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“You know, I’ve never really thought about it,” my mom was saying.
“Come on. That can’t be true.”
We sat on metal folding chairs, crammed side-by-side under the keyboard tray of her small desk.
“Well…” she said, staring blankly at the cluttered bulletin board above the monitor, “I suppose it’s not. Anyway, I’ve never given a lot of thought to it. Just a little every once in a while.”
“So, what do you think?”
“I think you’re very talented. Your dad won’t believe we got through all of it so quickly. He’ll want to check it over, of course-“
“I’m talking about the career thing, Mom.”
“I know, Sweetie. It means a lot to me that you’ve thought so much about it. But I’m really just not ready for a change like that. Plus, it’s a big sacrifice in income just to be doing something different. What makes you think I’m good enough to find stable work? And even if it were stable, the money wouldn’t be very good.”
“It’s not a question of whether you’re good enough,” I insisted. “I’m telling you right now that you are. These days people want hand-made everything. Everyone’s fighting to be the world’s most ethical consumer. If you can prove your fabric comes from anywhere besides a sweatshop, you’re practically golden.”
She leaned away from me in offense. “I wouldn’t dream of buying supplies made in a sweatshop.”
“That’s exactly what I’m talking about, Mom. Jesus, make that your slogan.”
She scowled. “You have the strangest ideas.” She laid her fingers briefly across the keys, then returned them to her lap, softening. “I’m listening. I understand what your saying. If anything, it sounds like wonderful retirement income.”
“I guess,” I said. I laid my head on her shoulder. “Do you really think Dad needs to check my work? We can submit these any time.”
“We’d better let him. He likes to have his hand in this stuff.”
I nodded, rocking her slightly. The house was silent except for the distant rattling of change in the dryer.
“I should get it in writing that we’re allowed to visit you as often as we want.”
“Don’t say that. It really won’t bother me.” I sat up, scooted my chair away from hers and faced her, slouched over with my elbows resting on my knees. “I think it’s going to be a little lonely up there.”
“You have a friend from work who’s also moving, right?”
“Yeah, she’s great. We’re actually going to split a place. But we’re not that close.”
She opened another tab and scrolled through one of her sewing blogs. “I’m happy to hear you’ll have a roommate. That should help somewhat with the loneliness, I would think.”
“Maybe you’re right.”
“I forget how long you said they’ll keep you up there.”
“Now it’s looking like it will be at least two years,” I said.
She turned away from her desk, staring somewhere just over my left shoulder. “That’s a long time.”
“But I really think it’s going to be fine.”
“I know. I think so, too.”
She pushed the issue of dinner rather aggressively but I refused, reasoning that I would get sick doing crunches at the gym and throw it all up.
“That’s disgusting, Wyatt. Make sure you eat plenty after you’re done.”
“Alright,” I said. “If Dad has any questions, he can text me.”
“Okay, I’ll tell him.”
I stood and she followed me to the front door.
“Did you hear about the murder in Sand Hollow the other night?” she asked.
“Nope, I didn’t.”
“Someone just out walking. Completely unprovoked. No connection with the killer at all.”
“I’ll be careful, Mom.”
“Please do,” she said.
Thursday passed so quickly that I found myself dashing through work, periodically stumbling in an effort to keep up. I did not hear from Mikey. I had not expected to. Marie texted as I settled into bed late in the evening to read, the heavy and enduring novel splayed open for the thousandth time across my lap.
“How about another late night in the city tomorrow? I insist on buying your drinks this time. Sloan wants to discuss the trip. I’m sure you do, too.”
“Awesome,” I replied. “Don’t worry, I’ll buy my own. I just won’t drink very much.”
“We’ll see about that.”
I knew her skepticism was meant for my declaration of restraint, not because I lacked any in particular, but because she so clearly planned to treat us to multiple rounds and was certain that I would not refuse within that context. I made up my mind not to reply, giving my phone a perfunctory smile and turning my eyes to the page.
My gaze fell on Mikey’s building the next morning in time to see him step down onto the crumbling sidewalk. He wore a light gray suit jacket with a slim pair of matching slacks and held a briefcase in his gloveless hand at his side. He shouted something I did not understand and then advanced toward me. I met him partway down the street under the faded red awning of a small bakery.
“Look at you,” I said, aware of the wide, stupid grin beaconing from my face. “Back from the clutches of death. How are you feeling?”
