Nervous was not the word. More like shaking in my boots. It was cold at five a.m. in the alley as I waited for someone to let me into the restaurant. Surrounded by the stained brick walls and the dumpsters and the rats I wondered if I was really ready for this. This was the big time. This was it.
The three cleanup guys came down the alley together and spoke in that rapid fire Spanish I couldn’t keep up with. I must have looked ridiculous in my white coat and my pale face and my glasses. My hands balls in my pockets and my eyes wide and hopeful. The bread guy came round the corner and I tensed up. He was unshaven and his eyes were bloodshot, he fumbled with the keys and hardly even looked at me. He smelled like vodka and sweat.
The kitchen of Les Halles was all at once spotless and messy, if that makes any sense. Pots and pans scrubbed a thousand times all hung in their specific places. Every sink deep and prophetically empty. Every burner matte black and ready to work. I’d been given a tour a few days before. I’d been told what I was supposed to do and I still had the list of prep work in my pocket. I’d read it several hundred times. My boyfriend had laughed, but he understood. This was my dream job.
And now for something completely different. I wrote bits of this a while ago, but it’s been floating around in my head lately so I put the finishing touches on it. This weekend I will have ample writing time, but no internet connect save my iPhone. Hopefully I can get some serious smut down.
Let me describe the first time I met her.
I was in The Strand bookstore, the one on 12th street, one of the most amazing places in the world. The smell of old books is almost overpowering there. I was in the mystery section looking through war torn copies of Raymond Chandler novels. It was Sunday, just after seven pm.
Across the aisle, I saw her. She had just moved out of Science Fiction and down the aisle that contained Letters, Criticisms, and Literary Biographies. She was short and bookish and dressed like your average college girl, a knee length skirt of dull gray and a fitted black button up blouse with three buttons open to expose just enough to make me follow her with my eyes. Then there was the red hair. Short, ridiculously curly, chin length and it seems like there was an attempt to part it in the middle. She looked deliciously almost criminally adorable.
Jack was addicted. It was something he needed to admit to himself. It was something he needed help with. It was something that was part of him.
“Gimme a quad shot cappuccino, very dry, non-fat milk.”
He stood at the counter digging deep into the pockets of his jeans trying to get another fifty cents. It was a costly habit, four shots of espresso with a little steamed milk was five bucks.
Behind him a line of well dressed people tried to summon the psychic power needed to destroy him. He was holding up the line, therefor holding up their caffeine intake. This was a dangerous thing.
“Don’t worry, you come in every day like three times. I think I can overlook fifty cents.” the girl with the thick glasses and the tight shirt behind the counter said with a smile.
Blond, bright green eyes, a nose ring. She was very cute, but a little to skinny and bubbly for Jack’s taste. He smiled and handed her his deficient funds.
They broke up on the train.
Trains push his memories to the surface. All the trips into the country as a child. All the trees passing by, leaves changing to red and gold.
The city fades fast, faster then you can imagine. It is so small compared to the stretches of country to the Jersey Shore, to Upstate, to Boston and Maryland and DC.
Looking at Maggie, he could see her fighting her childhood memories. At least he wanted to think she was fighting them, hoping they were there to be fought. She had her nose in a notebook, making a list of things to do.
We start kissing in the cab, my hand sneaking under her dress when the driver isn’t paying attention. She was waxed clean and smooth and always wet, my little pet, and that made it so my fingers slipped right in perfectly. She slaps me away, wanting to be a good girl until we get inside.
I was 20 cycles old when I got my first ship. My father did “The Long Run” just before I was born. Ten years from Mars high orbit to various mining colonies and then on to Io and back. He missed my early childhood, but came back with one million credits.
I always wanted to make the long run. There was a certain devotion it took and a certain respect you got if you made it, plus the money of course. As much as I longed for the money and the adventure I was also afraid. There were these nightmares, dreams where I was out there in the inky blackness alone. I’m in a walksuit and I have enough oxygen and water for a few days, but I am out in the big black, the space between the edge of the Asteroid Belt and Jupiter. Hundreds of millions of kilometers from any outpost. Not even a remote chance of being saved.