The Southside Strories – Chapter 6

Our conversation turned to more mundane things like what was happening in my life, love life, and miscellaneous topics you talk about with your parents.

Then I asked what I didn’t think I’d have the strength or energy to ask.

“When is she being buried?”

“On Monday morning,” he said. “Are you going to be there?”

I was going to tell him, “I’ll try to make it,” but realized if I wanted to heal, maybe this would help me get closer to getting closure with her.

I paused. “Yes.”

“You sure you’re okay to handle it?” he said, his gently eyes probing mine.

“Yeah, Dad, I’ll be fine.”

That settled it and we said our pleasantries. I told him I’d be exploring more of the city on Sunday and that I’d meet him at the cemetery on Monday morning.

He got up to leave but I stayed in the same place.

“Te va’ quedar?” he said.

“Yeah. I’m gonna hang out here for awhile.”

“Okay,” he said. “Call me later.”

He kissed me on the forehead, gave me a half-smile that was his version of a friendly and reassuring gesture, and left the café.

Even with all the emotions churning over my mom, I was still thinking about Carlos.

I took the card out of my wallet and stared at his name in the bold black letters.

Scenarios raced through my mind of possibly getting my wish come true (universe, do not fuck with me, I need a win right now) or perhaps being okay with just having a friend during this hard time.

Resistance running through my veins, I put his card away and ordered a cappuccino. Even though I was full from lunch, I had to, had to get some caffeine in me to get the courage to call him.

Why hasn’t he called me? Oh right. I didn’t give him my number. Good job, Jazmine.

People watching, I slowly sipped my cappuccino. I saw many pale faced couples and families passing by. My neighborhood really has become gentrified. Jeez.

As I took a sip of my drink, I saw a blast from the past. One of the brief guys I’d dated in junior high school. Mark Lopez.

The breakup was amicable; we were only thirteen or fourteen at the time. Then our circles diverged. But we were still friendly with one another.

I thought he’d see me as so I had to tap on the glass window as he passed. He turned back and smiled. Then he walked inside.

His dark hair was short cropped; when he was thirteen it was longer, Hanson long. His physique was changed; he wasn’t necessarily overweight but pudgy. He carried the weight well.

When he grinned at me, his teeth were just as straight as in junior high school. Aww, the sweetness shone through.

I stood up as he approached my table and pulled me into his arms into a tight hug. He always did give the best hugs.

“Hi, Mark!” I said, as I pulled away. “Sit down.”

“Jazmine, girl! You look good!” He slid into the seat in front of me.

Girl? Is he? Well, that would make a lot of sense.

“How are things with you?” I asked, wondering if any answer he gave me would indicate that he was indeed what I thought he was.

“Things are good. I’m actually on my way into Soho to go shopping. My clothes are fitting me way too tightly. So yeah, it’s time.” His hands outlined an invisible line in front of him as he talked.

“Well, that’s kool but what have you done since I last saw you? I’m on Facebook but I’m not stalking everyone, ya know.”

“Oh well, I work at Columbia as a Communications Assistant for the President; you know, I’m his bitch but the pay is very good.”

His gaze landed on mine as he asked me, “What’s up with you?”

I told him about my mom’s funeral, moving to San Francisco to get my Master of Fine Arts at the University of San Francisco, attending the different writing workshops across the country, publishing a short story in a magazine no one has heard of (and I couldn’t even remember the name of the publication for the life of me, but I did have a few copies for myself), and staying in the city for a bit until I wanted to.

Then I told him how I saw Carlos Perez yesterday.

“Oh, he was always so cute,” he said.

I didn’t flinch because that comment told me everything.

“Wasn’t he? I always had the biggest crush on him,” I said.

“I don’t know any girl that didn’t at school,” he said.

“When did you come out?” I said, hoping I wasn’t being too presumptuous. I did live in San Francisco after all and hung out around The Castro pretty regularly. The gays may not be as hot in San Francisco than New York City but my gaydar is always accurate. Well, most of the time. Like the time a woman was hitting on me at one of the bars and I took that as friendliness. Needless to say, awkward night for the both of us.

He told me he came out in college.

“I never noticed in junior high,” I said.

“I didn’t know it then either. Even when I dated you for a second, I was attracted to you but there was a more friendly vibe than romantic-I-want-to-make-out-with-you vibe.”

“I guess I felt that way too but who am I kidding. My heart was always about Carlos Perez.”

Mark laughed at me and said, “I love how you keep using his first and last name. It’s hysterical.”

“You don’t understand, Mark. He was the dreamboat of that school. Like the Zack Morris of John D. Wells. I obsessed about him for so many years.”

“It’s cute, really it is.” He patted me on the shoulder. “You look really good.”

“Thanks,” I said, providing him with a half-smile. I hoped Carlos Perez thought I did enough to date me. Ohkay, Jazmine, chill out girl and focus on Mark!

We chatted about his partner, Seth, and how they met in college. They decided to move together to New York City (as they met while attending Syracuse University) and have been going on strong for five years now.

He looked at his watch and said, “Oh shit, look at the time. I gotta meet Seth in twenty minutes!”

“It was great catching up with you,” I told him as we embraced for a goodbye hug.

“Hit me up on Facebook,” he said. He flashed me his straight toothed smile and left the coffee shop.

Time had elapsed and I felt more at ease with my nerves; the anxiety was slightly on the surface and in my stomach but I knew I would be able to call Carlos and be okay. At least I think I was.

It was nice chatting with Mark. It’s so wonderful that he’s happy and finally at ease with himself.

Not that I would have noticed if he was uneasy in his own skin, being in the closet, but that he was happy and joyful.

I almost envied him because I’ve never had a mate I was very much in love with. What does being in love look like anyway? I didn’t have a clue.

People watching was getting boring at this point and I realized I’d been at Atlas Café for almost three hours. I had to call Carlos and then get out of Hipsterville.

To be considerate, I sat down in one of the empty tables outside of the café. As I left the inside, the table I formerly occupied was scooped up by a hipster couple who had their lattes and laptops in hand. I wondered if they were in school or just funded by their trust fund parents.

I pulled out the card from my purse and stared at his name again. Why didn’t I just email him? I have a Crackberry after all. No, the call is more immediate. I’m a wuss but I can do this!

I started dialing his number and a waiter asked me, “Would you like something to start with?”

“Oh, I’m not ordering anything,” I said, the numbers half dialed in my hand.

“These tables are for paying customers only,” he said in an assertive tone.

Without a word, I stood up and walked away from the café and sought out a bench. I searched my head for sitting possibilities. McCarren Park. Green grass. Rodney. Anything on Bedford Avenue. Then I turned the corner on Grand Street and discovered a bench in front of the Irish bar I never bothered exploring when I lived in the neighborhood.

I comfortably sat down, took a deep breath, and dialed Carlos’ number again. I was thirteen all over again.

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