He pulled me into Ankara bayan escort a quick, tight hug before we set out for the bus stop. “More like beyond the grave,” he corrected. “I’m pretty sure I just died at some point before you visited last. I’ve made up my mind that I’m some kind of spirit now.”
“Well, either way,” I said, “as long as you’re sticking around.”
“That’s the plan.”
“How long has it been since you were in the office?”
“Since Friday. Fuck, it’s been a week.”
“Got a lot of catching up to do?”
He jammed his free hand into his pocket. “Nothing too overwhelming. Sophie’s been working her ass off. She’s completely showing me up, actually.”
“Sounds like nobody needs you.”
He laughed. “They really don’t. And I’m not just saying that.”
“I wasn’t being serious,” I said. “They’ll be glad to have you back.”
“Yeah?” he said. “I’m not so sure.”
We didn’t talk as we stood beside the bus shelter, falling in with the silence among several other regulars who waited around and within it. After a short time we boarded and took our seats together near the back. He pressed his shoulder just slightly against mine and left it there.
Turned slightly toward the window he said, “You’re…um…you’re looking entirely handsome today.”
I managed to keep calm. “Thanks, Mikey. That’s really nice of you to say.”
He looked ahead and smiled. “I think today’s going to be very good, actually.”
“Yeah, I mean, I’m just going to attack everything head-on at work. It feels like it’s all going to be great.” He thought for a moment. “I hate to say it, but I’m really feeling like I should stay late, though. We can still hang out, but not right after work.”
Suddenly I remembered I’d agreed to meet Marie and Sloan. “Shit, I totally forgot we made plans to hang out tonight. I told some friends I could go out with them. I’m sorry. Let me see if I can cancel.” I pulled out my phone.
“Don’t,” he said. “We didn’t actually make plans. I only said if I was feeling better. I don’t expect you to put your life on hold for me. That’s ridiculous.”
After some thought I said, “Could you meet up with us? Would that be something you’d be comfortable with?”
“I think so,” he said. “It would be cool to meet your friends. I don’t want to impose, though.”
“I can guarantee that they won’t mind.”
“Oh,” he said. “Okay then.”
The bus juddered through its gears as the driver remerged with traffic after another stop. Along the roofline about halfway to the front was an advertisement that read, “Kick the commute. Live in the city. It’s no longer something only your boss can afford.” Underneath, a website was listed.
I turned back to Mikey. “You definitely seem like you’re feeling better.”
He nodded. “Like I said: strong immune response.” He beat his chest twice with his fist. “Young, virile.”
“Mhmm,” I said. “You’re sure going out tonight won’t be overdoing it?”
“Not a chance,” he said. “I am excited about tonight.”
Awhile later I left Mikey alone in the seat, clutching his briefcase to his chest, and departed into the daily throng. My wool coat felt hot and burdensome for the first time in several days, so I shed it as I shuffled west among the crowd to the front steps of my building.
Toward the end of the day I checked my phone to find texts from both Marie and Mikey.
“We can meet in the same place as last time,” wrote Marie. “Is eight okay? Early start.”
“Yes, that’s fine,” I replied. “Can I bring Mikey along?”
“You don’t even have to ask. I can’t wait to meet him.”
Mikey wrote, “If you’re not going home before heading out tonight, feel free to come by my office.” He included the address, then later added, “Let me know if you decide to come. 9th floor.”
Once I was finished for the day I told him I’d stop by around six.
I ate pho for dinner, lodged against the back wall in a small establishment closer to Mikey’s office and cheaper than the one next to mine. I’d never tried it before and found it to be at least as good.
“Coming up,” I wrote a short time after, to which he responded, “Awesome. Suite 900, by the way. I’m at the back by the windows.”
I caught glimpses of his company’s interior before entering, through open blinds in the hallway windows. There were no cubicles and workspaces were homogenous, back-to-back and rested on two rows of wide wooden tables with legs pushed all the way out to the corners.
I entered quietly to see that two of these tables sat alone at the far end with some space between them, arranged perpendicularly to the rows. Mikey stood up at the left one, emerging from behind a large silver computer and silhouetting his form against the light of the evening sun.
“You made it,” he said with a smile as I stepped toward him. “What do you think?”
The space gushed with light, seeping from the bright gray walls in spite of unlit overhead bulbs and a declining natural source. A bank of gunmetal ceiling fans resided high above, each swinging Escort bayan Ankara its three long blades in diplomatic relations with the surrounding air. The amount of open floor space astounded me and struck me as diametrical to my own place of work, where even one additional desk would prove to be an obstacle.
