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Snake Strike

Paul and I had been good friends for a long time.
That should have tipped me off that it wouldn't stay that way. I never had friends for long. Never really will.
We were shooting pool Friday, like usual.
"Nice shot."
"Thanks."
Paul has that way of standing there, trying to look normal, but every muscle in his body is screaming at you "I'm nervous! I need to say something!"
"Spit it out Paul." He hates it when I do that, just out his nervousness like that.
"Frank... " I scratch, and it's his turn, gives him a chance to collect his thoughts as he angles for his shot. "I want to ease off on Saul."
I smile a bit to myself when he misses the shot. Should have seen this coming.
"Paul. We've done this literally a thousand times. What's different all of a sudden?"
He looks at me. He see's it coming. He knows nothing's gonna change. But we're like cats. Gotta turn around six times and scratch the floor a bit before laying down.
"You know what's different. We've never hurt anybody before."
"That's cuz nobody's ever hurt us before, Paul. This was always what was going to happen if somebody decided to get violent." I make two more easy. I've had this kind of conversation in my head so many times, I can just focus on the game.
"Well that was never the plan for me. And I didn't think it was yours either."
Now we've got the crux of it. It's not really about the violence. That's just the catalyst. He thinks I've lied to him, betrayed a trust that was never there. I reach across the table, my arm stretched all the way out to make that eight ball. A quick, sudden strike. Triple rebound into the corner.
"Paul." I set down my stick. "You never asked. And I never made any promises to you that this wasn't where it would go if somebody decided to fight. If this was gonna bug you so much, you should have made sure you knew where the line was, before we got into it."
"I thought I knew!" He shouts, throwing his stick down.
And that's it. For me, it's simple math. For him it's betrayal.
"What do you want from me Paul?"
"Understanding for one thing, dammit! You're acting like there's nothing wrong, Frank! Like we should just keep on like nothing's changed!"
"I'd like to. We work well together. I understand where you're coming from. I know exactly what you're thinking. I just don't happen to agree with it. And just because we don't agree doesn't mean things have to change."
Paul rolls his eyes and slaps the table.
"Right. God you're like a robot. Or a snake. Cool and composed, but you've got no idea what you're doing to everybody else when you strike. There are things I'm not willing to do Frank. And you've started doin' em. For most people that means the end of the arrangement. But oh no, not for you, cuz as long as it's profitable and not too dangerous, it's all good for you. Despite what you'd made me think in the past."
I shake my head. He just doesn't see it.
"Paul. I've been in this situation a lot of times. It comes with being me. People like you come and we get to be friends and you think you know me. I didn't make you think anything. You started to fill in any gaps about my nature and my ethics with what you wanted to see. And I'm sorry that I'm not the person you want me to be. But there's two ways to go from here. Either you accept me for who I really am, and we keep doing what we're doing; or you get all upset about it and walk away. Either way's fine with me, you just let me know."
He walks, like I knew he would. And maybe I should feel one way or another about that. But it's all so predictable.
And I just can't get myself to care about anything that's predictable.