purse." the man said as he began walking towards the subway.
"Okay. I'll see you in ten."
The waitress walked over and picked up the man's coffee
cup. ''He's done?"
"Yes... he's done."
"Are you okay? Do you need any more cream or sugar?"
No. Tm fine. Thank you." The woman sipped her coffee
slowly, revealing her trembling hands to the waitress.
"Well, let me know if I can get anything for you. You can
order dessert with the money he left."
"Do vou have the time?"
"Yeah, it's quarter to twelve. My busiest shift will start any
minute now. I'm about to take mv break while I can," the waitress
said as she wiped down man's side of the table.
"I have to leave soon and mend my relationship."
"Hey, whatever makes you happiest." The w^aitress turned
away muttering. "/ learned that the hard way."
"Thank you for the coffee and have good lunch hour."
"Thanks. You too."
The woman glanced at the clock at the top of the Manhattan
Bank building and realized it was time to go. She grabbed her
compact mirror and mascara and placed them in her purse. She
slowly pushed her seat back and stood up. With a sigh, she
grabbed her purse and delicately placed it on her left shoulder.
She stood, pushed in her chair and began w^alking towards the
subway entrance. The waitress waved a goodbye and the woman
responded with a slight smile. The breeze wasn't blowing as
strongly as it had earlier, and the woman arrived at the subway
platform B on time.
The Two Suits
J. Ezra Gordon
he churning and choking of the steaming milk barely
drowned the vulgarities of the suited men. Tables around them
buzzed with swarms of customers laughing, cussing, chatting,
fighting, but none seemed to stand out beside the two suits. Their
stools held them high against the mustard wall, and the steam of
burnt coffee kept them slightly shrouded in the corner.
Everyone kept to themselves, except for the customers'
glares as the skinny suit squealed out a laugh, or disgusted glances
as the fat one dripped with perspiration.
The gushing pores attracted a fly towards the bloated,
sagging chins of the fat suit. It circled around his blue tie, up past
his milky cheeks and soaked, thinning hair before landing directly
upon the oily bald patch on his head.
"We should be drinking. . ." he slurped his coffee. "That's
what you do when you celebrate."
"What the fuck is this, Phil?" spat the skinny one. "What
does it look like we're...?"
"You know what I mean, Jack."
The skinny one lifted and crooked his calloused index
finger, signaling the fat one to lean forward. With a wave of his
caked fingernails, the fly jumped from the slime-covered head.
Swinging back around towards the skinny suit's red tie and up past
his stubbly face, the creature landed in his peppered hair.
"You know what else you're supposed to do when you
"You're supposed to smile . You're supposed to have a
good fucking time."
"Fm having a good...."
"Then quit your bitching. Can't be having a good time if
you're bitching." He sat back as a waitress filled his cup. "You've
been married too long." The slender fingers ran through his
slicked black-and-white speckled curls, and the fly jumped again.
Picking up a napkin and wiping grease from his hair off his hands,
the skinny suit looked back at the dripping, fat face. "So fucking
smile, already." And the fat one forced a smile.
The wind from an opened door forced the hairy insect
towards the mustard wall, and planted itself firmly there as the
gust ceased. The smaller, taller suit then spoke.
"How long have we known each other, Phil?"
"Long fucking ti...."
"I didn't ask for a general. . .v^hat year. . .?"
"I don't know. Jack. Sixth grade... something...."
"Right, right. Sixth grade. Sixth fucking grade. And how
long have we been doing this?"
"You've got to be eighteen to buy..."
"Eighteen! Eighteen was so fucking long ago. Can you
believe it?" The skinny man clenched his fists, shook his arms,
narrowed his eyes. "And how long have I been saying it?"
"'Two quarters will get you two mil.""
"Wise words, mv friend.** The skinnv man smiled his
brown smile. "Wise fucking words." And sipped from his black
mug. "Two quarters apiece. . .every week for . . .since fucking
eighteen. How much do you think we madeT he smirked.
"No fucking idea. Jack. We spent so much over the. . .three-
sixty-five times point-five-oh since however long ago eighteen
was. It drove Eileen up the. . . You 're just spending money we
don '/...yadda yadda. . ." He waved his giant, pale hand back and
"You've got to spend money to make. . ."
"I told her that."
