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Runcible Spoon

heart logo Privacy Notice Jeff Nazzaro

                                                                            What She’s Having

 

       Mark took a long drink from his pint of Racer 5 as Tina squeezed lime juice into her gin and tonic. It was their second round. Happy hour at the Quantum Cafe. They were the only ones on the patio. The breeze off the ocean, miles away and out of sight, picked up as the early evening sun slowly dipped beneath the lower branches of a tall palm to settle across Mark’s face. It blinded him, right through his shades. He put his hand to his forehead to form a visor.

 

       “You want to switch me seats?” Tina offered. She sipped her drink, then pulled a Kool Mild from her pack, lighting it with a pink Bic.

 

       “I don’t know what’s worse, the sun or the smoke,” Mark said. In truth, he liked when she smoked. It meant she was relaxed, and, often, in the mood. And though he had quit more than fifteen years before, and complained frequently about secondhand smoke—hers and others—he still secretly liked the smell, the vicarious inhalation.

 

       Tina checked the time on her phone and peered through the window into the cafe. “We should order food,” she said.

 

       “What were you doing this morning?” Mark said.

 

       “What were you doing, checking up on me or something?”

 

       “No, I forgot my Starbucks cup.”

 

       “What does that thing save you, a dime?”

 

       “Plus wear and tear on Mother Earth.”

 

       “What about gas for doubling back?” Tina said.

 

       “I wasn’t out of the complex. What were you, playing with yourself?”

 

       “I was under the covers,” Tina said. “Why would you even think that?” She took a long drag on her cigarette, then a sip from her drink.

 

       “Maybe you had an abacus under there, then,” Mark said. “You were getting after it pretty good.”

 

       “I was balancing the checkbook.”

 

       “Everything come out okay?”

 

       “I’m still a little in the red compared to you, I’m sure, but fine. What do you want to eat?” She stubbed out the cigarette.

 

       “You pick.”

 

       She glanced over the menu.

 

       Mark took a sip of his drink. “So, what did you think about while you were, uh, balancing the checkbook?”

 

       “Nothing.”

 

       “You don’t want to tell me?”

 

       “Just nothing. You. Us.”

 

       “Do you do that every morning after I leave?”

 

       “Sometimes.”

 

       “Like how often?”

 

       “I don’t know. I don’t keep a ledger.”

 

       “I’d have gotten you off, you know that.”

 

       “I hate the pressure, especially when you’re pressed for time.”

 

       “Ten minutes. Twelve if you include time to wash my face after.”

 

       Tina put down the menu and stared across the table at Mark. “Do you want to share a club sandwich?” she asked.

 

       “Good, and one more of these,” Mark said. He polished off his IPA and looked around for their server. “Where’s that waiter, anyway? This place is dead.” He half stood and twisted in his seat, looking for the server.

 

       “Probably on a smoke break,” Tina said. She drained her glass, lit a fresh Kool, then stood, grabbing Mark’s glass and hers. “I’ll take care of it,” she said. Her voice sounded funny with the cigarette between her lips.

 

       She was gone long enough for Mark to think about getting up and looking for her. Then she returned with drinks. The head was gone from his beer, leaving a filmy quarter inch exposed at the top of the glass.

 

       “What the fuck?” Mark said.

 

       “What the fuck what? You’re welcome.”

 

       "Thank you,” he said, and took a long drink. “So anyway, what did you think about, really this morning?”

 

       “I told you,” Tina said. “You want me to make something up?”

 

       “If it’s good, sure.”

 

       She finished her drink, holding an ice cube on her tongue for a few seconds before letting it slide back into the glass. “Okay,” she said. “Since you brought it up, how about you, me, and our waiter?”

 

       Mark took his sunglasses off and squinted at Tina across the little round table. “That guy?—Manny? Marco?” he said.

 

       “Mario. What do you think I really thought about this morning?” she said.

 

       “Him? Are you serious?” Mark said.

 

       Tina just looked across the table. She sipped her drink. She dragged on her cigarette.

 

       Mario brought two more drinks, setting them down on fresh cocktail napkins. Mark and Tina didn’t look up or say anything. Mario walked back inside, tray tucked under his arm.

 

       “I knew you’d want one more before Happy Hour was over,” Tina said.

 

       “Good call,” Mark said. His other glass was still almost half full. He lifted it and finished it, the napkin stuck with sweat to the bottom of the glass. “Seriously, him? You’re serious?” Mark said.

 

       “You’re serious,” Tina said.

 

       “Have you been with him already?”

 

       “Of course not. I only know him from here, with you.”

 

       “We come here all the time,” Mark said. He looked over Tina’s shoulder, past the palm tree. He felt competing surges of blood, alcohol, and nerves. “It could be interesting,” he said.

 

       “Should I go ask him, then?” She lit another cigarette.

 

       “Tell him to slip our order to the front if you do,” Mark said. “I’m famished.”

 

       The sun had dipped out of his face. When the food came, Mark thanked the waiter with one eye on Tina, who didn’t say anything. Happy Hour was almost over.