The cafe sat in a vacuous mass, its inhabitants equally vacant in thought and ambition. They carried on their small talk of artists and musicians with various bouts of loudly voiced opinions in no particular direction. "Look at me" they bellowed with practiced subtly. Dee glanced around from his corner table with disdain. The word 'vivisection' paced his mind as he sat waiting for Marie. Anticipation spiking, Dee worried the hem of his faded tshirt with one hand while holding fast to his phone in the other. His feet tingled with an unusual emotion, fear.

They hadn't parted well, he and Marie, and in true Dee fashion he'd silently swore not to return her calls the moment her Volvo faded from his street. The horizon had swollowed her up along with his lifelong memories of friendship. How quickly one could chill their own heart. She'd cried when he told her no, told her they would never be more than friends. The tears, liquid metal running from her glassy eyes, fell onto her gray tshirt. Of all things about that day, Dee remembered the spots of gray transforming to black. Each discoloration spread like a snowflake just forming, each a reason Dee should feel ashamed.

Now, nearly a year later, Marie was returning. She'd messaged of her arrival south and in a moment of rigid clarity, Dee responded. As she sat before him sipping her overpriced blend, he wondered if she was thinking of their last meeting as well. His eyes strained as he pictured the moist blotches on her blouse. She was wearing gray again, with a shimmering wedding ring of an equally gray shade to match.

-Tom says I'll be able to quit my job as soon as he gets the raise. We're planning children but the wedding took so much out of us both... we're just not ready to absorb into anything else right now.

Dee was pretty sure she'd used "absorb" incorrectly in the sentence, but that seemed to be the very last word that should be noticed. Why was he always focusing on the wrong thing when it came to Marie.

-The new car is definitely a blessing, sporty but practical. What are you driving these days.

-A Schwinn.

She stared at Dee as though he'd shoved her coffee over the edge of the table.

-You don't own a car?

Formulating an answer, he fell sidetracked. When had she become a yuppy? Kids, cars, a husband? Less than a year ago she was aching to top Dee and yet sitting before him now was a fully formed suburbanite housewife.

-I sold the car a few months ago when things were tight. I get around just fine though.

-Don't you ever miss the convenience?

-Marie, I live in a city, in the desert... I shop at an open market on the corner, work the block over from that... I don't visit home, what exactly would I need a car for? Past that, when did you get married?

The question was hollow as Dee's mother had called the second her engagement hit the weekly adverts, but he needed to hear her rationalize this union in person. Hadn't she been the one weeping and pining mere months ago on his behalf?

-May, a spring wedding. Dee you would have loved it; daisies covered every inch of St. Marks and pearl white lace dripped over the pews. I know it was fast but Tom and I just clicked. We were meant to be. Soulmates.

The word soulmate chipped away at him. He didn't love Marie. At this point, noting her changes, he didn't even like Marie. She was empty and tame and everything they used to make fun of together. Why then did he suddenly wish great harm to this Tom person? He felt an obligitory congratulations pending and forced a smile onto this lips.

-I'm sure it was amazing.

Marie continued chirping for the better part of an hour until Dee delicately created a lie and removed himself from the situation. She wasn't the same person he'd known all these years. Her stories, her insights all seemed to lack their old flame. He'd left her sitting alone in the cafe texting something perversly sentimental to Tom and felt awkwardly relieved at doing so. He no longer remembered her spotted gray tshirt. He longer saw the Volvo fading into the skyline. Kicking the dust beneath his chucks, Dee made a final vow to not return her phone calls. This one he would keep.


The light was brighter toward the window, a clear stream flowing through the panes in an otherwise dark and dingy room. Dee held his breath and imagined himself inside that stream as a speck of dust drifting to the carpet.
-How simple to live life as a inconsequential piece of dirt.
Phone ringing, he shifted his eyes from the window to a dilapidated shelf-like desk in the corner. His trash seemed to overtake the workspace; meaningless stacks of half written poems and heaps of empty cigarette packs littered the breadth of it, but the true detractor of space was a mass of crinkled watercolor paper. The thick edges of each sheet seemed to raise from themselves and curl seductively around the milky paintings.