"Did you tell her who Xoldyou?''
"Yeah." The fat man slurped his coffee as he spoke and it
spilled onto the table. "It didn't help."
Bone-like fingers tore open a brown sugar packet and
spilled it into and around his black mug. "She doesn't fucking
listen, you know...."
"I don't think she respects...."
"I know" he mumbled as a drop of sweat fell from his
balding forehead onto the table.
"What' re you going to do with it?" the skinny one asked
without looking up.
"What things? "
"Things." The fat one chuckled. "Stuff."
"Like a fucking child..." the thin lips sighed.
"What about yoiiT
"I'm going to invest in that high end. . . ."
"Big man." The stubby fingers reached for his coffee.
"... stocks . . . don't mock me . . . "
"You just did...."
"No, I was...."
"Just stop it."
JacK. . . .
"Just fucking stop it."
They huffed and sighed back and forth for a few minutes,
occasionally sipping from their mugs or turning to see another
disapproving glance through the percolated mist. The slender suit
crossed his arms, leaned in. spoke in low tones.
"Why w^ouldn't you invest with me?" he hissed. There was
no reply. "Do you know what could be gainedl Do \ou realize?'^
There was still no reply. The fat man stared at the growing brown
smile. '"For both you and her?" The smile didn't drop. "'But if she
holds all the power. . . ."
"It isn't about power. ..."
"That's exactly what it's about." His fist shook the table and
spilled coffee all over. "That's all this is about. What is money?
What's cash? It's in the movies, it's in the books, it's on fucking
television, Phil..." he emphasized only one word. "That's what
"You can't control people with. . ."
"No, you can't control people."
"No fucking way. Exactly. The second you tell someone
they can't do something. . .the second you tell them. . .they'll
fucking do it. It's the nature of a person, Phil. The nature of the
individual is just. . .it's just fucking selfish. So you give them a
choice. They can take your money. . .they can help themselves. . .or
they can just walk the fuck away." He wiped his mouth of the
saliva he was spitting when he spoke.
"It's not that much money...."
"No. But it's going to be. Especially if we both
invested...." Slim eyes looked through the top of his peppered
head. "We could be above the president. . .fuck, above the nation.
And what's above a nation?"
"One nation under. . . ."
"Oh, fuck that...,"
"No, no, no, fuck that. Fuck Him, fuck freedom, fuck
democracy, fuck capitalism.'' The slender suit paused for less than
a second. "Those are concepts, Phil; those are ideas. We're above
all that now, my friend; we're men of ac/'/on. We're real. We're
fucking tangible. We don't sit around clouding our heads with
thoughts." The skinny suit pulled the bulge from his backside and
placed a crisp twenty between his index and middle fingers. "You
see what you want?" The bill waved at the fat one from across
the table, and he smiled crookedly. "Then why bother thinking?"
The bill snapped as it was snatched from between the skinny suit's
calluses. "You got to do things differently up here, Phillip."
The fat one lifted his smile, but as his blue eyes sunk down
to the bill, it faded. Closing time had passed, and the customers
had cleared. The steam had dissipated, and the pungent scent of
burnt coffee was muted in the almost stagnant air. The room was
silent and clear when the large, suited man said: "What's twenty?"
"What's twenty? Divided by what we have. . . ."
"Millions divided by twenty is a lot of... you could fucking
bathe in twenties."
"Right. So... what's twenty?" The fat fingers held up the bill.
"It's twenty,'* the skinny one folded his face. "It's more. "
"But...," his sinking skin rippled as he cleared his throat,
"...what's the point of more. Jack, if you've got everything you
The two stared for a few moments. The brown smile then
snickered something about naivete, and the twenty slipped into the
fat man's pocket.
The light sw itch, flicked by the owner, clicked in tempo
with the blinking bulbs above. Standing, the slender suit glared.
"He doesn't know who w^e fucking are," he grunted, but the larger
one just mumbled an incoherent response. The two suited men
spoke of a bar, squealed out a laugh, and w^ere gone.
The fly fell from the wall onto the now brown table below.
Sugar, sw^eat. coffee and spit had all mixed into a thick sludge that
slicked over the entire surface. Buzzing and shaking, the hairy-
legged insect danced in the filth for a long while before returning
to the warm air of the cooling kitchen.
