Of Myriad Reflections
They hostess had closed the booth room, Laura’s section, and the day was drawing to a close. She went through her side work dutifully: replenishing the salt, pepper, and sugar shakers, refilling the napkin dispensers, and refrigerating the jam containers. It had been a slow day, as usual, but she’d made decent tips. She counted them and set aside that which was to go to the busboys, dishwashers, the cashier and the hostess. She’d known some girls that liked to take their time at the end of the day, as they were still on the clock and it was a good way to get minutes, but she liked to do her side work quickly because she didn’t like her job and wanted to get out of it as soon as she could. Not because she had anything in particular planned. Alan was coming over tonight, but that wasn’t for a few hours. Maybe she would take a nap, enjoy some quiet, watch something on television. Not exactly setting the world on fire, but such was reality. If only she could get away from it somehow. She used to smoke pot, but came not to trust herself with her defenses lowered. Aside from that she was mostly out of ideas.
She left Cara’s Café and crossed Broadway. She parked on 41st Street where there weren’t parking meters. She’d owned a car, an old white BMW, for about a year. Before that she used to take the bus. Break-ins were common throughout Oakland, and also on the block she parked on. Often times she’d found sprays of broken glass on the street and sidewalk, but it hadn’t yet happened to her, probably because her car was such a piece of shit. It was still intact when she found it today, got in, gunned, the ignition and drove home. She lived in an apartment building on Alice Street, downtown, and had to pay to park in a lot on the corner. Everything went as normal. She was back in her place, a modest one bedroom on the fifth floor, fifteen minutes after leaving work. She turned on the TV to ABC 7, where the local news was playing, turned up the volume, then went into her bedroom, got into bed and stared at the ceiling. For some reason she couldn’t quite quantify she felt like crying. Her life had nothing to recommend it. She didn’t want to see Alan later. As time passed he’d become less and less necessary, and neither of them seemed to be putting up a fight.
She put the crook of her arm over her eyes and listened to the news without retaining any of it. A few minutes later she’d drifted off, and woke an hour later to a room lit with the light of the setting sun. She blinked her eyes and looked at her phone. 5:33 PM. Alan would be here in an hour and a half. Should she make dinner for him? She didn’t feel like it. She could tell him she hadn’t gone shopping yet. Maybe he’d leave her alone if she did, but was that what she really wanted? She wasn’t sure. It wasn’t like she had many other prospects to turn to. Also Alan might not be in a good mood. At least their sex was good.
No matter how hard she tried she couldn’t think of a reason to get out of bed. She’d had fun with Allyson and Cather a few weeks ago when they’d gone to his restaurant. Maybe the Fantastic Four could help her, each of them fighting their own battles as they obviously had been.
There was a ping on her phone. She reached out to her nightstand and picked it up. It was from an unfamiliar number. It read: “Hey Laura, this is Tyler. How are you?”
How prescient! she thought, and texted back:
“Hey Tyler, good to hear from you. How’d you get my number?”
A few minutes later, still in bed: “I got it from Cather. I hope that’s okay.”
“No problem at all. I’m doing fine. You?”
Again, the pause. She pried herself out of bed and went to the kitchen to see if she did in fact lack the supplies to make Alan dinner. She did. She had some leftovers from yesterday: half a plate of meatloaf and some mashed potatoes. Maybe she should cancel on him. Eureka! that’s exactly what she should do.
She heard her phone ping. She went back into her bedroom. The new text read: “I’m doing fine too. I saw Jim the other day, we thought of you.”
This brought a smile to her face. The first such of the day. Could be interesting maybe.
“You’re sweet,” she answered, then went to her phone book and found Alan’s name. She called him. The phone rang a few times before he picked up.
“Hey girl,” he said.
“Hi. I just wanted to tell you I don’t have enough groceries to feed you tonight.”
“What does that mean?”
“Just what I told you.”
“You want me to take you out?”
Laura cleared her throat and didn’t reply at first, then said: “I don’t know. I’m really tired.”
“We haven’t seen each other in a little while.”
“You’re not cheating on me are you?”
Laura laughed. “No, hasn’t gotten to that point yet.”
“Well I’m not gonna wait for you to get your shit together if you don’t want me to come over.”
“It’s not that.”
“Really? Then what is it?”
“I don’t know. I’m just… I don’t know. I’m not really happy with things as they are.”
“How about I get in touch with you sometime soon.”
“I might dump you if it gets to that.”
“Well I might dump you too.”
“Whatever Smalls. Do your thing. Hit me back if you want to but I won’t hold a gun to your head. The world’s too big to get caught up in some shit that’s not going anywhere.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“Say goodbye. Call me if you want to.”
Laura hung up, non-plussed. There was another text from Tyler:
“Do you want to hang out some time?”
“I’d love to. Just not now. I’m really tired. It was great to hear from you though. I won’t forget about you.”
She pressed send. Now Alan wasn’t coming over after all, so what was she to do with herself? She crawled back into bed, maybe ready to start crying for real. She heard another ping and, even though Tyler’s texts had done her well, she didn’t pick up to answer immediately. About an hour later she heated up the food she had and answered Tyler’s text, which read “I won’t forget you either,” with a smiley face followed by “perfect timing, by the way. I was beginning to think you’d forgotten about me.” This time Tyler didn’t answer.
Laura allowed herself to feel a little less lonely at this. Maybe she wasn’t a hopeless cause after all. Were she and Alan broken up now? They might be. Why wouldn’t they be, after all? He was a bartender. He probably had a ton of prospects. Perhaps it was time to move on.
It was Wednesday. Cather would be playing at his restaurant tomorrow. She texted Allyson to see if she wanted to make another night of it. Allyson was game. That was something to look forward to, anyway.
She went into her living room and rooted through her DVDs until she found one she wanted to watch. She sat on the couch and put her feet up. The feeling of hollowness in her chest, she hoped, wouldn’t last forever.