He passed the circulation desk and down the stairs into the basement break room, where he drank a glass of water. At the workspace he shared with Sanna, he opened a drawer filled with pens. There was a photo of a stern older man tacked beside her computer. He could not determine whether the man’s intimidation was in his height, without context, or his demeanor, also, he thought, …not clear. He found himself thinking, I hope it’s her dad, and made a face of disgust. For himself and for the sake of Sanna. He scanned barcodes from a pile of rebound journals, updating necessary fields in the processing database.
He stood up and exited the building, making his way across the avenue and took his lunch at a deli counter near the studio art building. He ordered potato pancakes with bread and butter, dipping them in saucers of sour cream and applesauce, and did not turn toward the haggard man when he began to speak into the paper before him, ―Lost a hundred thousand subscribers. That’s, if my calculations are accurate, thirty million a year, you know, if I lost that you know I’d be feeling some hurt from my salary but at least, hell, you know it’s sunny. Will you look at that can’t believe it is. I bet you could hear the rain last night? Was like it wouldn’t stop all I heard was downpour and had me thinking Sandy two it’s like Sandy two, well first it had me thinking Charlie, but then it’s Sandy two out there, downright scared remembering what that was, thinking we’d be getting that I’d lose power again. Do you remember how it was like I’d been like that again can’t imagine…
As the sun dropped below some of the taller buildings, Alex’s vision unfocused, distracted by the light playing on the dark patches of the sidewalk. ―Excuse me, he heard, or had been hearing, maybe for the second or third time.
―Thank you, taking his change, leaving the coins and a dollar on the counter. He crossed the street to the bar, moving sawdust around with his sneakers, waiting for a beer. The mugs came two at a time, and he had two of those. Then a single. Left the money on the counter and into the wind.