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American Contemporary Fiction

        As she stood next to the impressive charcuterie board nibbling on a cube of smoked gouda, Davina tried to focus on the positive aspects of her situation. The food options far exceeded her expectations for a party hosted by a college senior.  The punch was likely just sparkling wine and pomegranate liquor, but it was actually decent wine (at least now, in the early part of the evening). Her drinks were free, and she had a free sober ride home. She didn’t know anyone there besides her sister, a senior at Emory who had dragged her to this party, but at least she didn’t have to discuss why Randall wasn’t by her side.  She had no one to kiss at midnight, but she was avoiding having to watch her parents kiss with tongue as they had done the only other year she made the mistake of staying home at their house for “family New Years Eve”. Related to that, no one was encouraging her to play a board game.  As far as she knew none of the other guests were in medical school, so she didn’t have to explain why she wanted to be a pediatrician despite the pitifully low salary, and children, and parents. Overall, things on the evening of December 31st, 2007 could be worse. 

              Just as she was slipping into thinking about how things could also be better, she felt a light tap on her shoulder and turned away from the table.

              “I love your earrings! Where are they from?” a young woman with a friendly smile.

              “Oh, actually a vintage jewelry store in New York,” Davina replied, conscious of the fact that this made her sound significantly cooler than she actually was. “I love them but they’re so sparkly, I don’t get to wear them much.”

              “They’re so perfect for tonight,” the woman said before asking, “Wait what’s the name of the store? I live in New York!”

              “Pippin! On 17th street between 6th and 7th. I’ve found some great stuff there,” Davina said, grateful to have someone to talk to. 

              “Cool, I’ll definitely check it out. I’m Ruth by the way,” she replied, extending her hand.

              Davina shook it, surprised at the intensity of Ruth’s grip. “Davina. Nice to meet you.”

              There was a brief pause, but neither of them moved away. 

              “Who do you…” Davina started as Ruth asked “Do you still live in the city?”

              Ruth’s use of “the city” to refer to New York despite the fact that they were currently in Atlanta, objectively also a city, won Davina over to her. “No, I moved out in August to start med school in Chicago. I was there for 3 years and had such a good time except for some drama with my stupid landlord at the end. Chicago feels pathetic in comparison, but it’s so much cheaper.”

              Ruth nodded knowingly.  “Yeah I grew up in Charlotte, just graduated from Emory last year. I was prelaw but wanted to take a year or two off, I only applied to New York jobs because my boyfriend got a banking job there, and then of course we broke up after I got my paralegal job there but before graduation.   When I found out a girl I knew from high school was looking for a roommate there, I decided to move anyway, basically just to spite him,” she said with a rueful chuckle.

              Davina liked her more every moment. “Well, are you glad you did?”

              “Oh yeah,” Ruth replied enthusiastically. “I love how it feels like the center of the universe, the only place in the country important things are happening. I might try to stay for law school, but definitely have to move, my landlord is an asshole too.”

              “Where do you live?” Davina asked, sizing up Ruth’s sweaterdress and pearl necklace balanced with black leather motorcycle boots, trying to decide what neighborhood she pictured her in. Maybe Midtown West, towards Hells Kitchen but nicer.

              “Um, I never know what to call it. Kind of Harlem, but right above the park on 111th. My bedroom is still tiny, but it was the only place we could really afford,” Ruth said, slightly sheepishly.

              Davina couldn’t believe it. “Really? I used to live up there, I was at 111th and 7th. Well actually, Adam Clayton Powel Junior Boulevard, but it was 7th. I ran in the park all the time, and they have that ice skating rink in the winter that’s never crowded.”

              It was Ruth’s turn to be surprised. “Wait, seriously? What building?”

              “1838, I think there’s a tailor in the basement? Or there was?” Davina said.

              Ruth looked as if she was going to faint. “That’s my building too. What apartment?”

              Feeling more lightheaded than she had before this moment, Davina replied, “Apartment F, on the third floor.”

              “Shut up. I’m in apartment F! The tiny bedroom!” Ruth laughed in disbelief.

              “I can’t believe it!” Davina exclaimed. “What are the odds, in a city that big?”

              They talked for another 20 minutes, comparing notes on the super Rolando (who had sold Davina’s roommate weed, and asked Ruth to watch porn with him), the landlord Tanya (who kept Davina’s security deposit for not giving 60 days’ notice despite the fact the lease said 30 days, and then told Ruth that her previous tenants had broken their lease), and the friendly guy who hung out on the steps with a huge Rottweiler who loved bagels. The coincidence, and the way their conversation reminded Davina of her three years of doing every free, cheap, and interesting activity she could find in New York, was the highlight of her trip home for the holidays.

              Sixteen months later, in the depths of the misery of studying for her first board exam, Davina received a Facebook notification. Thrilled for an excuse to stop looking at a diagram of the coagulation cascade, she immediately clicked on it and was surprised to see Ruth’s name. They had become Facebook friends the day after the New Years Eve party, and Davina had told many people about the apartment coincidence because it always trumped anyone else’s random encounter stories, but they weren’t regularly in touch. With curiosity, she read the message:

“Hey Davina, hope med school is going well! Just wanted to let you know that some of the other tenants and I took Tanya to small claims court (it’s a long story that still makes me too angry to type out all of the details now…) and by some NYC justice system miracle, we got a huge settlement! I couldn’t list you as a plaintiff on the case because you weren’t currently living there, but figured it was only fair to share it with you since she screwed you over too. Send me your address and I’ll mail you a check! I’d love to have a drink and fill you in on the details the next time you’re in the city.” 

January 01, 2022 04:10

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1 comment

Stevie B
14:47 Jan 06, 2022

Maria, loved your strong narrative style. Your descriptiveness was extremely impressive. Looking forward to reading more of your work.


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