Clyde Liffey | December 8th

 

“Are you lonely, mister?”
“No. Why should I be?”
“Because you just ordered another one of those funny drinks and you’re all by yourself.”
I looked down at him. How do you explain things to a preschooler? I drummed my fingers on my thick closed book, I’d wanted to read from it since morning, I was about to, when he interrupted me. Where were his parents? I could feel them watching, I couldn’t figure out where they were. “I’m waiting for a friend,” I told him.
“Oh”
I picked up the book, found my place, tried to recall the argument or plot thread, it gets harder as I age, I’m not that old yet, everything’s in fits and starts, the light, the motor, the driver, what motor?
“Is he nice?”
I almost slammed the book shut. Why am I wasting almost the only free time I grant myself talking to a four-year-old who isn’t mine? Life isn’t fair, someday I’ll be whisked to the empyrean, there is no empyrean, it’s fun – fun? – to pretend there is, what would I do there, I’ve barely falsely started here. I couldn’t ignore him, I’d face the wrath of the parenting set, besides he’s only four or so, most likely still uncorrupted. “I’m meeting a lady friend.”
“Is she pretty?”
“I think so.” What are they teaching kids these days? I could picture this one’s smug parents, h-h-h-hovering in the near or middle distance, proud of his boldness, his curiosity, ready to swiftly rescue him should anything go awry, holding hands under the Chinese lanterns, illumination for a faux hip courtyard watering hole. Magda, real or imagined, will never find me out here, I should have stayed inside among the silent TVs and the blaring music box. My drink came. The waitress took the first away, I hadn’t even finished, I was nursing it, they make them too weak here. I turned about to argue, would it ruin the kid to see a bar tab dispute? his brother came, hoisted him up, whispered something into his ear, eyed me suspiciously. Did he know me? I don’t know him, I’ve lived in this neighborhood long enough. They walked away, the pre-teen’s long would be wavy hair streaming under the white backwards baseball cap bearing some brand’s logo, a junior high heartthrob, the little boy waved, they mix the drinks too weak here.