There were two glazed doughnuts in the bakery display one of which were being eyed by two customers ahead of her. Glazed doughnuts were her go-to lunch snack so what an inconvenience to drive to another town for a glazed doughnut only to not have a glazed doughnut. Eunice decided on an egg sandwich before the proprietor asked.
She watched the proprietor’s nose twitch.
“Anything else?” the hunched old lady asked uncomfortably.
“No..” Eunice said.
She paced around the quiet diner-style shop. She wondered why there was no music. Bar stools lined a counter next to the cash register where diners handed off their quarters to the owner like they lived there. They ate in silence. There wasn’t even conversation about labor rates tensing the hushedness.
Eunice checked her pockets for the ten dollar bill she thought was there. It was. She was an ounce less stressed unfolding it as she waited for her sandwich. She grazed toward the open kitchen off to the right of the room leaning on her elbows on the bar. Her phone buzzed. A pink icon lit the screen.
Was gonna have a relaxing night of masturbation. Did you want to come over afterward?
She locked the phone.
Eunice blushed. “What my life has come to.”
The man shrugged. “You’re still young.”
She scoffed, “Yes, what fun this is.”
She glanced at her phone by reflex. No new messages but she knew that already. She glanced into the kitchen overwhelmed with the presence of actual social conversation. Her eyes repelled from the raw image of a person; a male person at that. His jeans were speckled with white paint. He had a dusty t-shirt on. He was young– early thirties. He looked like some journeyman.
He swiped his fingers together over the crust from his sandwich. Crumbs stuck to the dinge of his callous fingertips. She resorted back to the kitchen. She could smell the roast beef from his plate. He cleared his throat and cantered over sliding two big fingers into his back pocket.
“All done, Harry?” the proprietor asked.
“Yep,” he heaved.
“Take the five,” he groaned.
He handed her a five dollar bill and placed a dollar under his plate. The proprietor feigned protest.
“Good luck,” he told Eunice.
She flashed him a meaningless smile.
He stretched by the door, the creases in his Tommy’s Son t-shirt folding and relaxing. Eunice watched him leave. Her phone lit up again. Her egg sandwich slid across the bar. She paid and left.
Later, she was sitting across from a clean-faced twenty-one year old talking about whiskey. She rolled her eyes in her head. His hands were spindly and anxious. She asked him beforehand how tall he was and he told her six feet. He guessed wrong.
They talked about the basics. Everyone liked talking about college. A single cup of chocolate milk sat before her timing the length of the date.
How was your date?
She sat in her car waiting for the boy to drive off before her.
Not sure if I’m writing off twenty-one year olds or guys who ask how I’m doing everyday for a week.
What’s the difference?
She switched apps. The screen showed a frozen H-A-R in the Facebook search box before unfreezing and transitioning to the News Feed. She tried again. “Harry, Tommy’s Son.” Nothing. She Googled Tommy’s Son– “Rhode Island’s family that cares.” She grimaced.
“What does that even mean?”
She scrolled to the footer of the page where the address was listed. It was a construction site.
“Makes sense,” she said to herself.
She returned to Facebook. “Harry, Woonsocket.” There were his tired eyes. She looked around finding no family, no kids. She couldn’t even find a dog. Just a guy standing solo in his logoed t-shirts content with whatever was going on in the photo. Backdrop of a forest; backdrop of a picture window behind the white couch he was sitting in. He didn’t appear to be a white couch kind of guy. She looked through his friends for pictures featuring him. She anticipated some pretty brunette holding him by the face as he played coy not wanting to kiss her. His friends were private. Great.
Eunice started her car. It was cold. The music in her car was fairly loud the way she liked it so she missed a Snapchat message from a young man named Peter. She opened it. It was just a video of his dinner. The broadcasting tone of his voice indicated a mass-Snap. She didn’t respond.
When she got into bed, she texted him.
Let’s go on a date!
Lol you’re so random. I’m getting ready for bed now.
I didn’t mean tonight. If you’re going into bed, let’s pillow talk.
I had to get up early today and just got home from the gym and I have to get up early tomorrow. But if you want, sure let’s chat.
Your guilt trip has reached its destination.
Lol I love the words you use.
Eunice hated the playing with the word “love.” She shut her eyes, concentrating on washing away her imminent imagination of being in love, whatever that was– being comfortable, being content, being endearing sometimes but not always. Just having someone to exist with. Having someone to cry with. Having someone to cry over.
