At the bar across Halsted, a girl breathes into my ear that tonight I served her and her date. I knew her date, Spiro, a pompadoured forty-something who dines twenty-somethings on Fridays.
“He ordered an Americano,” she says. “Told me I was too pretty for a barista.” But the date was a fold, she says, and then swallows my ear.
I tell her I live two blocks away, and then we’re there, acting out a scene according to the new pornography, until sleep overcomes us.
In the morning we stare at my dust-freckled ceiling in the aspiring light. I deliver a wanting joke about unexpected flings and vitamins. She returns a pleased snort, and I take the moment to slide from the sheets to the toilet. I leave the door cracked five-fingers, the mouth of a small flowerpot, as if our relationship can begin there and grow.
I hear her smack, cough, shift.
Eyes closed, I try to urge a confident stream. I achieve a pitiful trickle, it wanes, then nothing. I have to sit down to go.
She’s getting dressed when I come out.
“I have coffee,” I tell her.
She works at her high-heel boots, intricately laced operations, yanking the long laces violently, as if they were pull cords and she was trying to start up a flying machine.
“I can make coffee,” I say. It’s important for her to know that I command skills.
“Coffee’s pretentious,” she says. “Briefcases, power ties, pink secretaries sucking cocks. Fuel of the patriarchal pap. I only pour it. Besides, the way you sweat all night, I’d say cool off.”
No coffee is made.
I watch her leave down the back porch steps—three sagging and precarious flights meant for hiking cleats. She lurches down them at first, but by the second floor landing, after she’s gone from view, I hear her settle into a steady but ominous teeter—clo-omp clomp clo-omp-omp-(pause)-pock. The sound would have frightened a small child, or else made a dog start barking.
John Kersey lives in Chicago with his wife and their daughter. He teaches creative writing at Elgin Community College. More work of his can be found in the Fall 2012 issue of Fifth Wednesday Journal.