Camus, Mitchell Grabois

Judith Nelson, Galua, 1977, 70X70


Camus

I met my girlfriend Eppa on the job

Her parents owned the deli
She was allegedly an employee
but only worked when she felt like it

One day she came in at about one-thirty
wearing a black and white checked skirt
a black blouse with lace at the throat
and a black beret
She sat down at one of the restaurant tables and lit a cigarillo
She looked like a French Jewess
sitting in a café on the West Bank
She only needed an espresso to complete the impersonation
so I asked her if she’d like me to bring her a cup of coffee
How about a Doctor Brown’s cream soda, she asked

I brought it to her
poured it from the can into a glass of ice
as I did for customers
then went back to methodically cleaning tables
The lunch rush was over
all the customers were gone
They were an ancient, sloppy bunch
oblivious that they were dripping mayonnaise
and mustard
dropping pickles and pieces of tomato

Eppa watched me work with a thoughtful expression
I was soon back at her table
I swiped the rag around
Raise your arm, would you? I asked
She looked at me No
What do you mean, no?
My arm is comfortable where it is
Oh, come on
What do you mean, come on? My parents own this joint

I temporarily forgot how strong she was
and took her by the elbow

She threw her arm back
and sent me flying
to fall on my ass on the grimy
black and white checked linoleum

She went back to reading her book
L’Etranger by Camus
She was reading it in French

On the cover was a picture of an elegant bistro
far removed from this dump
her parents’ livelihood
all through her growing up years

________________
Mitchell Grabois

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