To Be Adam or John

He's hungry. His eyes are on the Burger Joint across the street. He must have stared at it too long. The sun is shining at an angle behind it. He remembers that it had just rained. A rainbow? Yes, he sees it at the corner of the cloud between the Burger Joint and the orangish apartment complex to its right. The sky opens up. When was the last time he saw a Rainbow? Pink Floyd's Dark Side of Moon. "Time." 10 years he's worked retail, folding clothes and kissing ass. No consecutive days off, not even the same days off in the week. Be flexible. Be lovely. How he got stuck doing this at 32… sex. This job made it easy. And that bitch Lucy… Here he is now… He looks around and feels warm again catching the light on the surface of the wooden folding table he had brought by the window to fold pants. It feels like the rain had tickled under his skin, cooled his bones. The beauty of how the atmosphere had brightened from shade to light left an impression on him. His little spot, this window viewing Washington Avenue and 7th street at the corner light is better than a movie. People being themselves not sure they're being watched. Hot girls who look at you sometimes or come into the store. The vapor from the steamer burns his cheek and he curses the machine. He is holding a white T-shirt that is now crisp and wrinkle-free. He stretches his neck and peaks at the back door. Did she see him burn himself? She's in her office on a conference call. All these years working retail and all you really learn is how to take advantage… And that drugs make selling easier.

"How's it going over there," his manager says from across the store by the cash wrap.

"Good and steady with the floor. It's all fixed," he says through the vapors of the steamer, in symbiosis with his intonation. "But it's been slow." He can hear the steamer crackle.

"Just hang in there. It's the cycle.  Customers will come flooding by early to mid-November."

 He has trouble moving his gaze from her as she moves briskly to the back. Her white shirt cut long at the tail, mimics her black, pressed hair, in a snaky, billowing gesture and she disappears behind the closed door. He turns to the glass window and catches his reflection against the city. He makes out strands of his honey blonde, shoulder length hair, the edge of his straight nose, his long chin, a glimmer of his green eyes amidst moving cars and people and lights. The city is back to a steady life. 3:20 on his watch. Not long till Jones comes in. John Jones, John Jones… The entrance door rings, a woman enters. Their eyes meet and she's not looking away. They both move toward each other in a silent understanding and he catches a healthy cleavage from the bottom of his eye. Smooth ebony and braless. Nipples erect. Nice dress. Almost the color of her skin.      

"You know, you're only allowed to park there after three thirty," he says after he notices her fingers on her car keys and sees the Cadillac parked outside the window. Mole on her neck. He wants to touch.

"Well… I'm fully confident that I won't get towed with you keeping an eye on me," she says and slowly removes her shades revealing hazel eyes and smart lids.

"You mean for you," he corrects. Thin nose for a black girl. Soft, round chin.

"The implication is the same."

She is a boss. He finds it sexy the way her hair is cut short. And those pouty, lush, lips. Cartier watch on the wrist. She'll be fun. He coughs then smiles.

"How can I help you today?"

"Well…" she begins then coughs softly herself. "My friends have told me about your brand and I like what I've seen on them but since I don't own any of your clothes it's a bit of a mystery in here for me. I was interested in your jeans," she says and looks him firmly in the eyes, a great wall of denim behind them.

"You found the right man. Let me show you around and introduce you to our items. Let's see if these jeans fit."

 

"This top is supposed to fit loose at the collar, and these jeans nice and snug," he says after noticing a scar on her collarbone as he picks out a top not so different in color from her dress along with some tight grey jeans.

"Skintight, or comfortably tight?" she says looking at him from the corner of her eye.

"Comfortable. The fabric has two percent elastane. Snug with a nice stretch."

"Ah."

"Yes. Why don't we get you started with these?"

"Of course."

She's smiling. Her left shoulder strap is loose and how the flesh of her arm presses against her back sets him wild so he quickly looks away before he catches a smile at the corner of her mouth. She closes the curtain. He walks out. His manager is at the cash wrap. 

"Hey, I just needed some paperwork here. Everything good, you got the floor covered?"

She quickly looks at him then shrugs.

"What am I saying, of course you do."

She finishes with nervous excitement and quickly goes to the back.

