The City (From Ben’s Apartment)

Andrea stirred. The espresso machine had woken her, had made her groan something unintelligible as happened sometimes when she lost sight of where or what she was. Ben sat beside her on the couch and smoothed back her hair. Her forehead was damp.

“You okay?” he asked softly.

“Yeah,” she said. She squinted at the dim shapes of things around her, inhaled and pressed a palm to her forehead.

“Sorry,” said Ben. “For waking you.”

“No,” said Andrea. “It was something else…I had this really weird sensation.”

“Yeah?” said Ben, concerned.

“Yeah. It was a dream. I was on the side of the road, and I was looking both ways, like I was supposed to, but I had this horrible feeling, like I could feel something coming, but nothing was there. And I went to cross the road, and when I turned my head there was a car, about to hit me, and I could hear the horrible sound it made as it was about to hit me.”

“The coffee machine,” he said, raising his cup.

“Yeah,” said Andrea. “I—I guess they coincided.”

Ben strolled to the blinds and opened them, chuckling when Andrea recoiled. The city was astir with new dilemmas, and old ones carrying over—ambulance, police sirens wailed, car horns. He watched the doves upsetting their roost, ruffling feathers, plucking their way boldly along the precipice of the apartment tower across from his. His father hadn’t turned up last night—hadn’t called either. He and Andrea had stayed up watching home movies, putting Ben in a rare sentimental mood that had caused him to call off work and delete his vast porn collection. He wished it was raining—something to further reflect the sense he had of things being brought back into their proper, internal spaces. He tried not to think about the possibility that his father had ditched dinner intentionally, and was instead busy with some errand fitting of a senior diplomat. Ben had bought smoked salmon, capers, cream, chives, whole-wheat pasta and a number of other ingredients he thought would impress his father if combined correctly in a pan, but which still remained as decoration in his kitchen, Andrea and he ordering in to save trouble and avoid embarrassing each other.

Ben wanted the sentimental feelings to develop in him, instead of fading away like a goddamn slight-of-hand trick. Laving his tongue, gums and palate again with a mouthful of the stevia-sweetened vanilla latte he closed his eyes, placing a hand to the glass and pictured times of particular salience, real and imagined, that might or might not have been formative for him. He recalled his dad making a call to the pizza place on a night when they both watched the NFL playoffs. He had ordered an entirely seperate pizza with the toppings Ben liked, had not indicated for a second that it was a mistake—it truly was all for him. His father hadn’t smiled or pinched his cheek but those gestures were superfluous compared to the event that had occurred. He wanted to be like that someday to his own son, if he had one. But time seemed to go by so quickly; he wondered if he would ever marry. He would be a great father, he thought, and looked toward Andrea who had covered her face with a big cushion and looked like a mob hit, sprawled as she was, panties showing.

In the sky, in the noonday sun, the white canopy of clouds was like a glowing silk baldaquin enthroning the city and its deep human drama, its filth and splendour, lights, sirens and incalculable, tantalising mystique.

Thanks for checking out my short story.

Did I tell you I wrote a novel? You can read it here for free, or get it for your e-reader on iBooks, Amazon or Kobo. Or you can just say you read the book, and donate five bucks down below. Go on.

Gabriel Muoio


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