Fiction

A lunch

By: J.D. Diaz

After closing, when all the diners and most of the staff were gone and he was done cleaning his station and knives, he helped Javier with the dishes and mopping the floor. They had a smoke by the pile of garbage bags out front, and he went back inside after Javier left. As he was putting on his coat, Vincent, the bartender, opened two beers smiling at him from the bar, where they sat and talked about Vincent’s recent affair with a married woman. After the beer, he walked alone to the subway as it started to snow. At the station while waiting for the uptown train, he decided to finally respond to the group text with Arthur and Raquel. He had been putting this off for four days:

“Hey guys. Yes, I’ll be there tomorrow. Art, can you get garlic and unsalted butter? I’ll get the rest of the stuff. The wine you got should be enough. Just get one bottle of any white.”

It was around 3:30AM when he got off the subway and walked the two blocks home as the snow was starting to stick.  In the apartment he turned on the light of the small kitchen and stared at the dishes in the sink, the pots on the stove with the sauces he was working on two days ago. On the island, a spoon, and the two empty cans of sardines he quickly ate before heading to work earlier that day. He took off the dirty and greasy dark-color uniform in which he sweated for the several hours he worked the charbroiler that night. When working the grill and the heat got too intense, he would ask Pat to switch and he would work the sauces. Only when the owner was not in the kitchen, would he take a break from the heat. The owner only wanted him grilling those dry-aged cuts the restaurant spent so much money on. He threw the uniform in a separate hamper for work clothes, and walked towards the couch, naked, holding a bottle of aloe vera and a beer he grabbed from the fridge. He sat down after turning off all the lights. From the balcony window, he watched the dim reddish glow coming in from the heavy snow shower. He rubbed aloe on the burnt hands, and passed out on the couch around 4AM, having taken only one sip of beer.

Later that morning after showering and putting on clean clothes, he headed down to Chinatown where he walked around the fish market for some time. Eventually, he found fresh scallops. Across the street he had a green tea at a small café where he sat down and thought about the get-together later that day, and what accompaniment to prepare for the scallops he’d just bought.  The snowstorm had passed by that time, and the sky was obscured, filled with gray clouds. The trash bags on both sides of the narrow streets were covered with piles of snow. The middle of the sidewalks was slushy and muddy where people were starting to walk on. As he drank the tea, a large white truck parked right outside which blocked his view to the street. He watched as the driver began unloading boxes of produce into the dim sum restaurant next door. After drinking the tea, he went back uptown and made a stop at the Union Square market.

He went into a couple of fruit and vegetable stands, but spent time standing around trying to decide what to prepare. He went into the bakery stand to smell the breads. He stared at a sourdough loaf at the back of the stand. Large and round, it had the perfect shape to make a cheesy grilled cheese sandwich for Arthur as an appetizer, so he got the loaf along with some slices of cheddar and provolone at the dairy stand. He went back to a fruit and vegetable stand; one which did not have much people compared to the other ones.

At the center of that stand, there was a table filled with big, tan-yellow, butternut squashes. He approached the table and grabbed the squash at the very top, which was cut open to show its inside. Looking at its bright, orange, fleshy pulp, he thought of slicing it and roasting it with garlic and olive oil, or caramelize it with bourbon and garnish it with fresh mint, or even better, make it into a puree with shallots and ginger that could be spread under the scallops. As he thought of this and held the squash on his right hand, he noticed the couple across the tent. A girl was grabbing bright red apples from a table and placing them in a white bag, which the guy she was with, held open for her. He watched the couple as she finished packing the apples, and they both walked together to the register in front of the tent. He shook off the thoughts and put the squash back realizing he was deeply musing again. Then quickly grabbed the basil, shallots, and asparagus he initially thought of getting back at the café. He just had to get parmesan cheese back at the dairy stand, pass by his apartment on his way to Arthur’s and pick up some items like arborio rice, and a few cubes of the frozen dark stock he made a few weeks ago.

