“Final Call! It’s the Final Call!”
He sidesteps the well-dressed Muslim; startlingly catching his own reflection in a store window brings on a flash of memory: a leaf stain smear on the pavement of his mind he sees a woman’s legs walking alongside his own. Gone again.
How did it get to this?
Crossing the street he looks at women, their legs, shoes heels hems is it one of these is it her? Would she say? He’s asked the time-only-not money? by a man who appears to be homeless. He falters, stutters, “one thirty” and avoids eye contact as the city has trained him to do. How did it get to this?
There was a time; another fleeting memory of a time now washed in super-8 home movie tones, when he knew more. He felt sure he knew more than he does now, instead now a fragment of feeling whole. Certainly that had been real, had to be but now maybe only imagined.
The roar and rattle of the city around him draws him from his thoughts. These people know. He eyes them. A man picks up cigarette butts furtively. A girl oblivious, as if praying, soft neon of her phone casts upon her chin. I have forgotten God but I am not alone no one remembers, every one of them loves only themselves. They know.
When he had had his body, when he was strong he would move with purpose he still knew that. The current of life he still had seemed to be there below the surface: he could be strong again. This time in a new way. They know. But he would show them a new way of seeing themselves and therefore look upon him in a new way too.
How did it get to this? Looking up she comes eye to eye with the bearded man outside of the coffee shop window-do we call them coffee shops anymore?- she thought. Coffee shop conjures up Formica, chrome, her mother’s mothball rough jackets and broaches in holiday themes. This place is not a “coffee shop” the barista calls “non-fat latte tall” and she moves to collect her cup.
The man looks homeless yet she notices he has style, no other way to describe it. Maybe he’s just a rakish type. Do we use rakish anymore? How can anyone keep track of what’s to be said and done anymore? A piece of her pastry tumbles from her nails and she gingerly picks it from her skirt.
How did it come to this? Why should she be here at all? This is not how she planned it would be. Stores she used to shop in, now she enters through the loading dock. All the meticulously learned knowledge of style, so she would look right for Robert’s office parties and dinners at the Jacob’s, whoever, now she stands by fawning over someone else trying on tacky jackets. The kids call and check on me. I lie and tell them I was bored. How do I tell them Robert’s money is gone? How did it come to this? He was supposed to be here, take care of me.
“One thirty!” the man outside cries out sharply. My break is over, back to standing around with those girls who all seem so much more attractive, so much more in touch than I am. So much younger, there I said it. Bitch. Each one of them so self absorbed. Like I don’t know- as if I’ve never had Robert kiss me in front of the theater on a September night, trembling. The taste of scotch and cigarettes. Never had love? Dismissed by that pack of dilettantes, I could care less. As if love is new this season. Everything’s been done before. I don’t care so much about the age thing as much as they presume I am already dead. They don’t know. But someday they will, someday my baby Margie will know too, the cold plastic car seat scent of lonely. The empty refrigerator light of mornings without. Maybe not, but she had from the beginning hoped so hard for her daughter’s happiness-like any mother does-- only to have her turn out lesbian and how could she ever find a man to love her if she was gay? Do we say gay anymore? She stops and switches her coffee from one hand to the other, leans on the heavy metal door marked Deliveries/Staff. Pushes inside sucking leaves and regret in with her.