She slid into her cold sheets feeling the warmth wash over. Her body relaxed. Stress occurred to her at the hands of the relief every night she lied down. Another day done. Hundreds more to go if she didn’t die before then. Perhaps tomorrow would be the day. Perhaps that night. Perhaps that moment. Perhaps the window would fall right on top of her head right then and there and she wouldn’t wake up. She wouldn’t even know it.
Her phone rang unnecessarily loudly cutting the silence of her daydreaming.
“What are you doing?” she asked in the voice of a suspecting four year old.
“Oh, just waiting by the train thinking of you!”
“Is that your train there?”
“No, 69th Street. Mine’s not for another hour. So twenty-one year olds, huh?”
“I gotta gauge my limit. That’s the point of dating I guess.”
“Right, no more never-married fifty year olds and no more twenty year olds,” he laughed.
“Twenty-one year olds,” she laughed back. “I’m not a perv.”
She stared into her empty bedroom trying to make things out as he talked. Some comical story about a drunkard’s interaction with the bartender, his bowl of soup with a broken nail in it, and a stolen driver’s license. She always felt bad becoming distracted and then drowsy while other people talked. She was listening. Her display of being a good listener wasn’t prominent until later. In that moment, she just made cosigning sounds– “Oh’s” and “Wow’s.” She was indulging more in the comfort of his deep, concise voice. She placed one hand on her happy trail by default.
“Do you like my stories?” he asked when he was finished.
“I lo– I like your stories a lot,” she said. “You’re a good storyteller. I take notes sometimes.”
“My momentum is fine?”
“Your momentum is perfect,” she smiled. “Just when I think I’m gonna doze off, you either pull me back in or wrap it up. It’s great.”
He chuckled. It reverberated in her ear.
“I’m going for ice cream with the guy that won’t kiss me tomorrow.”
“What’s the progress on that?”
“I don’t know. We’re carpooling to dates. I lingered in his car and found an excuse for him to touch me. Waited an extra awkward three seconds before I got out. The obliviousness burned into the left side of my face.”
“Any more talk about your place?”
“Just continuing to create a cesspool of sexual tension. I’m not mentioning it again or else I’ll feel like a creep. When I imply you come over, you come over. Hell, when I mention I have an apartment, you come over!”
“Probably wants to make sure you feel safe?”
“Before he murders me?”
He laughed. “Some guys care about a girl’s comfort level.”
“Oh, I’ll deal with feeling violated on my own.”
“And you’ll never tell.”
“And I’ll never tell!”
She smiled into the phone. She licked her teeth and shifted positions.
“You’re not desperate.” His voice was tender in the nighttime silence. “But I hear it’s better with the build-up. I think you’re worth it, too.”
“I’ll never know,” she said shifting again. “He’s in danger of the friend zone. He’s either got no chance or he’s got me for good.”
“I always feel the friend zone feels like incest.”
“Or maybe the friend zone might feel like trust.”
“This precariousness is not good for my emotional instability. They tell you to be spontaneous and so I become spontaneous. Now I already like him a decent amount.”
“I believe it.”
She thought for a moment.
“I saw a man who resembled you today.” Ruckus whirred through the phone. “We’ll talk,” she said.
“Have a good night,” he told her. “I wanna hear more.”
She waited for any more parting words. He waited too. And then he hung up.
Eunice was back at Fresh Doughnuts consciously seeking out the carpenter. He was at the bar again crunching into his hearty turkey sandwich.
“And would that be all, ma’am?”
Eunice confirmed and thanked the proprietor again. Harry didn’t glance at her. She didn’t glance at him either.
“Can I also please have an egg sandwich?”
“Anything else?” the proprietor asked.
The proprietor sniffled.
Harry coughed into his arm stealing a glance at Eunice. The sun kissed bags under his eyes flushed her. He was smirking. He returned to his sandwich. She walked behind him pulling out a chair at one of the café tables in the middle of the room. Behind someone was always a dominant position unless the person in front knew how to handle their self. She checked her phone. Nothing.
“Egg sandwich,” the proprietor announced.
What did you, microwave it? she thought.
She approached the bar and placed one hand on the warm tin foil.
“You’re not gonna wanna leave here without speaking to me, huh?”
How easy it was for someone else to be straightforward. She expected it– men tailing her at Walmart, checking out early to get a spot behind her in line. All she had to do was tell him she was interested the way men did with her.
“It’s hard to forget your face. There are not a lot of pretty women in town.”