When he walked to Arthur’s apartment later that morning, right before noon, he was carrying a large paper bag filled with groceries on each hand, and two sauce pans he grabbed at his apartment. There was a sharp itch right on his left arm he couldn’t scratch. The sidewalk was slippery right before St. John’s Cathedral. He always walked on the edge of the sidewalks when it snowed. He liked the feeling and sound when steeping on fresh snow. It felt like a sound only he could hear. He remembered the first time he saw the snow.

He had just moved to New York during a cold January just like this one and was doing dishes at the back of the French restaurant where he had been working for a few weeks. He was scraping fat off baking sheets when the hostess tapped him on the shoulder.

“Look outside!”

He looked out the front door and smiled.

“But go outside!” he remembered her saying. He did not. Since the whole crew at the restaurant knew he had never seen the snow. Later without them noticing, he snuck out thru the back door to see the snow.

Right in front of St. John’s, he looked across the street at the Hungarian pastry shop where he had been for breakfast with Arthur and Raquel. He climbed over the pile of snow to cross the street. There were no tables outside the bakery this time, and the outdoor seating area was covered white. Inside, the long room filled with wooden tables was packed. It was warm from the heater blasting plus the people. There was no line at the counter, and the girl with black curly hair and blue sweater behind the glass filled with pastries, smiled at him as he walked towards the counter. He put the grocery bags on the dark wooden floor and began looking at the babkas, beiglis, rugelach, croissants, and cookies in the vitrine. The girl followed him as he walked to the other side of the glass. While looking at the pastries, he saw Raquel out on the sidewalk walking uptown. She looked inside and saw him standing at the counter. She smiled and waved in surprise. He smiled back and signaled her to come inside. He did not know whether to turn around and pick up the bags or face the front door as she walked through it. He moved the bags to the side of the vitrine and unbuttoned his coat. He turned around to face her when she was about six feet away.

“Hey you! It’s been a while. I’m so glad we are finally doing this!” she exclaimed as they hugged. She wore a long light blue coat with a bright red scarf, and black boots. A dark flowered bandana was tied to her head, and her long brown hair rested over her shoulders.

“I was trying to remember the Danish we had last time we were here, do you remember?” He asked.

“I have no idea. I just remember been so hungover that morning we came here for breakfast! I was afraid for Art; he looked so sick. You made him shug a beer right after he woke up that morning, telling him it would help!” She remembered while laughing.

“I think it was a Strudel…Do you have Struduels?” He asked the girl behind the counter.

“I think so, let me check. Are you guys staying? You might have to wait for a table” the girl said.

“We could stay for a little and get coffee.” Raquel said.

“Art is probably waiting, and we have to cook lunch” He then turned to the girl behind the counter and asked for three Strudels to go.

They left the bakery and kept heading uptown. Raquel reached and grabbed one of the bags he was carrying. He was initially walking on the left side of her but began switching to her right. She also moved quickly to the right to prevent him from changing sides.

“Move!” He said, with a smile, as he grabbed her by the arm and pulled her to his left.

“I was waiting for you to do that!” she replied laughing

“How are things at the restaurant?” she asked

“Good. Vincent says hi.”

“I miss him! I should stop by and say hello to everyone.”

“We hired a lot of new people.”

“Did you finish the menu you were working on?”

“No, we’ve been busy.”

“Please! You sleep until noon every day! Stop hanging out with Vincent and finish the damned thing.”

“It’s practically done; it just needs some tuning before I show it to the owners”

They walked and talked as they came behind an old man with a long-hooded coat, who walked carefully to avoid the unshoveled stretches. They passed the man by each side. When they came to the intersection of 123rd and Broadway, they waited quietly for the snowplow driving by before crossing.

He asked, “Ian couldn’t come?”

“He went to Rhode Island with his college buddies. I asked Art if we could move the lunch to next week, but he said you won’t be here.”

“I’m working next week. I could only get today off.”

“It’s better like this though. It’s been a while since we’ve spent time together. Plus, I don’t think Ian gets Art.”

“And you do?”

“Sometimes! When he’s not drunk.” She responded smiling. “When was the last time you saw him?” She asked.

“He brought a date to the restaurant last week.”

“And he asked you to come out to their table and say hi?”

