I showered, and dressed soundlessly. I was en route to the diner, when I caught Abby walking in her scrubs to the subway. I darted into a doorway, and waited until she passed. She was looking down at her phone smiling. I watched as she disappeared down the street. I slipped back out of the shadows, and continued to the diner. I caught a glimpse of the front of the Metro. “Unusually cold weather already in Boston on this Monday morning.” It was true, but I welcomed it with open arms. I took a seat, situated towards the back. A safe spot to talk with Emily, and not have to deal with loud, boisterous construction workers, or eavesdropping old ladies, who occupied their time with gossip. I kept a “low” profile for a reason.
“Bloody hell have you slept?” Emily took her coat off, placing it on the seat, and set her backpack on top of it. She sat down, and looked across the table at me.
I looked back at her, and shook my head,
“No it was a long night. I got a lot of work done.”
She nodded, and smiled at the waitress, as she set down her coffee.
“Arc you’re going to make yourself sick. Please after this, go get some sleep.”
I nodded, “Not like I have anything else to do.”
She picked up her cup, and taking a mindful sip, so she wouldn’t burn herself.
“Ornella really screwed with you huh?”
I rolled my eyes,
“I’ve only been with two people in my life. Not like I sleep around.”
Emily set her cup down, and looked at me,
“You’re fearing she’s slept with the universe, and then with you.”
I nodded, “I always used a condom. She was so against it. I didn’t want to chance anything. No children until we were married.”
Emily raised an eyebrow,
“I can’ t believe you actual considered procreating with that horrid woman.”
I shrugged, “I thought she was the one.”
Emily looked at me, “What about Abby?”
I sighed, and let my head fall back.
“Arc you can’t avoid that question, neither of you can.”
I looked at her, “You work with her. She’s your friend. Don’t you two talk?”
She looked at me, “What is going on? What are you not telling me?”
I sighed, “Last night I brought her pizza. Well I waited, she was walking down the street with a guy. Arms locked with one another. She was all dressed up. Makeup and everything.”
Emily reached across the table, and took my hand,
“Arc it could have been innocent.”
I looked at her, “If you saw it, you would know that it wasn’t.”
Emily swallowed, and looked at me.
“She told me how she felt. All these years, I’ve seen her up’s, and down’s. I never once condemned her for anything. I was with Ornella.”
Emily spoke softly, cutting me off, “Arcanum, she told you how she felt. She needed to know if it was reciprocated. She’s liked Ethan for a while. They’re great friends.”
I looked at her, “She never really talked about him like that.”
The waitress brought our food over, and set it down. I just finished my coffee, and took another refill as Emily started to eat.
She finished her meal, and I had mine wrapped up to go. The cashier brought it back over, neatly packaged in a plastic bag. Thank You was painted on the outside of the bag repeatedly.
“Take this please. I have no interest in it. You’ll have lunch, and won’t have to buy something.” I pushed the bag towards her.
She looked at me, “Arcanum please you need to eat.”
I smiled, “I will I promise you. I just don’t have an appetite for this.”
Emily reached over, and felt my forehead, “Arcanum seriously, you’re pale. No fever.”
I smiled, “I have granola, and yogurt at home waiting for me.”
She sighed, “Fine, but sleep is imperative. I’m coming by tonight to check on you.”
I looked at her, “What about Kyle?”
She smiled, “If you don’t mind him tagging along. We could bring dinner?”
I looked at her, “Does it get weird for you, having to keep my secret.”
She smirked, “Arcanum Corvus no. Arcanum Corvus is amazing writer. Arcanum Presley is my amazing older brother, and a great friend.”
I smiled, “And Emily Presley is an amazing nurse, to special little people.”
She smiled, and stood up slipping her coat on. She kissed my cheek,
“See you tonight. Can I let myself in?”
I nodded, “Yep. If I”m asleep make yourself at home. I can show you what I received last night.”
She smiled, “Sounds good Mr.Presley.” I laughed, and watched as she left.
I pulled out my phone, and scrolled through my Twitter timeline. Nothing really called my attention.
@itschattyabby breakfast with a great guy. Sunshine all day babe.
I smiled, and then felt part of me break. She was having breakfast with someone who wasn’t me. I quickly went to Instagram, and couldn’t figure out how to figure out how to use it. I cursed, because I would know if she might be with Cassiel. He always took photos of food, and drinks. That’s how Ornella had found us. I didn’t feel like texting him. I just said screw it, and went back through my feed.
@msblack I need a Venti of Verona, a shot of espresso, and little cream to get me started. A long day ahead of me.
