the point? I've been to a ton of these types of seminars and they're
always the same. There's not much more I can learn for this kind of
point, Joyce, is it looks good in your file which in turn reflects well
on our department. Besides, Baltimore's a nice
town. You may enjoy some time away. Maybe meet a handsome traveler?"
looked back at her coworker, Carmen, and smiled politely. Carmen's hair
hung loosely around her shoulders today and the odd strand waved about
as the breeze from the window blew into the break room. "Like ships in
the night, huh." said Joyce, "The problem is I have to come
chuckled and stood up from her seat on the windowsill. Joyce stretched
her neck as she bobbed her head back to finish the cup of coffee in her
"Relax, sweetie. You should lighten up. You're too young to worry all the time."
Joyce smiled again and returned her gaze to the glass of the window.
don't you come out with me tonight?" said Carmen. "Just us and maybe
Laurie. We'll have a girls' night out before you leave tomorrow. It'll
Joyce's eyes slowly roamed back to Carmen, half-closed and distant. "Thanks Carmen, really, but I can't. I already have plans."
"Oh? You don't seem very excited about these plans."
"It's nothing big. Just meeting a friend."
“So when are you leaving?" Ben asked.
Joyce turned her head as it
rested on the pillow, away from the slow hum of the spinning fan above. She
moved and her hair got in her face, forcing her to gently nudge aside the short
dark strands away so she could see Ben. Her eyes came to rest upon his cheek.
The slight ravine along his jaw faded in and out as he clenched his teeth and
pondered the ceiling.
"What makes you say
that?" she asked.
"You know I can't stand
said Joyce. "I was just thinking the same thing. Do you suppose we had a
moment of simultaneous thought?"
"No, not us. That's for
people who care to acknowledge each other's worth. Really, if it
wasn't for fucking I'd have no use for you."
sighed and sat up,
facing the door of his studio apartment where the blank expression of a
child prompted a tear to emerge from her eye. She wiped it away and
still looking into the eyes of the plump child whose expression became
devastating with each passing moment. "You're a melodramatic
"And you're a misandric
cunt, but here we are."
Ben groaned as he stretched
his right arm. "I'll call you."
She mumbled something as she
entered the bathroom and Ben yelled "what?" before Joyce repeated,
louder than before, "you can kiss my ass and next time you can suck your
silently rolled onto his
side and watched a sparrow flutter and hop across a tree branch. It
midway along the branch and looked past the wall of Ben's studio
into the hallway where Mr. Jameson was sweeping the hardwood floors to
the quality sheen. He was asleep before Joyce
was in her car and on her way back to her South End apartment. The
light of the
Saturday morning revelers blinded her, as she was not in the mood to
shine. She would need to get home and shower again before packing her
things and calling her dad to take her to the airport.
Ben met his friend Michael for
lunch later that day while he was in town. They discussed matters of the utmost importance.
"I don't see the point
"What point?" said
Michael. "It's tea. People drink it."
"Well, it's essentially
coffee. You drink it for the caffeine."
"Not necessarily. Some
people might just prefer tea."
"Over coffee? Have you tried black tea? The stuff is
"Some might argue that
coffee is just as acrid."
Ben shook his head and
lifted his cup so that it rested in the air between them. He sniffed, as if it
were right under his nose. "The simple man may believe so. I defy anyone decent
to choose black tea over a cup of dry roasted from Charlie's with cream and sugar."
"Yes. A fool. Someone
who doesn't know good coffee because he's caught up in the machinations of a
counter-culture where running against the grain surmounts to being cool in the
eyes of his peers."
"Ah. Thanks for the
clarity." Michael tipped his mug and smiled as Ben stared on.
he said. "All of you."
Michael, "but this simple fucker knows what he likes. Simple as
"You can go to
"Only if they serve
Ben scowled and stood up to leave.
"Oh, come on now," said Michael. "Where are you going?"
shook his head and smiled as he looked up at Ben. The Swedish flag
waving from the window of the building across the street momentarily
grabbed his attention, and as his eyes wandered Ben began to reach into
his pocket for money.