“I’m pretty sure that’s why he brought her,” he responded as she laughed.

“He told me he’s been dieting and lost some weight. Is that true?”

“He looks the same to me.”

“Well, I hope you brought plenty of food because I’m starving. Oh! He just sent a text.”

“Where are you guys?”

“We’re a block away. Open up some wine! :)” she replied.

They entered his building and spoke to the doorman at the front desk. The doorman got on the phone as they waited. He watched as she put the grocery bag down to take off the bandana she wore and swiftly tied up her hair into a bun which revealed the small flower tattoo on the back of her neck.

“There’s a man and a lady here to see you? Okay. You guys can go ahead. Fourth floor” They took the elevator, and both remembered that time they helped Arthur walk into that same building around 1AM, where they left him at the front desk, with a different doorman, before taking a cab to a club in Williamsburg where Vincent was working.

When they got to Arthur’s apartment, Raquel knocked on the door.

“Love of my life! You’ve hurt me,” Arthur shouted singing as he grabbed her into a hug.

“Hey, it’s so good to see you, big guy!” she replied while he kept hugging her.

“Congratulations, gorgeous! Birds in the spring and lemonades in July to you!” he exclaimed as he grabbed her face with both his hands.

“Aw, thank you!” She responded as Arthur took the grocery bag and backpack she carried before she walked inside.

“You already fucked up?” He asked Arthur as they stood out on the hallway.

“What? No! I have been up since early this morning and even went to get the things you asked for. I even looked into an appetizer I’m making for us today.”

“I’m making grilled cheese sandwiches for appetizers.”

“No need! I got us covered. You just make the main dish and that’s it.”

They walked inside Arthur’s large apartment, took off their coats a placed them on Arthur’s bed as Raquel went to the restroom.

“How are you doing?” Arthur quietly asked him. “Why are you doing this to yourself? Come here! You need a hug.”

“Alright stop,” he put his hand out. “Why did you start drinking so early? Grab a bag and help take me take all this shit to the kitchen.”

“Okay okay, but I have a bone to pick with you” Arthur said as they both went into the kitchen.

“Yeah? What’s that?”

“You never told me he actually was at her place and they had lunch there.”

“What? Where did you see that?” He asked with a smile.

“Neighbors claimed they saw a man at her house that day. They also found Patsy residues in his stomach when conducting the biopsy,” Arthur replied.

“There’s no evidence he was ever in her house or that they ever saw each other.”

“There are witnesses reports of an unidentified man asking for her the day before he appeared dead on the beach near her house.”

“I don’t know about that,” he said as Raquel walked in the kitchen.

“I’m almost done reading the Rubaiyat of Omar Kayyam. I thought there might be clues there. It’s quite good. Honestly though, I’m sure they were both spies. The fucking FBI was unable to match the guy’s fingerprints! Scotland Yard was also involved and didn’t offer any insights.”

“What’s happening?” Raquel asked.

“The Somerton Man. It’s unsolved case of a man found dead in South Australia. Art has been obsessed with this ever since we first talked about it.” He explained while unpacking the grocery bags in the kitchen.

“Let’s drink, guys,” she muttered.

“Take a look at the reds out on the dining table, which I know both prefer, and I have a few bottles of white chilling in the fridge; open whatever you want. Just don’t open the champagne yet. So! Tell us! How did he propose?” Art asked her as he sat on the kitchen table.

“I’ll tell you, but please go put some pants on.” She joked while opening a bottle she grabbed from the living room.

“Right. You’re engaged now! Ian wouldn’t want his fiancée sitting across a well-hung man in his boxers and night gown,” Art said while walking to his room and Raquel’s laughed in surprise.

“Try this.” He carefully handed her a small piece of bread he had just sliced and dipped in a plate with olive oil, balsamic vinaigrette, and pepper.

“Umm, this bread is good! I’m so hungry. Here, let me pour you some wine”

“I’ll make grilled cheese with it to start.”

“Cool! And for main?”

“Remember the scallops with risotto?”

“Yes! You made it when my dad came to visit! He loved it.”

“Want to dice this?” he gave her his knife and three medium sized tomatoes he had just rinsed.

