I woke up, like I usually do, with sleep in my eyes and my throat dry and parched.  I was naked, and there was a cat purring at my feet.  I got up, and went to the bathroom - I always need to piss when I wake up, I drink too much before bed.  I shaved in the shower, with the help of a small mirror mounted on one of those suction cups and eye hook jobs.  I dressed in a clean white shirt and a pair of jeans so old they molded to the shape of my dick, ran a hand through my graying hair, and hooked my holster around my chest and under my armpit.   It was cold under my feet, and there was honking and yelling outside, which wasn't unusual, since it was noon.

Uriel had long left me to my sleep, saying he had business to attend to.  I dunno that I believe him, but this IS a town with some 16 million or so souls in it, and I'm sure there's more deaths per week than Law and Order lets on.   There were in Boston, I know that much.  I sat down on the edge of the bed, and gave Tom a rub.  The hair was growing back already, and it'd only been a day.   Cats are resilient creatures, I'll give 'em that much. 

I left the motel around 1 pm, looking for a nice place to pick up something to eat.   It'd been tough finding a place that was low rent and would still let me keep Tom with me - most places didn't like the problems that cats presented, but a few minutes with the girl on the night shift here, and Tom had her cooing, and I could finally get some sleep.  Tom's a charmer, he is.

I walked through the streets past the shops and the roadside vendors, looking for a place that maybe still had some breakfast, or maybe some soup.  Nothing really swam into view, so I settled for some coffee and a bagel.  Finally found a place that actually had seats (though they were almost all full) and I ordered a cup and some bage with phili, and sat down to give myself a nice breakfast.  I spread the cream cheese along the edge, and licked the tips of my fingers that had gotten caught in the stuff.   A disgusting habit, Moira said.  I liked it.  Made me feel like a kid.

"Is this seat taken?" a soft musical voice asked, a mocha cap swimming into view under my nose, a copy of Invisible Man held in a cocoa colored hand covered in some kind of hosiery set down right beside it.  I nodded, moving my gaze up the body to the face.

He was a youngish black man, in his early twenties at the most, black eyeliner around his eyes, in the Egyptian style, and his lips were a darker, deeper black, the corners turned up at the corners, two silver studs tucked in the cleft of his chin.  There was another one in his right nostril, and a ring around his left eyebrow ridge.   There was no body hair.  His head was shaved bald, and two earrings apiece graced his ears.  He was willowy but strong, bony, but moved with a careful grace.   His overall skin tone was one of the color of the aged wood on the side of a ship, a dark reddish brown.  There wasn't a scar from acne or fights that I could see.   His body, from his collarbone to his fingertips, and his waist, was clad in a mesh shirt with a long zipper.  His pants were simple black jeans.

He picked up his drink, and I saw that on each hand, the first two fingernails - of the index and middle fingers - were grown long and painted black, but covered with silver, so they sparkled.  No jewelry.

"You look lost," he said, that voice still soft, reassuring.

I'm not racist.  But there is a distinct difference between the speech of an urban black and your Harvard educated black man.  It's universal, even a black woman in England sounds different than a white woman, or a Latino woman.  I don't know why, but it's just like that.  There are exceptions to every rule, of course.  It's just something that, in my life, I've noticed, and something that seems very odd to me.   It doesn't mean that one race is better than the other, but it does reinforce the differences between them, strongly.  It might be cultural, like the melodic tones of the Asians.  I don't know.  But this guy, he had the voice of a woman.   Annie Lennox, really.  Clipped British accent and everything.

"I'm not lost," I said.  "I've been here before."

"So you have," he observed, nodding as he sipped his coffee.  He didn't slurp.  I hated slurping.  "Yet that's not what I meant.  I -"

"You a priest?"  I asked, snapping my eyes onto his.  They were dark brown pools.  They could have swallowed me.  He seemed so....innocent.   Like Moira had been innocent.

"No."

"Good.  You just give out advice?  You some nut?"

"No, I'm just me.  I'm sorry.  You just looked so lonely, and so alone, I just..." he looked flabbergasted, unsure.

I sighed, and rubbed my eyes.  "Sorry.  Look, I've had a hard night.   What's yer name?"

"Michael," he said, with a smile.  Easy to please.

"Well, Michael.  I'm Thomas.  It's nice to meet you.  You like the book?"

He seemed surprised I'd read it.  Not a lot of white Irish cops go around reading a story about a slumming black guy that was written by a white guy.  It was an interesting book though.  I'd recommend it to anyone who's not sure who they are.   "It's very affirming," he said, nodding again.  He smiled some more.

