It goes from togas, to tunics, to tshirts, stopping ever so briefly to acknowledge that time when they wore black shirts and went mad. There are the ruins of Rome littered through out, even in the part with the togas. Perhaps the artist was giving the people what they want. Perhaps the artist didn’t think anyone knew the difference. It is vibrantly colored though, and the landscape is breathtaking but the faces are flat and uniformly pensive turning towards anger. It really seems to denote a lack of emp… Bernard is trying to be better, trying to be nicer. Trying to stay in the moment and…
not get distracted by the mural on the wall of the Italian restaurant while his date is trying to make eye contact before the breadsticks arrive. Bernard’s gaze rises from her big strong hands to her lovely blond hair that will soon enough turn back to red if he doesn’t work on those roots. The contacts she’s wearing create the most beautiful emerald eyes. She lets out a small uncomfortable grunt as she gives a toothless closed smile, perhaps alluding to a quirk leftover from preteen braces. He could just not be happy with her date.
Really though? Who wouldn’t want Bernard? He’s got bad breath, an expanding midsection, receding hairline and a pair of glasses thicker and squarer than a nerd appearing in a John Hughes film. He’s got a mean cold exterior that should make him untouchable to the under 18 crowd. Yet he’s here, in a restaurant that costs more than he pays for groceries.
“Linguine carbonara for the gentleman and water for the ahem other gentleman.”
“Wait, we haven’t gotten breadsticks yet.”
The waiter is already gone.
“What? Regretting your dining choices Bernie?” Leslie is playful in tone but obviously self conscious about being the only person eating at the table.
Bernie’s eyes wander down to the plate as the fork meets the thin slice of sausage drenched in thick red sauce. Leslie brings it up to his mouth and as her pearly white teeth bite, mercilessly tearing into the meat. Her lips were… that dark red she wore was… it had a way of breaking men down to their base. He’s about to jump across the table and take her but then she repeats and oh god, it’s even better. Again, and again until Bernie is left limp and flaccid and desperately glad that Leslie left for the little girl’s room.
In his post vicarious carnivorous ecstasy he turns round to see if anyone else is having nearly as good of a dining experience. He finds a skinny 14 year old boy in a black flat top glaring at him while nursing a peanut butter jelly sandwich. Bernard knows the boy to be named Jessie. He knows Jessie from school. Jessie used to be quite the bully when Bernie was 12, when Jessie was 14. The thought occurs that Leslie has been switching genders. Bernie might be willing to let that go and let that night ride out into a new satisfactory conclusion.
“I really don’t know anything.”
She’s not even at his table yet, but he can hear her heels click behind him. He’s not going to turn around. He knows what Leslie looks like. Leslie is the type of girl who only agreed to go to the fanciest restaurant in their town on his dime because she liked him and she was still being charitable. She was a good 3 ranks above him in any order that mattered: beautiful, witty, charming. That was 17 years gone and she’s probably even better now. She’s sure as hell not still 15 and not reliving that time she
“You know after this, I went down to the gas station, horked down a microwave burrito, went to my house and cried myself to sleep. We going to revisit that too?”
The flesh draped over his shoulders was close enough to how he remembered Leslie, from that time he received her after her prom date was done with her. She puked on Bernie’s Burberry coat and Bernie in turn thought maybe, just maybe he was owed a go. Good times. The voice wasn’t hers, no that was probably the real voice, too many cigarettes smoked to be Leslie proper.
“You know what we want.”
“No. I knew. Then they erased it. I wouldn’t be a trusted courier if I kept the cargo.”
“Well, I know what you want”
Bernie sighs wishing that dreaming really could be enough for him.
“You will soon.”
The courier business is all about fight and flight. Bernie’s been told that it helps to have a friend. Bernie has Jessie which is something like a friend but at this point Jessie is just something scarier than Leslie and he’s switched open a curvy stiletto. Quieter too. Soon Bernie and the man who played Leslie will wake up in a motel bathroom but for now Leslie is crying and dying while Jessie begins to carve into the girl that isn’t. Bernie turns away helpless in the presence of his own devices, desperately not thinking while residing in his own mind.
The breadsticks come as Bernie is leaving up the rabbit hole.
His eyes open and there’s a man twitching next to him on a pink tile floor in a plush blue bathrobe. They had had a $300 night in a decent hotel and for a moment Bernard feels guilty about underappreciating the taker on the floor. Then he remembers what they do.
Never feel guilty, don’t begrudge them because this is the work you do but never feel guilty for hurting a taker.
He’s out the door and soon to call an ambulance because there is a man twitching on the floor and these things call for an ambulance but these things do happen. The man will be fine. The man will surely be fine.
These secrets are getting pricey.