“Sure.” She grabbed the items and stood next to him as he rinsed the cutting board for her. “I was so mad at you that night. You got him so drunk.” She remembered.

“You went to bed early, and he wanted to party. We ended up at a some club in Jackson Heights around three in in morning. He was hilarious!”

“I couldn’t believe you even took him out afterwards. I told you he’s not a drinker. Do you know how awful he looked and smelled the next day?  You should have seen the bathroom. I should have made you come clean it up”

“How’s he doing?”

“He’s fine, I guess. I was just down there, and we went to see my mother. Last week was the fourth-year anniversary.”

There was a brief silence.

“I’m sorry. I know I wasn’t there during these times.” he started whispering as he made eye contact.

She interrupted by slamming the knife down and walking to the kitchen entrance to make sure Arthur was still in the bedroom.  “Let’s not talk about that,” she said as she walked up to him. “You did what you could at the time, and God knows I didn’t help.” She grabbed his face with both hands and quickly kissed his right cheek before she continued cutting the tomatoes. “What about what we did after I dropped my dad off at Penn Station? Now that was fun!” she recalled.

“Is that when we crashed that private party?” he wondered as she laughed.

“No! After I dropped him off you showed up with the inflatable pool and a hose.”

“You kept saying you wanted to go to beach.” he said with a smile while throwing some butter on the pan.

“Yeah! Long Island! Not a two feet deep kiddie pool on the rooftop!” she snickered.

“You didn’t want to get in at first, but the second time I came over you had a cooler and blender up there.”

“You loved my frozen Caipirinhas!” She gazed at him with smirk. “The whole time we were up there I kept thinking someone would show up,” she said with a look. They quickly broke eye contact and looked down when they heard the bedroom door opening.

“I smell that butter!” Arthur exclaimed as he walked back in the kitchen.

“Sit down, I’m making you grilled cheese bites,” he said.

“I said I was going to make appetizers.”

“No, you are not. Sit down.” He told Arthur while flipping the sandwich made with two large oval slices of sourdough, cheddar and swiss.

“How come I don’t have a drink? And are you already eating?!”

“I just had a small piece of bread he gave me; relax,” explained Raquel.

“Raquel, will you get him some bread and a wine? I’ll go put some music,” he told her with a grin as he walked over to the living room.

“I’m hungry too, and I haven’t had coffee. I could have gotten some at the bakery, but your friend there was in a hurry to get here,” explained Raquel.

“If the three of us were caught in an apocalyptic scenario, neither of you will survive. After eating his skinny ass, I’ll use you as a toothpick.”

“Here’s your drink, cheers.”

“Hold on; let’s cheer together.”

The trumpet from Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong’s Dream A Little Dream Of Me began loudly playing from the living room speaker.

“Oh yes! Come cheer with us!” shouted Raquel as he walked back in the kitchen and picked his glass.

“I’m so happy you young souls joined mine today. Raquel, may the gods concede all the desires of your heart in this new phase in your relationship. Here’s to you and Ian!” exclaimed Arthur as the three glasses were raised and they drank.

“Shit! I burnt the sandwich.” He rushed to the stove and took the sandwich out.

“It doesn’t look burnt,” Raquel said.

“It does. You should’ve let me make my appetizer,” Arthur commented.

“I’ll eat this one, and I’ll make you guys a new one.”

“Bring it here. I’ll eat it,” said Arthur.

“Don’t get full; he’s making scallops with risotto”

“Raquel, look at this,” Arthur said while rubbing his large round belly. “This takes discipline, honesty, work-ethic!”

They finished the first bottle. Raquel and Arthur sat at the kitchen table while he grilled a second sandwich. He cut that one in two and gave Arthur half since Raquel didn’t want the whole sandwich for herself. Later he slightly toasted each side the middle slice of the loaf of bread, covered it with shaved Swiss and Parmesan cheese, diced tomatoes, and anchovies he found in the pantry, then placed it in the oven and watched it carefully. He looked back and noticed Arthur finishing the bottle as Raquel spoke about moving from her previous apartment to Ian’s. He walked to the fridge and opened the door.

