Sometimes by M.T. Wood

While the proprietor was out of the city for the week sorting business that would probably be no business at all, Michael had permission to close up early if things slowed down. They had slowed two hours ago.
Sometimes by M.T. Wood
At this time of night most people were done with expensive coffees and teas and had no desire to be seen eating tiny, absurdly priced sandwiches. Other shops with later hours and better conversation about necessary reads with real content could be had elsewhere. C'est La Vie was not elsewhere and Michael, along with the authentic people of the world, knew it. Michael had grown rather tired of his job and did his best to stay entertained despite the endless hours of pretentious talk heard in every corner of the shop. He forced himself to discuss Kant and Ovid as if he were really interested and did such things only because tuition was high and cake jobs were rare. He once watched in near agony as a scrawny and unkempt hipster and Occupy movement reject spotted an attractive female enter the shop. The milksop appeared comically awkward as he fought to keep a slight copy of Glas aloft in obvious hopes of sending some tired, subliminal message. Worse still, Michael became physically ill when the young girl ordered her coffee, searched the shop for an open chair and opted to ask if she might sit with the hipster instead of taking the available seat next to the window where real thought could possibly happen. Michael disliked such people and inwardly laughed at the idea of their vapid lives. Laughing at them felt so damned good he wished to do it openly, but knew he never would. Michael finished wiping down the faux rosewood tabletops and refilled the germ-ridden glass sugar pourers that fooled no one by their wannabe crystal cuts. He retrieved a new mop head from the tidy cleaning closet only half hidden by an ivy-laced armoire that had been hastily converted to a bookcase of sorts and screamed contrived. The owner's wife had gone to great efforts to order and stock the closet with ridiculously expensive foreign versions of readily available and all too common household cleaners. Michael had listened in awe one day as the owner had tried desperately, and without any real success, to explain to his wife how unnecessary and financially irresponsible this insistence to use French bleach over the American store brand was and how it was probably chemically identical to any domestic bleach found in a thousand discount stores in the city. The conversation was ended abruptly when the owner was struck with the futility of introducing his wife to logic when she stated, with no hint of pause, "I like the smaller packages European products come in. And the name sounds better. So, well, it's just better." Michael totaled the day's receipts after a half-hearted mopping and found that his tips barely covered his goal of 10 percent of the store's take. It wasn't unusual for the nouveau riche and the aspirant rich to leave worthless tips and feign accidental omission. Justice was occasionally served when some understanding girlfriend, usually half the age of the card-holder, pointed out that the tip line contained a scribble that resembled no number at all and shamed the cheap bastard into tipping correctly. Michael would simply smile knowingly and say, "Happens all the time", because it did. He set the shop's alarm after taking care to overstep the damp travertine tile that formed a concentric circle around a meaningless white star. When the alarm refused to set properly, Michael knew a call to the alarm company was in order and no less than a half hour delay in closing the shop lay ahead. Michael made the call and took his waiting place in the smallish outdoor porch that faced the building's narrow side alley and gave no real view. The opposing wall to the patio showcased a peeling advertisement that some decision-maker had painted then deliberately scarred to resemble a half-century-old campaign. This concocted design fell in line with the city's new and painfully obvious push for all things old and interesting. A contentious bond debate had taken two years to produce any noticeable results in making retro-chic profitable for anyone. The revival of the city's long defunct trolley and track managed to squeeze a dollar or two from weekenders who were noticeably reluctant to hand their money over for a series of hundred-foot stops that wowed the PlayStation shrieklings none. "Your boutiques and salons sprung up like little cash flowers and wilted in your greedy hands," Michael thought to himself as he lit his twice-nightly cigarette and untucked his many mocha flavor stained shirt. A light rain had helped clear the streets of the die-hard downtown Thursday night clubbers and cleaned