"You know, you're just like a child," Michael finally said. "Throwing tantrums doesn't become you."
becomes me is company that doesn't bore me with ridiculous conversation
about inferior drinks. Fun as always, Mike." Ben dropped a five dollar
bill on the metal grating that was the table top and walked away.
Michael was left alone to finish his tea.
When he was around the corner Michael smiled again and said, "simple fuckers."
Ben called Joyce while she was at a conference. A bottle of 151 lay empty on the floor beside him.
"Hey... fuck, where are
you? I mean, you know... call me back. I'm leaving Friday."
She called back on a
Thursday, a few days after her return from Baltimore. The rain had ceased that day and she was in a mood to check her machine.
Irma calling to ask if she could come to visit. It's been a long time
and Joyce really should come by for a girls' weekend. And Irma supposed she would like someone to keep her company. Joyce isn't too busy, is
she? Call Irma back!
Joyce Freeman, this is
just a reminder that her dentist appointment has been cancelled on the
twenty seventh due to an unfortunate accident in Dr. Bose's
family. If Joyce could please call back the following week they will be
glad to reschedule her appointment.
03... Ben asking where the
fuck she was and telling her to call him back.
muttered the word
"asshole" loud enough to believe it, then picked up the wireless
phone and stepped out onto the balcony overlooking the same dull street
scene she had beared witness to for the past two years. She remembered
the first day she entered her apartment on the fifth floor. The grove
of trees across the street and a cute little bakery on the corner gave
her hope that this was a wonderful place, and she would be happy here
as she worked on her career and her new life.
dialed the phone and leaned against the railing, staring down into the
masses on their way home from work.
"What kind of message
is that to leave on my machine?"
Ben laughed. "Well it
got your attention."
"Hardly. I can assume
you only called so that I could come over and fuck you?"
"You know me too
"Sadly, I do."
"Is that a yes or a no?"
smacked her lips and allowed her hair to gather around her face as she
leaned further out over the edge of the railing. She wondered if it was
"I'll come by, but only if you apologize for being a dick to me."
"I'm sorry," he said.
"Will you ever mean it?"
"Maybe. Just don't hold me to it."
remained silent as the noise from the traffic below rose up around her.
Her bare toes jutted out from beneath the railing, and she wiggled them.
"Yea Ben. I'll be there in a bit."
"Great. Pick up some beer on your way over."
"I'm not picking up shit," she said.
"You're a real peach, you know that?"
Joyce was in Rockport
visiting her friend Irma that following Saturday. Irma was in the middle of a
divorce and needed a friend, which Joyce still considered herself to be, so she
decided to take a few days to be with Irma. The city was oppressive that time
of year anyway. The Sox fans were out in full force.
Irma, wearing an atypically
unattractive red frumpy t-shirt and jeans combo, answered the door and began to
cry immediately. Joyce held Irma's shoulders and allowed her to cry into the
newly purchased Burberry jacket. Irma's tears were going to be costly, but
Joyce was fine with that. Her mother used to tell her, "money's money,
honey, but it's the friends in life that keep things sunny." When Irma was finished crying for the time being she
brought Joyce to the dining room and explained
again that he had been cheating on her with a bitch from the secretary pool at one of his offices.
“A secretary pool? Really?” Joyce asked.
Irma told her yes, a secretary pool.
“Well isn’t that kind of antiquated? I mean, I hadn’t heard of such a thing these
days. Is he working in 1962?”
Irma wanted to know why that mattered? Her husband cheated on her with another fucking
woman! This fucking bitch seduced him
and was now taking him for a ride! Well,
Irma wasn’t going to stand by and let him be a fucking idiot and then come
Joyce told her, “Sorry, it doesn’t
matter. You shouldn’t take him back. Do you want some more tea?”
Irma told her yes, chamomile, and then
apologized for being so ridiculous when Joyce came all the way down there to
visit. She just couldn’t believe
“I hate him,” is what she said.
Joyce nodded as she looked down at the mug
and the teabag within, slowly floating down to the bottom. The swirls of green and yellow emerged and flourished.