"I think I like this outfit," Aida calls to him.

He goes to the fitting room. She quickly turns from the mirror and faces him. Her arms are spread, her eyes looking up at him, the left shoulder sleeve of the tank top slipping loose.

"It looks so wonderful."

He moves his face from her cleavage to her neck and smells her as she grips the back of his hair.   

 

He's at the register folding his go-backs when John comes in with a bowed head.

"Hey what's up," he says to Adam in a soft, low voice.

"Hey," Adam says and glances at John's disappointment. John walks to the back.

He had never liked John. Too safe to do anything.

"I guess you didn't like them," Adam turns and says to Aida.

Aida is facing him by the cash wrap, looking at him from under her brows with an easy smile.

"I loved your jeans but I just got in town and I have a few errands left. I'll come back," she says. "Do you have a pen?"

He quickly grabs a Bic pen from a cup next to the register and puts it in front of her after making sure of his surroundings. She takes the pen slowly and writes something down on what looks like a business card then hands it to him. Keeping his head up, he takes the card and quickly notices "Wooley Hotel" in gold print and "room 056" and what looks like a phone number in her handwriting.

"It was nice to meet you, Adam. I'll need more time to look at those jeans."

"The pleasure was mine, Aida. And I hope to see you soon."

"Yes you will," she finishes.

His gaze stays on her as she puts her sunglasses back and leaves the store in a slow walk. Behind her chocolate milk silhouette, he catches the light. He sees the store again, the front doors and windows where daylight bleeds through, the fixtures and new wardrobes on the mannequins that he had helped put up last week. It's 4:08 on the computer. His shift is up. When John comes back to the cash wrap to clock in, Adam is still making sure of his bearings and gets a sideways glance at his co-worker. Pitiful. Not much like the blacks on South Beach. No instinct. He quickly moves his eyes up and down at John before he clocks himself out. About 5'8", short hair, firm jaw, decent chin, even with his thick nose he'd be ok. Doesn't know when. John's eyes are still fixed on the screen as if waiting for Adam to absolve him and Adam lets his gaze linger for a cruel second before he goes to the back and gathers his things to go. The sun is still out and he stretches his neck and shoulders quickly as he feels the rays on his face. He is now looking at a street with mellow traffic. Has John Jones ever felt the sun on his face? With a renewed burst of energy, Adam decides to go for a stroll and maybe a drink. He makes Aida's number out comfortably in the gorgeous afternoon light on South Beach and saves it on his android. He wonders when to call.

 

It upsets him that they are out of Jim Beam but to his delight, Luis is the only bartender today and he doesn’t require much grooming. Luis who suggests a 4-year-old Haitian rhum is a trustworthy and direct man. The recommendation brims a viscous honey brown in Adam's glass and for a second he loses himself in the liquid. Haiti. Funny country. They never seem to have it together.  He laughs to himself thinking of John Jones. Maybe he's Haitian. And what about this Aida. Lovely cougar. Wonderful breasts. Her skin, perfect in his hands. A substantial thickness. White skin, thinner, more delicate. Skin speaks. He sips on his rhum and remembers passing a Haitian restaurant on his way here. He had heard that the owners practiced Vodou. He has a short patience for hocus pocus. Idiots always need hocus-pocus. There was a group of people wearing black, purple and white outside the restaurant. One of them was dressed all in white, had a black top hat and white paint on his face with glasses that had crazy eyes on them. Halloween was over. November second. Day of the dead? Mexican not Haitian… He remembers the "TRUMP PENCE" flag he also saw on his way, how it hung with hubris on an apartment window. He isn't sure who to vote for. The idea of Trump sounds both funny and horrible, but Hilary sounds fake. Nothing out of her mouth is straightforward. Not his problem. Politics is a joke. He doesn't vote, a firm believer that nature isn't fair. American government and corporations out to control us all. Shucks. He feels anxious and looks at his watch. It's almost five. He orders another drink confident he'll get a third for free.

"Good, no?" Luis says.

"Yes. Not bad," he says. "You know me. I'm true to Beam but this ain't bad."

"Not yourself today Adam," Luis says and looks at him.

