Continental (Part 2)

Here’s the next installment of the piece I posted two weeks ago. I’m still not quite sure where I want to go with it so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. As always, any and all feedback is welcome.


Maria chose the table facing the wall and placed her Prada bag on the seat next to her. She had taken great care to plan her outfit that day; the beige in her bag matched her jacket and ballet flats perfectly and her pink, flowing skirt picked up the thin stitching in the bag’s lining. Even her strawberry-blonde hair seemed to have gotten the message, pulling the other colors together as it sat it long waves below her shoulders. It was getting warm outside but she kept her jacket on, not wanting to draw too much attention to herself by baring her shoulders. Her cell phone lay on the table, its dark screen staring back at her.

She leaned against the back of her chair. She pictured her mother scolding her for slouching. She grimaced at the thought but sat up straighter anyway. Maria had been walking more lately and she was starting to feel a difference in her legs, though she still felt tired much of the time. She imagined how her doctors would have reacted if they had seen her stepping foot in a restaurant where “donuts” was part of the name. Maria shivered slightly at the thought, just as she did every time the medical center came to mind.

She glanced up as a man sat at the table to her right. He was handsome, if somewhat unremarkable. He was clean-shaven and a pair of sunglasses rested on his short, dark hair. He was thin, though she noticed the slightest hint of a paunch under his polo shirt. His expression was blank but she imagined that he had a pleasant smile. She watched as he put down his iced coffee and a brown paper bag and sat down. Maria pursed her lips with envy as he removed a donut from the bag, took a bite and began typing on a tablet. She considered the banana sitting in front of her. Men, she thought, as she began to peel the yellow fruit, careful not to smudge her newly manicured nails. They eat whatever they want and they never gain a pound. Meanwhile, I just look at a piece of chocolate and I grow two pant sizes.

She lifted the banana and stopped just before taking a bite. She recognized the feeling that was coming over her. The hesitation that came any time she tried to eat had become all too familiar. Maria felt her mind flood with thoughts of calories counts, fat content and hard metal scales. She pictured the white coats, the thin gowns and the disappointed faces of the nursing staff. She felt her heart rate quicken and her breath catch in her throat. She suddenly became acutely aware of the temperature in the room.

Maria closed her eyes and forced herself to inhale deeply through her nose. No, she thought. We’re not doing this anymore. We’ve moved past this.

She held the breath for a moment before exhaling. Her heart rate slowed and began returning to normal. She focused on the soft breeze from the vent above her and waited for her body to cool off. She ate the banana one slow, painstaking mouthful at a time until she had finished it. She did her best to dismiss the nausea that had begun to form in the pit of her stomach and threw the peel into the nearby trash can.

The phone vibrated on the table. Maria glanced down at the still-dark screen. Just an email, she thought. It’s probably junk anyway. A small glimmer of hope flickered in her chest as she entered her passcode and opened the email app. The bold letters of the new email message mentioned Broadway’s “hottest new show.” She deleted the email and turned off the display again.

He still had not called.

Continental (Part 1)

This piece is really different from what I usually write. It’s short and I’m not sure if it will lead to anything (there also isn’t a “Part 2” at the moment) but I would love to hear what you think about it. Where would you like to see this go next? What questions do you have? Any and all feedback is welcome. Feel free to leave a comment here or on the blog’s Facebook page.


Jack placed his coffee on the counter that faced the window. He took his newspaper out of the black plastic bag and put it next to the coffee. The bag slumped to the side, now holding only the box of cigarettes Jack bought at the bodega earlier that day. Jack leaned his cane against the metal window frame, pulled out the brown metal chair and sat down carefully, gripping the counter for support. He leaned back gingerly, wincing at the nagging pain in his lower back, and gazed out the window at the cars slowing to a stop in advance of the red light at the nearby intersection.

They’re always in such a rush on this street, he thought. It’s such a short block and the light at the boulevard is always red; how far do they really think they’re going to get?

His eyes refocused on his reflection in the window. The pockmarks in his cheeks seemed to be spreading and the bags under his eyes looked… stiffer, somehow. He reached up to smooth out the white wisps of hair that had been blown out of place by the gale-force winds outside. His eyes settled on the paper clip he had threaded through the broken hinge of his glasses. He gritted his teeth momentarily as he felt the spasm in his back flare up and recede again.

Jack took a sip of his coffee, feeling the dark liquid spread warmth through his body. His stiff muscles relaxed slightly with the sudden change in temperature. He glanced out the window again as a woman ran by on the sidewalk, clutching her red purse to her chest as she struggled against the wind to catch the bus. Again with the running, he thought as he took another sip.

He unfolded the newspaper. The front page showed a courtyard in front of a brick apartment building with caution tape around it. There was an inset photograph of a young man with dark skin. At the bottom of the page, large white block letters spelled out “TRAGEDY.” He thumbed through the first few pages and skimmed over the first few stories. A teenager had been shot by another teenager, apparently from a rival gang. A mother had been arrested for buying heroin while her seven-year-old son waited in the car. A politician was being accused of fraud. A man had been killed during a home invasion.

Jack grunted with disapproval, folded the paper back up and put it back in the plastic bag with the cigarettes. I don’t know why I bother, he thought. He shifted in his chair and leaned back again.

A UPS truck pulled up and the driver parked, ignoring the fire hydrant his truck was now blocking. A tall, blonde woman passed by wearing a purple workout outfit, holding a large Starbucks cup and chattering away on her Bluetooth headset, oblivious to the fact that the UPS employee had almost dropped his deliveries as he stopped short to avoid walking into her. The UPS man glared after the woman and muttered something Jack could not make out. Don’t even bother, buddy, Jack thought. She didn’t even see you; she isn’t worth your energy.

Jack finished his coffee, took hold of the countertop and pulled himself up to stand. He tried unsuccessfully to suppress a groan as his back voiced loud protests to the movement. Jack put the bag with the newspaper and cigarettes around his wrist, picked up the wooden cane and made his way over to the garbage can to throw out his cup. He gave a cursory wave to the cashier and made his way back outside.