It was a cool autumn morning and we tried to drink coffee on the porch but Elena was getting restless about the money.
“Why don’t you go up to Bloomington and find someone?”
I didn’t want to go to Bloomington because every time I went to Bloomington I couldn’t remember Bloomington IL or Bloomington IN or Bloomington MN.
“I don’t want to go, we’ll find something here. I’ll call Reggie.”
“I can’t go another winter” she said.
She was right.
“What do you think I should do?” I asked Kelly.
“I’m not sure why I’m in your living room” said Kelly.
“Yeah” said Elena. “Me neither.”
“Did you just walk in?” I asked.
“I can’t remember.”
“We can figure it out later” I said.
Either way, they were right. I had to go to Bloomington. On Saturday I hitched a ride from one of the lumberjacks working up north. He dropped me three miles from the airport and I hiked the rest of the way, trying to think about the spring but mostly thinking about how Kelly got in our living room.
Pete was at the airport and he took me to Bloomington IL and I realized I meant Bloomington IN and I thought about the girls and how cold it was last winter.
“I’m not drunk.”
Antonio knocked on the door and that was that.
I was in Michigan that summer, right before everything seemed to change. I found a good spot for fishing and that was good for three days and on the fourth day I woke up and Bill, a big Ojibwa from the peninsula was there at the bank with his rod in the water.
I didn’t think much of it until I got home and told Kelly about it and she asked me why I didn’t ask Bill to move along because she knows that when a man finds a good spot to fish, you don’t move in unless invited and anyways maybe I wanted to be alone.
“I wouldn’t mess with Bill” I said. “He’s a big guy.”
“Would you mess with a little guy?” she asked.
“No, you’re right, I do not generally mess with anyone to be honest.” I didn’t tell her about what happened in St. Louis and anyway that’s not who I was anymore.
We sat in silence for a while and drank our beer and watched the fire.
“You know” I said. “The way you picked apart that little nuance of our language, I think you would make for a good stand up comedian because that’s what they are frequently doing.”
“But sometimes they tell more personal stories, do they not?”
“Yes, but sometimes they do not and rely more on humorous wordplay or joke construction.”
We watched the fire some more and I felt sick because I remembered Jane and how she had run away that morning to Paris and wasn’t coming back.
Kelly boarded the plane carrying her Kafka book and the flight attendant said “Kafka, you don’t see that on a plane every day” and Kelly said “are you on a plane every day?” and the man said “yes, I am. I am a flight attendant.”
“I’m going to a Franz Kafka conference” she said to him.
“No, I’m sorry. That was a lie.”
“Oh” he said and they she felt bad and looked at the ground and they were silent for a moment.
“You should probably get to your seat” he said.
“22B, you’re on the right side” he said, looking at her ticket.
Kelly looked for him after the plane landed to get his number but he was helping a short woman get her bag on the other side of the plane and the last she heard, he was still flying the Chicago to Istanbul route.
I got in the Lyft, which I took because I was running late of course, and the driver asked me what airline and I said “Southwest.”
“They don’t fly out of Ohare” he said.
“Do you mean O’Hare?” I asked.
And he said “yeah, jerk” and I said “sorry, thanks for saving me, I would like to go to Midway because that is where my flight is” and then he put his hand on my knee and said “we are all of us brothers” and I said “you’re a Wallace fan” and he said “indeed” and I said “would love to get to know you better” and he said “just enjoy the moment” and I said “OK.”
Kelly was there, at the café on the bay where the boats were docked and the breeze was cool, smoking a cigarette and listening to my story.
She took a drag from her cigarette and said “you sat in the front seat of the Lyft? Or he’s reaching around with his hand on your knee?”
“He reached into the back seat. He had very long arms, like a basketball player or a man with very long arms.”
“Did you get his number, for me?” she asked. She was always trying to get guys’ numbers or maybe that was a joke, but the jet lag was kicking in and I couldn’t tell.
I told her the truth. I asked the driver and he said “I like the sound of her, Kelly did you say her name was?” And I said “yes, my friend’s name is Kelly, I think you would like her, would you like to meet her some day when I return from my travels?”
And he said “Sunday? And I said “some day, I said some day” and he said “oh, I thought you said Sunday, which would not work for me because I am going to be on my boat that day, I am a fisherman, but it is a moot point because you did not say Sunday” and I said “yes” and he fell silent for a while.
We drove for some time and listened to the wind.
“So would you like to meet her?”
“I will find her” he said.
We fell silent again and the wind was cool against our faces and we felt full in our hearts.
Kelly and I were down in the basement of the old post office where we used to sit and drink bad coffee during the war and then better coffee after the war.
“What bus were you trying to take?” she asked.
“California, at Addison, in front of the Comed building.”
I took a sip of coffee and lit a cigarette and remembered how Elena used to look, coming up from the river with a pale of water, the way her skirt blew in the wind and wondered if she ever made it to Lausanne.
“The bus passed me by and I had to call a Lyft. Then my driver came, Maria, and brought me home to her family and made me seafood soup, just like Arturo used to do in Spain before the war.”
“Are you the new dad to Marias kids?” Kelly asked me, putting out her cigarette.
“Turns out she used to be a chef back in Mexico, only at home she made it with fresh seafood from the river.”
“What the fuck am I supposed to believe you?”
I lit a cigarette.
“I’m going back next week to learn how to make tacos by hand. Tortillas I mean” I said.
“WHICH IS IT?” she shouted.
“Tortillas” I said. “I misspoke.”
“Maria looked at my hands and said, you have wonderful hands, you would be good at kneeding the masa, or modeling things with your hands.”
“Kneading” Kelly said.
We sat for a moment and I tried to blow smoke rings but the fan was blowing and it was too hot down there in the basement of the post office to turn off the fan and blow smoke rings.
“And then she started to undress.” And I said “Maria, but what about your family?”
“Te necesito” she whispered in my ear and we made love and we laid on the bed quietly and felt full in our hearts.