I rolled my eyes, and the sarcastic comment in my mind, let it self be heard. “Poor baby.” I left money on the table, and then put my coat on. I headed through the busy Monday morning street’s of the city. I didn’t have extremely far to walk. Taking the subway would be faster, but I needed the fresh air. I listened to my music, and just took in the hustle and bustle that passed me by. When I arrived at Park Street, Spare Change Guy was laying on the ground, curled up under a blanket. I gently nudged him. His gravely voice snapped,
“Leave me the fuck alone. I’m not bothering anyone.”
I squatted beside him.
“Get up mate.”
He looked at me, “Why should I?”
I sighed, “Please just do as I’ve asked.”
He did as he was asked.
I looked at him, “Let’s go. Bring what you have with you.”
So we started walking together.
“I don’t know what you want. I can’t offer you anything.”
I smiled, and placed a hand on his shoulder, “Please Sir, relax, and trust me.”
He smiled at me, as we walked down Winter Street, into Downtown Crossing. I first stopped at TJ Maxx.
“Bloody hell. They don’t open for twenty minutes.”
The gentlemen who I referred to as Spare Change Man stayed quiet.
“Sir what is your name?” I asked him smiling.
“Walter Jones. What's yours?” he croaked.
I smiled, “Arcanum.”
"Arcanum?" He asked, not sure if he believed it.
I nodded, “Yes. Well it’s my middle name my real name is Allan. My mother chose to call myself, and my siblings by our middle names.”
Walter looked at me, “That’s odd.”
I smiled, “Not all is odd, when there’s reason behind such measures.”
He smiled, “True. However all of her children went by middle names.”
I swallowed, “It was my father’s obsession with, whom they called a mad man.”
Walters soft eyes scanned my face, “A mad man. There are plenty of those in this world. Even through out history.”
I nodded, “Poe is whom I’m referring to.”
Walter looked at me, then spoke, “Those who dream by day are cognizant of many things that escape those who dream only at night.”
I nodded, “My father said before he died, “Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” He was an English teacher, when he was sober.”
Walter looked at me, “It appears as though your father sought out forgiveness, for which I will not press farther.”
I closed my eyes, desperately trying to stop all the quotes I grew up with; from falling out of my head.
We went to CVS. I picked up a package of disposable razors, shaving cream, aftershave, soap, shampoo, toothbrush, toothpaste, a comb and then deodorant. I also grabbed a nail clipper, and a toiletries bag. I looked around the store, and glanced over aisles.
“Arcanum, is there a reason we’re here.”
I nodded, “Relax, and let’s enjoy one another’s company.”
Walter smiled, “I just ask, because I’ve never had anyone speak to me for more then a second.”
I smiled at him, “I’m rather quiet today, lack of sleep. I do apologize.”
He shrugged, “Sleep deprivation will do that to us.”
I’d finished picking up everything I thought I might need, and waited while I had to use a self checkout register.
“This world has become so anti-social. Human interaction is becoming extinct. It’s quite sad.” Walter nodded, “I couldn’t agree more.”
We left the store, bag in hand and went back to TJ Maxx.
Once we arrived, I opened the door, and held it for him.
“I can’t go in there.” Walter said, pushing his glasses back up on his nose.
“And why not?” I asked.
“They’ll kick me out.” He shifted, visibly uncomfortable.
I looked at him raising an eyebrow, “Watch them. You’re accompanying me on this shopping trip.”
I opened the door for him, and he stepped in cautiously. I smiled, and ushered him to the escalator. He stepped on hesitantly. Once we were at the top, a security guard stood in a grey uniform. The guard was no more then the age of twenty one. When it looked as if he might say something, I nodded in his direction,
“Good day sir.”
He nodded, “Good morning.”
Walter walked with me quietly. “So you’re English. When did you come here?”
I looked at him, “I was roughly eight. I hated it so much, Our father moved us here. He was an American. Held dual citizenship. My mum couldn’t stand living in the states. She shipped, my brother, sister, and myself back to England. She went back to working, and we were happy. My father returned and lived with us. We came back to the states when I was fifteen, a job offer for my father. We were all bounced back, and fourth like a tennis match. My mom decided to stay here, when she found out I was attending university here.”
He nodded, “That’s a lot of moving.”
I agreed, “Yes it was tiresome. All for one selfish persons wants. His disgustingly selfish wants, and his so called, needs.”
I grabbed a few shirts, and several pairs of pants. I moved over to the coats, and picked one up, and eyed Walter without him noticing. Finally onto the knickers, and socks. A pair of sneakers, and a pair of nicer shoes.
I smiled, “Let’s head to the checkout.”
I set everything to be rung up, and pulled out my wallet.