^ â– ^ â– ^
What is You?
Phylis J. Iqhal
JDusy swarms of bodies rushed across dirty streets as steam
rose out of manholes. Cab drivers inched toward you in a hurry to
deUver their passenger as if on a time trial. Interning in New^ York
City should have been an experience where you learned and grew.
New York City should have helped you figure out who you were and
where you fit in the world or at least in the City. I wanted to know
what I w^as and this w^as the place to do it.
I didn't know what I was doing in a city like this. I had a
brief experience living in Brooklyn with my family of six in a two-
bedroom apartment, but I had grown up in a small suburb for most
of my life. A suburb where everyone knew one another and didn't
know there was a w orld outside of that tow n.
I wanted more; I didn't have the luxury of a family name that
would get me into some sort of elite club in my small Connecticut
town. My family name was left in Pakistan, where it actually did
mean something. But I wanted to make my own way and discover
on my own what it meant to be independent.
ril never forget the fight my parents had about me interning
at a well known indie record label in New York. They had left their
culture in Pakistan, but there were still some things that my father
didn't agree to, and women trying to be fiercely independent was one
of them. He didn't understand why I wanted to go into New^ York
alone to do an internship. Although he knew this was my major in
college â€” music industry â€” he didn't see any reason to rush it.
I had grown up in a pretty Americanized family, my father's
music was Billy Joel and Elton John, but we were still Pakistani.
There were strict rules about things Uke dating, and surprisingly,
we're bom-again Cliristian, not Muslim like most of South Asian
New York, at first, didn't seem like the place to go find myself
since I could barely find the right train. Was it the six train going up
or dow^n to Bleecker? When I did finally find the train, nameless,
often tired faces were alwm s in their proper place going nowhere.
It was hard to walk into the building of the Manhattan office
and it never got easier as the wrecks progressed. The doorman was the
first obstacle; it wasn't so much that he was rude, just that he didn't
know who I was. For weeks, I had to sign in like I was a visitor.
When he finally began to recosnize me. that was the first indication
that I existed in such a large city.
Come on, it was just the doorman, right? Well, it meant a lot
to me. As if this w^as the beginning â€” next thing you know, PDiddy
and I would be having drinks in a VIP night club. Ok, not quite. But
wa\'ing and walking past the doormant, taking the elevator, all the
wa}' to the twelfth floor (okay, not so high, but still cool, because it's
Manhattan) made me feel important.
It wasn't as glamorous as it should have been, but I got to
spend the day around adults who had grown up just enough to find
cool careers. Adults w^ho spent their days working at an indie label
and their drunken nights in dark clubs. My time hadn't come yet,
but this was the start to all the possibilities that lay ahead. Making
press kits (CD & Press), answering phones ''Matador/Beggars Group,
how can I help you?", and doing clippings (tedious work; copying
press, cutting, lining up on a blank page, gluing, and making countless
copies for the folders).
Then there were the interns: there was Ryan who didn't talk
much, got drunk at night, and showed up whenever he wanted. His
mom paid for his apartment in the Village and hQ promised to find a
job soon. He would be spending his life promoting bands and never
finishing school. Kelsey was my pal. The first day we met, I spoke
to her like we had known each other for years. And then there was
Mary, who's personal mantra of not w^orrying or caring what people
thought became my own.
"You shall no longer be called slave, but intern," a comic that
decorated the wall, along with a piece of cardboard reading, "Will
work for food, or $10 a day." This was our small world. Filled with
CDs, records, copiers, posters, and small workspaces for the interns.
There were always people going in and out, making copies, and barely
acknowledging us. The most important being Blake, who worked
in the receiving office in the back. He rarely smiled, but once in a
while Vd say something that made him at least smirk â€” I loved him.
Okay, it wasn't love, but it was great.
Whatever else caused me discomfort amongst the other
interns; it wasn't being the only person who wasn't white. I had grown
up in a very non-diverse place, and the color of my skin was never
an issue unless brought up to me. In high school, my older brother
was very popular, and even if people wanted to make fun of my skin
color, they never would, knowing they would become socially outcast.
I wasn't the popular one, I was the quiet wallflower, but knowing he
was there made everything easier.
Spending the day with people forced you to make friends.
