Fourth and Market


We were at the restaurant in the basement of the mall at Fourth and Market.  The only light came from the fluorescent bulbs buzzing over our heads.  The sanitary, professional light added a subliminal purple tint to the diners' faces.

Jessica and I huddled over chicken salads.  I was physically tired from six hours of deskwork, but Jessica had a deeper, more sincere tiredness about her.  Her slender, fifty-year-old hands casually picked at a piece of stale bread.

"How are you?  Since the play, I mean," I asked her.

"Oh, all right," she said.  "Tom is doing fine, the kids are fine."

"Did your husband ever find a job?"

"Well, not yet.  But he got a couple freelance contracts.  Actually, the paperwork is not complete yet, but we think there's a good possibility he'll be seeing work at the end of the month.  Tom's a peach.  He'll get something."

"And Lisa?  Did she ever come home?" I asked.

"Well, she called from San Diego, and she's all right, thank God.  We were a bit worried for a while when she left, but it turns out that she had gone with two friends to Tijuana on a kind of spur-of-the-moment decision.  Didn't even leave a note," said Jessica.

"It seems that you are maintaining well, all things considered."  I smiled politely.

"My cake business is bringing in a little extra cash.  Two hundred dollars for a custom cake design, five hundred for a three-tier wedding cake, ganache optional.  Those cakes are covering the mortgage payments right now.  I have responsibilities," she added meaningfully.

"Have you talked to Andrew since the show?" I asked.

Jessica started a bit.  "Oh, only an e-mail exchange.  He moved to Los Angeles after the show closed."

"I thought your scenes together were marvelous," I said.  "Very real, very believable.  In playing my father, Andrew definitely reminded me of my own father.  Just as you reminded me of my own mother."  I smiled.

"Thank you," she said.  "Andrew's e-mail was short.  He said that he was looking for work in LA.  That was three months ago and he said he'd contact me when he got back to San Francisco.  Haven't heard from him since."

"I have to tell you again," I said.  "I have to tell you what a glorious and perfect experience it was to perform in that play with you.  It changed me.  You changed me."

A flicker of something passed over Jessica's features.  "Thank you."

"There's something I wanted to ask you," I said, putting down my fork.  "A personal question."

Jessica cocked her head to one side.

"I watched when you were interacting with Andrew backstage.  There were looks... there were moments that passed between you and him.  And there were times where I could have sworn that you thought you were the only people in the theater.  None of my business, of course.  But did anything ever happen between you and Andrew?"

Jessica wrestled with a wave of sudden emotions.  They came and passed so quickly that I could not recognize them all at once: nostalgia? resignation?  joy?

And thus do some pages remain uncut,
and thus some lifepaths remain unexplored,
and thus we never learn God's chosen name.

"I have... responsibilities," Jessica said simply.

"Of course," I said.

Jessica dropped the bread on her plate.  I took a drink of water.