“What does your boyfriend do?”
“You look like you’d be fun in bed.”
Her strategy was to be quiet; surprisingly upfront when the time came. She choked on the thought of approaching a man in person.
Eunice feigned reserve. “I actually have to get back to work,” she told Harry.
“I work at Tommy’s Son. You must not work too far because I saw you commute this morning.”
“Yeah, and I hear a lot about phones recognizing each other when they’re close to each other. You might have popped up on my Facebook because.. our phones are close together.”
“I’ve never heard of that.”
He didn’t say anything. She cringed in her mind.
“I have to make this meeting. Harry is it?”
“And you are?”
They shook hands. She rushed out.
Her music was loud the way she liked it, distracting herself from confined driving thoughts. When she returned to work, her phone delivered a Facebook notification. She opened Facebook on her work computer.
You forgot to pay for your sandwich. You’ll make it up to me later.
She gasped with embarrassment and also at the sight of his handsome face in her inbox. She stared at it for a moment. A single message from a striking man bereft of the basic “How are you?”
Exuding her shrewdness was easier online. She could carry a conversation even better with a fine intro. She made sure to keep her end simple and smart; surprisingly imprint. “Concise” was the word. She hated getting so comfortable the conversation turned into a confessional booth. She responded to Harry right away to show interest but shortly to show disinterest.
I’ll cover your sandwich tomorrow. Dessert as interest.
She puttered, postponing a reasonable bedtime for the third time that week. She took a shower, moisturized her face and her feet, and slid under the cold sheets. Daylight was still up. The train in Philadelphia wasn’t packed with late-night commuters yet.
You can make it up to me now.
She smiled. She began typing and then stopped. And then she typed again. He saw her read receipt. He saw her responding right away. Technology tattling on desperation.
I won’t be making it up to you now. I’m in bed already.
This early? Get out of bed.
She waited ten minutes.
You’re nearing soliciting the “late night text.”
You’ve solicited my thirty-year-old confusion.
His message came in at the same time.
I will be home. Come over if you want.
She stared at his last message. It haunted her. Two minutes later, his address appeared. She opened her last message to Peter. “It’s gonna be dope tomorrow. Pick you up at six.” Eunice sat up in bed. The mirror at the corner of the room showed her debating with herself to herself. She fixed her countenance practicing mischief; the way she imagined she looked at men. She took a deep breath.
To excuse herself from any train-side pillow talk, she texted, No prior-married fifty year olds either. Sometimes they wear it like a varsity jacket. Like who cares anymore? You failed.
On her way uptown, she checked her phone periodically.
Like me? he responded.
Yes, like you. Four years and what do you have to show for it? Your daughter’s potato head experiment?
Her potato head is more my varsity jacket.
Harry lived on a hill on Adams Street basically in Massachusetts. She could just smell the landfill drafting from wherever. She knocked on his dry, streaked door. She could make out sky blue of what the paint used to be. Her heart pattered.
Harry propped throw pillows up on his couch and rushed around for the two tumblers of pre-poured Knob Creek he left on the kitchen counter. He ran his fingers through his sandy brown hair. He looked himself in the mirror by the door. His eyes were deeper than the night before.
Eunice’s skin was brushed with dew. When she entered, she was smothered by the temperature of the heat. He handed her the glass. She put it to her lips just before noticing a thin piece of tape stuck to the bottom of the tumbler.
“Packaging?” she smiled.
He chuckled embarrassed.
“I rinsed them.”
“I usually just drink liquor out of red cups.”
“I can show you the world.”
Eunice couldn’t find a coffee table to place the liquor back down on. She lowered herself into the couch.
“I’m gonna grab some fruit. You look like you need to eat something.”
Eunice feigned protest. She heard his glass smack on the countertop and the fridge suction open. He clattered around in the vegetable drawers.
“Tommy’s Sons is pretty reputable.”
“Son,” he called.
“Tommy’s Son.” He emerged with a plate of grapes smirking. “I’m Tommy’s Son. He’s undergoing chemo right now.”
“I’m sorry,” Eunice said.
“Why, did you kill him?”
Eunice smiled uncomfortably. “Well.. he’s not dead.”
Harry stared at her smirking blankly.
“Let’s look at some records.”
Harry’s ankle was planked over his knee. One arm rested on the back of the couch and although Eunice was seated at the very edge, she felt his presence behind her. He shot up. Eunice gaped at the door.