NP: "My Old School" – Steely Dan. Best guitar solo ever?
NP: "Honeyside" – Shrimp Boat. Unreleased track from “Something Grand” box set. Holy shit this is heaven. Like hearing a perfect song from your favorite band that you have never heard before. Wait. That IS what’s happening.
NR: “Feathers” – Raymond Carver
NR: “Tricks” – Alice Munro
NR: “Fridrik And The Eejit” – Sjon (from McSweeney’s #15)
She’s crying at a table, sitting alone. I see her when I sit down at the counter, but I couldn’t tell she was crying. It just looked like she might be. When I get seated, I turn and get a better look and I see that she is.
It looks like a late-night lover’s fight. Like she was just sitting here with her boy having a drunken late night meal when they fought about something, and he got up and left. Left her there all alone. To cry, and probably to pay the bill. And to think about walking back to their apartment alone and cold and crying.
That’s my guess.
It’s Veselka… it’s 6:00 AM. I’ve seen it before. I’ve been a part of it before. Both the leaver and the one left behind. It’s not fun, this drama. It sucks, and it’s sad.
She’s sad. I guess it’s that kind of sad.
I get the desire to walk back there… to say something. I don’t order my food. I just sit there at the counter for a bit. Drink some water.
Then I see some guy walk up to her. She shakes him away. She looks bothered… Maybe a little embarrassed, like she doesn’t want the attention.
She’s tall and blonde and pretty. She wears a peach sweater, and reminds me of a girl I went to college with forever ago. Stephanie Brown. She looks so much like Stephanie Brown… it’s uncanny. If I didn’t know Stephanie Brown was married with two kids and living in Indiana, I would maybe think it were her, although this girl in Veselka is younger, I do believe.
So she seems to deflect this other guy coming up to her. I think I hear him offer to buy her dinner or to join him… something along those lines. She sends him away.
I order some food… not my usual order, and not to a waitress I’ve ever seen before. I’m in Veselka 3 or 4 nights a week. The short order cook asks me if I want “the usual” or if I want something else.
It took me 10 years, but… I’ve finally got them trained. Egg sandwich – two scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese, on wheat toast. They usually don’t ask, but American cheese if they do. The only question is whether I do or do not want a coffee milkshake with it.
Tonight I go with potato pancakes, a side of sausage, and a coffee milkshake. The waitress has to repeat it three times before she gets it right, but I see the short order cook is listening, and I know he’ll get it right even if she fucks it up.
I’m not feeling myself. I just dropped $1600 playing poker. Playing three different games, really. $700 in the first game at Stan’s house. Then I lost $400 playing $1/$2 No Limit at 72nd Street. Then I take my last $500 to the $5/$5 table, and eventually lose that, even though there was a chance I could have gotten even for the entire night. I did have $900 in front of me at that table at one point, and that put me at being down $700 for the night. I should have just walked away. Instead, I punish myself by taking the subway home, and then go to Veselka. I haven’t eaten anything since 9:00 AM, I realize.
I lied. I just remembered that I ate a sub at Stan’s house. And I also just remembered that I never paid him for the delivery. Oops. That makes me feel like a bad loser, and I feel guilty. Shit.
I decide to not bother the girl. No need to be a hero or whatever. I turn up the ipod and I open up the collection of short stories I’m reading.
She gets up to walk by to pay her bill. Dressed smartly in a nice black and white checked coat with a blue scarf. She’s very tall. She looks familiar, but now not like Stephanie Brown. But still sorta like Stephanie Brown.
She goes to the register, and I take off my right earpiece to listen. She starts talking to the register guy… and getting a bit worked up. I hear “I can’t believe I was treated like this” and “you should be ashamed for letting this happen.” Or at least that’s what I think I hear.
Now I’m kinda shocked… Was it bad service or was one or the waiters rude to her? Was that a waiter that was just offering to buy her dinner, and was she just being hit on by him while she was sitting there all alone minding her own business? I’m curious as hell, I’ll admit.
I can also see that she’s a little drunk, but… still. I’m curious.
She walks out.
She crosses the street… It looks like she might go into Starbucks, but she doesn’t. But she is walking slowly.