the air of the normal dumpster charged stench. The cheap covers and cheaper alcohol that could be found downtown after ten, normally kept the college students descending and the low base pumping long into the night. But even the slightest of rain demanded effort, and for the majority of the local juco attendees this was an unknown concept. Michael flicked a length of ash into a puddle that was developing on the alley side of the patio's waist-high wall. A thin layer of water and motor oil varnished Main Street and reflected the red-orange glow of a nearby tattoo shop's neon sign. Michael looked on as the sign pulsed with a hypnotic regularity and was accompanied by an electric buzz that completed the peculiar heartbeat. The eleven o'clock trolley's bell clanged in the distance and bounced hollow off the empty storefronts. Michael smiled thinly when he noted the bell's chance alignment with the neon throb. "Life and its random harmony," he said quietly to himself. Michael watched as the trolley emerged from behind the adjacent building and slowed to a stop in front of the shop. There seemed to be a moment of slight confusion between the operator and the trolley's lone fare before the passenger eventually gave a defeated shoulder shrug and stepped hotly from the now swiftly departing car. A diminutive girl appeared once the trolley had moved on and the rays from a nearby sushi bar’s yellowish dull light collected upon her shoulders, penetrating droplets of rain on her clothing and sparking them faintly. The girl, turning a searching half circle while dragging a small tote, spotted Michael and took a short reluctant step toward downtown's only offering of life. The girl briefly halted her commitment toward Michael's direction to smooth her skirt with a free hand in an unconscious attempt to regain a measure of composure for the unknown audience of one. Michael rolled his head to one side, trying to convey affability in the lean and did nothing to hide his curiosity with the show unfolding before him. The girl hefted her tote, took a few more reluctant steps in Michael's direction, paused to look up and down the street a final time, and then slowly closed the gap between them. Michael stood waiting on the other side of a wall that, in her instant evaluation, was just high enough to give her a head start if a flight into the night became necessary. "It happens,' Michael said from a distance. "What?" The girl called back as she neared. "The trolley, it stops at the wrong place all the time. I don't think those guys even live around here. They just hire them off the street, put them in costume and show them the stop and go stuff. No training, you know?" The girl entered the light of the cafe's patio and Michael saw that she was dressed in a business casual suit, bluish in color. The snug skirt was cut just so and ended in a tantalizing spot two inches above her knees. A light blue scarf, tied loosely about her neck, seemed more for function than fashion. Practical and smart. When the shadows played with the girl's face, Michael marked her striking angular features, a study in linear perfection. Her rose pale skin told Michael that the girl had only met with the sun in the brief moments spent between the shades of her life. The lack of forced color gave her countenance youth on top of her youth. A pedestal of lips emerged from the girl's light facial palette, seizing the eye by a ten thousand-year old reflex. And it was impossible for Michael not to notice that the girl's body spoke well to all men and needed no adjustments to be woman complete. In the seconds that he had to take her in, Michael assigned one common but necessary word for the girl: Beautiful. "I don't think that man spoke much English on top of the training you mentioned," the girl said, dropping her bag and tucking a tress of long brown hair behind her ear. "I don't know what he was saying, but I'm positive he had no idea what I was saying." "So you're lost, I assume?," Michael asked. "Perpetually," she answered, making eye contact with Michael for the first time. Brown eyes wide, the girl seemed to take a breath reserved for a small shock, but stopped it short, forcing it to end. Michael saw the girl's start and sat in silent assessment, allowing the moment to pass without speaking. The lull seemed theatrically long and he broke it with a finger point to the girl's bag. "The water," he said. The girl followed Michael's index and saw that her tote rested in a small puddle at her feet. "Oh, damn!" she said, lifting the bag to the patio wall. "Here, let me see it," Michael offered as he took the bag from the girl and began to wipe it with his ready hand towel. "I think it's going to survive." "Thank you. It's not even mine. My... Well, my colleague left it