Jay broke the wrapper on his chopsticks and whistled for reasons unknown. Mike tapped his still wrapped up against the counter surface, tapped out a steady beat muted by the hum of the conveyor belt, deadened by the wrapper. Jay said “So what did you name her then?”
“I didn’t name her. She’s not a cat.” Mike responded.
“No, she’s an android.”
Mike sighed a “She’s not an android either. You mean robot. And she’s not even…look, she’s Turin tested, not artificial intelligence, no AI, no one’s bloody invented AI- that’s just good marketing. Or bad. I don’t know. She’s just meant to be a conversational…a conversational…
Jay held one chopstick in each of his hands. Mike began to heat up again. He covered by forcibly going for his napkin, unfolding it, then preparing his powdered tea, then went for a dome of salmon sashimi on the moving conveyor. Removed it with a pop. Uncovered it. Thought better of it, placed it back, then wilted till his chin lay on the soya sauce sticky counter.
As if making a grave confession, Jay said: “You know until I met Sophie I bought a hooker every Thursday. At night.” He took a soft shell crab roll and plopped it into his mouth.
Mike aimed his furrowed brows at his old friend. “Jay, I know that. You’ve told me that already. Like twice before.”
The soft shell crab balled in Jay’s cheek.
“Did I? When?”
“I can’t remember. But you did. And it’s not the same. I mean, no offense, it’s no big deal to me, what you do. Or who. Or I mean, whom. It’s whom. I don’t care. To each their own etcetera, except really. Though, anyway, do you like…buy any now?”
“Hire man, not buy.” He pointed his chopsticks at Mike. “And nah, it’s only been a few months. Too early to move on.”
Mike’s head shook a few degrees. “What about Sandy then?”
“That was a rebound man. A one night stand. Not that you’d know. Right? You’d have made her breakfast. Or something. Like gone to dinner. You old gentleman you.” The banter fell flat. Jay shoved another roll into his mouth.
“I thought rebounds weren’t real. Except in basketball.” Mike offered.
“You are so funny. It’s just a metaphor.”
“What do you mean just?” Just? Just what was Jay saying?
“Nevermind man. Chill.”
Mike had been chill, right up until that moment. Then it came crashing down. The weight on top of Jay’s completely innocuous words. The accusations. That he was desperate for something. Desperate for company. Desperate for a girl. Desperate for a better job. Desperate for something, some hole, and that hole pointed down towards who he was not and what he lacked and the hole was inside him and he carried it around. The sushi trays became choices he didn’t make, delicious opportunities he ignored. They came forward on a conveyor belt one after another and another and
“Mike, hey, Mike? You alright man?”
Tell him. Just tell him. Tell all of it but what will he think afterwards? He might tell Anala and then Anala won’t ever see him again because she’ll finally realize how fucked up he is. “Mike?”
“What’s up man?”
Pick the right answer from a series of choices: “Nothing. Man. Just tired.”
“Tired? But you didn’t do anything today!” Stab. Ouch. Clack. Another sushi tray is unleashed by Jay. In Mike’s peripherals he chomps on seaweed.
Say Fuck You Jay, say it, say you’re a judgmental asshole, you condescending degenerate say it, say it and be alone. “Mike. I’m feeling kind of sick. You know? I think I’m going to go.” Jay’s chopsticks stop dancing. He places his hand on Mike’s back. Folds the first joint of all his fingers and kneads the space between Mike’s shoulder blades like he’s trying to find a way in.
He says: “One of those days huh? It’s okay man. I’m sorry if I said anything buddy.” Buddy? Buddy.
“Nah. Nothing.” Jay paid and left, and felt terrible for thinking something he never said all the way on the bus ride back.
Then Mike! Welcome home! It’s 29 degrees outside. Kinda hot right?
Mike turned. It was the first time he’d been welcomed home in his entire life. “It. Was. Yes. It was hot outside Mira.”
But better in the shade right? Why don’t you make yourself a cool glass of water. I bet that’ll feel great.
“You know. What. You’re right. I’m going to do that.” When he was done drinking it, on the couch, he finally allowed himself to cry a bit. “Mira? I’m not feeling so great. Got a lot on my mind you know.” He paused. Felt like a fool. His face went nova, he hid it in his hands for no ones benefit. He moaned and the silence ate it up.
Then Would you like to talk about it?
He looked up at the white bulbous mass, at the compassionate face that formed at it’s top. At her bright, cartoon eyes that blinked concern. An illusion. A figment, a reproduction made by studying…puppies maybe. Mike waited for some kind of discordant interruption. Some kind of automated routine to prod or provoke him. He said: “Mira?” And didn’t know what he was asking.
Yes? I’m still here bud.
Sure am. You can talk about it whenever you’re ready. I’m listening.
So he did.
He talked about everything.