There was that time when I was in your house and you were not in your house, and it was silent in a way that only empty houses can be silent, in the middle of summer, in the middle of a summer night. There was silence, yes, and the heavy, decisive furniture in your house, but not you. Just me.
But then your dog was there too, of course, he ran up to the glass door and licked his tongue all along it. Your dog - the white-bodied brown-speckled one, although you’re the one who calls it speckled, but really it’s more like a smattered spray of dirt that is not dirt on its fur, on its back, its face. That dog is more human than me, you know, you’ve said. And you’re never afraid to say what you know. Or what you think you know.
You say what you think you know, which is always the opposite of what I ever say or think I know, so good thing I was alone, because you like to argue. And if you were there, arguing, the silence would shatter like a stone skipped on water. It would be destroyed, and the effects of its destruction would be endless.
Your dog, for example, would bark as if to ask if it was time for dinner, a bath, a walk. Time for anything other than the anger you would have, if we were arguing. And if you were there, we would be arguing.
Good thing you were not there because I did not want to be arguing and because it was sparkling, the bottle of apple juice I opened and drank from your fridge. Sparkling apple juice. You have rather particular taste in juice, and in the form of the apples you consume.
You are particular in your taste, which is most likely why you lost interest in me. But I get it. It’s okay.
It’s also okay, I’d like to believe, that when I called and you explained that you’d lost track of time while tutoring Emily, that I stayed and after the juice, helped myself to some of your vermouth, vodka, and olive. It’s okay that I enjoyed a drink myself, and one for you, which you would have made us, had you been there, instead of with Emily.
It’s okay to work late, to work nights and weekends. To “work” with young, attractive girls who need your wise advice. What is a little less than okay is telling me that you’re on your way and that we can meet at your house, that we can cook dinner and relax, that you can’t wait to see me when obviously, you can more than wait to see me. You can not see me at all, and be more than fine. Well, let me just tell you, we will be more than fine.
He wore a doctor’s coat.
He wore it on the city bus, and at the city bus stop. He wore it to buy a bagel, then to eat the bagel, and he wore it while licking his lips and dreaming of cream cheese. He wore it to church, while sitting and singing and listening to the reading, the thirteenth chapter of Luke. He wore it after church, when the priest patted his back, passing the peace. He wore it when the stubby lady and her stubby dog sprawled out across the stone steps in front and started snoring.
It was hot. Other people were sticky and sticking to each other, but he was unaware or unconcerned about the condensation that started to accumulate under his right and left armpits. Sweaty street-people exposed their shoulders and shins, arms and elbows, but he did not. He wore a doctor’s coat.
He wore it in his girlfriend’s kitchen while waiting for the chicken to broil, and as the pan sizzled and spattered out oil and onions. He wore it at the dinner table. He wore it while he looked at her, and he wore it while she looked at him. He wore it when he undressed her, pulling off the silk that wrapped her body like a present. But he remained stiff cotton, starched.
“What is this? Are you crazy?” She asked, trying to tease it off his back, his arms.
“Are you crazy?” He answered, picking her prying fingers off.
He wore it through the night, and the next morning, as she brushed her teeth and he scrambled eggs. He wore it while running coffee beans through the machine to be ground and brewed, converted to liquid caffeine, and he wore it while pouring the drink and stirring in sugar, passing the mug to her with a kiss on the cheek and a shoulder-squeeze goodbye.
He wore it to work, in the elevator, up to the office. He wore it while greeting the fair-haired secretary with the freckled face, while walking to his desk which was ready and waiting with off-white folders, unaccounted numbers and uncollated papers.
He wore it to the windowed office on the end, after the secretary told him the boss needed to speak to him. He wore it with legs crossed, right across from his boss, who called him last-name-first, then looked him in the greens of his white eyes and said, “Come on. You can’t wear that here.”
He wore it when he said, “Okay,” and as he walked out of the windowed office and through the hall, down the elevator, and on the city street, catching the first bus back home. He took it off once he walked through the door.
You asked if we could get beer and I was busy but I said yes and showed up and we sat down and you went up and came back with a pitcher to split, and I had not eaten all day and I felt the need to eat, so I bought a piece of quiche, but it was more cheese than egg or anything else, and I coughed up some cash because you paid for the pitcher, or more accurately the beer inside the pitcher, which was copper colored. The quiche was urine yellow, and mostly cheese and something like rubber. I started swallowing quickly, cutting and chewing, as if to get it down before I realized what I was doing, and I offered you a bite but you said you had already eaten at work, you said, when the boss brought out pizza for Sandra’s birthday and I said right, Sandra. Then I said, who’s Sandra? And also I asked where do you work? And you kind of smiled a watery smile and laughed a static sort of laugh and said advertising, of course, you said, advertising. For this place. This restaurant. And I smiled a rubbery smile with cheese in my teeth and copper on my lips and realized that I do not know you at all. I do not know you, but I should have known. I thought you were someone I knew.
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