I’m struck by the impulse… I tell Chris (the short order cook) that I’m going to run home, and that I’ll be right back. That I’m leaving my bag and my book. I almost leave my ipod sitting there, and I really don’t think anything of it, but… I decide even if I know everybody there, I should still take it. But it was interesting to feel the comfort and safety and trust that I would just leave something like that lying on the counter. It made me realize that this is my home, and that Veselka is my neighborhood, and it made me realize even more clearly what I was doing.
Whatever happened to this girl… It happened in Veselka. I felt intruded upon by outside forces. This is my place, and somebody is fucking around with a girl alone, and I can’t stand for it.
I run across the street and down 9th. I finally see her at the corner of 3rd, standing at the light waiting to cross. She is still crying. It looks like she might be talking to herself. She looks upset, and angry.
I call to her. “Excuse me. Are you OK? I was just in Veselka, and I saw you leave and…”
“I just got hit with bacon. Bacon. Maybe I’m a spoiled rich bitch who deserves it, but.. I just got hit with bacon. It never happened to me in high school… Maybe other people it happened to all the time, and this is just what I finally deserved, but… I don’t think I did. That’s just fucked up.”
“I’m sorry. That is fucked up. What happened?”
“They threw bacon at me. And then when they left they mooned me. Both of them.”
“What?!?!? Are you kidding? People in the restaurant?”
“Yeah… when they left. They went outside the window and they mooned me.”
I kinda laugh a little, of course. It IS a little funny, and I can tell the girl is a little drunk. And I can see she’s starting to work it out for herself, of course, as well. She’s starting to come to terms with what happened.
I say, “I’m sorry that happened. I live right there… I’m there four nights a week… I felt bad, and that’s why I wanted to see if you were OK.”
She’s starting to calm down a little bit. But also getting more angry, but I think that’s a step in the right direction.
She says “I know! My sister used to live on that block for three years, and I was in there all the time. I’ve been in there so many times. It’s not what you’d expect. There was a guy sitting there who saw the whole thing, and he was writing in his journal.”
“And probably laughing a little bit.”
“Probably not… he looked like the kinda guy that got hit by bacon in the cafeteria.”
I ask her what really happened.
She says that some kids were in there throwing food, and she asked them to stop. Then the next thing she knows she’s having food thrown at her.
I realize that she doesn’t live in NYC. I apologize again for what happened to her. I ask her if I can walk her home. She says “I’m already there. This is where I’m staying.” We’re standing at the white high-rise at 9th St. and 3rd Avenue.
I ask where she’s from, and she says Austin.
She starts going on a bit of a tangent… Talking about how she’s thirty years old and that this is all kinda silly… I believe she’s feeling a little embarrassed, but now also feeling a little more concrete with her indignation. She works for Dell, she recently broke her foot and wasn’t able to do anything except sit on the couch and eat bon bons for three months. “And this from a girl that usually runs every day.”
I guess this is all by way of saying she wanted to come to NYC for vacation. I ask her if she’s going to see the gates in Central Park, and she says tomorrow, and that her sister used to work at the MoMa and that she hasn’t been since the renovation.
A bit scattered… A few non-sequitors.
She was out with her friend Katie who lives in this building, but they separated. She went to get some food with a Nicaraguan guy who barely spoke any English. They went to get a burrito and she said to him that the burrito sucks and that she was going to go to Veselka. He actually said to her “Adios.” And that’s how she ended up at Veselka at 6 AM getting bacon thrown at her.
I’m obviously getting a bit more than I bargained for, but… She is nice and smart and it’s good to talk with somebody. Somebody new especially. Even if it’s freezing and it’s 6:30 AM and she is a little bit crazy.
She notices that the sun is rising. I tell her that now’s the time she should be in Central Park to see the gates.
At some point I do put my hand on her shoulder. I don’t necessarily know why I do it. I mean… I do it to be comforting, to be comradely. I don’t think I do it to hit on her. But I do feel that perhaps she thinks that. Sure enough, within 90 seconds she mentions her boyfriend. But she also mentions Katie again. That Katie is getting her Masters at Columbia in Social Work. How great she is.
She says you should meet Katie.
I say I knew one person that used to live in this building, and that’s Joey Ramone. She says she can’t wait to tell Katie, that she’ll be excited to know that.
Again she says I should meet Katie. I say I’d love to, somehow.
She thanks me for taking the time to talk with her and to see if she was doing alright.
She reaches out her hand. “What’s your name?”
