Eating at Greens
Beauty eats at Greens most nights between four a.m. and dawn. He began hopeful with his bass guitar and charmed power. He came all the way from the east coast and tried for twenty or so years, each year thinner, tinnier, until he couldn’t maintain the power and his stature curled and minimized like his dream.
Beauty said to the girl who works at the bakery a couple doors down, her face sweaty, with flour congealed in the corners of her eyes, “Hey young lady! Say, it’s my birthday!”
He got very close to her flour-matted face, her eyes shiny with young fatigue that does not show yet in lines but in a sallow complexion and purple-brown circles under the eyes. Beauty thought: they feel intensely aged but they are not! Give them 20 plus more years of this trying.
They had a passing though soulful relationship. The first night Beauty had said to her, “Young Lady, you didn’t shut that door!”
She had looked at him differently than others in the city did. Those who knew Beauty saw him as a failed street musician who had transitioned into wandering the streets flailing at the sky. Strangers walked by Beauty like he was a familiar bush beside the sidewalk.
He’d seen her lock the door and re-check it nightly before the morning shift arrived. Beauty sat on a crate chewing discarded profiteroles stuffed with mascarpone and bruschetta damp with olive oil and chunks of roma tomatoes.
After Beauty pointed out about the door being unlocked she looked at him wide, with puffed eyelids, “Oh damn! I did?” skipping back to the door, pressing and confirming it locked, and back to Beauty. He sat by the dumpster with one leg crossed over the other like an executive, nibbling now on endive and Tuscan bread.
“Hey thanks, Man, they would’ve had my head,” she looked at him like she knew Beauty’s failings and dreams alike. She had them too, dreams, failings, Beauty could tell.
She had asked, “You want some bread, Man?”
“Money? What you got?”
“No, Man, bread. This brioche here I’m taking home because the sides are too dark. The patrons won’t eat damned blackened brioche French toast!” she had laughed hard at herself.
“Why of course I’d take it,” he examined it, “It’s crossed over from oak to mahogany but is not burnt.”
Beauty added the brioche to a section of his lap not covered by food and popped the ball on the crown into his mouth. The young lady handed Beauty a couple of smokes, lighting one for herself.
“See you, I’m beat,” she waved and walked up mighty Van Ness Avenue, receding from the bay behind them, her first few steps leaving semolina footprints.Beauty called her Semolina after that night.
Earlier in the day Beauty had asked anyone passing, “Say Lady, Say Man, Say Sir, Say Mister, it’s my birthday! How old do you think I am?”
Beauty had ostensibly lost his bass, or it was stolen, or had he pawned it? Beauty ruminates while eating, sitting on the crate behind Greens. He slices the fog with a long, calloused finger, “Say, do you know how hard it is on and on and on playing and paying for the efficiency, that little room, good for a while, good for a stint, then I can’t afford it, they raised the rent, can’t even afford the Y anymore. They say ‘Aw, you’re lazy, Beauty.’ Or ‘Aw you need to go to church, Beauty, you’re being punished!’ Or ‘Well, you drink too much!’ Like I somehow raised my own rent, like I was not supposed to get older and was supposed to maintain! Maintain! Maintain! With no upward mobility after all this trying.” He cursed the sky most every night.
On his birthday when he quizzed Semolina, “Just how old do you think I am Young Lady?” she studied Beauty, taking it seriously. She looked from his graying hair and yellowed eyes to his thin legs and his round tight stomach, to his baggy cropped jeans and holey loafers, and finally at his hands with long graceful fingers.
“Well, I guess you’re about 50, Sir,” she squinted and picked some flour paste from the corners of her eyes.
“Close! I am 54 years old and you know what?”
Beauty pointed up to the purple-black sky whitened with iridescent drops of fog, “God has been good to me. He has been good to me. God has been good to me but I have not been good to myself!”
Semolina nodded as though he had finished a sermon and produced a baguette. He said, “I’ll pass tonight Young Lady.”
“Enjoy your birthday, Man.”
Beauty asked her, “Have you ever eaten at Greens, Young Lady?”
“It’s on my list!” she replied.
Semolina had made it far as the Greens’ bathroom, grand with etched glass mirrors and marble counters with bulky driftwood supports varnished deep amber. The swirling lines in them had distracted her from her grinding, anxious stomach. She had looked into the mirror at her face dotted with freckles and a lack of makeup that accentuated her yellowish complexion. She saw that damned teak comb sticking out of her side-swept hair.
Her partner had said, “Take that comb out! I like your hair natural,” but also would say, “Why do you try so hard to look plain?”
She had stepped back from the mirror after rinsing her hands, took a last look at the lacquered wood and walked out of the bathroom and out of Greens.
Semolina said to Beauty, “I came close to eating there once, but I’m not quite ready for the big leagues,” she laughed hard again, the same way as before about the brioche. She waved at Beauty and strode through the hazy dawn.
About the author
Susan Jean DeFelice lives with her family in Washington state and graduated from Sonoma State University. Her stories have been published in Flash Fiction Magazine and Literally Stories. She works in social services and aspires to write fiction full time.
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