July, at 24
“Why do you think you will be fired?” she asked. But Servi only heard the first three words. A bus has barreled passed , enveloping them in its diesel miasma, stoking the furnace of an already backing July Manhattan day.
“What?” Servi asked Joy, cupping his ear. His shirt was a soaked, sodden rag and his tie, loosened to the level of his nipples. Joy’s blond hair, a little darker now than when he had last seem her, was up in a bob. A summer dress hung lights off her frame, as if it too quivered with the animal sensation of touching her skin.
“Common’,” she grasped Servi and led him into the Burger Heaven on Madison Avenue. The air conditioner prickled Servi’s skin. Joy pulled her hair down, and it fell bluntly to her shoulders.
“You cut your hair,” Servi observed.
“Oh, yes, that was nearly two years ago. We haven’t seen each other in so long. Its a pain now that I am working. It nearly came down to my butt and caused me all sorts of trouble that I’d rather not tell you about, well, you know, in bed and all…”
She blushed. Servi smiled. Ice water was brought to the table and Servi guzzled it down. Joy slid her glass to Servi with a look of dreamy expectation, as if he was a vampire about to drink her blood and she his willing victim. Servi drank until the ice at the bottom shivered like teeth. Her red race beamed familiarly at Servi, like this days at the fringe of the
Atlantic Ocean on Fire
Island in their teens.
Now, after a four year college estrangement, two years of delusory work
on an island of molten stone, her voice had been resuscitated yesterday on his
phone. She worked at an ad agency down
the street. Would he like to have lunch?
“I said, why do you think you’ll be fired?” Joy gazed at him quizzically, as if he was a new species of man. She pursed her lips gently, as if she was about to throw this new species a kiss.
“Fluorescent lighting. That drone. The blue. A screen with a little green blinking cursor. It is gonna give me a seizure.” Servi stopped and sighed. “A high rate of absences… even I agree it is egregious and can’t go on.”
“I never thought banking was for you,” she answered, pulling the glass back from him and plucking out a piece of ice to suck in her mouth. “You're the artistic type,” she said passed a numb tongue. Servi just raised his thick, weary eyebrows.
“Because of that gesture,” he said, pulling up his sleeve, revealing a thin red line, faded white at the edges like a piece of chalk inadequately erased.
“God Servi,” Joy answered, lifting up her head. “I didn’t mean that!”
“I’m sorry,” Servi answered, pulling down his sleeve decisively. “I’ve had a shitty week. And it’s only half over. And all indications point to next week being shittier.”
“My week has been terrible too,” Joy confided, leaning toward Servi, revealing the long, appealing line which stretched from her neck to her collarbone. Something heavy and unspoken leaned between them, like a column of immovable stone. Yet they could touch each other, and they did. Joy reached out and grasped Servi’s hand.
“I’m engaged, Servi…” she whispered conspiratorially.
“Why, congratulations,” Servi answered, somewhat taken a back. “Who is the lucky man?”
“I cheated on him, Servi.” Servi, almost imperceptibly, loosened her hold on his hand.
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Because you are the only person I can tell everything too… That was always the way it was. Even when we were kids.” Joy scrutinized Servi’s face, which was fixed somewhere between agony and frustration.
“What’s wrong? Why is this upsetting you so much? I didn’t cheat on you.” Then there was silence. Joy plodded on. “I love Kevin, I really do. But these is this guy at work. He has an apartment three blocks from work. We meet at lunch…”
“Is this lunch preventing a rendezvous? I wouldn’t want to be…”
“Servi, don’t be a dick,” Joy snapped, letting go of his hand with emphasis. “You always had that streak in you. Seeing this in black and white. Most of us live in gray. Maybe that is why your life is so…”
“So what? Say it please.”
“No,” Joy answered, shaking her head vigorously. “I’m attacking you like you are in the wrong when it is me that is doing something wrong…”
A bus boy dropped a tray of glasses in front of their table. Glittering glass and ice lay before them, like a shattered, melting glacier.
“Jesus, this place is a mad house,” Joy mumbled. “Come to my apartment tonight Aaron,” she said, scribbling an address on a napkin and passing it to him. It lay there, between the menus and the glasses, unclaimed. Joy stoop up. She pulled down her dress and tried to correct its wayward pleats.
“Please come Servi,” she coaxed, placing a hand on his shoulder. “I miss you in my life… I need you in my life.