I’d just sat down for coffee and a bagel when she walked in. A woman in her 20’s, hair in a wiry bun at the top of her head, wearing a fuschia coat that was too baggy for her stick thin body.
At first, I assumed she had an intellectual disability. If she had, it would’ve meant she was functional–out and about on her own–which is always a nice thing to see. My mother has taught children with learning disabilities for decades, a job focused on teaching disabled kids how to function in casual society.
At first, I also assumed she was nice–possibly because of the pink coat.
But then she opened her mouth.
“I don’t have time for this shit!” she belted, in a voice that made it clear she had no disability. That this was just a woman in her 20’s, pissed that no one was at the counter when she walked in.
That’s when I noticed the first teddy bear. It was clamped under her right arm in a tight headlock.
Another man might have thought she was taking that bear someplace–that it was a gift for a child, maybe–but I spotted a second teddy bear immediately, this one grasped by its face in one of her hands, a talon of thin fingers constricting its button nose.
She kept cursing, walking back and forth along the length of my local Dunkin Donuts / Taco Bell combo.
And I, being a New Yorker, just set in on my bagel. Not saying anything, not telling her to simmer down.
Because I’m also a New Yorker. And a weirdo, acutely aware in that moment that I was wearing a t-shirt with a giant, smiling cat on it, rosy-cheeked as it thought of a burning building. It is not the most embarrassing shirt I’ve ever worn, but it’s close. And yet, I was still outside, wearing it. Not caring. Because I’m a New Yorker. I’ve seen people do worse things than this woman, wear worse things than my shirt, and not a one of them had been actionably crazy.
We’re just a bizarre city.
One bite of my bagel, one sip of my coffee, and she was gone, disturbing no one–never really making a scene.
And a half hour later, while I was in F.Y.E., the bell for the front door chimed. The employees at the counter let up a little cheer–a fond greeting. I looked up from the Nuka Cola shirt I was about to buy, and there she was, smiling, waving, both teddy bears still clamped close to her body.
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If you’re new, my name is Louis Santiago, and I’m a fantasy writer based in the Bronx. My short story, “Aixa the Hexcaster,” was recently published in Mirror Dance Fantasy. However, I’m still very much learning about the writing process–still trying to figure it out. Part of that means posting on here every weekday, even though I make absolutely no money from it. So, if you like what you read here and feel up to getting an email every weekday–a new post from me delivered right to your inbox–then please hit the Follow button at the bottom of this page. Because, even though all I get from this site is emotional support, that support means the world to me.
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