Another kind of just-go-for-it prose, and a continuation of the last bit I posted. It can be read as a stand alone, or you can check out the first part in my blog, titled “Mr. Dirty cop, a short story.”
We met in the café on the corner of two streets whose names both escape me. I hate this city. Bright daylight shone in through the windows and lit up the café and I wore sunglasses, but she insisted I take them off.
I sat across from her in a booth with soft red cushion seats. It was comfortable. The table was glossy and stuck to the coffee mug like tacky. I think that was an intentional invention so that glassware wouldn’t slide off the table.
Everything was so bright and sunny and cheerful when she was around. Mrs. Sunshine and daisies no less. We always met in the middle of the afternoon, always somewhere with huge glass panel windows lining the wall so the sunlight was on the table and the city looked like a display behind the frame. She would say something like It’s very open and I hate to feel confined or stuck anywhere where I can’t breath… probably something like that. Shouldn’t have lived in the city then.
I sat there with my legs spread wide, but relaxed, leaning back on my tailbone. Mrs. Daisies asked why I was slouching. No reason, I told her, just last night me and you-know-who got square. I had told her all about it earlier on the telephone. Must have slipped her mind.
Oh, I’m sorry, she says, and I click my tongue in a way that sounds like oh well and shrug it off. I hadn’t checked myself since Mr. You-know-who had auditioned for the kicker position on my valuables. Nothing felt out of place but a persisting ache in my groin and sickness in my stomach. I also felt pretty lowly in my spirits. But none of the kicks had dealt permanent damage. I could tell. I would know.
Her voice saying, “You’re not even here, are you?” She was asking me. My voice saying, “Of course I’m here, you called me here, what is it?” She shook her head in a way that said hello but wasn’t smug about it or mean, she was so nice. She wanted me to talk about it. Always does, and then I always do.
“I’m sorry,” I say to her. “Yes, I’m here. What do you want me to say? Me and You-know-who are square. I heard him say it right after he you-know-what.”
“Why won’t you talk about it? You can’t even say it.”
“Babe, we’re in a diner. It wasn’t a big deal.”
“It wasn’t? I thought that was the only real way to kill a man.”
“It wasn’t that bad…”
It wasn’t that bad, was it? No, it wasn’t that bad. It was obvious to me that I’d gotten off easy. She knew it too, or this wouldn’t be such a casual conversation. I hated talking like this, where she wanted to know how I felt about it. I didn’t care. I had been beaten, probably with good reason, and a gun had been drawn. I was still here to nurse my wounds and talk about it. Or not.
“So you’re out?” she asks.
“Yes, I’m out.”
“And what about it? Are you going to get yourself in some new trouble?”
“Yes, of course.” No I’m not. I’m going to… am I going to? Where am I going to? What do I even want? I felt like crying. I swallowed the lump in my throat down. I drank some coffee and felt an immediate rush of sweet energy, but that was probably mental, wouldn’t work that fast, maybe from before, placebo, first cup or second cup? First half. Second half.
“Yes, of course?” Mrs. Sweetness and cheer asks. “You’re not here again. Where do you go?” She called the waiter and ordered more coffee.
“I’m here. Do you want to talk about it now? I’m out of the loop. Last night was the clincher. If he was going to shoot me he would have done it right then. No one is going to hire me, and I’m not going to look, either.”
Mrs. Wonderful seemed happy about that, which made me giddy and gushing, which made me feel stupid. I wanted to get out, leave the café and find a room to shut myself in. You can, dummy. You can still walk, albeit slowly, you’re not maimed, just beaten, hotel room, and what? What am I going to do now?
I say, “Could you do something for me?” She asks what the favor is, then says yes, she’ll do it. “Can we go to the park? After this coffee. Let’s go and walk. I’ll tell you all about it if we can walk around. I need to stretch out my you-know-what. The muscles get stiff.”
Mmhmmhmm. She laughed like that, mmhmmhmm. I thought it very endearing. Is that really funny? Everything she thought was funny made me light-headed. I loved her, I’m not stupid. I feel stupid, but I’m not really. I’m a shitty writer, and I wish I didn’t cuss so much, for her sake. I keep it down when she’s around. I want to be proper, or something like it. Mmhmmhmmhmm. Perfect.
We finished the coffee slowly, plenty of time in the day. An ant crawled onto the rim of my coffee mug, the first mug of coffee, not the one I was drinking. In its jaws was a grain of sugar that had crusted onto the rim. As I watched, it fell. I glanced in and the ant was wiggling its stick-figure legs, trying to swim in the sweet and creamy liquid left at the bottom of the mug. It thrashed, drinking the now cooled coffee and vanilla drink. The cube of sugar dissolved around it. The ant disappeared in the froth, drowned in sweetness.
“Do you think that,” I pointed, “is a good death?” My voice asking that. Her voice replying, “You’re too melodramatic.” We left the café and headed for the park.