“You guys want to switch to white?”

“Yes!” Raquel replied. “Here, let me open it.”

He took the baking sheet out of the oven and the cheese had melted. Then drizzled the toast with olive and added some pepper to then cut it in three pieces.

“Try this.”

“Oh, hell yeah!” said Arthur while eating his piece. “If the three us end up making out today, at least we won’t be self-conscious about our breaths”

“I used to hate anchovies,” said Raquel. “But then I tried that pizza at your friend’s restaurant. We have to go back!”

“Octavio,” he said.

“One of the best pizzas I’ve ever had. He came to our table when you took me there. A Mexican guy making Roman-styled pizzas!” Arthur laughed.

“Octavio learned with a chef from Rome.”  he replied. “But he’s making now is not really Roman pizza.”

“How did it go with the steaks last night?” asked Arthur.

“We sold them all.”

“I told you that black sauce was going to kill! But I don’t think is your Magnum Opus,” replied Arthur.

“Here it goes,” he said to Raquel while pouring wine in their glasses with the bottle she just opened.

“When are you going to make the Churrasco with Chimichurri?” Asked Arthur aggressively.

“I don’t know.”

“I’ve lost count the times he has come here to make the damn thing for me!” Arthur told Raquel.

“Alright, I’ll stop coming to feed your old ass.”

“Is that in the menu you’re working on?” asked Raquel. He nodded.

“I wish you’ll stop doing all this bullshit they want you to cook, and make what you have been feeding me!”

“It takes time to come up with a menu Art” said Raquel.

“Then he should just go somewhere where he’s allowed to try his ideas.”

“I was just a waitress, but I could tell Ronald likes you. I’m sure he would let you try a menu out,” Raquel told him.

“Is he the short bald guy always walking around the bar all the time?” asked Arthur.

“That’s Tommy. They are partners,” he answered while mincing garlic.

“I need a smoke; can I go up to the rooftop?” asked Raquel.

“They lock it when it snows. Use the fire escape.”

She got up and walked to the living room to get cigarettes out of her purse. Arthur finished his wine glass and observed while he stirred diced onions, minced garlic, brown rice, prosciutto and some saffron in one pan while defrosting stock in a small saucepan. Raquel opened the big window in the living room leading to the fire escape. Almost instantly, the cold wind hit the kitchen clashing with the heat from the oven and from the wine.

“You two were together before coming here?” asked Arthur as Raquel stepped out to the fire escape.

“I was at the bakery when she passed by on her way up here.”

“You two could have stayed for coffee and talked.”

“I had some tea in Chinatown when I went to get these,” He took a large scallop out of a blue plastic bag. “Look how beautiful; smell it.” He brought to Arthur’s face.

“No!” Arthur turned his face. “I’ll smell it once it’s cooked. Get me more wine though.”

He took a smaller pan out of one of the bags he brought, where he seared the scallops with melted butter. Once seared on each side, he placed each on a small plate. He poured Arthur wine from a new bottle, stirred the risotto while slowly adding the rest of the dark stock then lowered the heat and kept working on the scallops.

“Can I get an ashtray?!” shouted Raquel into the living room.

“Don’t know where it is!” replied Arthur. “Can you go help her find it? You’re the only one using it when you are here.”

“I have to keep stirring this” The small plate was stacked with the dozen seared scallops. Each had a cracked golden crust. He grated parmesan cheese on the risotto and kept stirring. Then carefully mixed each scallop into the risotto while it was still steaming, covered the pan and lowered the heat.

Raquel crawled back inside and closed the window. Some snow got inside while the window was opened. There was a puddle of melted snow on the floor. She took off her coat, placed it on the couch and went to the kitchen.

“Where’s your mop? I have to clean the floor by the window.”

“Leave it. The cleaning lady comes tomorrow. Let’s eat!” said Arthur.

“No! It’s going to get all muddy.”

“Do that later. Here, finish chopping this parsley and I will get the plates,” he told Raquel.

“Sure, just let me wash my hands. It all smells so good!”

He plated Raquel and Arthur’s meals, and grabbed some of the parsley she was just chopping from the board and garnished the two plates.