-Dalton? Honey, it's mom... your father and I received a call today from your landlord, you didn't pay the rent?
-Now Dalton, we've written a check to Mr. Lawson, to him not you, you understand?
-Dee. Dalton makes me sound like a forty year old scientist.
-Dalton focus! If only we'd been so lucky for you to turn to science.

There was a complacency in Dee's voice and demeanor that irritated his mother with each conversation. She had very little patience and he contained nothing but, often leaving the pair unable to find a common ground with which to communicate.

-Your father and I have been talking and we've decided it's time for you to be on your own... time for you to make your own way. Dalton, are you listening to me?
-You're cutting me off.
-Is there anything you want to say?
-I love you.
-Oh, Dalton... that will not push us to continue this perverse relationship any longer - I will always love you my dear, but we can no longer pump your slummy little apartment with drugs or alcohol or whatever else you are using our funds for.

She was becoming frustrated quickly.

-I wasn't saying it to persuade you of anything.

Calmly, sedately he navigated the conversation.

-As you are taking away my only source of income, I can assume my phone will also be cut off, therefore leaving me to say I love you for the last time until we meet again. Very simply, I'm saying goodbye.

Their phone calls often lasted only minutes, his mother or occasionally father leading him to believe they were "finished with his nonsense", but never actually going forward with the threat. Someday, he believed, they would realize his desperation for liberation, but until that time he seemed content to speak in circles for his own amusement and keep them at a distance.

Dee had ceased to need financial help from his family for more than a year, though they appeared to think his new profession was less than satisfactory. For the first time in the five years since leaving home, he'd had a stable job that didn't install thoughts of suicide within him and their lack of respect was intolerable. He always let her rant though, he'd owed her that much.

-Don't say that, you know how much that hurts when you say those things.

Moving from his native Midwestern home to a tiny, dusty flat in New Mexico, there had been a time when the multicolored checks from his parents were a godsend. He cashed each one with a grimace as accepting help had never been easy for him. The ability to eat made the pity money a little easier to swallow though and in a tattered moleskin journal he kept a secret tally of everything he owed. That, however, was five years ago. After several dead end jobs, countless internships gone awry, and a few months that took him down to the slimmest he'd ever been, Jack Hendrix offered Dee a place in his studio. Long since had the journal been misplaced and along with it, Dee's ideas of payback. He no longer suspected he was disappointing his Bible Belt family, he now knew he was, and relished the fact.

-I got a new tattoo, that's why I didn't pay the rent. I talked to Mr. Lawson, he gave me another week... which says to me, you called him to check up on me. Twenty five and you're still checking up huh. Does it make you feel better? Does it seem like you still have a finger on your little boy? Pushing me down into the lab coat, the scrubs, the pews; why can't you just come out and say how you feel.

Dee had pushed her, maybe even toward crying, and his heart beat the cadence of nerves she'd suddenly brought to the surface.

-Dalton, you make frames all day for paintings that are hideous, godless, and portray women as objects of lust. It's not a job, it's a ticket to hell.

She loved to bring up religion. His entire life he'd bucked against their rigid hold of "god", an all watching, never seeing character. He paused to wonder if this was a time to light up his aethism.


Scanning the clock, he realized he was late for lunch and his little stint in hell would have to be postponed. He slowly drew in a deep breath.

-Dee, and I have to go. Stop calling Mr. Lawson, he's old, needs time to himself. Stop sending checks, I have food and electricity. Stop pitying me. I love you.

With that, he flipped the phone down and scratched his thin beard with the antenae. Glancing back at the window, he saw another small particle of dust slide along the trail of light.
-To be that free, to have that shade of glorious gold as one slipped through the air. To have peace.