Although he only existed in Eubie’s mind, Eubie liked to quote his old Canuck friend as though he was threaded through the fabric of a life Eubie blinked himself into like a bad sitcom episode.
“If you can’t be handsome, be handy,” was Robin’s shop-worn motto and since it was easier to fake handiness than handsomeness, Eubie went for the former. A roll of duct tape and the ability to tell a hawk from a handsaw had served him well in his salad days in The City, and even when maturity and responsibilities forced him to the chemically greener pastures on The Shore, a passing familiarity with a hammer, the ability to differentiate between a nail and a screw and the electric screw-driver with multiple heads meant Eubie more than held his own among the honey-do set.
Most of the time, the incongruity which was simply “then” and “now” to Eubie was like a well-crafted flight of stairs. Eubie glided up and down unaware because the effort required was negated by simplistically elegant design coupled with flawless implementation. There were moments though when the hasty craftsmanship of this new reality resulted in mis-step. A face would turn up wrong. Mud brown eyes tinged with jade that should have been the green of a shadowy forest, or a mis-matched couple with children who seemed uncomfortable in their skins. Children, Eubie noted early, jittered perceptibly with low-level awareness. The dissonance of existence coursing through them like the after effects of a taser jolt. They reminded him of Zoey’s Siamese, Mrs. Fletcher.
“She disapproves of me,” Eubie complained one hazy morning as they sat on Zoey’s enclosed patio that just skimmed the treeline of the massive green space of City Park.
Mrs. Fletcher narrowed her china sky eyes and sunk deeply into Zoey’s lap as she lounged on one of the rattan chairs Eubie had liberated from a posh address recently in lieu of payment for a disposal service. Her snow white feet propped up on the matching table, she stroked the animal from head to rump with hypnotic rhythm.
“She has cause,” Zoey said, leaving Eubie to the mercy of his half-memories and imagination. It had occurred to him even before Mrs. Fletcher’s obvious disdain that the animals whose paths crossed with his own were aware in a way what was wrong. Just as children sensed their altered states, pets possessed a caged attitude that manifested in knowing looks and inappropriate contact. Cats were especially seductive, Mrs. Fletcher excepted, when they weren’t sizing Eubie up for meal potential, and dogs ran the gamut of psychiatric disorders. It was like karma had conspired to incite a rampant deathbed belief in its own self.
Eubie missed Robin just like he missed Omar, the coffee cart guy. But the difference was that Omar still haunted the corner of 42nd and Passing Square which is where Eubie stopped for his double-double on his way to the public library on mornings after a subway run.
Running subway had been the bread and butter of his trade in the early days after he’d found Zoey again. These days his clientele was semi-exclusive and his reputation beyond his active control, but he found peace riding the sewers of The City. Far beneath the concrete, time couldn’t torture him.
Zoey called it “temporal sensitivity”. It didn’t bother the vampires. In fact, vampirism inoculated it’s members to a large extent from the déjà vu vertigo that roiled Eubie’s consciousness. He remembered people who’d never lived, events which hadn’t happened and a world that suddenly wasn’t a cesspool at all by comparison.
Memory has become a perpetually chipped tooth that I can’t keep my tongue off of, Eubie thought.
He longed to be counted and ignorant, but he had stepped off the early evening transit eighteen months earlier to find himself displaced and horrifyingly aware of it.
“At least you’re not a cat,” Zoey said.
“And that would be the only upside,” Eubie replied as Mrs. Fletcher purred and smiled Cheshire-like, as though she knew something Eubie did not .