Where were we? ii
By Forhad Rahman
The phone rang harshly against my ear. I woke up with a start, the crumpled cotton sheets
sliding off the bed. The bed’s old metal joints creaked under my shifting weight. I shivered,
realizing that the furnace had been turned off for the night. Cursing under my breath, I grabbed
my phone, taking a glimpse at who had called before picking up.
“It’s three in the morning, Doug, what is it?”
Doug chuckled. “I just got a call a few minutes ago, and you’re the only one scheduled
“But it’s a week day!” I groaned.
“You’re still on duty, bro,” he said, stifling a yawn. “Just go there and get it done. The
client is at 72nd and Central Park West, I think you might actually know her. Anyway, it shouldn’t
take so long. Call me when you finish.”
“All right, I’ll call you later.” I dropped the phone onto the mattress and stumbled into the
bathroom. My hand felt around for the light switch on the cold, ceramic tiles. A dull orange glow
lit the room. I turned on the water and washed the wear off my face. The person staring back at
me was shocking. My hair was tossed in all sorts of directions, and the bags under my eyes
weighed heavy, threatening to snap down at any moment. I could see a small breakout of pimples
on the stained glass.
There wasn’t enough money in the world for this shit.
I quickly took a shower and fixed my hair. Tired and clean, I threw on the least wrinkled
button down shirt and suit I had. Running down the stairs, I caught a glimpse of a rat scurrying
through the cracks of the stairwells. I prayed that the little bastard didn’t chew into my food
pantry; although, he’d probably be disappointed by the lack of food.
A few people were scattered around the last car of the A train. Everybody had their
headphones in, their heads buried in the hood of their coats. I leaned back against the cold metal
train wall. The rumble of the tracks, always the loudest on the A and C, sounded like music to
my ears. The bumps and grinds of the wheels on the old tracks moved my body side to side. The
poorly maintained light over my head flickered on and off. My eyelids were heavy, and I jerked
rudely awake every minute.
I got out of the train in less of a hurry than when I got on. I knew where the client lived;
she had called just a few days earlier. I made my way to her apartment building, and she buzzed
me in. I felt as if lead weights were stapled onto my legs as I slowly marched up the two flights
of stairs to the open door.
I saw that the lingerie was already on.
For Chrissake, I thought to myself.
Instead, “you seem ready,” is what I said.
She smiled as the cigarette dangled from her bright red lips. She carried a glass of red
wine and downed it as I entered. I could see her mangled hair, sticking to her forehead sweat.
Her makeup, sloppily smeared, covered her entire face.
“I wouldn’t have called you this late if I wasn’t ready,” she said, seductively. I could see
the wrinkles on her arms, where the make up didn’t touch her.
“Where is your husband?” I asked, partly because I was curious, but partly because I
wanted to prolong this exchange.
“He’s in England right now,” she answered curtly.
“Business meeting, am I to assume?”
She nodded, setting the empty glass of wine on the table beside her. She teetered up to
me and wrapped her arms around my neck. I could smell her powerful perfume, which was
generously applied. Her mouth crept closer to my ear. I could smell the alcohol when her lips
“Take me to bed.”
My eyes narrowed, and I gave her my best attempt at a sexy smile. With the strength of
tired bones, I picked her up and carried her to her bed.
“So, why is a lady like yourself awake so late?” I asked, passively, as I set her down.
She smiled through old teeth, white from great dental work, and winked. “I was feeling a
little lonely. Is that a problem?”
“Not really,” I shrugged. “But I hope I’m not just for when you’re bored.”
I was flirting. It was a job requirement, and it felt as if a centipede had crawled up my ass
“Well,” she started, “I only call you when my husband isn’t here.”
“We can call and tell him what we’re about to do, that should set him off.”
She smiled again, but her lips were thin. She rested her elbows on her bed and looked
steadily in my eye. I couldn’t help but notice her faded beauty, from the expensive lingerie to the
curly blonde hair, obviously dyed and fixed as many times as humanly possible. Her sheets were
a brilliant pink satin, and her porcelain lamp shimmered in the corner on top of a new marble
tabletop, illuminating the room in a subtle red hue. I caught a glimpse of a picture of the couple
sitting on a deteriorated seat at the coliseum.
“I don’t think I’m paying you for small talk.”
I straightened my back and crept forward.
“Of course,” I said, my eyes dead but my smile coy. I threw off my shirt, and I could see
her eyes dance around my body. “Where were we?”