Luis isn't the inquisitive type. His anxiety must have betrayed him.

"Nothing much Luis. Just bills and stuff."

"La lucha," Luis concludes looking at him from under his thick brows, a robust face and dark heavy beard that contrasts with the glittering display of liquor bottles behind them in this dimly lit bar. He goes to clean more glasses and absolves them both from more conversation.

 

It's five thirty now and Adam gently fingers the rim of his third glass imagining how Aida is in bed. A sensual beast. Lucy… What did he know about swinger parties and raves and drugs.  All the sex in this city. Too much sex in this city. It's crazy. There must be no other place like this. Lust is Miami's oil. He could have gotten a desk job, made a career for himself. What else can he do now? A man ruled and ruined by instinct. His idea of fun used to be a Rays' game. He should have gone back to Tampa. He'd have avoided the cesspool, the HPV. Not that he cares much about it. No symptoms. Nothing lethal, not like AIDS. All because of Lucy… He wonders how many people he's spread it to. He uses protection most often but it's not like you can stay so careful here. The pussy. Everybody's got HPV. He feels sick. He used to look at trees. He didn't even dress well back then. All he had was his height, his knack with words and that was it. Lucy. He misses her sometimes, this short girl with a small round face, almond eyes, and a long nose. Her lips were thin as paper and she chewed on them when nervous. Her chin bordered on weak. But she had great tits, a sweet voice and would let you do things to her that you only saw in videos. And there was her caramel color hair. And her scent. And the lovely curve of her ass. How she'd come by in her tight black skirt, always with a white tank top, her breasts pushed up behind a black blazer, by his vending station at the store and talk to him, suggest ways for him to grow in retail, clothing that would fit him better, exercise. She'd complain about her zits he wouldn't have noticed otherwise. And what do you know, he started doing his eyebrows. The texture of her skin rubs against his mind. The bumps and blemishes like a lost map he's trying desperately to trace back to something, like an answer could have been under the softness of her belly, behind her parched lips, or her lying eyes. She lost her wedding ring one time when they were fucking at work and it made him proud for some reason. Her husband, a poor sap who was home a week out of four, fracking oil in the Dakota area. What a sad story. My "out of towners," she'd say to lump both her men together as if this somehow lightened her adultery. There were probably more guys he didn't know of. Those times she'd ignore him. Idiot probably doesn't even know it. Adam laughs. She taught him a little Spanish too, how to roll his tongue. How to eat pussy. How to fuck a girl in the ass. She taught him how to work customers, how to spot money. "Work on your timing and sell them a dream. You'll be surprised. Look for the watch. The watch will really tell. If they have an expensive watch, they're worth it." Before her, he had never fucked a girl in the ass. HPV.  Not the end of the world. Condoms, like women, you love em and hate em, but you need em. Cheers. He kills the drink, pays his tab and leaves Luis four dollars in tips before he goes out.

 

His eyes adjust between the great shadow that's immersing his side of the street and the light that has grown redder on the opposite. It helps him catch sight of a few voluptuous women, tourists, beachgoers and drug dealers that brush their nose or whisper "good weed" or "I know Molly" behind your ear, against the stretch of Art-Deco buildings: hotels, restaurants, shops, and apartments he has grown familiar to. He could use some cocaine. Just a couple bumps to set him straight. And after that a good fuck. In the body and out of the head. He feels like a bull. He laughs, lowers his head gently, narrows his eyes and proceeds to the parking garage, his red TT waiting for him. Purrs like a cat. Women love his car. Women love red.  

Rehearsing his approach he stops a few times for sights and smells, by a pizzeria, a Cuban restaurant, to his right a distant view of the palms by Ocean Drive giving off that faint salty smell that reminds you of sweat. He walks by the store. On the opposite side of the street, he catches his manager reprimanding John. He chuckles.

 

 

Darryl Wawa

Darryl Wawa is a Port-au-Prince born Haitian-American who studied Photography and Creative writing. He enjoys chocolate and good books. That said, maybe a movie is a good book. He loves to work with images and words and their pairing.

 

Edited for Unlikely by dan raphael, Prose Editor
Last revised on Tuesday, March 27, 2018 - 10:05