“Chris.” I give her my hand. “What’s yours?”
“Cille. Short for Lucille.”
“Ah… I get it. I like it.”
“What do you do?”
“I do music industry stuff… Some tour managing, I work at a small label. I’m bummed I won’t be going to SXSW this year for the first time in forever.”
I’m awkward about answering the “what do you do?” question, I realize. I tell her I don’t have a card, but that I would be happy to right down my info for you. I realize that all I have is a Brooklyn Player’s Club business card, and that probably won’t look so good, but… whatever. I write down my name, number, and email.
She says again “You really should meet Katie.”
I say “I’m not dumb… you’re telling me about a smart cute texas girl that lives a block from my house. I’d love to meet her.”
“You’re right… she’s smart and cute. You should meet her.”
“OK… I’m sold. Send me your info. I’d love to meet her. Call me if you’re bored at all.”
“I’m only here for another 24 hours, so I doubt if I’ll get bored. But, Katie...”
“So, yeah… Katie. Definitely. I look forward to it. It was lovely to have met you, Cille. I’m sorry again for what happened at Veselka.”
“Thanks… you’re very sweet to offer to walk me home. It was very nice to have met you. If you’re in Austin...”
“Drop me a line. Be well. Goodnight, Cille.”
I go back to Veselka, finish my food that Chris kept waiting for me under the heat lamp, I read some more. I pay my bill. And I come home to write this down.
I steal the title from an Alice Munro short story called (I believe) “How I Met My First Husband” but I can’t seem to find which book it’s in so I can’t verify.
I get ready to write the fictional part. About where Cille really does call or email. About where Katie and I do email each other and agree to meet up at Telephone Bar or Black And White. About how she really is beautiful and funny and smart, and how I’m so fucking happy that I made that one impulsive random action.
Maybe even throw in some stuff about how I might feel guilty because I maybe wasn’t doing the act of kindness for any reason other than to specifically get some good karma… because I had a certain feeling that I should talk to this girl.
But then I justify it by saying… Well… it clearly wasn’t selfish. There really was something drawing me to this woman. And that if I hadn’t listened to that voice telling me to run down 9th Street that I wouldn’t have met her, and therefore I wouldn’t have met Katie.
Katie the love of my life. The woman that I can’t live without and who makes everything OK and that I can’t believe I lived a block from for three years and hadn’t ever meet her.
Katie my future wife.
And then cut to 45 years from now. This is all just some sort of story I’m telling around the fire to the grandchildren at Christmas. Katie and I wearing matching sweaters and still in love in our seventies. All the grandchildren rolling their eyes at the corny story that they’ve heard a million times. All wrapped up in the same old schlocky vehicle you’ve seen and read a million times. The romantic flashback to a story of coincidence, of courtship, of one-in-a-million luck, of refined-by-repetition lies and white-lies.
But that’s all just silly. It’s 8:39 AM. This all just happened two hours ago. The sun that was starting to come up has just now become fully morning.
The events of two hours ago are fresh in my head. Everything else is a crazy extrapolation. And not really a very good one, quite honestly. It’s standard, at best. It doesn’t cover any new territory. It’s all been done before, and done better. It’s NOT good writing.
Cille hasn’t called or emailed. Katie hasn’t called or emailed. Neither probably will. This is positively the end of it, I’m sure.
And if it’s not… could I ever show anybody this story anyway? I really don’t think so. Who would believe it?
the funny footnote, is that a couple of weeks later i get an email from Laura saying "you met my friend Lucille the other day, and she gave me your contact info"
i think... weird... where did i get katie from? whatever. so... i email with her a bit... she's pretty square but i figure what the hell... we agree to meet up for drinks.
we meet up at a bar right around the corner (we live 1 block away from each other.)
she's nice... cute but not really. she's one of those people that's 33 going on 49. dresses like a mom, acts like a mom. is clearly Looking For A Husband. at least that's my guess.
we chat. it's fine. we get along, but no sparks or anything. she talks about working at the parks department. i'm a little confused... i mention something about columbia... that Cille had said something about Columbia.
she says that that's her sister. Her sister named Katie.
i was a hand-me-down. or i got bait-and-switched.
either way... unbelievable.
maybe katie started dating the guy that she had met that night that she abandoned Cille. or maybe Katie just thought i was weird or whatever.
i don't really care... but it's pretty fucking funny.