Can there be any meeting in an alley between a man and a woman that ends well?
| A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY
In the entire city of Newark, New Jersey, there were only two truck drivers who could reverse into the narrow alleyway at the corner of Bleeker and Halsey streets in one go.
Tony Capaldi, who drove the garbage trucks for Allied waste disposal for the last eleven years, and Amanda Lasko.
Amanda was as tough as they came. All who knew her advised it was best to navigate East of her good side. She once silenced a United States Marine in a bar from a ninety-second monologue of obscene profanities that spewed out of her mouth like bullets from an AR-15 because he called her a 'broad'. Not even she knew when or how her granite exterior meshed into place but she came to enjoy the comfort within her barricaded cocoon. The few friends she had, swore she stored more testosterone in the letters of her first name than any other man could hope for.
Just after ten, on an overcast morning in April, she pulled up on Halsey street and put her delivery truck into reverse. Tony Capaldi did not replace the dumpster as snugly in its alcove as he usually did and that left even less space for Amanda to maneuver down the alleyway. The challenge was delicious- no scrapes no dings, with just mirrors and skill she backed that baby right up to the delivery bay of the CostRite pharmacy chain in one attempt.
Clipboard in hand, she jumped from her cab and her skirt parachuted up her thighs enough to show that she didn't care much for the shaving ritual. Her boots disturbed a puddle in a shallow pothole from the overnight rain.
"You know, in aisle four there are these plastic things called razors that sell for cheap. You oughta invest in some, Amanda," quipped an employee wheeling yellow garbage bags to the dumpster up ahead.
Without missing a single beat she fired back. "Yeah? Well, I tried the one your mother uses for her beard and hairy cornhole and them weren't worth shit."
She unlocked the back of her truck and began offloading the four palates the pharmacy ordered to stock their shelves. She was not a big woman by any means but she understood the physics of leverage and fulcrums from her father. A postal worker for decades, he taught her how to manoevre heavy objects with seeming ease and precision.
She was done and she tapped her boot with impatience, looking around for Al or Carlos to sort the paperwork. She was about to raise her voice when some guy with a blue CostRite tie and a white short sleeved shirt approached from the back door of the pharmacy. The name tag across the shirt pocket read 'Mark'.
"Man, you're quick. All set?" He took the clipboard from her and ripped off the top sheet.
"Who are you?"
"I'm Mark from the branch in Hoboken. Al is sick and Carlos is on vacation."
The morning tried to usher the overnight clouds away that brought a steady rain to the city. A spring breeze channeled through the alleyway and lifted her yellow skirt higher than she was comfortable with. He sported a well kept, full beard around his jaw but it wasn't enough to conceal the dimples on his cheek.
He looked past her briefly, checking the number and type of boxes on the palates she delivered. As soon as Amanda glimpsed his hazel-green eyes she felt sure she'd met this man before.
"Christopher? Chris?" She squinted her eyes and knitted her brow in her inquisition.
"Hmmm? What now?" He ticked off inventory from the sheet.
"Don't I know you? Chris, It's me. Amanda." His mouth looked different. She didn't remember him having such healthy teeth. His frame was taller and more muscular but she was sure about her recognition.
"Do you owe 'Chris' money? Cause if you do then yeah I'm Chris. If Chris owes you money then Nah, I'm still Mark. I'm sorry you don't look familiar. I knew one Amanda about eight, nine years ago but she was Philipino."
"Hey, smart mouth. Just asking you kindly because I usually don't give jerks the time of day. So you're saying you never lived in Akron and played high school football against Pier Valley? C'mon you asswipe, it's me...Amanda." She held her skirt down from the breeze and tried to keep her temper in check.
"So, it was 'no' before and it's still 'no' now. I am spoken for in case this is your version of a pick-up line but my name is, Mark. I was gonna give you my last name but you seem a little...intense." He stooped on his haunches to check the quantity of shampoo she delivered. He wore a peaked cap with the company's logo on it and she held back the urge to rip it off his smart-Alek head and make him admit he was Christopher Kidrey.