“I love it,” I said, draping my coat over the back of a nearby chair. “Very open and modern. A little startup-ish.”
He nodded. “We’re a little startup-ish.”
“Let me show you around,” he said, leaving his desk and leading me toward a conspicuous red door near the center of the western wall. “Through here is our break room. Our conference room is up one floor. We share it with a few other businesses.”
A large blue exercise ball rolled peacefully away from us, across the polished wood toward a lounge-like sectional, low and gray. A full kitchen of gleaming metal appliances lined the north wall of the room.
“It’s really nice,” I said. “Better than where I work.”
“We moved here in the middle of summer. We barely made any changes. All of this was here.” He led me back out into the cavernous main room. “Half of these tables were moved from our old place. We ordered more of the same when we came here. Sophie likes to keep things minimal, and so do I.”
“Do you think you’ll stay here for a while?” I asked.
“Looks like it. I really like it here, and we have plenty of room to grow.” He paused and then added, “If we must.”
“Still not so into that, huh?”
“Not so much,” he said, wandering back toward his desk and the wall of massive windows. “It’s looking inevitable at this point, though. I’m at peace with it as long as I can delegate tasks and, you know, keep personal stress levels low.”
I stood facing him next to the glass. “I understand.”
“This side of the room is mostly our coders. There are eight of them,” he said, indicating to the right. “Five women, three men. Try finding that anywhere else in the industry.”
“Impressive,” I said. “Six if you count Sophie, right?”
“Exactly. And the spaces on the left are usually our consultants. There are three. We also have two people who mostly do marketing. And we have in-house design. That’s Morgan. He usually sits next to Riley, because they have this thing going between them. I don’t think they know that I know. Sophie told me. Riley has to sit at that computer by the door because he’s our receptionist. All the rest can sit where they want but most people kind of have their spot chosen.” He brought his hands to his hips. “Anyway, that’s about it, I guess.”
“Sounds like a fun group,” I said.
“We’re an interesting mix, for sure.” He surveyed the vacated room, then turned back to me, wearing an irrepressible smile.
“You’re happy to be back, aren’t you?”
“I really am,” he said.
“How did today go? So far, I mean.”
“It’s been awesome. But it’s true, I’m not finished yet. Sophie’s out getting dinner. Shit, do you want me to text her and see if she’ll pick up something for you?”
“It’s fine, I just ate.”
“Alright. And when are you meeting your friends?”
“Eight, supposedly. It’s sort of early, I know.”
“I don’t think I’ll be done by then. But I can certainly be out of here by nine.”
“Really, Mikey, take your time with whatever you need to do. Just text me when you’re free. I don’t want to hold you up anymore so I’ll get out of your way.” I went to grab my coat but he stopped me.
“Chickadee,” he said, “you know when you’ve been sick, and you start feeling well again, and then it’s like, you feel really, really good? Since, you know, you’ve been feeling like shit for so long?”
“I think so.”
“Well, I think that’s part of why being back at work today feels so good.” He paused for a moment before continuing. “But even more, I think it applies to you and me. I’m not going to take it for granted that I’m a healthy person. I want to make the most of it, and this time we have while you’re still living here.”
“Okay,” I said. “Me too, Mikey.”
Together we looked out at the sweeping expanse of surrounding steel, brick and glass, the shock of the sun hanging low over the water, and to the clogged web of streets below.
“I never get tired of looking at this place,” he said.
He took ahold of my hand and pulled me closer to him. I turned away from the window so that I faced him again; we hugged each other and did not let go.
“It’s so weird,” I said into the soft tissue of his neck.
I paused to collect my thoughts. “It’s just this feeling, like I’ve missed you, somehow. I’ve missed you so much.”
He squeezed me more tightly to him. “I want to kiss you again so bad. I’ve wanted to since the first time.”
My chin rested in the basin just above his collarbone. “I don’t know if you’re waiting for my permission, but you have it already.”
“It’s just…having been sick…I don’t know.”
I broke slightly away from him and went in. I pressed my lips neatly to his and Bayan escort Ankara ran my hand lightly over the clipped black hair at the back of his head. Through his white button-down, the muscles of his chest asserted themselves firmly into mine. Both of us were shaven now, but the new smoothness of his face against mine only fed my eagerness to feel him and know him in each embodiment.
