September's 21 thru 30


Floating within a maelstrom of colorful, chattering, pedestrians, I face the sunlight blazing between two buildings and bask my upturned smile for almost two full minutes, while waiting at an intersection (time is actually back!). The light changes. We march. With the long shadows and my light jacket, it could be autumn.

That’s odd. Although I know Robert-not-Bob’s wife is Gail, and that there are 527 Euros and three credit cards in the wallet on my hip—I can’t remember the month, or what I’m carrying in my right pants pocket. It feels like a roll of quarters...only metal.

At the next light, a scream—above and behind me—causes me to turn: “Mine! Want the torch. GIMMeee.”

I envision a winged cat, in heat—with Shirley Temple’s voice—hovering over my shoulder. It's a small boy...piggybacking. Even though the child is writhing toward me, the man anchoring his ankles pretends not to notice, or hear. The boy is focused on the object from my pocket. The kid is right. It's a flashlight.

“DAD. Fuck! Want. Da. Damn. Torch!”

I catch Dad’s eye. Seemingly unfazed, he smirk-shrugs an apology.

Apparently, three-year-olds freely use expletives previously reserved for adults.

After turning down Twelfth Street, Robert-not-Bob says, “Should be able to get our booth, being’s-how it’s early.” Then he lights a grass-green cigarette.

His statement warrants a grunt, which is how I respond. The cigarette pinches my nasal cavities like forgotten mangos on the windowsill of an airtight pit-latrine. I sidle ahead. Upwind. The streets are full of quietly rushing, brightly colored vehicles; but there are none parked anywhere. I almost ask why, but hold my tongue. It’ll become obvious—or it won’t.

We arrive. The cracked-patched concrete ramp leading into the restaurant reminds me: nothing is permanent here. Nothing.

Before my eyes adjust, a gruff Portuguese accent from our right asks, “Your usuals?...guys?”

Robert-not-Bob replies—while weaving through the half-full dining area toward windows at the back—“Yeah. ‘course, Ray.”

We sit. A powdery elf-of-a-girl, wearing a body apron and a multicolored hair-hat (I presume), stumbles on approach, and catches the edge of our table. Condiments knock around. I say, “Whoa there Jolly, you needta practice that walking stuff.” A flood of information injects; where was that log-jammed? Momentarily mesmerized, I focus on the nape of Holly’s (her name) neck and her languid perfume, as earring-glintz blinds me.

“If someone were not always the flirt-chatter’er, and instead served my food, I could be making the eats.” Ray slides full plates and glasses in front of us, squints his eyes at Holly and whirls away. His air-wake arrives. My saliva floods.

Holly and Robert-not-Bob steadily converse—oblivious of Ray, the sandwiches, and my immediate, full frontal assault on the most phantasmagoric roast beef on the planet.

“Wow. When is the last time you ate?” Holly asks.

I continue savoring, waiting for Robert-not-Bob’s normal interjection; but he’s staring too. “Last time I was here.” I say around some potato salad.

How they understand here is up to them.

“What? Dinner Wednesday? Getthefuckouttatown.” Robert-not-Bob bats a fly off his turkey-pork and looks at Holly for support.

Shrugging, I rattle our empty glasses, chew, and swallow. Holly walks. We—naturally—watch her ass. Already downing two huge glasses of tea seems to be answer enough. Robert eats. I concentrate on the clamoring of customers, the wondrous feeling of the fly crawling on my hands, and the taste and texture memory of the food. She returns with two full glasses, a big slice of tiramis├╣, and a wink.

Robert-not-Bob mutters, “She wants you.”

I look at him askance. I know. Joe doesn’t. Didn’t. Still doesn’t, I guess (how much he will retain is unknown, to me at least).

“To eat her pie.” His smirk wrinkles his freckled forehead and cheeks, causing a crumb to fall from his sparse, nearly-invisible, mustache.

We are boys, not men yet, so—standing—I reply like he expects: “Don’t lick any of my cream off her pie, while I’m draining away your tea.”

The pisser is beyond foul and around the corner from disgusting; I love the decades of graffiti layers and the vapid taste of the air.

The contrast tickles my curiosity. Feces, urine, vomit, and blood coat the odorless room; and—when I inhale through my mouth—I taste no masking chemicals.

While reading the wall above the urinal, the door ratchets. Someone barks: “Zikes. Someone spontaneously-fuckin-explode in this dubya cee?” Then asks, “torch boy?”

I glance...it’s piggybacking dad...riderless. I turn.

He looks at the flashlight in my palm and says. “Small world!”

Striking just above his axis vertebra, I crunch the occipital bone. His bowels vacate—now there’s odor. I empty pockets and prop the corpse in the handicapped stall. The room exhales.

As I wash my hands, acrid and vile scents return with a flourish. The door ratchets when I leave.

Robert-not-Bob says, “I had to try a bite. Make sure it wasn’t poisoned.”

Smiling, I finish the remaining half. It tastes like a summer vacation in the Italian mountains melting on my tongue. “Ready?” I drop more money.

“In a tip-included country, you’d think she’d marry us with all the extra Euros (he pronounces ‘Ears’) we leave her.”

Everything blurs...Already?..but, it’s only the door-glass. “That’d make you a bigamist,” I say.

“Already big mist-er,” he chuckles and grabs himself.

At the corner, I agree to meet Robert-not-Bob tomorrow morning and hail a taxi. Once inside, I tell the driver to take me to the central shopping district. The vibrant colors on the people, cars, and buildings distract me from sorting through piggyback-dad’s shite.

As soon as I get out, I dump everything except the Ears, a phone smaller than Robert-not-Bob’s, a tiny notebook and pen, and two gizmos I can’t identify. Although Joe would be headed to class now, I begin my search for the next most important things (after food, that is)...and they are orgasms—of course.

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