by Denise Falcone
After a month of crashing on the floor of a friend's living room, a nightmare of velvet and rococo swirls, Randall found an apartment with a roommate never there. Chummily joining in to form a lineup of good karma was a coveted view of river out the small casement kitchen window - stick your head way out and look to your extreme left - a decent gym around the corner, and the most important thing of all, a job.
“Do you have any restaurant experience?” asked the boy with the eyebrows whose friends had apparently deserted him.
“Yes,” Randall replied, “back in North Carolina.”
“I'm from South Carolina,” said the boy who could have been a model. It was serendipity.
A queue of hungry patrons dressed for the tropics spilled out onto the sidewalk. Some teens laughing too loud at dumb jokes blocked the way, while the girls looked forward to getting a glimpse of all the adorable waiters.
Everyone complained about the wait. Jim, the manager, would report wearily that yes, it would be two hours before they could be seated, and yes, right two times, even though they only wanted mochaccinos.
“Come with me, honey,” he said to Randall, pulling him by his clean white shirt.
Randall was terrified he was going to be fired.
“Listen darling,” said Jim amidst the furious noise of the kitchen, “we are dangerously low on vanilla. Don't ask,” he said, pressing a handsome upright finger onto Randall's tender lips.
“Do you know where The Plaza is?”
“The Plaza Hotel,” Randall said.
“Hurry up. Take a cab and see Henry.” Jim literally pushed Randall out the door.
A blanket of smog hovered over everything. Randall gazed out the window of the taxi as it growled through the traffic, to the pedestrians keeping stoic as if the slightest movement of any part of their bodies whatsoever, including eyes and tongue, would stoke the heat even more.
Finally, and if only his friends back home could see, he stepped out onto the red-carpet.
“Randall?” called Henry, trotting down the stairs.
“Are you the ice cream man?”
“We use the same company.”
Randall wondered if there was more between Henry and Jim than the same manufacturer of vanilla. Perhaps those two queens got together for the old onesie-twosie once in...
“This way,” Henry said, as he held the door.
The posh gilded spaces looked like the inside of a palace. Tones from a harp and the tinkling of good china from afternoon tea caused Randall's heart to swell in thinking he was going to be a part of all this now.
Henry beckoned him into a service elevator, where in the drab grey box they sunk into the bowels of Paradise until they landed with a thud.
“Exactly how much am I supposed to take?” Randall asked with a wan expression as he surveyed the stacks of tubs lining the freezer's walls.
“Three, said Henry, shaking Randall's cold deflated hand.
A man named Owen carted the ice cream out the side entrance to the curb, where he abandoned Randall to an eternity of incessant waving until the wonderful yellow of an air-conditioned mini-van bulleted up to the curb.
The driver, fresh as a daisy in a crisp plaid short-sleeved shirt, shook his head emphatically when Randall asked for help.
“No! No way! No!” he hollered angrily in an unknown foreign accent.
Randall looked down at the ice cream and thought he was going to faint.
“Hey, brother! What you got there?”
An appallingly filthy homeless man was standing before him.
“Ice cream,” Randall muttered.
“Ice cream? What kinda ice cream?”
“Look, I'm trying to catch a cab.”
“With ice cream? No cab is gonna take you with ice cream. Besides, it's all meltin, man.”
A thin milky river was starting to cut a path.
Curious passers-by quickened their pace as Randall stared back at them with the hatred of fanatic. His shirt was drenched with perspiration and he had to pee.
Suddenly the homeless man reappeared with a smashed up rusty supermarket cart. Randall could only watch as the man placed the ice cream in it.
“Come on, man! I ain't got all day!”
The deafening drone and clangor of metal hitting the sidewalk warned everyone out of the way.
“Move aside stupid people! Can't you see we got something here?!”
Poor Randall struggled to hold back an explosion of sobs as he reluctantly followed.