Ray Ban Sunglasses

It is Friday night. I am sitting with my friend Jack at a table outside the local brewery, located in a park.  We are both graduate students and live in a college town in the Midwest. The warm wind smells like rain and blows the voices of the crowd into the branches of the trees all around us.

Jack gets up and goes to buy himself some more beer. I watch him walk towards the outdoor bar area and join the queue. It is busy tonight, like every Friday night in the summer.

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I notice a pair of sunglasses on the table. They are away from Jack’s empty beer glass and pack of cigarettes. I assume they’re not his. I pick them up and observe them carefully in the dark. They are a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses. They must have been expensive. I remember I once owned a similar pair but I gave them away to a girlfriend. Since then I have always bought myself cheap sunglasses and I have kept losing them, precisely because they are cheap.

I try them on and watch through their tinted glass. They have a yellow safety cord which I put around my neck. The glasses clap onto my face well and contour my ears. I feel like a chiseled face in an advertisement. In a moment of self-consciousness, I take them off and hold them up with an obvious gesture, so if the owner shows up, he notices that I just found them. but no one is watching me at the other tables. I see multitudes of wet open-mouthed faces. I place the sunglasses back exactly where I found them. I can’t remember if anyone left the table when Jack and I arrived.

Jack returns with a large glass of beer and sits down. He takes a cigarette from his pack, lights it, and offers me one. I take one and he reaches over, producing a flame with his lighter.  He soon notices the sunglasses, which I had forgotten about, takes them and says “nice” while he starts to open them and look at them before trying them on.

“Yeah,” I say. “I just found them. They were sitting right there.”

“Are you keeping them?” They fit him well. His face looks aerodynamic. I imagine him riding a motorbike, the wind blowing his hair, like another stupid ad.

“I don’t know. If no one else claims them. Maybe whoever left them will be back.”

I inhale smoke and sip my beer. Jack does the same. We come here every weekend night and smoke and drink while we hope to run into interesting women. We might seem indifferent to the people around us, almost discreet, but we look at women with hungry eyes, like vultures.

Two men approach our table. One is in his mid thirties, he carries a pitcher of beer and two glasses. The other man must be nineteen or twenty, no older; perhaps it’s his younger brother.

“Mind if we sit here with you guys? Kinda hard to get a table tonight,” the older man says.

“Be our guests,” I say, knowing Jack doesn’t mind.

I wish two women would have joined us instead but I’m not about to kick them out. They sit and pour themselves beer. They also smoke and they drink quickly. The younger man’s face is distorted and he seems angry. He speaks loudly to his companion. The wind steals his words from my ears. I make something out like “we are only here to drink some beers, relax.” I don’t know if it’s my imagination or if I have actually heard the older man say it.

Jack looks at two women walk to the long lines at the bar. One of them wears tight jeans. It is hard not to stare. Her firm backside hypnotizes us both until she disappears in the crowd. I feel the wind stronger now, and the voice of the younger man sounds menacing.

“They’re obnoxious,” Jack whispers.

“The kid must be on speed or something,” I respond.

“Hey, these sunglasses belong to you guys?” the younger man asks, holding them in his hands.

“No, someone left them here…”

“Really, I’ll keep them!” he states before I have time to finish my sentence.

“Except, I found them first.” I hear my voice quaver but it comes out clearly. I am suddenly very aware of Jack, his eyes watch me.

“O.K.” the younger man says. It dissolves the tension. I feel relieved but he tries them on. He throws the safety cord defiantly on the floor. I feel sweat break in my forehead. I want to appear indifferent and hide my growing irritation.

“I guess I found them first, so if the guy that lost them does not return soon, I’ll keep them.” I don’t understand exactly why I want the sunglasses. I don’t need them but I think it’s unfair for the guy to claim them. It’s the principle.

“So you found them, huh?” The older man says. He takes the sunglasses from his friend or brother, and looks through them without putting them on. He takes his time before he hands them to me. I am waiting like a snake ready to kill a frog.

“Hey, don’t give them to him! I want to keep them,” the younger man says. But I have them now.

“We’ll arm-wrestle, do you arm-wrestle?” he asks me. I look at Jack. He’s smiling. I would like him to suggest something but he’s silent with that “don’t ask me” look.

“O.K. we’ll arm-wrestle.” I’m incredulous that I agreed. The nerve. Maybe if I lose I won’t give him the sunglasses anyway.

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“Are you right-handed or left-handed?” he asks, sitting in front of me, and placing an optimistic right arm on the table. I join his hand with my right before I answer.

“I’m right-handed”

“Well, I’m actually left-handed,” he says.

“O.K then, I can use my left hand.” I let go of his hand.

“No, it’s O.K., I can use my right arm too,” he says. I think he might go back on his word if I beat him. He is slightly taller than I am, and his hand and wrist are a little thicker.

The older man stands to my left, between us, he holds our fists together. The tips of my opponent’s fingers are white and compress white half-moons into my skin. His face is like a knot, his eyeballs are cross-eyed, focused on his fist.

“Hands behind your backs,” the older man says. I try to show Jack that I’m confident. He’s still grinning and his facial expression doubts me. The older man lets go while I’m unready, giving my rival an advantage. He pushes back my arm about 20 degrees. I’m worried. He pushes hard. My hand gives up some more degrees and my wrist swells. I position the right part of my torso and my right shoulder towards him. I will have to use the muscles on my biceps to win. My hand is being pushed down to 45 degrees but my arm and wrist are resisting. I try to align my bent hand with my arm but now he’s really tough and he is leaning all his body weight against me. Somehow I begin recovering although slowly. I manage a straight angle and he groans. Sweat is flowing down from my forehead and I succeed to push his arm all the way down to a few inches from the table. I’ve got him where I wanted, I don’t think he stands a chance now. I suddenly remember all the swimming I did in high school.