Kelsey would always walk me to the entrancew^ay of the subway
and then went to her own train, six going down. My train, which I
had often confused, six train uptown to Grand Central, would appear
at exactly the right time so I would *t to have to wait. Kelsey and I
would laugh, talk, and made plans.
She was always asking me to come to her apartment, but with
two male roommates; that would clearly never happen. Nothing
made me more uncomfortable than knowing I had done something
to disappoint my parents, and at the same time, my own personal
beliefs kept me from simply lying to them. She would leave me at
my train and go off to school. When Vd descend the filthy grayish
steps, I knew I would see the same two black kids in puffy winter
jackets offering to sell me a one way subway ticket.
"Hey, just buy it from me. You go through first, then you pay!"
"No thanks," wouldn't stop him from asking next time. The
time it took to say no and pass through the metal bars to the train was
Once in a while Kelsey would have to take the same train as me.
"Hey, hey, you go through, then you pay!"
Kelsey would wait for me, swipe her monthly pass, walk
through, and enter the train.
"I always expect them to be wearing trench coats, and open
one side to sell tickets, and open the other to sell gold watches,"
Kelsey commented as we entered the train. We laughed, unscathed,
and not at all frightened. This was a ritual that every subway rider
had to encounter at one point or another, and we knew it.
"My roommates are both skaters. Josh is alright looking,
but they have some cute friends. Jane, you should come over some
"Definitely, ITl spend the night and we can hang out."
Never going to happen.
"We should go out too. Last time, I ran into the bass player
from Interpol and he gave me free drink tickets, because I told him
I worked for him at Matador."
"Cool, we definitely have to go."
Really cool, wish I could convince my parents, hut never going
This time, an olden dirtier man w aiting at the bottom of the
same steps had replaced the two boys. He was offering the same
tickets, as if I was stupid enough to buy them. He wore a ragged long
tan coat (I remembered Kelsey's gold watch comment and smiled),
and he smelled worse than that first sniff that you get when entering the
subway, the smell of gaseous pollution that attaches itself to you for
the rest of the day until you go home and shower. My heart drowned
into my stomach as he came closer, I was glad to not be alone.
"Do you want to buy a ticket?" the old man said.
"No, that's okay."
Kelsey w^aited for me as I bought my ticket from the ticket
He stared at me through drunken eyes that seemed to drown back
into his head. It seemed as though he wasn't going to let this go.
"Come on, just buy a ticket."
"No thanks, I already got one." _
I had almost passed him when he reached out his hand. He
didn't touch me, since I had left a few feet of space between us.
"I gots to ask you something."
Why I responded, I can't remember.
"We all black, we all white!" he began to yell, "But I got to
know, miss â€” what is you?"
Tlie people that were filtering in looked at him and then at me.
Even the woman in the glass enclosed office stared at him and then
at me. They gave sympathetic looks as they walked by.
I was fi*ightened, but I wanted to laugh. What kind of question
was that? Kelsev looked more afraid than anvthing. I could tell
she wanted to get awav. as did L but he continued to ask the same
"We all black, we all white â€” what is vou?"
I swiped my card once, twice, third time's a charm. We
waited for the train, but his voice echoed in the background, hopefully
thinkina I hadn't heard him.
I thought about the situation. Kelsev being the Ashlee
Simpson (think blonde phase), Hilary Duff hybrid clone from
Southern California wouldn't be questioned about what she w^as. But
I. with m\' lightlv browned skin, big brown eves, and dark hair could
have been anything from Hispanic to Indian. Clearly unconcerned
with who was around, like the majority of vagrants that occup}' the
streets of New York, and himself being black, he continued on his
quest to discover my ethnicity.
"What is you? Just tell me! I need to know, what is you?"
shouting and screaming.
The automated train \oice said. "Stand clear of the closing
doors." I could still hear and see the man, clearlv not altogether,
staggering in circles. He needed to know, just like I did: where, in a
world of black and white, I fit in? Tliinking I was just like ever)/'one else
just wouldn't do. People would question me, rather poorly at times, of
m\' race. I couldn't hide the color that I had been bom with.
"Dude, that guy was freaky! I was really scared of him. But
can you believe him? What the hell was that?" Kelsey, laughing.