behind earlier and begged me to return it to him tonight," the girl said, not hiding the irritation in her voice. The wind swept the awning and pushed a mist of rain on the girl forcing her under its protection and closer to Michael. The girl stole another furtive glance of Michael through her parted and damp locks before wiping the wetness from her brow and saying, "Oh, this is such a mess, really. This isn't 82nd street, is it?" "No, not even close," Michael said with a chuckle. "Don't worry, the trolley should be back soon. You never really know with those guys though. Could be 10 minutes, could be an hour.” Michael sensed unease in the girl's posture. He knew she was probably tensed over her unfamiliar setting, so he said, “You’re not far off if you had to walk it. Though, I wouldn't recommend it in this weather. Convention district, I take it?" "Yes. Afraid so it’s, as I said, all a mess." "Coffee?” Michael asked, pointing over his shoulder to the semi-lit cafe. "No, no. I'm having trouble sleeping as it is. Thanks though." "I asked," Michael said, placing her dried tote on the dividing wall. "You could at least come in and dry off. The rain might be back." With his words, the girl grew noticeably withdrawn, like a well-practiced defense. His invite made the man if front of her suddenly authentic, definitely different, and most tangible. This led her to new thoughts which she quickly tried to put away. The girl stood in another pause with her eyes lowered to the uncomfortable heels that were now piercing rings into the small puddle on her side of the wall. Just as Michael was about to ask if the girl was all right, she skipped over his offer, not impolitely, by saying, "The rain, it seems abnormal in some way; out of place even." Michael, happy that the girl had returned, said, “Nothing’s really normal in this city, if you ask me. You know how it is; rain comes when you don't want it... and goes when you do." "Sometimes it's just like that," the girl said, stepping delicately into new words, searching for conversation that would stay easy. "Like what?" Michael asked, noticing hints of the girl's perfume on the night's intermittent breeze. It was jasmine, he thought, or not. Whatever it was, it was faintly rousing and worked, not hard, to fill him with her and all the possibilities of her. Still, Michael feigned diffidence. "I don't know? A season, a song, a time," The girl said, relaxing some. "I don't know what the hell you're talking about," Michael said with a puzzled squint of the eyes. The girl managed a laugh at Michael's expression and it was joined with laughter from Michael as well. The girl then leaned her head to her shoulder in amusement and took the man in over the wall in his entirety. And when she did, she tensed imperceptibly and warmed inwardly while a strange familiarity crept within her. And though she knew it was false, part of her started not to care. "I don't really follow. But, I'll pretend to," Michael said, relaxing the girl further. "I don't know either," the girl said, allowing a grin but not giving over to laughter again. "Do you think we ever really quit?” she asked abruptly. Michael followed the girl's eyes and could see that she had spotted his open pack of cigarettes that were resting on the table behind him. "Would you like one?" he asked. "No, thank you. I quit three years ago." "But you just said..." The girl gave Michael another reserved smile and said, "I know. I just don't think I really quit. I mean, I think about it so often because in my head it's as if I just finished my last one. Needing... needing another to fill the hole that's growing. It's always growing, it seems. So, I haven't really quit now, have I? I've just paused for an extended period. That's how it feels anyway." Michael grinned at the girl and took a relaxed seat on the wall separating the two as he said, "I get it. It's very philosophical. I like it. I guess that's how I'll feel one day too. But now..." Michael leaned back some to retrieve his cigarettes and while turned; he collected a furtive impression of the girl in the reflection of the shop's plate glass window. She looked more vested in the moment when his eyes weren't directly on her. Almost wistful, he thought. The glass had betrayed the girl and this amused Michael in a way he wasn't sure how to display, so he didn't. "Maybe we'll get over our urges completely one day? You know, clear the blockage of the mind and all that. Rid ourselves of the things that keep us from being who we were supposed to be," the girl said as Michael turned back to her, placing a cigarette in his mouth without lighting it. "What if our urges make us who we are? What happens to us when we never give in? Then who would we be, really?" he asked. The girl shrugged her