“Here guys. Start eating while I go for a smoke”

“This looks and smells incredible!” exclaimed Arthur while taking a picture of the dishes.

“You’re not going to eat with us?” asked Raquel while pouring wine in his glass.

“I’ll be back. Eat now before it gets cold” He said as he left the kitchen with his glass.

She stood by the table looking as he headed for the window leading to the fire escape, but she decided to just sit down and eat. Arthur handed her napkins and utensils.

“Wow. This motherfucker. This is so good!” Arthur said as he devourer the food.

“Yeah, your friend can cook.”

“I’m having my mom’s birthday party in Fire Island next week. I’m going to ask him to make this same thing.”

“Well, this is a great dish. It would kill at any party.”

“So how are things with Ian?”

“Ian is the nicest guy ever, Art. Any girl would be lucky to have him.”

“You never told me how he proposed.”

“It was kind of a surprise. I wasn’t really expecting it.” She looked down at her plate and continue to eat.

“He must have known you were going to say yes, confidence. I like it.”

“You don’t have to say that. It’s obvious you don’t like him.”

“That’s not true. I barely know the guy. I’ve only seen him a couple of times. I know he likes to wear khakis.”

She burst out a laugh, “That’s all you got from the few times you’ve met him!? Well, it’s not nearly as bad as what my dad thinks of him.”

“Let pops think whatever he wants. What matters is that he makes you happy which you are, right?”

“Art, I stopped asking myself that question.”

Before stepping outside, he grabbed a clean towel from the bathroom and placed it on the puddle of melted snow by the window. Out on the fire escape, he lit up a cigarette and inhaled deeply. The wind had calmed down, and he watched the street below covered with snow. He thought about what Arthur asked him earlier, “Why are you doing this to yourself? You need a hug,” and briefly laughed as he felt a tight knot in his stomach and a sharp pain in his liver. He took a big sip of wine and a hit from the cigarette. Then he spent some time going through the text messages from his friends back home, his mother, and a girl he matched with had sent him the week before. A few knocks were heard on the window, and she smiled at him while he opened the window for her.

“Your friend is having seconds already” she said while stepping out and seating next to him.

“Good.”

“I saved a plate for you.” She took the cigarette from his hand and smoked it.

“Save some for Ian before Art eats it all.”

“He won’t be home this week. This is the best meal I’ve had in a long time.” She moved closer to him.

“I know it’s your favorite.” He took the cigarette back.

He turned his head to see her looking at him. He nodded while staring directly at her, and then faced forward down to the street. She squeezed her hand through his underarm and they grabbed hands. She rested her chin on his shoulder and looked at him facing down. Then placed the right side of her face on his shoulder.

“I know scallops with risotto is your favorite meal, the same way I know you dye your hair, the same way I know you snore, and the same way I know you bite your lips when you come,” he said as she closed her eyes and held on tighter to his arm.

“This was the only way I could see you. By calling Art and practically begging him to have lunch and invite you.” She said as she held on to him.

“Why would I want to see you and Ian together?”

“I made sure he wouldn’t come!”

“Why Raquel!? What’s the point now!?” he asked as she remained silent. “I have to go,” he said after taking a deep breath.

“No! Damn it! I need to tell you this,” she pulled him down when he tried to get up. “You completely pushed me out! Look at you! You are all bones! I bet you were shooting up after work last night and passed out on the couch. You know how hurtful it was to see like that?! How could you expect me to stay and just watch you kill yourself?! I already had to deal with my mother’s passing from the same bullshit and then you?! I needed someone to be there, but you just weren’t!” she cried with suppressed tears running down her face.

“I had started rehab when you took all your things from the apartment, and then never heard anything from you,” he said after a long pause.

“How could you possibly hear anything!? Do you know how many times I tried to speak with you? But every time I did you were passed out naked on the couch! I know you blame me for leaving and not telling you. And I’m sorry; I somehow believed I could change you. But you have no idea how many times I tried to get you help! I just could not stand reliving those scenes. That’s why I had to quit the restaurant and leave.”

