Serendipitous Soul: A Serial Story — Part 2
What’s Going On?
Reckless, urgent, hungry? Seizing the moment, measuring out reason to sustain the madness needed to make that true love take root in the driest ground? Empty, desperate?
– What do you think of me?
– You’re going to take over the world.
– Is that why you won’t open up to me?
Soft, chocolate eyes lacking recognition: flat paint drying, waiting for gloss.
– Talk to me, so you can see what’s going on.
– I do see what’s going on. That’s why I’m here.
She fiddles with the pepper shaker. Her top lip is etched like an Egyptian princess in the void defined by the junction of the table and the wall. The booth back looks high above her. I wait. Her breath is still.
– Penny? What are you doing down here?
– My designer lives around the corner.
– You’re having lunch?
– I’m stopping to use the restroom. You know.
Hangs there like fabric draped from a rack, waiting for the dressmakers cut to lay out the steps of the dance, to make style into purpose. Waiting for me to say the thing that lets her walk away and not even think twice about bumping in to Miriam’s husband Adam way downtown.
Where I’m sitting with a too-young girl in a too silent moment with too much emotion in too strange a place.
– Where are you having lunch?
She waits. I didn’t give her the pass that lets her leave the show.
– Hi. I’m Faith. I’m Adam’s friend.
– Hi Faith.
The handshake is the chemical transfer, the trace from me to Faith to Penny to Miriam and then back to me. The indictable imprint.
– How did you and Adam meet?
Faith smiles and laughs. Penny smiles widely too. My fate lingers on the broad swell of their smiles.
– He stopped to light my cigarette.
– I don’t care. It’s time to confront this anyway. I don’t love her.
– You don’t know that. Anyway, you don’t know that she’ll know.
– Penny will tell her.
– You can explain it. We’re just having lunch.
– You said you were my friend.
– That’s a problem?
– It’s just the word.
– You want me to say something more elegant? That we fucked? We’re lovers? You’re wooing me? We fill up each other’s spare hours?
– Friend means something different in their world.
– Their world? That’s your world too, Adam. That’s who you are.
– Friend means we’re lovers.
– Are we?
She sucked her breath when she opened the box the bracelet was in. The paper was unfolded on her lap like a sandwich wrapper.
It was nine o’clock on a Thursday morning. I had landed in JFK. I stopped at her apartment before she went to work. Her door had been splintered by something sharp. She was going into Manhattan. She refused my offer of a ride.
The bracelet swayed on her wrist like the empty husk of a cicada shell in the wind.
She kissed me thank you where my jaw curved to my ear. She got out of the car and waved her fingers. I watched her back. It stayed straight as she walked.
– I want you to join the Communications Committee.
– I need you to do me the favor.
– I’m not looking to get more involved in the school.
– You’d be useful to me. I’d be grateful.
– What’s this about, Penny?
– Does Miriam know about your lunches with your young friend, Adam?
– Does she, Penny?
– I haven’t said anything, if that’s what you’re asking. But I can. Unless you’re going to mention it, of course. I wouldn’t want to ruin the surprise.
– Penny, I can explain…
– Don’t bother, Adam. I understand. You join the committee and you can be by cover when I visit my friend. Make sense?
– I’m going to end it.
– That’s not what you’re going to do, Adam. She’s got you enthralled.
Yellow paper, legal size, lead-colored rule, flat on the nicked wine-stain table at the corner of the Starbucks where I can watch out the window so I can see Faith when she walks down 48th Street past the Intercontinental. Three words: She makes me… I trace over the top loops and thicken them. She was going to try to stop for a coffee before she headed downtown to a read-thru. It’s starting now, but maybe she’s running late.
A gouge creases the table edge. I can’t get the words straight in my head.
She makes me long for her. Why?
This story is the second part of a five-part serial that will be published here each Friday for the next month. It is a writing exercise. The plot is inspired by the first five songs that shuffled on my iPod. Each installment is exactly 750 words. You can find the first installment here.