Billy supposes that the first defining moment between them and the first moment of clarity within himself about it came while they stood facing each other in a pub, hopping sideways in alternating patterns.
That moment was triggered by the one before it, when a strange little man who looked like a half-strength George Negus somehow tripped and hip-and-shouldered his self on the back of an older woman. Billy didn’t even actually see it but heard the “oof” as air escaped him. And it sounded funny, so Billy smiled.
The next moment he and The Penguin turned toward each other and he could see she also was smiling. He couldn’t see his own smile but he knew there were several shades of darkness between The Penguin’s and his own. She didn’t perceive this, Billy thought.
A milliion thoughts in a millisecond. He looked down to slightly below his own eye-level to that of The Penguin’s. He had always reasoned that it wasn’t that the eyes are the window to the soul, it was just that when looking into someone else’s eyes, it centred–everything else like facial expression and frame became almost subliminal. Like after-image.
As always, The Penguin wore black shirt, pants, shoes. Dark brown hair, feathery with sometimes the illusion of a rainbow sheen to it as if from an oil-slick. Elongated but finely-wired black-coloured glasses frames and dark-brown eyes — in the gloom of the tavern much more could be seen than in day.
That moment Billy received confirmation of a familiarity between them that Billy wishes wasn’t there. Sharing a smile, a silent chuckle, brought about by the misfortunes and patheticicism of others.
Growing up being a freak – adolescence and dealing with the taunts and the ostracism of one’s peers. Some arseholes, Billy thought, said it builds character but he knew first hand that it was mostly a soul-destroyer. He’d hung tuff and got to the other end of the teens with only a battered self-esteem. After that, barring the odd really bad day, it stabilised. He’d never done anything about it.
In that moment of connection, Billy could see that those years had affected The Penguin differently, created a dark and maybe dangerous edge to her. She kept it hidden so well; hidden behind a polished mesh of politeness and the appearance of actually caring. It was as well hidden as his weaknesses. Their sicknesses had already begun to feed one another.
Billy realises that the effects of that causal moment will drag out for years and he wishes he’d never stepped out this night.