We talked for almost an hour.  I lost track of the time, listening to that voice.   He was gay, I learned that from a little prodding into the background and had spent a lot of time developing that accent, and now couldn't get rid of it.  Nothing mystical in that.  He worked at a bookstore down the street that sold books about the occult and sexual positions, and no, he didn't wanna try any of 'em with me, I was not only some white guy, but I was about 20 years older than him.  He had a steady boyfriend that he'd been dating for a few years, but they were hitting a burr in the communication department.  He loved the Beatles and Louis Armstrong.  He'd never shaved a cat, and hoped that Tom grew his fur back before any other cats saw him.

At the mention of Mistress Dementia's name, he laughed so hard I thought he'd squirt mocha out of his nose.  He didn't know her, but he thought that was the dumbest name he'd ever heard.  We departed friends, and I promised to buy the Karma Sutra from him.  He gave me a pin that was a take off on the smiley faces of the 70s - a grinning yellow face with a hole in the head and blood streaming out.  The back was engraved with "Have a Nice Fucking Day - Claire's Book Shoppe."

I was feeling pretty good when I got back to the apartment, and even Uriel sitting on my bed petting a shaking Tom couldn't ruin my mood.

"Moira's dead," he said, his voice harsh, gravely.

I turned around and closed the door behind me.  Tears sting.  They are salt water, after all, and they're right there, in your eyes, which are sensitive anyway.  Crying starts at the base of your nose, and slides up through the sinus and then down into the balls, shriveling them in the sack, and then right up to your eyes.  I think that's why men don't cry really.   Screw all the bullshit about your father sayin' it was bad, or your friends makin' fun of you because you were a sissy to even admit that you cried sometimes.  They make fun of you from wackin' off too, don't they?  But that doesn't stop you from doin' it.  Whereas most guys can't even cry when they're at their lowest.  It's because it makes you feel like your not a man, because your dick and balls shrink.   It's that simple.

I didn't cry now, either.  I couldn't  I couldn't bring myself to work up the tears.  I was numb, and my eyes were stinging, and my balls were so far up in my body that I could've sung like a kicked choir boy.  I stumbled along the walls of the hotel, and down the stairs, like a drunk, my feet shuffling along of their own volition, heedless of what I wanted.  I wanted to run back to Uriel and grab him by the throat, toss him around and ask him why the hell he knew.  If he killed her, or what killed her, or if she died in her sleep and was it peaceful like everyone thinks it is.

But instead I stumbled and rocked, and found myself back down on the street, the bagel and the coffee in my gut sizzling, bile on the tip of my tongue.  I fought to keep it down, though the taste was nasty in my mouth, and it burned.  In the end I won.   Throwing up on the street isn't a good thing, especially when you're as shell shocked as I was.  The cops would've hauled me in, badge or no badge.  I passed by the coffee shop, stumbled down into the rails system - the infamous New York subway.

It's not as bad as they'd have you think.  At least, not while the sun's still out.  Most times, the place is just fine.  People are generally friendly, if you let 'em.  And the graffiti is pretty enough, if you like modern art.  It only gets bad early in the morning and at about 5, when the rush hours move through the clock.   Otherwise, it's pretty safe.  So I wasn't worried.  I stepped onto the train, and huddled up in the corner of the near empty train, and stared at my toes for a while.  I don't know how long I was on the train, only that occasionally someone would sit down next to me, and then leave, and it slowly got darker at the spaces in between the tunnels.

"You still seem lost," a familiar voice said, the voice tracing a path from above me to beside me.  I glanced over at the soft light brown hands holding a thin book with a hand drawn cover.  No words, just a soft pencil wolf with dark yellow eyes, and eagle swooping in overhead.  "Bad news?"

"My wife is dead," I said to him, and those big brown eyes pinpointed with pain, and he hugged me.  A tiny part of my mind wondered what I looked like, a dejected homeless man being hugged by a huge gay black man with a penchant for silver.   But to tell the truth, I didn't care. 

"Ill take you back to the shoppe.  We can talk about it, and I'll make you a nice cup or two of tea.  Maybe you can buy that copy of the Kama Sutra," he smiled, his eyes crinkling.  He patted my shoulder, and I smiled back, shaky.

*********

"She sounds like she was a great woman," Michael said as he sipped his tea, two sugars, no cream.  I nodded, and took another bite from the thin chocolate wafer cookies he imported from Ireland.