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FICTION “He’ll be fine,” Ceci consoled, her response

obligatory. It was part of the purpose Ethan served. He made it so that Ceci didn’t feel as though she dominated our conversations with talk of Gary.

I nodded, spooning hot and sour soup from

my bowl. Ceci ate fast. I could never keep myself from ordering soup, even though I knew she would always finish before me. She hated waiting on me, but she owed me that much, so I allowed her to wait while she fiddled with the clasp on her purse. A man behind me emptied his tray into the garbage can, the falling of the trash door swishing my hair behind me. A vague stench of rot made its way to my nose, a pocket of smell gifted by the waste and the open door behind me, San Francisco sewers alive with the humidity of Spring. Ceci stared at the man by the trash.

“Gary used to look like that,” she lamented.

I had seen the man before, on some floor between the twenty-second and the thirtieth. They used an entirely separate suite of elevators, those better suited to Sales, Marketing, Human Resources. He didn’t seem all that handsome to me. His brow bone drooped in a simian way, and his Adam’s apple was a little too large for my taste. Ethan was more handsome than that.

“Not bad,” I said, soliciting my most lecherous

tone, something akin to camaraderie. I tried to think of another response, but a passing siren saved me, its horn blazing through the intersection, heading toward Market Street. Two additional cars followed closely behind, their lights dancing on the shining streets, red and blue reflections twinkling on the glass beverage case at the back of the restaurant.

Ceci scooted a piece of broccoli around on her plate. “Do you ever wonder where they go?” I asked,

knowing my change of subject would only distract her momentarily, but it would be enough to allow me a few more spoonfuls of soup before she couldn’t take anymore and got too antsy to wait any longer for me.

“Where who go?” “Not who, what,” I said. “The sirens. The trucks

run down here what, two, three times a day? Where the hell are they going? Everything’s right here.”

“SoMa,” Ceci answered. “All those warehouses.

You can’t just take a 150-year-old building and string some Chinese lanterns through it and call it home. That’s not a loft. That’s a fire hazard with a million dollar mortgage.”

Ceci knew her structures. It was Gary talking,

I knew that, but I liked the way Ceci appropriated the expertise. I imagined she seemed more confident with the knowledge, as though it was less of a career and more of an accessory. Gary would have been too showy about it. He was a general contractor, so he had to be showy. It paid the bills more than Ceci’s data entry. Gary also had a big contract with the city.

“Two or three trucks a day … you’d think SoMa

would be nothing but ash now,” I mused, but Ceci took me seriously. She was looking for a distraction today.

“Well it

used to be a lot worse. You weren’t here before the artists moved in.”

It was true.

I was in Arizona while Ethan was working for Maricopa County. I was actually in Nashville working for a failing newspaper selling help wanted ads during a recession. I didn’t make my quota once, and I left after ten months, telling my boss I planned to go back to school. He seemed confused. He said I had been doing so well. I knew that “well” was a compliment just bland enough to be used at a failing newspaper, and I wished him “well” on my way out. He was a good man. I heard from an old coworker I sometimes emailed that he died in his sleep six months later. A bland death.

A vague stench of rot made its way to my nose, a pocket of smell gifted by the waste and the open door behind me, San Francisco sewers alive with the humidity of spring.


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