Arthur opened the window and stuck out his hand with a spoon. “Can you guys taste this? I followed the recipe, but it might be too spicy. It doesn’t taste right.”

She grabbed the spoon from Arthur and gave it to him. He tasted the broth on the spoon.

“Too much ginger,” he said and handed back the spoon. “What is that for?”

“I’m making a sauce for a Moqueca.

“You have brown sugar?”

“Yes.”

“Put some sugar, until the taste is right,” he said while lighting another cigarette.

Arthur closed the window. He inhaled and gave the cigarette to her. She drank wine from her glass and handed the glass to him when she noticed his glass was empty.

“I’m sure he saw you cry,” he told her quietly.

“Oh! He knows what’s going on! I call him crying almost every Friday right outside Ian’s apartment after I try calling you, and you don’t answer”

“I still don’t know why you wanted me here.”

“I wanted to tell you this. Because I’m sure you’re walking around blaming me for everything.”

“I don’t think about you.”

“Stop! You’re still hurting me after all this time! You always said I knew you better than anyone. I know you were hurt when I left! And I shouldn’t have gone with Ian behind your back. But it just seemed like you didn’t care about anyone or anything. You even seemed relieved when I went to pick up the rest of my stuff, and you had a girl in your apartment.

“You left when I needed you.”

“You were never there when I needed you! My family had fallen apart, and I would pour my heart to you. Your one solution was to take out a syringe and ask me to join you.”

“I really wanted to quit, and I was finally starting to. You knew that.”

“Ian came along.”

“I have to go.” He flicked the cigarette onto the street and went inside.

She stayed on the fire escape wiping down her tears.

He went into the kitchen where Arthur was standing by the stove.

“So? Do you believe me now this was a bad idea?” Arthur asked him quietly.

“Why the fuck wouldn’t you tell me she’s been calling you?” He said while hurriedly washing his knife.

“I didn’t want to fill your head with anything toxic while you were going through rehab. I’m sorry.”

“What the fuck did you tell her!?”

“We only spoke a few times! I would just tell her you both needed some time apart. Which obviously…jeez! What a way to kill my buzz.”

“I have to go,” he said while putting the pans he just rinsed in the paper bags he brought. “I’ll come back for my stuff next week.”

“But you have to try my Moqueca.

“You spoke with my ex and planned this lunch without telling me and I don’t try your food. Call it even?” he said while leaving the kitchen.

Raquel was coming back inside when she saw him walk out the door with his coat in his hand. Arthur looked at her from the kitchen. The speaker was now playing Stella By Starlight.

“Well, I hope Drunk You said everything she needed him to know because now he won’t to talk to neither of us.”

“Have a good night sir.” The doorman said as he walked through the lobby. Outside the building, he lit up a cigarette and walked downtown for three blocks before thinking about putting on his coat. He stopped at an intersection to put on his coat and haul a cab. He took his phone and started to draft a text. While on the phone, he saw the liquor store across the street. He crossed the street and walked inside. Really loud Bachata music was playing inside the store as he walked directly to the counter.

“A pint of Jack,” he said while putting a twenty on the counter.

He walked outside and headed towards the street to wait for a cab. He took the pint out and threw away the black plastic bag and drank half of it in three gulps before putting it in the pocket inside his coat. He then finished drafting the text:

“Doctor Kwong, I relapsed last night. You said to contact you if it happens. Do you have some time to talk? Please.”

As a yellow cab was about to pull over in front of him, he looked at the picture he had of Rachel from the first night they met. As he was about to turn around and walk back to Arthur’s apartment, a fierce blow struck his legs and the back of his neck. From about fifteen feet away, he could see the white lights from the cab fading; and with his right hand tried to remove the snow in his eyes – then all was dark.

His dead body, with blood running across the face, lay in the middle of the street as some screams were heard. The sun had gone down, and the dry cold front from the night before had come back.

Categories: Fiction

2 replies »

  1. Interesting character development, with undertones to darker themes and flaws within each character. I found myself invested in the protagonist of the story and shocked by the ending. Beautiful descriptions of quiet moments are threaded throughout the story, providing a gentle balance. A great story.

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