He had virtually dismissed her. She took two steps back and pivoted towards her cab, quietly conceding she lost the encounter. She calculated it was better to not get fired than to start a fight with this lying ass manager. Next week either Al will be better or Carlos will be back from vacation and life'll be back to normal.
"Ah...excuse me, Miss?" He called as she walked away.
"It's Amanda, 'Mark'." She put two fingers on either side of her ears and crooked them as she called the name she disputed.
"What's this extra case here about? It's not on the laden bill of what we ordered."
She struggled to change her demeanor. "Oh, I almost forgot. It's a promotion from a new wine distributor. It's a free case of their wine to put on front display and sell at whatever price you want. They recommend $3.99." She approached him again with an extra slip of promotional literature from her clipboard.
"Okay. Cool. What's the brand, what's it called?"
"I don't know it's here on the sheet. Ah... 'Mistaken Identity'.
The laughter began about two seconds after she finished her sentence. He took the sheet, read it and laughed more.
"So this is what this whole scene was about. It's part of the promotion to deliberately confuse me with someone else and get us excited about the product. You're a good actress. I actually believed you were a little crazy. Priceless--- A free 'Case of Mistaken Identity'? Yeah, I get it."
"What? No! I had no idea that was the name. I'm not part of that BS. No!" she stammered out a flustered defense.
"Clever, very clever, Amanda. I thought you were just some crazy broad."
Amanda's frustration shifted into seething anger. At her waist, her fingers curled into tight hammers and her heavy brow descended across her vision. It was like being in a high school flashback of lunch recess in the quad.
"This isn't a stunt, trust me. I'm the farthest thing from Vanna White and you know it 'Chris the Kid.' I can prove it. You have a scar on your right ankle. You broke it at our homecoming game in ninety-two against Pier Valley. I visited you in hospital after your surgery and we started dating after that."
"Yes, I did have surgery on an ankle except that it was my left and it was because I jumped from an airplane in Afganistan and landed badly." He stepped towards her and took off his pharmacy cap. "You know what else happened in Afganistan? Shrapnel from an IED blew this hole in my head and maybe that's the reason I don't know who you are, lady."
She looked at the depressed contour at the side of his scalp where his hair had stopped growing. She moved back to his eyes and searched again for that flicker of recognition that belied his denials. He allowed her to probe without blinking but in the end, she was satisfied he was who he claimed to be. She wanted to ask why he disappeared all those years ago but realized he'd have no answer because he was not Christopher Kidrey.
"Now go on and get the hell out of here before I call the cops on you. You're causing a scene." He turned his back and left her standing on the loading dock.
It started to drizzle again and she held the clipboard over her head. She retreated to the driver's side seat of her truck and wondered why the rain still kept falling onto her cheeks even though she was safely inside. She was livid that this guy Mark had gotten to her. She revved her fifteen-liter diesel engine a few times and pulled out of the alleyway behind CostRite pharmacy in Newark, New Jersey.
Amanda Lasko completed the rest of her deliveries without further incident. She returned to the depot and sat in her cab for close to an hour dialing her father's number just to hear his voice on the answering machine. She stopped only when the robot operator advised there was no further space left because it was out of leverage and fulcrums.
She asked to leave work early to meet with her anger manager but in the end, she just cruised to the Jersey Shore in her Dodge Charger and back, just listening to Alanis Morrisette and Springsteen. Her dark hair sailed in the wind and kneaded the tension from her neck and shoulders.
"Checking out early is okay if I'm staying at the Miramar Motel, but not if it's my first love or my father. A mere courtesy heads-up would suffice," she thought.
By the time she arrived at her complex, the sun was just gathering a blanket of clouds around itself before settling in for the night. She pushed open the door of her apartment and knelt in the foyer to unlace her boots.
On the floor, someone had slid a flyer for a pizza promotion under her door. She crumpled it with disgust but just before she tossed it into her garbage she realized there was a hand-written note on the back.
Thank you for nearly blowing my cover you numbskull ridiculous broad. I'm FBI now. That pharmacy has been diverting Opiate tabs to the Capaldi crime family through dumpster pickups in yellow garbage bags. Your legs look awesome BTW. I didn't know you still cared.
I never stopped.
Chris the Kid.