"Wow, yeah, I was scared too, I'm glad you were here,
I could only think about the man ranting in the subway. The
irony was that, although he was probably just crazed or delusional,
he had seen into me. He had seen that deep down inside, I was
While in New York, I was uncertain and unsure of who I was and
where exactly I fit in. That was obvious. But on a larger scale, I
was always trying desperately to belong in the mainstream suburban
culture that I was raised in. The truth was that I was straddling a line
between two worlds. I didn't know enough about my own culture to
feel like that was what defined me as a person, but I was clearly not
entirely outside of the values of that culture.
I was simply left with an uneasy feeling of who I was.
Imprinted on my face was something I couldn't hide, no matter how
much I tried, to just be like everyone else. But how different was I
really from everyone around me?
"Yeah, I know. So, Josh would really like you."
Kelsey hadn't seemed to notice. I was still Jane to her. I was
still that girl she spoke to the first day of our internship, who seemed
like someone she had been friends with for years. She was trying to
make me, in her own way, feel like everything was alright. That I
was still that person. At the same time, Kelsey was trying to make
me feel more a part of the world that I was in, because that was where
I really belonged.
Maybe I could work something out to spend the night at
"Do you really think so?"
"I definitely think so. I could talk to him today when I get
home, better yet, why don't you come over? You can always catch
a later train home."
Could I defy my parents and all they expected from me? I
was twent> -one years old. and had spent my life trying to be good and
trying hard to not to do anything that would go against my parents or
my belief in God. The train slowed, and the announcer spoke, 'This
is Grand Central Station, transfer is available to the Shuttle to Time
Square and Metro North". Kelsey and I looked at one another, she
was smiling at me.
"Stand Clear of the Closing doors please!"
I was still standing inside the train, next to Kelsey. Her voice
formed words about Josh, her roommate. And I smiled at my day of
*Tf it doesn't work out with him, you know, we can ahvays
talk to Blake. In fact, let's call Matador and see if he wants to come
I smiled as the train sw^ayed back and forth to our
>k *: >k
A Grand Adventure
Sols sons, France, 1918
he thunderous peal and hghtning-quick flashes of the artihery
barrage are coming to an end. The rain has stopped. The early morning
sky is gray. Lieutenant Edwin Parker leans against the small section i
of trench he has been assigned to defend in this sector. He is tall and
slender, and his angular face makes him uniquely handsome under â–
his wide-brimmed helmet. He looks at the men crowded around him.
Some he knows, veterans of Belleau Wood. Many he doesn't. They're
squeezed together like sardines. Corliss, Harding, Ashbeny, Burton,
and Fontaine stand among the other men whose faces are ashen with
fear. But their patriotism and belief in honor and duty would never let
any of them speak against what is about to become of them.
Lieutenant Parker removes a photograph from his breast
pocket. His wife is standing on her parents' front porch in Newport.
He remembers the summer of T 6, before he left for the Army. Lydia
wears a white dress. She smiles broadly as she wraps her arms around
one of the stately columns in front of the house. Her brown hair is
neatly tucked under a straw summer hat. He remembers her touch,
her sweet fragrance, how she lightly snores, and the declivity of
her chest. He remembers walking along the Rhode Island beaches
barefoot, picnicking in the expansive back yard underneath the shade
of a maple tree, the intimacy they shared among the flowers, and the
forlorn look she gave him when he told her he had joined the amiy. He
remembers explaining how Uncle Sam wanted him, how^ his service
to the country would be a grand adventure. He remembers how Lydia
sat quietly with her hands in her lap and did not respond.
Lieutenant Parker remembers all of this and more as he strokes
her face on the photograph, touches his lips to the paper where he
longs to feel flesh, and says quietly, ''Goodbye, my love."
Word comes down the line, "Make Ready! Make Ready P'
Lieutenant Parker returns the photograph to his breast pocket and
brushes a tear from the corner of his eye. He clears his throat and
quickly glances at the men. "All right, troopers, " he yells. "Check
your gear! Lock and load! " He sets the butt of his rifle on his waist
and watches intently as a single round enters the chamber when he
disengages and then reengages the bolt. He leans against the side of
the trench, poised to lead his men into the fray.
The artillery barrage stops. The final shells that fall explode
into the smokescreen, the visible armor that shields sight, not bullets.
An eerie calm has come over all that surrounds Lieutenant Parker. Not