Yea, right. After I kill him, I decided, I'd tell her. I'd tell her everything—how he goes to the same strip club every time she goes out or away, how sometimes he brings the same stripped to the same seedy motel to do, assumedly, the same thing, how he lies to her about not having enough money for her to spend, how he gives that money to that same stripper. Everything. She'll be devastated. Oh well, not my fault.
While I thought, he continued to scream at me. Let me go. I'll do anything. Please. Please. Please. Tell me what I did, I'll fix it, anything. I swear.
What'd he do? Oh, you don't want to know.
I heard a dull thudding sound. That bastard, he was trying to knock himself out. I grabbed him by the hair, his thin, wispy salt and pepper hair that was always combed over to cover his bald spot but never really did the job.
I pushed my face close to his and spoke through clenched teeth. "Listen, fucker. You'll be awake when I do this. I want you to feel this."
The wad of phlegm I had been creating in the back of my throat his him square between the eyes. I watched as it made its way down over the bridge of his nose, past his lips and finally dropping off his chin. Some didn't make it, some got stuck in his goatee.
I laughed out loud. He tried to spit back but nothing of importance came out. His mouth was dry.
I took a step back and looked around. The nearest lights were a few hundred feet away—the houses that lined the beach. The moon was covered by clouds and there were no lamps around. The little lantern I brought had been blown out by the wind for a while already.
"Please, let me go."
"Please," he cried as he begged. If it wasn't so pathetic, it might've been kind of cute. No, nevermind.
"Do you remember me? Do you? Do you?" My voice rose each time and my last sentence was a scream.
"N…no." still crying. Fucking baby.
I took a step back and slid the match along the box, lighting it. It blazed up in front of me and I held it there, slightly under my face so he could see me.
"You should. You did this." I ran a finger along a scar that ran from just above my nose, across my cheek and down to my collar bone. Around it, keloids had formed, creating the effect of shiny pink brains seeping out of my cheek.
"I…I don't know you."
"Yes, yes you do Roger Carlos Mendez. Roger Carlos Mendez the same construction manager who was in charge of one Two Rivers Street project seven years ago. In fact, you are the same Roger Carlos who was the foreman in charge when one crane malfunctioned and ceased to work. You are the same Roger Carlos Mendez who insisted that a few of your lowly peon workers could lift the steel beams up a few floors if you rounded up enough of them and used a pulley system.
"What? Did you think they were just dumb fucking Mexicans? They couldn't speak English so they were allowed to work harder, and so that, because you fucked up somewhere along the line, the job could be done on time?"
He gulped air in loudly.
"Do you remember what happened next, Roger? Do you?"
He remained silent.
"Want me to tell you?"
"Okay, if you insist."
I leaned in closer to whisper in his ear. "Well, you see, someone, I. E., you, fucked up. There were too many beams and not enough dumb fucking Mexicans. Sure, we got it off the ground. But those steel cables you gave us. Yea, one snapped."
He shook his head wildly. "No…no! It wasn't my fault."
"Well, certainly none of us dumb Mexicans would know what to do. We looked up to our boss."
I backtracked for a second. "Speaking of dumb fucking Mexicans. Aren't you one? Mendez? That's a Spanish name alright. How long has your family been here? One generation? Two? You're not so different."
He said nothing, but quietly began to whimper.
"What happened next you ask? What happened to the cable? Well, I'll tell you. It hit us. It hit us, the dumb fucking Mexicans. Guess who was in the line of Mexicans pulling."
He still said nothing, but he continued to cry.
"Me. Look what happened to me, feel it."
I took a small knife of out my pocket and cut the one binding holding his left arm down. Holding his hand in mine, I traced the keloids with his fingertips.
"Like what you feel? No, I don't either."
"It wasn't my fault. It. Wasn't. My. Fault."
"Yes. It. Was."
I stepped back and lit a match. "I was lucky. I didn't die. Michael died. Carlos died. I was at the end. I was scrawny then. I only got hit in the face. I'd thank God, but after all this, I don't know."
The match had begun to burn low. I could feel the heat through the fingertips of my leather gloves.
"I hope they catch me."
As I walked, my shadow, created from the pyre burning behind me, led the way. The screams died out eventually, I know because I waited. I sat in a nearby alley and listened. Before the screams died out through, I heard footsteps running down the asphalt outside the alley.