serialized fiction #2 (3 of 4)

He wants to say something clever. He’s amazed by how smooth American men can come across. No matter how much American television he watches, he doesn’t think he could ever pull it off.

‘Busy day today?’ he asks Carmen.

‘Quiet I hope. How about you?’

‘Same as ever you know. Nothing ever happening here.’ Raul is babbling and he knows it. Carmen’s face softens as he continues to rapidly release phrases of no substance. Sounds to stretch out the amount of time she spends in the shop this morning.

‘I’ll see you tomorrow,’ says Carmen.

Every day Raul tells himself he’s going to ask Carmen out to dinner, and every day her hypnotic eyes gobble up the chance. As she steps out of the shop, she passes Jose.

‘Buenas dias mama.’

‘Hola Jose.’

Raul steps out from behind the cash register and sticks his head out the doorway to watch Carmen cross the street back to her apartment. She lives in the corner flat on the first floor and keeps the window open.

Barely inside, she’s already licking the first bitter green cigar leaf and using her left thumbnail to split it before refilling it with red-haired buds and re-rolling. She repeats the process three times and is ready for the day.

Her timing is down to a science. By the time she reaches Bleeker Street station she’s smoked nearly half of Corona number one. Unlike when she first awoke, she isn’t concerned about hating her job. She’s not dreading having to face the boy in IT that she regrettably fucked after too many pomegranate martinis at last year’s Christmas party. And somehow the stomach pains that punch her from the inside have stopped.

A Jamaican woman holding a bible gets on the subway after Carmen and starts preaching about Jesus while travelers pretend not to hear her. ‘You c-yant take dem doll-uh witch you when you go! Good lawd don’t take dem doll-uhs on judgement day!’

The trip to Wall Street passes in the blink of an eye. Stepping out of the subway station, there’s a group of young men working on the road. The blonde haired one calls to Carmen as she passes. ‘Yo shorty why don’t you let me take you out later? You with those fine legs.’

‘Can’t today,’ she politely replies with a smile on her way toward the coffee shop. Carmen doesn’t go on dates anymore. Not since Sam was in the accident.

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