Monday, July 4, 2011

Coffee With A Dead Superheroes Sister

All those little icebreakers that are barely comfortable in a normal conversation… the weather, what do you do for a living, I just saw… (insert name of recent, inoffensive mainstream blockbuster) and I really… (choose one: liked it, thought it was too long, couldn’t get over the price of the theatre tickets). Those clichéd bits of inroad…

With her, they felt like a balloon that’s managed to go unpopped for seven months. Wizened and discomfiting to be around. A homeless Tourette’s victim who picks the streetcar seat next to you.

This one time, it was less uncomfortable to cut to the chase. To actually talk about the dead body lying in the middle of the room.

“I did the star 69 to get your number.”

I nodded, and sipped the black coffee. Noisily because it was hot.

“And I know you said that you couldn’t remember seeing him. How long have you been in the neighbourhood?”

“Um, about 8, 9 years I guess.”

She nods, holding her cup close to her mouth, but not drinking. The steam tendrils around her nose, which is foundationed slightly. I feel flattered. And the flattery makes me feel guilty because I’m married. “Yeah, that was right around the time.”

“The time?”

A big inhale before she let’s the carpet-roll of story come out. A familiar pattern to her that makes a difficult thing easier to lay on someone’s floor. “His wife and his little girl. And him too actually. They were caught in a gunfight. The crossfire. They died. He just withdrew. From everyone, everything.”

I had to feign a reaction. I already knew all this. Hiding behind my own coffee, I knew more than she did.

“Here in Toronto?” I asked.

“Yeah, can you believe it? Maybe because of the other incident that happened that day, it just got pushed a few pages back in the papers.” Her eyes wandered out through the front window to Queen Street.

It was that feeling you get when you get a phone call or attend a meeting and the person who’s done the calling isn’t telling you why they called it. That eye-rolling irritation, with a timid flutter. 

I push into her. “That must have hit you hard.”

A smile crawled over her mid-thirties face. “I guess. I had gone to B.C. for school. He stayed here and kept his life going. Y’know, finished computers at school, started climbing the IT ladder. Married his high school sweetie, well sort of. The house. A kid.”

Her eyes’ focus bounced around me, blue bumble bees buffeted by an emotional summer wind. Prelude to thunderheads.

“Funerals without a body, they’re like birthdays without cake.” Rain coming as tears, form on her lower lids. “Except opposite of course. But they’re both unfinished.”

She sniffed back the crying snot that was threatening to honey down out of her nostrils. Her hair was a standard: Not Excruciatingly Blonde by Clairol with Rather Mousey Roots by Mother Nature. She looked up to the ceiling and shook her head. That big inhale again. This time matched by a settling exhale.

As her eyes came down, she put her palms on either side of her cup and saucer. When her eyes reached me… No, when she leveled them at me, she had decided to go through with the why.

“At the estate sale, I didn’t put everything up for sale.”

“Oh no?” My secret identity – if I could have possibly been a super-hero – would be befuddlement. I hoped it was more convincing than Clark Kent’s appearance-mogrifying nerd glasses.

“The place – their house – is sold, but the transfer isn’t till Monday. I still have the keys.” She reached to the back of her chair, the strap licorice-dangling, leading to a purse, with house keys, no doubt.

I nodded and started counting out change for the coffees. Maybe on the way there, she’d divulge the other why’s: why she hadn’t told the corpse-desperate cops what she was about to show me and why she picked me as a confidante.

I had my own why’s. Why me? Why was I agreeing to go? And was I, no why was I actually feeling horny?

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