shoulders and thought briefly on Michael's question. “Maybe you're right. Maybe we should?" "Of course we should," Michael said. "Denial of all things good is so overrated." The girl, with new light in her eyes, took a step toward the wall and into the growing comfort of Michael. Then, as if she had reached a wall before the patio wall, the girl was interrupted when her eyes fell upon the tote. At the site of the bag, the girl shuddered internally and shrunk noticeably before Michael. In her defeated pose, the girl said, and this behind a quiet breath, "But, we should never give in to the things that hurt us, or others. Never." Michael sensed the unease in the girl and resisted the desire to reach out and touch her in some way. "We should try to be happy though. At all cost," he managed. The girl's gaze stayed locked on the tote for a moment until Michael leaned in some toward her, breaking the bag's hold upon her. "What? Oh, yes. We should," the girl said. "And we should do more than try." "Well, since we're being philosophical, I don't think happy is the same for everyone. It's a relative term. Don't you think?" Michael said, trying to bring her back fully. The girl clasped her hands in front of her chest and pursed her lips in genuine thought."Yes, I think so. Happiness is different for different people. All we can do is hope we surround ourselves with people who share our own brand of happiness. That's hard to do, sometimes." "Like minded isn't always good. I think an argument can be made that people should sample others. It's like trying a new dish. How would I ever know if I like something If I've never tasted it? It's the same for people. Well, not the tasting part. But, you get the idea." The girl let a slight laugh escape. "Yes, I know what you're saying. I like experiencing other things, other people. It's just nice to come home to familiar. Familiar is always... well, familiar," the girl said. "I guess it's all about balance then. Open mindedness and all that," Michael said. "Open minded is nice. Open minded should be like going home, familiar... present in everyone's life," the girl said with a noticeable swell in her spirit. "Absolutely," Michael responded. "I love that word, absolutely. It makes things sound so official and final. We should use it more," the girl said, allowing a level of joy to dress her words. "Absolutely!" Michael said, catching the new and welcome wave of levity. "And exciting," she continued, wondering aloud. "Always exciting! Are you kidding me? Absolutely exciting!" Michael said tossing his unlit cigarette to the side. "Exciting should never be missing from life," the girl said, her eyes beginning to dance and collect new light that looked to Michael as if it belonged in her, always. "And remember, we'll not be afraid to try new things, because this will be what leads to the exciting stuff," the girl said, as a matter of fact. "To new things," Michael said, raising an absent glass to toast the air. "And we will travel to places that aren't so popular, and we will always stay longer than we should," the girl said. "Always," Michael followed up. "And we'll go entire days without our phone and never checking our watch." "Never." "And, when we take pictures, we will sometimes use real film because nobody does that anymore. Real film is probably so much better." "Much better," Michael said, leaning a little toward the now vibrant girl. "And I'll be in charge of parties that will consist of guests chosen at random. Because random always equals good conversation," the girl said clasping her hands again, lost deep in her vision, no longer caring where it led. "Random is just fine,” Michael said smartly. "And what friends we do make, some will be odd and interesting. And they'll be the best kind of friends." "Odd?" Michael asked with artificial surprise. "Yes, odd," the girl said, with a broad smile and a subtle lighthearted lift from the toes. "And we'll be minimalist in our choice of living arrangements. Ostentatious will not describe us and will be a dirty word around us; one with which we will never be associated." "The dirtiest word," Michael agreed with an emphatic shake of his head. "And we won't have to travel to the country to vacation. We can build a quaint home in the country and possibly a barn of some kind. Yes, I think a barn would be interesting. Of course, I don't know what goes into a barn. But that's of no concern. We'll learn as we go," the girl said. "Spontaneity! I love it!" Michael said, snapping his fingers at the idea. "And we will need more than one big bedroom, of course. We will eventually need... five, I believe. Yes, five additional rooms. And not for the guests, I tell you. But for the... well, others." "Five?" Michael asked with genuine shock. "Yes, five," the