“What should we do for dinner tonight?”
“Hmm, I’m not sure.”
Every night they had the same conversation, the parley of the day. It’s not that they fought regularly, far from it, but marriage is a perpetual state of give and take, someone always deferring to the other. In this instance, Shane usually extended the olive branch.
“It is such a nice night out… maybe takeout?”
Brian shrugged. It’s not that he didn’t care, he was just indifferent, enjoying being out of the house and putting minimal mental energy into anything else. He felt lucky that he didn’t have to think about breathing.
“Ramen?” Shane asked.
“Oh, what about tacos?”
“I literally just said sure to ramen,” Brian said. Shane was looking at his phone.
“Did you hear me?”
“What? Maybe burgers? This place looks good.”
“It doesn’t matter.”
Shane ordered the ramen and they crossed the street, feeling like they were in a game of Frogger as cars ignored their requirement to stop for pedestrians in the crosswalk.
“Get me out of here,” Shane said as they moved deeper into the neighborhood, away from the chaos. The sound of cars carried on the autumn breeze; a swirl of life after a period of silence, the pandemic having brought everything to a halt. It was overwhelming.
A couple jogged past them and Brian noticed several homes with people sitting on the front steps. Each place was different with some of the homes remodeled, others new construction, and even more that were divided into cheaper apartments, bringing a diversity of individuals to match. The embodiment of gentrification.
Laughter and conversation pulsed along the street, powering it like the third rail to the L. Families and friends, drinking and eating; refusing to let slip away the life the virus was meant to stop.
“This is Covid waiting to happen,” Shane said, angling his steps to widen his berth. Brian looked at him and then back at the pockets of socialization, several people making eye contact and nodding a weary acknowledgement.
“I’m sure most of these people live together.”
“Yeah well this is how it spreads. Hopefully they do.”
Shane stepped closer and lowered his voice.
“Look at her.”
Brian turned his attention back to the homes on his right. An elderly woman sat on the front steps of a shabby-looking two story row house. She was alone, a distant expression on her face, her eyes not focusing on anything in particular.
“What?” Brian asked.
“It’s just her energy.”
Brian rolled his eyes.
“You know that I can feel people’s energies honey. I’m very in-tune.”
“So you’ve said.”
Brian loved his husband but he also knew that he was a storyteller and an embellisher. That was part of what he loved about him and, at times, irritated him.
“I know you don’t believe me but I can read people. Everyone lets off their own frequency of energy. We’re all just stardust.”
“Like the Force?”
“Oh you’re funny huh?” Shane’s voice was mocking.
“Ok fine. What are you feeling?”
He moved closer to his husband, speaking low, conspiratorially.
“Sadness. Loneliness. It’s almost like she comes out here looking for companionship and… well, nothing.”
“You feel all that? It is a pandemic. Everyone feels that way. Maybe she lost someone.”
“Regardless, I can feel her melancholy.”
Brian scrunched his eyebrows at his husband.
“I don’t know…”
“Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.”
As they continued to walk, Brian turned around to look at the woman again, and he started to doubt the skepticism he had felt. She looked lost and, as she stood and turned to go back inside the house, all he could feel was pity for her. He wanted to run to her and ask if there was anything he could do for her. A hug. Something. But the door shut behind her.
“There you are! Where did you go?”
The woman shook her head, dispelling her bewilderment. Her husband stood in the kitchen, a smile that had illumined her soul the last 36 years, wide across his face.
“I was just out front. I needed… I needed some air. I still can’t believe it.”
“Well believe it baby! We actually won. Think what this means. The kids. We can pay off their college and we can retire somewhere warmer like you’ve always wanted. I just-“
Tears were in his eyes. All the years of struggle raising a family, not being paid what they were worth.
“$55 million though… I just can’t believe it.”
Her husband wiped his eyes with his sleeve and put his arms around her.
“When you put out good energy into the universe, good things happen eventually. It’s written in the stars.”
They kissed and she wiped another tear from his cheek.
“I guess you’re right.”