The phone was ringing and woke me up. I was tired but answered it anyway.
“Jag? This is Rez.”
“Oh, hey. How are ya? As usual I was sleeping when you called.”
“I can let you get back to sleep.”
“No, no. I’m up now. What’s up?”
“Hank and I were gonna go and get some coffee and I thought I’d call and see if you wanted to meet us.”
“Yeah, sounds good.”
“We were just going to go to Insomnia, but if you know of another place. . .”
“No, Insomnia is cool.”
“Ok, well, we’re gonna ride the bus.”
“That’s cool. I gotta go find some clothes. I’ll see you there.”
“See you in a bit.”
I go back to my bedroom and look on the side if the bed where I tossed my clothes. I dress, grab my cigarettes and money and head out the door to catch the bus.
As I am crossing the street to the bus stop I realize that I am starving. I decide that I will stop at this little Italian place I know of and grab a slice of pizza.
I am waiting for the bus. As I wait more and more people begin to wait with me. Students from the night school a block away. A couple of pretty girls turn and look at me. I smile and they turn away and watch the bus coming down the street.
The bus is slowing to a halt as I stand and move up toward the crowd. I am the last one on the bus. As I get on the bus I notice that the fare box has a sign on it “Ozone Alert: Free Bus Rides Today.” There have been Ozone Alerts for the past two days. I guess the atmosphere is getting that bad. At least in the places where the sun is already intense. The air seems to be drier than usual but I haven’t noticed much else. Probably everyone will come down with skin cancer in a few years.
The bus lurches forward, heading toward my destination. After few stops the bus halts again and then doesn’t start. I decide to get off here and walk the rest of the way. I figure I have time to kill since I live much closer to Insomnia than Rez and Hank.
I walk a few block and get to the Pizza place. They are closing but sell me a slice anyway. I am grateful. I take the pizza with me as I walk the rest of the way to Insomnia.
I go in to Insomnia to look for Rez. I look around the downstairs and notice an attractive oriental girl working behind the counter. I don’t see Rez there and I don’t know what Hank looks like, so I go up the stairs to the smoking area to see if they are up there. They aren’t, or at least Rez isn’t. Going back downstairs I look over at the counter to catch a glimpse of the girl. She sees me looking at her and smiles. I smile back and head outside.
There are many people standing around outside. There is a man sitting and leaning against a wall with a dog in his lap. There is a woman talking to him. The are three men standing in front of Insomnia talking about nothing. The woman walks past me.
After a few minutes the woman comes back. She is a transient, dirty and smelly. She looks much more worn than the actual years she carries. She walks toward me.
“Can I get a cigarette from you,” she asks me.
“Sure,” I say pulling out my pack and handing her a cigarette.
“Can I get a light,” she says reaching for my lit cigarette.
I reach in my pocket and get out my lighter and hand it to her. She takes it, checks her pockets and hands my lighter back.
“I got one.”
She lights the cigarette.
“Do you want to see my cat,” she asks.
“Your cat,” I ask in disbelief. Suddenly I realize she means cat as in pussy.
“I don’t think so,” I say, “I’m waiting to meet some friends.”
“Some friends,” she asks not believing me.
“Yeah,” I say.
“Thanks for the cigarette,” she says, and walks away.
Still no sign of Rez. I stand around flipping a quarter in the air and catching it. More and more people are milling about. There is a sports bar two door up the street from Insomnia and cheers periodically escape as someone scores a goal in the basketball game on the television.
I get tired of waiting for Rez and Hank and go in to order something to drink. I order an Italian soda, raspberry. As I wait for them to fix my soda I am looking around the place trying to see if I can spot Rez. I don’t see him. I turn back to the counter to pay for my soda. As
I turn I see Rez in the corner of my eye.
“Hey, Rez, what’s up?”
“I missed the bus,” he says.
“Hank’s over there,” says Rez pointing toward the front of the place. I get my soda and walk with him to meet Hank. I see who Hank is and I realize that he has been sitting there the entire time I’ve been waiting. I can see from the smile on his face that he realized that too and had seen me standing outside. I sit with them and we talk for a while. We leave after a short time we all catch the bus. A different bus.