I thought I had locked it, but it was obvious that they had broken in, as the passenger door was left open, and spit on. That actual window had been busted out a long time ago, though I had figured its absence would have acted as a deterrent, like how one wouldn’t mug someone on crutches. These steadfast, phlegmy goons, though, hadn’t been dissuaded by my lacking window, or the few spare crutches in my backseat.
I couldn’t report it. I hadn’t insured this dwelling/vehicle with home or auto coverage. They had taken the four dollars worth of Canadian change I’d saved as a conversation piece and a reminder for exacting coin-slot-debilitating revenge against a particular laundromat. As I hobbled and surveyed the damage on my summer crutches, my biggest question was if it was still okay to use the loose toothbrush in the cupholder.
I thought I was just being paranoid from the spit; the brush itself looked dry, and tasted dry. Maybe I was being selfish trying to parlay this entering-without-breaking into an excuse for a new toothbrush.
It would be tough to say goodbye to this one, old “Tabitha Winters D.D.S.” I realized there was no rational logic in emotional attachment to an inanimate object, but there I was, debating discarding the talisman that had greeted me almost every morning for the last three years.
Supervising Tabby at every hour—purely from a bedsore standpoint—would be, of course, unrealistic. These would be upholstery sores, technically, but I don’t think that would alter the medicine much. I couldn’t and wouldn’t apologize to T for living my life when the universe decided to hand me an opportunity. Yesterday had been a reprieve from my usual regiment and I had treated myself. Around noon these heavy clouds had rolled in and doused the entire city. My favorite downspout had been unoccupied and I’d let gallons of fresh rainwater cascade off of me. I must’ve been there at least an hour. I only left once the storm had moved eastward and, for the first time in this sticky summer, I felt clean from my toes to my Crutcher’s Armpits. The sun reappeared on my walk home and I felt warm, dry, and I emanated cleansed Earth by the time I returned.
Wasting this hygienic apex would have been a shame, so I ventured to the upstanding, non-sinister laundromat and dropped in a load. This establishment treats people and their coins with dignity, even if they are spending Laundry Day only wearing a secondhand, European-style bathing suit.
Tonight they had all-you-can-eat tacos at the dive bar. The place was still and dim when I crutched inside, a few minutes early for tacos. The space felt like a basement even though it was above grade. I asked if the most cost-effective drink had changed since I’d been here last. The bartender shook his head and brought me a four-dollar pitcher. I nodded, gracious, and hobbled over to make tacos—they don’t limit you to two per trip when you’re on crutches.
I ate my five, first-plate tacos slowly. I’d been out of practice and didn’t want to cramp. The buzz of beef and beer swelled as the sun may have set and the bar began to fill up. Three women claimed the stools to one side of me and after one cocktail they approached the tacos with reticent excitement. They seemed to be the standard white-collar patrons in a blue-collar bar and eavesdropping on their conversation and dietary rationalizations proved far more interesting than any televised baseball game.
I hit the bathroom and then staggered for another plate. Four tacos this time, as the free buffet was open for another hour and four tacos would give me just enough time to get a final, buzzer-beating plate. The woman nearest me was engrossed with her phone when I returned; her two friends were worked up in a mutual rant, chirping back and forth about some creep from their office.
“Let me help you,” the woman next to me said, taking my plate and setting it on the bar. I thanked her, sliding up onto the stool and setting my one crutch aside. I didn’t think anything of it and she returned to her phone and I ordered another four-dollar pitcher.
Her friends, still in the throes of junior-partner politics, she instead turned to me and said she liked the way I ate tacos. Her words had been unexpected and I couldn’t completely stifle a laugh and I spit out some post-consumer queso in the process. But, then, she wasn’t disgusted at all. “You smell so fresh,” she added, possibly a little surprised given my taco prowess and cheesy mouth and nose. “Like nature, but without all the gross parts. What cologne is that?”
I leaned back on the stool. “A magician never reveals his trick.”
Her energy deflated. “You’re a magician?”
“No,” I shot back to assure her. “I hate magicians.”
“Oh. Thank God,” she beamed, her eyes wide as her hand touched my arm, “I hate magicians, too!”
Apparently she, also, had a laundry-based vendetta, though against a dry cleaning place. “I can’t say too much,” I teased, “but I have a plan involving systematic sabotage and international currency.” I took a sip from my beer. “That’ll teach them to kick me out for only wearing a bathing suit.” She laughed hard at what she assumed was whimsical farce and not curt self-disclosure.
Part of her seemed impressed and not disgusted that I had eaten eight tacos. I didn’t press my luck and correct her that it was actually thirteen. She had eaten part of one, given up, and ordered a wilted salad, which she also gave up on in favor of vodka and soda. The vodka soda with two ice cubes played off her black blazer, tight ponytail, and subtle amount of makeup in ways free tacos never could.
The baseball game was going into extra innings and the taco crowd had dispersed. Her two friends said they were leaving, but she shot me a soft smile and told them she was staying for one more. They asked her again and she maintained her decision. The two friends exchanged glances and said their goodbyes.
“We don’t have to stay for one,” she said, “if you’d rather get out of here.” I couldn’t tell if she found me attractive in a rugged-type-from-a-jeans-commercial way, or if she’d been looking for a kindred spirit sharing her views on magicians and laundry justice, or if she was merely still slumming and not wanting this foray into blue-collar and no-collar society to end quite yet. I didn’t have time to think about it and I didn’t care. I didn’t even care about sex; I was happy I was going to get to sleep in a real bed.
“No, I didn’t drive,” and I didn’t elaborate when she asked. We took a twenty-minute Lyft back to her high-rise in stiff silence. She didn’t seem like the type to rob a guy on a crutch, plus she had seen me square up at the bar and the Lyft alone cost her more than my wallet’s remaining six whole, American, dollars.
In the morning she woke me up from the massive cloud-raft of her bed. She was dressed and was leaving for the office. We didn’t exchange numbers, though my burner can’t actually save any numbers. I gathered my clothes off the floor and left the apartment made of glass, polished metal, and marble that overlooked the harbor.
I took the train back to my neighborhood. After a night of tacos and tongue kissing, I needed to brush my teeth. “Broken into” was certainly a stretch, but I still deliberated on “Tabitha Winters D.D.S.”
So what, I thought. So what if Tabby had been in some ruffian’s mouth? Why should I hold her to a standard that I myself am not upholding?
I popped open the glove box and found my toothpaste.