by Zach Sims
It had just rained. We were sitting at a small table on the sidewalk, under the awning. Water was shooting out of a gutter above our heads and splashing noisily on the pavement at our feet. Everywhere was the sound of water draining. The sun was out now. The pavement was steaming and you could feel the heat rising.
It was early for us, but we were sitting down for some drinks before lunch. I ordered a beer and she ordered a glass of wine.
"God, beer this early?" she said with her nose crinkled.
"What's the difference?"
"At least wine looks civilized."
"I'm not worried about appearances this morning."
She huffed and turned away from me to look down the road, towards Bourbon Street.
The waitress bought out our drinks.
"Could I get a couple of hard boiled eggs?" I asked her.
"Sure," she said. "It will take a moment."
"Anything for the lady?"
"No," Lisa said without looking at either of us.
"Start us a tab," I asked.
The waitress nodded politely and went back into the bar.
"How did you know they had eggs?"
"I didn't," I said, "I just wanted some."
"What about lunch?"
"What about it?"
Will you be hungry?" She turned to look at me and her eyes were flat and dull.
"Yes, and don't look so bored."
She took a sip of the wine and she took it like someone who knew how to drink wine. I turned away to look at the street and there was an old man at a restaurant across the street, pushing water from the sidewalk in front of it, with a squeegee fastened to a broom stick.
The waitress bought a little glass bowl with my eggs in it. I took a big drink to finish my beer and I handed her my empty bottle.
"Could I have a Tom Collins?" I asked. I touched the eggs and found that they were hot. "And some ice to cool the eggs."
"Sure." The waitress said.
I turned to look at her for the first time and she was very young and quite pretty. I smiled at her. "Sorry for all the trouble."
"It's no trouble," she said and she put her hand softly on my shoulder. She didn't ask if Lisa wanted anything.
The waitress came back and she put the ice on my eggs and sat my drink down. It was in a tall narrow glass that was frosty and crusted with ice. I took a drink and got a piece of ice. I crunched it loudly, to be annoying.
"That's a strong drink for so early," Lisa said.
"We're in New Orleans."
"We live here."
"It's all the same."
"You've got problems," she said, "and drinking isn't the least of them."
"You said it."
"And what does that mean?"
"It means that you said it."
"I know what I said." She turned and was staring at me. She couldn't hide her dislike of me in her eyes. I bet she could taste it in her mouth at the top of her throat.
"Why do you have to be so difficult?" she asked.
"I don't know. I can't help it, really."
We sat there for a while and the humidity was closing in on us. I felt my shirt sticking to me.
"Why don't you get drunk," she said. "At least you're happy then."
"I was going to."
"Well, go ahead."
"I will," I said. "And I don't need your permission."
We sat and I finished my drink and I felt the eggs again and they were cool. I peeled one slowly and then poured salt on it and took a big bite. I looked down at it and saw the golden yolk. I poured salt on the yolk and took another bite.
"I'm going to take a break," Lisa said.
"Yes, a break from us, from all of this." She threw her hands in the air, motioned to mean all around, New Orleans.
"A break," she said, looking at me. "I'm leaving."
"Where will you go?"
"I don't know yet. Somewhere where it is cooler than here."
"That wouldn't be hard."
"Denver maybe, or Seattle." I looked at her and she was looking up at the sky, her eyes were sparkling and full of wonder. I hadn't seen her look like that in a long time.
I salted my egg and took another bite. Just a piece of the white was left, I threw it out into the street and it landed in a puddle.
"I suppose you will be happier without me?" I asked her.
"Yes, I know I will."
"What if you meet another guy just like me?"
"There aren't any more just like you."
"They are all just like me." I whistled for the waitress. She came out the door. "Another drink and another wine."
"What will you do?" she asked.
"Stay here. Do nothing, just keep on living."
"Keep on drinking."
"At least you won't have to sneak around with your girlfriends any more."
"I don't have any girl friends."
"Yes you do."
The waitress brought our drinks.
"Denver is a nice town," I said, just making conversation.
"You've been there?"
"I'm not going to tell you where I go."
"Seattle is nice too. It rains."
She pulled out a cigarette. I hate smoking and she never did it in front of me.
"I won't tell you."
"I don't want to know," I said. "I'm just saying."
"I'm not listening."
"You know an underrated town? Madison, Wisconsin, that's a fine town, a fine place to live. I lived there for two years, I went to school there."
"You never told me that."
I shrugged and watched her as she let the smoke roll out of her mouth. It was kind of sexy and I wondered why I never let her smoke.
"The winters aren't as bad as you would think, and the summers are lovely."
"I might go to Europe."
"I would like to go to Europe someday, too."
She snuffed out her cigarette and stood up.
"You see!" she said, and she was staring at me with crazy eyes. "That is why I can't stand you, it's all YOU YOU YOU!" She picked up her glass of wine and drank it down in one drink and she threw the glass at me, it bounced off of my shoulder and landed on the sidewalk without breaking.
"Goodbye," she said. "It's been a miserable year and a half!"
I watched her stomp off, down towards Bourbon Street.
The waitress came out and asked me if everything was all right.
"No, she just left me," I said.
"I think so."
"I'm sorry," she said, and she looked at me with big brown eyes. She knelt down a little and a brown curl fell into her face and she brushed it away with her hand.
"I'll be okay," I said, and I put on my puppy-dog face and stared down at the ground.
"I'm so sorry. What can I do?"
"Another drink would help."
"On me," she said. I half-heartedly accepted. She took my empty glass and I looked at her hand. There was no ring on her finger. I watched her walk away and she had a nice walk. I looked back at the street; the man across the street was leaning on his broom-stick and smiling. I waved at him and he smiled and waved back.
The sun was up in earnest now and I could feel its heat as it shined on my legs. But somehow the heat didn't seem so bad now. The waitress came back with a drink and I wiped the smile off of my face.
"Here you go," she said, and she sat the drink down. She was looking in my eyes, her face wrinkled with concern.
"Thanks," I said. I held out my hand to shake. "I'm William."
"Amber," she said, and she shook my hand gently.
I pushed Lisa's empty seat out with my foot.
"Could we talk for a while?" I said. "I really need someone to talk to."
Amber looked around at the empty tables, and then she sat down and smiled. "For a while," she said.
About the author:
Zach Sims lives in Missouri.