C.J. Arellano is a writer and filmmaker in Chicago. He works
professionally as a video editor and spends his free time writing
short stories and then traversing the digital landscape to find nice
and cozy homes for them. He is occasionally successful. He studied
Film/Video and Fiction Writing at Columbia College Chicago.
Please check out C.J.’s short story submissions to The Qu!
A Dead Purple (short story)
by C.J. Arellano
I was sitting on his couch. We were trying to reconnect after years of dodged phone calls, misinterpreted remarks, and jealousies that burned holes in the bottom of the pot.
The previous week, Dom had sent me a piece of email that said, “Pizza and beer, like old times?” It was strange, because we never shared pizza and we never shared beer. Not once. It sounds like an improbability, akin to saying, “This town has never had a post office!” We were more boxed-wine-and-biscuits people. We were, well, “trashy chic” is what my therapist-turned-interior-designer suggested.
Anyway, I replied, “Yes,” because I was low on calories and lower on vigor. He said to get there at nine, but I got there at eight, which I knew he had already predicted. “You’d be early for your own damn funeral,” he once slurred.
I said, “Nice place you have here,” because it was, I supposed. It had exposed brick, soft lighting that turned everything into gradients of hazy shadows, and dark cherry oak furniture that looked borne out of calculations.
So we, the two friends who drifted on purpose, took a seat on his crushed velour couch and talked about the past four years. To our surprise, not much had happened. We still had the same jobs as before – me a waiter, him a chef – and neither of us had found wives. A silence gathered like a cloud of noxious cologne between us.
Then it broke with the doorbell buzz. “Ah, the pizza,” he said, and he sprung himself up from the couch and jogged some steps to answer the door to a woman in a red visor and polo shirt. With how bummed and hopeful she looked, I imagined she had been working as a registered nurse for twenty years and just got fired and decided it was either pizzas or DCFS takes her daughter’s daughter.
Dom made some terrible joke to her about how red visors must be the new fashion thing so goodbye to stirrup pants. The bizarre thing was, though, this woman actually laughed. It was a small laugh, but significant. It sounded like the one goal that turns a whole soccer game. It sounded, well, it sounded like us during the days of boxed wine and biscuits.
I looked around his place. And it wasn’t quite visible. It wasn’t something you could point to and say, “Well, judge, Exhibit A.” It was the way you walk into a grocery store and sense that there’s a really big sale before seeing any of the bright obnoxious signs. I could feel them, those invisible wavelengths that were cresting through the air and spiraling their way into my ears until they etched
a small whispered realization in my cold and granite brain: his life got better without me in it.
Dom shut the door, and the thing in his hand broadcasted pepper and pepperoni scent to the farthest, highest exposed brick. Dinner was here.
But then, he turned abruptly, like the changing of the guards, and he headed to the fridge and put the whole warm pizza in it and shut it closed. Bam. Like a shed door after a hard day’s work.
“That’s a whole warm pizza in the fridge!” I said, my voice more shrill than either of us had expected.
He lifted his hands like he was standing in front of a red curtain and said, “You know how awesome leftover pizza tastes. So why not make the whole thing leftover, you know?”
He gathered a couple of beers from a cooler and snapped them open with a metal hook affixed to the side of his kitchenette counter. He sat. We talked. At one point, I think we even discussed. It wasn’t till the night started weakening to a dead purple did he check to see if the pizza got cold. It did, so we shared it.
I don’t really know why leftover pizza tastes better than warm, fresh-from-the-fired-registered-nurse pizza, but it does, and I’m sure that somewhere scientists have proved it. I won’t be as presumptuous or obvious as to say that the same can be said of expired friendships, but I do know that during that whole night, I didn’t once have a craving for boxed wine or biscuits.