I can’t stop from overhearing the couple in the booth next to me. I just want some fettuccine Alfredo, and it’s murderous here—like, can’t reheat it, there’s so much butter, it’s amazing. If you put it into the microwave the next day it just turns to pretty swirling yellow grease, and the cheese clumps up. It’s never worth it, but nobody could eat the whole thing, plus bread. I can’t, anyway. And this is after years of fettuccine being basically the only thing on the menu somebody that avoids pig and cow and chicken can get a hold of. Al dente noodles and a creamy sauce, what else do you want.
Anyway, this woman with tired eyes and brown bangs is telling her friend about how she got a new phone number after her ex got crazy jealous and threatened to kill her German shepherd, which I agree is super aggro behavior, I’m not sure what self-help manual she’s reading but “How to Kill Her Dog to Get Yr Girlfriend Back” is probably not a real reputable title even at the worst strip mall Barnes & Noble. So she gets a new phone number, and apparently it belonged to somebody who owes everybody in the world money, plus has a friend with a deer camp or something in East Arkansas. So there’s a dozen Citibanks and Sallie Maes and Imperial Credit Companies calling every hour, plus some goon texting her night-vision pictures of deer with glowing green eyes and “BOOM BOOM” as the caption.
The server brings me by another Diet Coke in a tiny green bottle. I have no idea how much they cost and don’t really care. She starts to set down a little water glass stuffed with blurry cubes, her hand shaking a bit, and I wave it off. The pleasure of a carbonated beverage in a real bottle with a thick lip on it is not to be missed, and certainly not to be avoided altogether, and then blunted by pouring that fizzy fake sugar drink over Jackson ice. A Caprice thumps by outside playing a Big K.R.I.T. song, the one with Ludacris doing the verse at the beginning, that was on like everybody’s mixtapes a couple summers back.
“So I get tired of fighting with all these folks and telling them I’m not the person who had the number before,” she goes on. “I try that for like a month, but it’s a nightmare. I’d end up in all this conversations with CSRs and they are just plain crazy, they always wanted to know my Social and when I wouldn’t give it to them they’d say that proved it was really me—I mean, that I was really the person who used to have the number.” She took a long pull off her sweet tea. “Kafka.”
She tilts the screen towards her friend. It’s a contact with a dozen dollar signs as the name. “So I just started threading all them numbers into this one thing, like alternate numbers for my mom or something, and then when I see a dollar sign come up I know to go on and mute it.” Her friend pushes around some mystery fish on her plate. “Nobody worth anything is calling me with any money anyway,” says brown bangs. I drain the rest of the bottle; the thing must only hold like five swigs.
“Deer camp, her I texted with for a while. I figure there’s a deer camp, might be fun to go out there one weekend, a few cases of Miller Lite in a refrigerator. But she couldn’t spell at all and Lord knows I can’t abide misspelling.” My fettuccine finally wanders back from the kitchen, hot white curls on porcelain.