Drank away Labor Day weekend. Phone rang a few times, but I didn’t answer. Instead, I sat in the dark, blinds drawn, drinking.
Sunday afternoon, I decided to treat myself. I phoned the Thai place on 79th Street for a pick-up order. As soon as the woman heard my voice, she said, “Let me guesss–you want coconut soup?”
It was exactly what I wanted. “How did you know?” I said, already knowing the answer.
“Because you order it all the time,” she said. “Every weekend, coconut soup, coconut soup, coconut soup.”
I felt embarrassed. Ashamed of my own predictability. “It’s good,” I said defensively. “I really like it.”
“Sure, sure,” the woman said, sounding distracted.
“Maybe next time, I’ll try something different. I promised. OK?”
“OK, fine. See you in 10 minutes.” She hung up the phone.
I put on some pants and walked over to the Thai place, feeling angry, wanting the soup, but not wanting to confront this woman, not wanting to walk into the restaurant. (They won’t deliver unless you order more than $12 worth of food; coconut soup, with a side of rice, is $9.) I braced myself, then walked through the door.
The restaurant was busy. Every table was full. The cute Thai girl was working, the one who always wears a tight pink T-shirt that says, FARMERS DO IT IN THE DIRT. I usually don’t stare at women’s boobs, but for some reason this girl has such a high, firm pair that I can never seem to help myself.
I handed her the money. She handed me the soup. The whole transaction happened silently.
I went home and ate my soup and watched the Mets lose on TV. For some reason, the soup didn’t taste as good as it usually does. It was kind of flat. Watered down. Something was missing. An ingredient that I couldn’t put my finger on…
My doorbell rang. It was my neighbors next door. I’d been getting their mail all week while they were away on vacation. The word is out that I’m here all the time, that I rarely go away, so I’ve become the official mail-retriever for anyone who leaves for a few days. “Here’s a token of our appreciation,” she said, handing me a big shopping bag that said DUTY FREE on the side.
“You really didn’t have to do this,” I said. Really meaning it. In fact, I would have preferred that they didn’t get me anything.
Once they were gone, I peered into the bag. A big yellow X-large T-shirt with an embroidered sun in the center of the chest above the words CABO SAN LUCAS.
There was also a small bottle of tequila.
Once I settled back onto the couch, I noticed that the cat was missing. Lately, her hiding skills have improved remarkably. Sometimes, it’s as if she has the ability to turn herself invisible.
After a few minutes of searching, I realized that this was one of those times where she’d invisibled herself. I looked everywhere for her. Behind the fridge. Underneath the nightstand. Everywhere. Everywhere I could think of.
No cat. Nothing.
My search became desperate. I worried that maybe she’d scampered out the door when I was getting the DUTY FREE bag from my neighbor.
I had tears in my eyes. I put my slippers on and ran up and down the stairs, calling her name.
I could hear TVs playing inside apartments. Low conversations. A telephone ringing in the distance. The hallways were empty. The stairwell was empty.
I tore my apartment to pieces, looking everywhere for her, tears running down my face. If I’d lost her, I’d never be able to forgive myself.
Exhausted from my search, with everything in my apartment upside down and inside out, I realized there was one place I hadn’t looked. I pulled the cushions off the couch. And there, holed up inside the corner of the folded sofa bed, was the kitten.
I have no idea how she got in there. I pulled her out and held her to my chest. I buried my nose into her neck, inhaling her kitten smell. I love how she smells. I kissed the top of her head. I rubbed her belly. She let out a meow of protest, but let me kiss her a few more times anyway.
I noticed that the sun was going down. I opened a fresh beer. I put the cushions back on my couch. I searched for something to watch on TV.
What a shit-ass Labor Day.