For a time I had a friend. She was ancient and always saying I was her son. I joined her on hobbles through the lesser parks of the borough, my hand hiding hers, her hand embossed with age. Her name was Sadie, and she said it with a lift, a fall on the second syllable. I mimicked her. I said it incessantly. Sadie, my dear, Sadie. At the sound of her name her cheeks heaved to her eyes, and her eyes sunk to a squint, and she giggled.

Sadie! I was meant to meet her here, at the fountain spouting murky water across the heads of shimmying children. I’d been waiting for an hour. Or that’s how it felt when I saw her walk along with some woman, straight past the place I stood. She didn’t even look. I turned my face in shame.

I’d always thought she was some sort of lesbian. I never knew if she actually had a son for me to remind her of. I’d met her sitting on the stoop of her townhouse. I was sitting, that is. Tears aplenty. My girl had gone. A week before, she’d up and left. I’d hardly gotten around to plowing my heart from where it hung. I was spending obscene sums at patisseries, flaking crumbs to the floor, buttering my fingers and suckling them to a sheen. I was already searching for something to forget. I was sitting there, nibbling on a Paris-Brest, when Sadie came out to say, Howdy, can I help you? You can, Miss, I said. She liked the miss. She invited me in. So, I entertained thoughts. That was a month ago.

That house? Her family had been there for a century. All the rooms were done up in jewel tones. Her parents died while she was in Paris, study-abroad. She returned to the home she suddenly owned. She bought art. Decades passed. That first night, I sat on the tattered couch as she poured cognac. I drank myself asleep. I awoke to her plugging in the waffle iron. I awoke at dawn, the dark still squatting through the innards of that house.

She was in the kitchen, her new kitchen, her parlor-level kitchen perched atop the back garden, cloaked in stone that had made its way over seas, deserts, warzones.  We took our waffles to the garden. We garnished them with strawberries. I used a knife and fork, lifted the pieces to my mouth. She asked me tidy questions about my life. I didn’t lie once. I told her about my lack of suitable employment, my hopes of stage stardom. She called me brave. I ran my fingertips along the iron table. She called me Randy. Who knows why.

Now she wandered arm in arm with some little lass. And I’m not faulting her for looking for action while she can. It’s just, well—Sadie has taste. I mean this whole time was I wasting my time? I mean I thought there was something there. I thought her sexuality was one that could widen suitably to include a man. I had reason to believe. I dipped my fingers in the fountain. The kids had left. It was just me, leaning on the contour of the fountain wall, wetting my fingers and splashing that water to my face.

She was still in sight. If she had a cell I could call, could see her see my name and slide the blocky thing back to her bag. But she didn’t, cell phones being a scam, a cancer, on society and on the more peripheral organs. I watched this new woman clutch her hand. She was forty-something, with red hair, and wearing a huge coat. I saw this woman pluck a berry from a bush, bring it to Sadie’s mouth. Could be poison, I thought. Ten minutes later I tasted one: a blueberry. Unadulterated. They were already past the park, beneath the billowing trees lining the street. Small shining leaves. They were going the opposite way of Sadie’s house. They were headed to the river.

I walked a block beneath them. Looking north I saw the two at each intersection. I gained on them. When I reached the riverside, I sat on a rock. I thought about how once I saw a lost dolphin lapping this brown water. People assembled. Scientists came from the university, but they just watched, too, they just stood a bit away from the gathered mass, watching, brushing their hands along the creases of their pants.

Eventually I saw Sadie approach, hand in hand with the redhead. I ducked beneath the seawall. The rocks I was on were moss-ridden and slicked wet. I crouched. I eyed the two as they approached a bench. They were fifty feet from me. The younger woman brushed her hand across it, then they sat. They split a croissant in two. I saw Sadie eating it how she did, piece by tiny piece, tongue probing the slack air in front of her. Flakes were splayed across her lap.

I was pressed against the seawall. Is it a seawall by a river? I braced myself. I thought how this place was uncategorizable. Or I just lacked the words. I fell deeper into that thought. Behind me big ships slid past, rolling soft waves through the rocks. I couldn’t see the ships. I could only see the waves, and I could hear the churn of their engines. Industry, coursing past me! I could hear the engines and I could hear the lulling wind coursing the city’s buildings and I could hear, suddenly, Hello!

Sadie stood before me. She had plod over. Randy, Here you are!

Randy, she said, what are you doing down there? Your shoes!

I looked at my feet. The ship-thrown waves had soaked my boots, drenched my jeans to my knees. I high-stepped from where I’d crouched. I stood on the embankment. I thought, embankment, that’s it!

Randy, meet my daughter. Oh Randy, you’ll love her!

I would, I knew. I’d love her as I loved her mother. I took her hand in mine, and I kissed it, and I looked up, and I still hadn’t spoken, and so I spoke.

Nothing will be the same again, I said. I turned. I walked with soft steps towards the water. Hobbled down the rocks. Plucked a bundle of trash adrift in a swirl of milky water. I carried it back to the two women stood watching. I laid it at their feet.


About the Author

Alexander Fredman is a writer living in New York. His work has appeared in Heavy Feather Review, Hobart, and Dark Mountain. 


Photo by Philippe Mignot on Unsplash