“Get him, Rob!” I hear Jack say. I almost had forgotten him.

I slam his fist down on the table and smile. He dares to spring his fist back up, like a swing. I slam him down again and we repeat this a few times. His fist is like a bouncing tennis ball, however, slowly giving up to the laws of gravity.

“O.K. you lost. But, here, take the sunglasses and keep them,” I grab them and place them before him, on the table.

“No! Let’s try with our left arms,” he says.

“Why? I said you can keep the sunglasses.”

“No, I want to fight for them.”

“But why do you insist?”

“Come on! I told you I was left-handed.”

“O.K. have it your way, whatever.” I sit down again and position my left arm. I doubt I can beat him. I’m not left handed but he doesn’t scare me. I know my left arm is very strong too.

“This time I’ll hold your fists together,” Jack says. He looks at me with support and lets go. I’m ready this time and his arm feels weaker than his right arm. I had suspected he was lying. I push his arm down steadily, like the second hand in a stop watch. I get him decisively close to the table and crush his fist down, allowing no nonsense this time. I squash the flesh on the back of his hand against the wooden table as if I were sticking it with glue, and until he offers no more obstinate resistance. He gives up, opening his fingers, exposing the palm of his hand, waiting for me to release him, like a dog with his belly up, offering his testicles to a superior dog and waiting for mercy.

“I guess you lost again, but hey, you can still keep the sunglasses.” I stand up and give them to him once again but he puts them down on the table.

“No, let’s do a hand wrestle this time!” he says and also stands. He grabs both my hands before I can protest and shows me how it’s done. I had never heard of it. Our palms are touching each others’ and our fingers are intertwined. The object is to push forward and up, until the loser’s wrists can’t bend backwards anymore. He amuses me. His grip is again weaker than mine. I push his hands upwards until he grimaces and gives up. He’s lost for the third time.

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“Just take the sunglasses,” the older man now says.

“Keep them,” I’m offended by his assertion. We sit down back at our chairs. Jack lights a cigarette and sips his beer. I echo him. My muscles ache but I feel good. I don’t regret having given away the sunglasses. It was like giving away a responsibility. Jack chuckles.

“You completely humiliated me!” the younger man suddenly shouts. The sunglasses are in front of where he sits. He does not acknowledge them. His eyes are red and holds his beer glass between his face and the table. He sets it down.

“What do you mean?” I ask.

“I’ve never felt so humiliated. No one has ever done this to me. I don’t want the sunglasses. It’s embarrassing.”

“Just forget it,” the older man says in disgust and looks away from the scene.

“Hey, you should be grateful,” I say. He shuts his mouth and looks at me, bewildered. “Think of it as a lesson. It’s not worth fighting for anything. Specially not a pair of sunglasses. And on top of it, I let you keep them. Look at it as me giving you two presents today. A pair of sunglasses and a lesson. ” I’m pleased with myself. Jack looks embarrassed and he’s silent.

“So I should be grateful, huh?” The kid says mockingly.

“I think so.”

“Well, thanks a lot!” He doesn’t sound convinced and finally takes the sunglasses. He puts them on and smiles. “I really appreciate this.” He stretches out his right arm for a hand shake.

I shake his hand cautiously.

“Name’s Pete, what’s your name?” he asks.

“Mine’s Rob, nice to meet you.” We all do the “nice to meet each other” ordeal and sit back in our chairs.

Everyone’s silent for a few minutes. Then when they start speaking, the wind tears their voices. Jack puts out his cigarette. I light one up. Something tells me the game is not over yet. I laugh.

“That guy’s some ass,” Jack whispers.

“Hey, I’m forever grateful!” the young man shouts over the table. “Thanks a lot man! Thanks to you!” He holds the sunglasses up in the air, like a toast.

“Can’t believe you gave them to him,” the older man says. I’m unsure if he’s being sarcastic.

“Well, I guess some of us don’t need sunglasses that bad,” I say. I don’t know if they can hear me. Perhaps they’re drunk and want to continue playing.

“Well, I need them! I need them really bad!” Pete puts them on and snickers with his older friend. Pete is more stubborn than I thought. I see their pitcher is empty.

“Maybe we should go,” Jack says and stands up.

“Yeah, let’s go.” I get up. We exchange sarcastic byes and walk away.

As we walk away, Jack says “you were fucking great, man.”

“Really? Why do you think so?” I’m still trying to wrap the whole thing around my head.

“I mean first you beat him arm wrestling, then you let him keep the sunglasses, obviously humiliating him, which he admits himself. And then, on top of it all, you make a complete fool out of him by making him have to swallow his pride. Congratulations!” He laughs. “That asshole won’t forget you that easily!”

“I know, what a jerk. He was angry even at the end. I would have liked to see the true owner of the glasses arrive, just before we left. Imagine that, it would have been the ultimate blow. ”

“Would have served him right. Then again, you sure got him good, boy did you get him.”

“What else could I have done? It’s not worth fighting over a pair of sunglasses.”

“I don’t know, maybe we should have beaten them up.”

“That would have been an alternative, but what good is violence? How does one solve a situation like that?”

“Yeah, what good is violence,” as I hear Jack say this, I wonder if it would have been, after all, more manly to have beaten the shit out of him.

Copyright ©1992 Jorge Luis Carbajosa

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