If you’re sitting there thinking you already know who Greeno is, you’re wrong, cause Greeno is an amalgam.
That’s right, he’s a combination of whatever people I want to put in a story without worrying about accuracy, and I’m calling him Greeno. And the guy you’re thinking of, the guy you call Greeno – if you know him – I don’t even call him that. I call him something else, something secret.
No, this is Greeno, a Guy I Know. And every time I write a story about A Guy I Know, I have decided to call him Greeno, and my decision is not related to this other guy, the guy I don’t even call that, and you do.
Anyway, Greeno was on his way to Chicago, and he was meeting some of his old pals there. He had been to Chicago, and he was familiar with the town. He was a grownup, and he could just roll on up in there and grab a drink and then start banging out a Hemingway story, in real life. Smoking and chatting up the ladies, and maybe getting into a brawl. But he had a heart, you know?
Nevermind. He was at a rest stop, and because it was outside of Chicago, it was a crowded one, more like an airport. People from all over – taking care of business, moving along, chewing. There were old ladies walking dogs outside, and kids cranking their faces against windows, and what looked like a pancake, lying in the middle of one of the drinking fountain.
Pandemonium. Greeno went straight into a shiny, beige stall, and he sat down to do what he had to do, and he already knew there was a guy in the next stall – the way you always know. There was a shadow of a shoe on the floor, and some grunting and shuffling and all that. He knew the guy was there but it was crowded, so he didn’t think about it until the guy said, “Hey, how’s it going over there?”
Greeno was a careful man. He took a moment to frown at his pants-shrouded ankles, his mismatched socks. They were nice socks, but mismatched. He hadn’t known about the socks, until he sat down and the guy on the next toilet started talking.
He decided – as he frequently did in awkward social situations – to pretend as if the awkward person hadn’t spoken at all.
It was a nice couple of seconds. Greeno got pretty comfortable in them. And then the guy next to him, his voice kind of jocular and urgent said, “Hey! Can you hear me or not?”
Greeno didn’t like that. It was the kind of thing you couldn’t pretend you hadn’t heard. He didn’t like to cause trouble, and he knew that silence could often speak louder than words.
So he cocked his head up at the wall of the stall, and shrugged and said, “Well, you know. Just heading to Chicago, meeting some friends.”
The guy shifted around over there. Like he was changing his sweatshirt or something. Greeno remembered how his dad used to feel perfectly comfortable, calling him into the bathroom for a briefing on yard work expectations or upcoming church functions, all while sitting on the toilet. Sometimes, he would have a sandwich in there, and a little television.
Greeno got something in his eye, started working on it with his pinky finger, and then the guy in the next stall said, “So, what are you guys doing later?”
As indicated earlier, Greeno had been around the block a time or two. He could drop right into downtown Chicago, get a drink and a steak, and start rocking like he was in a beer commercial or something. He wasn’t a rube. He knew, here’s the sort of thing turns out bad sometimes, right here.
And then there was an Incident – nothing to worry about, it was just the reason he had come to the rest area and sat down in the first place. You know. He was a pretty healthy guy, and it was a pretty efficient Incident, but there was some noise involved. It wasn’t a secret.
Still, Greeno felt the quiet after the question. He didn’t want to insult the crazy man.
He said, “Well, you know, we’re going to get a steak and have a few drinks. A buddy of mine just got a job here, and…”
Trailing off, Greeno became very conscious of the sounds he was making. When you realize someone is listening to you, on the john, you start to think, man, pants are loud. He didn’t even want to think about the toilet paper, and the rest of what he had to do, with his wacky new pal over there, listening in.
But then his wacky new pal said, “Listen, I got to call you back. This jackass next to me thinks I’m talking to him.”
And as the man flushed the toilet in the next stall, Greeno nodded sadly at the floor, thinking, this isn’t the way I want introduced to anyone.
And yet here he was, my new amalgam, ready for a full year of wacky hyjinx.
Let’s all give him a round of applause.