My tongue did not meet with his. He seemed almost to melt against me for a period of several seconds, exhaling fully, a tiny shiver creeping through his back. He placed his hand on my shoulder, stepped slowly away from me and said, “I’m sorry. Sophie could be back anytime.”
“It’s fine. I understand.”
“I wouldn’t be embarrassed,” he said. “Not really. She knows now. I think I should be okay with her seeing. It’s just that it would be a little awkward.”
“You don’t have to explain. It’s okay, Mikey.”
He smiled. “Man, this is still all so new to me.”
He paused. “Will there be drinking tonight? Maybe dancing?”
“Both are very likely,” I said. “Does that work for you?”
“I think it will be good for me.” He sat on the edge of his desk and looked down at his shoes. “I’m a little nervous to meet your friends,” he said quietly.
“You don’t have to worry. They’re really nice. It’s just two of them-Marie and Sloan. They’ll be glad to meet you.”
“You’re sure? I feel like I’m barging in on your personal life a little.”
“You’re not, I promise. That’s not how it feels to me, okay?”
“Okay,” he said. “And you and me-when you introduce me, I mean…we’re just…”
“We’re friends. You’re my friend, Mikey.”
He looked relieved. “Alright. Sorry. I know, I’m overthinking things. I always do that.”
“Yes,” I said. “Me too. I’m trying not to.”
“It’s hard, isn’t it?”
He laughed a little, then reached out and grabbed my arm. “What’s going on under this suit?” he asked, giving my bicep a squeeze.
“I would really like to show you,” I said.
“Oh, man,” he said. “Fuck, it’s been so long. You’ll have free time this weekend, right?”
“I’ve got plenty of time. You just focus on work right now. I’ll be around. We can spend the weekend together if that’s what you want.”
“That’s pretty much what I want.”
“Then I’m yours,” I said, and told him I should get going. “Text me when you can meet us, okay?”
“Alright, I will.”
We said our goodbyes and I left him alone to work. The elevator door opened up to the lobby, where Sophie stood waiting.
“Wyatt,” she said in near-alarm, “how nice to see you again.”
“You too,” I said, moving in a half-circle around her as we traded spaces.
She held door open with her elbow, juggling her purse, cup of coffee and a sack of takeout that smelled like Thai food, although I couldn’t tell for sure. “You must not have stayed for very long. I didn’t think I’d miss you.”
“No I didn’t. But I’m sure I’ll see you again soon.”
“Yes,” she stammered as the door attempted again to close. “See you soon.”
I descended the building’s steps to the street, noting that I had over ninety minutes to burn. Somewhat absentmindedly I headed east, bound for Chinatown, which lay just south of Old Town, where we had agreed to meet. During the first part of my journey the rays of the setting sun permeated the street and reflected in magnificent golds and oranges off the mirroring immensities facing back toward sea. Twenty minutes later and most of the way to my hazy destination, this soothing glow was all but gone, and the accompanying warmth went away with it. I lifted my coat up onto my back, buttoned it slowly as I walked and then folded my arms. The vibrant, imposing Chinatown gate passed steadily over me not long after.
Beneath the veneer of unfurling, pagoda-like architectural embellishments and strings of zigzagging paper lanterns, the street level teemed with stores and small shops selling practical items and excellent food. Off the main street, wedged in one of the narrow connecting vessels rested my preferred haven, a small bao shop which sold, among other things, handmade dessert buns filled with lai wong (or nai wong, Sloan contended), a sweet, eggy condensed-milk paste. I ducked between produce stands, which remained open past regular hours at the end of the week, and into the passage. The shop owner greeted me warmly and I indulged, exchanging a small stray bill and some change for three of the buns.
Jumbled against the edge of the alley was a tiny scrap-wood table with a cluster of threadbare chairs chained to it. Taking my seat, I noticed two vertically-oriented signs flickering separately above, one yellow and one green, so that the cold dark was scared off by a kind of inconsistent lime-flavored glow. Even this small open space between buildings bustled in the heat of the day; I’d seen it before with my own eyes, but now it was mostly abandoned. A hunched-over elderly woman wearing dirty clothes and a small ragged blanket moved incrementally over the clattering bricks, pulling a creaking, rusty cart behind her, moderately burdened with what might have been all of her possessions. As she passed close to me I held out one of the buns. She took it silently, her face lit by the green, and one side of her mouth curled up.
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