girl said mischievously. "What's wrong with five?" "It's a relatively big number these days, and...," Michael said, lifting his hands outwards and searching for an escape. "And, well... it's an odd number. Oh, right, forgive me. Odd is interesting. So, well, odd is allowed." "Yes, always allowed," the girl remarked resolutely. The girl put her finger to her lips, rolling her eyes to search for words to match the scene in her head. "Because we're like John and Yoko," she said, lifting up on her toes again as if it would somehow take her above the awkwardness of her vision. "John and Yoko?" Michael asked with renewed confusion. "You know, days in bed," the girl said, trying to step back from coquettish words, then giving up. "Naked and in bed! You know, like John Lennon and Yoko Ono." "Of course, days in bed, naked. Just like John and Yoko," Michael said, eyes wide, happily accepting the basis for the perplexing analogy. "And I will always laugh with you," the girl said quietly, connecting with Michael again, searching him for some sign of reality or dream. The girl took an additional step toward the man under the coffee shop's awning who had entered inside her somewhere unusual and new. And as she drew a deep breath of the night's air in preparation for something different and needed, the girl once more looked to the wall and to the tote that rested between them. Halting her advance, the girl tried to fend off the reservations that now knocked in the back of her mind. She fell into a kind of reverie by closing her eyes and lightly biting her lower lip, as if doing so might seal her hope and make all things anew. The girl began to sway gently back and forth as if the night's small breeze had taken control of her. She wrapped her arms about herself and squeezed lightly, like she were bracing for the words that were gathering, "And, I'll rarely cry with you. No, with you, I think I'd rarely cry." The girl wilted a little with her words and shuddered some as if she were pushed roughly into a cold room. Michael, now troubled with watching the girl's rapid transformation, took a step toward the girl standing helpless in the mist of the alley and asked, "Are you okay?" The girl opened her eyes and a small tear escaped, running the length of her cheek, holding fast at the edge of her chin before another followed in its trail and forced an inevitable fall. "I wouldn't cry with you," she repeated, slowly this time, while leveling her eyes at Michael, tears still gathering in her own. "Of course not... What?" Michael tried, probing for a reason behind the girl's sudden turn. "And with you, I wouldn't hurt," she said. "Not with you." Michael leaned toward the girl, hands outstretched, as if he were preparing to catch her when the gravity of whatever thoughts she was having sent her to her knees. "And, I will not fear with you," she said, shaking her head in slow determination. "Not with you," she added, tears now heavy and constant. Michael, once held back by respect for the unknown, started searching for a way over the wall and to the girl who stood motionless and wordlessly asking for his embrace. As Michael mounted the wall, a growing and demanding clang arose in the distance. The sound of the approaching trolley warned of its final run of the night and in doing so lifted the girl in a snap from the dark place she had just gone and almost needed help escaping. The girl, now entirely awake and firmly in the present, pressed the remaining tears from her eyes, forcing equanimity. She reached for the bag on the wall that Michael was now straddling, stuck in his utter confusion. Then, without seeing him, without an offering of any kind, the girl lifted her bag, turned toward the waiting trolley and took steps back into the night. "Wait!" Michael said forcefully, near painfully, cutting the downtown's regular silence. The girl, bag firmly in hand, did nothing to acknowledge the insistence and undeniable command in Michael's word. She took a few more unwavering steps in the direction of the empty and lonesome trolley before stopping, eyes forward and softly saying, more to herself than to Michael, "It's just like that sometimes." The girl hefted her bag once more, securing her decision along with her grip. Then, like an afterthought, the girl gave over to a small turn of her waist, only to see Michael, hand outstretched and mouth agape with the start of words that were too many and too late. The girl joined eyes with Michael a final time, too briefly to give him a hold, before turning back toward the last trolley of the night and saying, as she walked out of his life forever, "Only sometimes."


Post a Comment

Read free eBooks, English Fiction, English Erotic Story

Delicious Digg Facebook Favorites More Stumbleupon Twitter