“There’s more to me then meet’s the eye.”
I smiled, “That’s the absolute truth for almost anyone who is wrongly judged.”
The cashier smiled, “Your total is two hundred, and thirty two dollars, and eleven cents.”
I slid my credit card, then signed. She handed over several bags.
“Have a good day love.”
She smiled, “You too sir.”
Walter looked at me, as we left, “Well it was nice chatting with you.”
I smiled, “Come walk with me please. I could use the company. I just need to stop off for hair cut.” Walter followed along.
I stepped into a salon, and smiled.
“Hello there. Mr.Walter Jones, and myself could use a nice cut.”
Walter looked at me, “Mr. Arcanum,”
I held my hand up. “Arc please for starters. Second of all, you’re getting a shampoo, and a cut, along with a shave.” He looked at me, tears filled his eyes.
“Right this way gentlemen.” An older woman directed us towards the back. She smiled as she walked to a line of chairs that were placed in front sinks. “Sir would you like a shave?”
I laughed, “Please no. It’s taken all of my puberty to grow this. I’m thirty four.”
The woman laughed, and Walter laughed. For the first time I heard the most beautiful thing come out of this man.
“Walter may I ask what happened to your voice.”
Walter leaned back in the chair, as I did and started to speak.
“I grew up in a generation where smoking was great for you. There was no health risk. Fifteen years ago, I was diagnosed with throat cancer. They removed part of my vocal box, and the tumor. The cancer had spread to my nasal cavity. Between surgeries, and chemotherapy I couldn’t keep up with the treatments. I lost my home, my belongings. My wife had died the year prior, Cervical Cancer. I had two children I was putting through college. They were graduating. Twins. I lost my job, everything. Our retirement went into my medical bills. Insurance wouldn’t cover everything. I wound up homeless. I never let the twins help me. They wanted to so desperately. I moved from Chicago, and made my way out here.” I continued listening, as they shaved him. “I took a job working as a Toll Collector. Well when the they started with the digital payment methods, jobs were cut.” I sighed, “You lost your job?” He nodded, “The cancer returned. They took the rest of my vocal box. Now I have this. I lost everything I’d earned out here.”
They moved us to the chairs, where they’d cut our hair. They knew what I wanted. Walter told them to decide, he didn’t have a preference. So they started to work.
“People assume I’m an alcoholic. I’ve never even tasted the stuff. Because of my voice, it deters people from speaking with me. They just assume, I’m a bum. Truthfully I’m a man of God. I’m just down on my luck. Right now, God has let me live this way, there must be a reason.”
I started thinking, and I knew this couldn’t be a made up story.
“Walter why don’t you go to shelters?”
He replied, “Over populated. You have to wait in line. There are strict rules. It’s not like a hotel that you just say, hey I need a room.”
I couldn’t imagine that. I was done before Walter was. He continued with his story then looked at me,
“What happened to you Arc? I can tell there’s a story to be told.”
I smiled, “It’s being told. I just don’t care to think about it.”
He nodded, “I understand. Sorry if I pushed too much.”
I shrugged, “As I told you, my father had an obsession with a mad man. My brother is named Edgar, I’m Allan, and our sister is Poe.”
Both Walter, and the hairdresser stopped, their jaws dropping. I didn’t have anything to say after that piece of truth came out. We finished up at the salon, and I picked up the bags after paying and we left.
Walter smiled, “Thank you for everything you’ve done. I really appreciate it.” I
looked at him. “Where are you staying tonight?”
Walter shrugged. “Come home with me, and take a shower. I have several guest rooms. You can spend the night if you’d like.”
Walter faltered, “I can’t do that.”
I smiled, “Well then let me put you up somewhere. A roof over your head. A place where you’re safe, and you can shower, clean up.”
Walter stared at me, “You don’t have to do this. Matter of fact, I won’t let you.”
I shrugged, “Well none of these will fit me. I bought them, assuming your size. So are all the toiletries with the bag, and shoes.”
Walter started to weep, “Arcanum are you an angel?”
I smiled, “No I’m just helping out fellow man.”
Walter smiled, “I would feel awkward staying at your home.”
I shrugged, “Ok I will put you up for a week. The edge of Boston, or Cambridge work. You’ll have a MBTA pass for bus, and subway. Clothing. Food, I’m sorry I never asked?”
Walter smiled, “I have an EBT card, well food stamps. I budget very tightly. I buy pre-made sandwiches when I can’t get to a grocery store.”
I smiled, “Ok, well come with me. Shower at my house. Then we’ll find a hotel for you. We’ll continue to talk.” Walter was in absolute shock. I smiled as my new friend, and I made our way back to my home.