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| The Last Booth in the Bank Cafe
By James Kidd
I saw Mary. She was sitting in the last booth at the Bank Cafe. Our booth. She was leaning into a man
and smiling wildly. Then she saw me staring.
She patted the man’s chest and said something to him while pointing in my direction. All at once the
smiling and laughing stopped at their table and they stared back at me. Hard. The man stood up. He
stood up slow. He kept rising to his full height and Mary smiled like a hyena.
I walked toward them, and the man leaned forward. He pressed his knuckles into the ta-ble like a silver-
back defending its territory.
Have you ever drunk so much that you cared too much and not at all at the same time? You probably
have. You just don’t want to remember. Well, that was me that night.
Earlier, Mary hung up on me and it felt like someone was sandblasting my insides. I couldn’t get away
from that feeling. So I tried muddying the sand with whiskey. As you prob-ably know that didn’t help
When Mary saw me, and her new beau arose, my broken body was crumpled on the road. I’d been
thrown a good many feet out of the crosswalk, and the car kept going. Strings of blood came from my
mouth and ears and were melting into the pavement. Soon after, I was being bap-tized into a new life by
the swirl of emergency lights, radio static, and driving rain. Silver nee-dles of rain stabbed into my
unblinking eyes, so I left my body behind to go find Mary.
As I approached their table no one else seemed to notice me. Frank, the bartender, who Mary called the
Gruff Santa because of his white beard and demeanor, would usually yell out to me when I walked in, but
he didn’t do it on that night. He turned my way and I gave him a wave. A puzzled expression flashed
across his face, and he looked right through me like I wasn’t even there.
Mary had this way of looking at me when we were together. Her eyes burned into me with a fury and
excitement that was more addictive than any drug, and she was doing it again. Before she sat back and
crossed her arms, I noticed she was wearing the ruby pendant I’d given her. It looked lovely, like a drop of
fresh blood glistening between her breasts. I love it, she said when I gave it to her. She’d thrown her arms
around my neck that night and whispered hot promises of explicit devotion into my ear.
Mary continued to stare at me, it was that look that pulled me forward.
The man she was with, jabbed his finger at me and said, “You should,” and that was all. His finger passed
into my being, and that part of me swirled like smoke. His eyes went wide and his mouth dropped open,
and Mary jumped out of her seat like she’d been ejected by a spring.
The sound of commotion always draws attention. We know it on a biological level and we attend to
instinctively. The entire bar’s attention was on our table now. Mary leapt back, and as she did she
screamed. Her boyfriend was still standing, his last two words were hanging in the air, his face was
twisted like he was suffering some agony, and he was. I had reached inside his chest and held his heart.
His heart was hot in my hand and it bucked against the pressure, but I kept squeezing it. I squeezed his
heart until it stopped. And just before he crashed down on the table like a load of wet laundry, a
hypnotically beautiful pearlescent ball slipped out of his mouth and shattered on the floor.
Mary’s scream had silenced the bar, a stillness pervaded, then there was the bustle of moving bodies. A
waitress rush hugged Mary, “It’s ok hon, help is coming,” but Mary thrashed against the waitress and spat
“It was him, it was him,” she shrieked and pointed at me.
“Who?” the waitress asked softly.
As Mary stared at me with that fury I loved, a busboy bringing her a glass of water passed right through
me and I learned every intricacy of his stunningly, beautiful, ordinary life. Something shifted inside Mary,
her knees buckled, and she collapsed.
That was a long time ago.
Some nights I find myself sitting in our booth at the Bank Cafe. The place is different now. Sometimes
people will see me, briefly. I’m the shadowy form in their periphery that makes their heart race for a
second. Some nights I’m the walker in the 30th Street crosswalk that you thought you’d just hit. You hear
the sickening thud and slam on the brakes. Your whole body shakes and you break out in a cold sweat as
you go out to look and find nothing.
Most nights I go to see Mary and watch her as she sleeps. I can’t help myself. Some nights she wakes up
and sees me as a silhouette in the doorway. Other nights I’m the dark shape in her hospital room chair.
“Mary,” I whisper softly, and she bolts upright in her bed and whim-pers, “Who’s there?”
Other nights I invade her dreams by whispering in her ear, “Do you miss me?” And on those nights she
murmurs, “Yes,” and wakes up screaming. She screams until the nurses rush in and administer a
medicine that makes her stop. But she knows I’m still there as she slips off, semi-catatonic, just like I know
she once loved me, and that that love for me still lingers some-where inside her. All she has to do is say it,
and we’d both be free.
|About James Kidd
|BMR Magazine Cover Flashbacks