Aniese sat and sipped and stared. She felt completely inert, unable to shake life back in to her leaden legs, unable to stop going over and over the events of the night before, trapped in a permanent loop of what she’d said, what he’d said. What she was trying to work out was had she actually broken up with her boyfriend or not? And if she had how did she feel about it? And was this feeling of nausea in her stomach and the tightening across the back of her neck and the slight throbbing in the temples a consequence of the way she felt about Trey? Or was it a hangover? And in among these questions of life altering importance she couldn’t help wondering if the old man sitting at the counter was the same old man depicted in the mural that ran the length of the restaurant. A mural that represented the happy glow of the contented customers enjoying bowls of borsch and plates of pierogis, painted in the heavy hand of the Eastern-block artist and no doubt done by one of the many émigré in lieu of payment for food already eaten.
At that moment the old man raised one hand to his baldpate and slammed the other on the counter. Voices were raised and the waitress behind the counter started shouting at the short order cook who was now holding his spatula aloft and jabbing it in the direction of the old man.
“Over easy over easy” shouted the old man, “is dat so hard?”
“Ah fuck you” replied the chief, who then resorted to his native tongue to berate the waitress, the old man and anyone else who might be listening.
Aniese took this as a sign, she could no longer contemplate her life amongst the din. So she retrieved the check from beneath the sugar bowl and moved to the cash register.
Outside, Aniese could smell the change of season, Fall seemed to hang in the air like the last of the summer leaves clinging to the trees. The sky was bright and blue and fresh, so high it could raise even the lowest of spirits. She walked south towards the 4th Street Flower Shop, one of the coolest florists in Manhattan according to New York Magazine, and her current place of employment. Had she really split up with Trey? They certainly had had a big fight and she had told him it was over, that she’d had enough, that she was thirty-two now and that they’d been going out for nearly two years and that she couldn’t afford to waste another two years if this relationship wasn’t going anywhere. And he’d said thanks very much he hadn’t realised that being with him was a waste of time, and that they were fine weren’t they and what did she want anyway, being as how they both lived in studio apartments and that neither of them could afford a one bedroom right now, unless they moved to Brooklyn, which neither of them wanted to do, and anyway they only lived a couple of blocks apart and why was she always looking at what she hadn’t got instead of what she had?
Aniese had called Trey a loser and he had called her uptight. Both of these statements were true but were they a good enough reason to split up? In a city famous for being the capital of single women, for inventing the rules and thirtysomthings and being the spiritual home of every book and TV sitcom depicting single-sad-home-alones, was Trey’s inability to get a proper job (bartending+DJing x being 35 does not= a proper job) and his love of spending half the day in bed and the other half burning toast, a valid reason to give him up?
Possibly, she thought. But as her good friend Pia had said, time spent with boyfriends when you’re past thirty should be counted in dog years and, as she also said, how can you catch a cab if you’re already on the bus? Was Aniese on the bus? She had definitely thought she was in a cab about eighteen months ago. Trey was tall and good-looking in the spends-no-time-on-his-personal-appearance kind of way. He’d been working in a bar in the evening and in a studio during the day. He already had several credits on some quite well known CDs. He was planning to start his own label and open his own studio, Trey was really going places. But somehow nothing much had happened since then, except that he didn’t work in the studio anymore because he was always so exhausted and he had to work in the bar more because he wasn’t earning enough just doing three nights a week, and now pretty much every evening he and Aniese spent together involved either being in the bar or doing something early before he went to the bar or something late after he finished at the bar and Aniese had realised she was going out with a bar tender which wasn’t quite as cool as the gorgeous music guy she’d originally met.
Mind you she wasn’t exactly scaling any dizzy career heights herself. The part-time job she’d taken in the flower shop, to cover while her friend was on holiday in Mexico, had only gone full-time when her friend had failed to return due to being busted at customs with a sizeable amount of cocaine concealed in the novelty piñata she was taking home. The photography course she’d enrolled in had failed to contribute anything to her CV, likewise the acting classes which had lasted long enough for her to declare her dislike for mime before being denounced by the teacher and forced to retire from a profession she had yet to join. Then there was the writing course, the aromatherapy massage course and the time she tried to learn how to teach English as a foreign language in order to earn her living more successfully. All had come to naught. So, was she just taking her frustrations about her own life out on poor Trey? Yes, she certainly had felt that if she’d had a better boyfriend, someone worthier of her, then she in turn would have a much better life, ergo it was all Trey’s fault. But was that fair? Of course not and besides winter was coming and if a boyfriend wasn’t forever then he certainly was for Christmas. And anyway she knew he’d get a really good gig if she did dump him and then he’d meet someone else and she’d get the benefit of all Aniese’s hard work. No it just wasn’t worth it. Aniese resolved to send him flowers and give him one more chance.