She saw him ‘cross town over on North Avenue. ‘Bout where Milwaukee and Damen run into each other. He was walking out of the check cashing place; just got paid; there was a jingle in his step.
First thing he did was walk into the diner, she looked on from her old Dodge that was parked in front. She watched as he skid into a booth real smooth like and ordered coffee from the skinny waitress with her brunette hair piled high. He held up two fingers. Meaning, he wanted two creams and two sugars. He talked to her with a smile. He talked to every woman with a smile.
Sat there real cool like. Looked over the paper; he liked to look at the pictures in The Sun Times; particularly the sports pages in the back. He never was one for reading. He watched the world go by in pictures. Pictures of the president shaking hands with some foreign leader, pictures of Sox players celebrating at home plate, color photos of cop cars on the scene. He’d read the headlines then look at the pictures. Had his whole life.
The woman in the car then saw the waitress bring over his food. Looked like some kind of beef Manhattan with mashed potatoes and a brown gravy dripping off the side. He ran his finger on the edge of the plate then licked it. Stuck the whole thing in his mouth then pulled it out. Like a toddler with a pacifier.
She then drew up enough courage to go in and see him;checked her lipstick in the mirror, powdered her cheeks, put some more mascara ’round those pretty brown eyes. As she got out of her car a couple of homeboys took notice; said she looked good enough to eat. She smiled as she opened the door to the diner. They kept on walking.
He saw her coming his way. He knew what she wanted. You got it?, she asked as she floated her bottom over the torn plastic seat. He didn’t look up at her; kept eating. Hey…I’m talking to you. You got my money?, she grabbed his wrist. He nodded his head.
I would have brought it to you tomorrow, he said, Told you I was good for it.
Tomorrow it would’ve been gone, she laughed. He pulled out five twenties from his pocket. Counted them off to her. Then laid the money in front of the short blonde.
I would say thank you, but, it’s been almost six months.
I got caught up with some things. Bills, unexpected. It’s always something.
Yes, it’s always something.
They looked at each other. He started to stroke her hand then she pulled away.
Best be going, she said.
Hey, no hard feelings.
She slid across the plastic and began to laugh. Yeah, no hard feelings.