Small Talk

Brian Martin

“Hey, Matty, I actually have an early morning. I have to help my mom get a second Christmas tree.” He pushes himself off the carpet crawls quickly to the top of his bed and encases himself in the covers. I am, now, extremely aware of my nudity, and I dash to the kitchen to retrieve my clothes. When I return, my mind searches for the perfect response, but I am too tired to say anything important and too proud to say anything casual.

I stand over him; he is ignoring me in a fake sleep, his eyes sealed like tombs and his head submerged in the pillow. He finally looks up and glances at me with surprise as if to say, I can’t believe you’re still here. He nudges his chin to the other room. “The yellow pages are on top of the microwave. You can get a cab number from there.” I am too disgusted with myself to tell him that the earliest train doesn’t leave for two more hours.


“Well, um, listen. We can’t be doing this much anymore, so I’ll just see you when we run into each other in the city. Cool?”

“Of course. No worries.” He has been using that line for over a year now.

“Can I take a piss first?”


I walk into the bathroom, run the water and then put the pink razor into my pocket before flushing the toilet.

I shut off the bedroom light for him.

“Thanks,” he says.

The man on the phone says it will be twenty minutes. I pour myself a glass of water and sit at the makeshift card table, legs open.  The greatest hits porn is still on. I watch for a moment but I have to look away – it feels like getting behind the wheel for the first time after a car crash. The lights of the cab flood into the driveway and when I get up I think about shutting off the porn, but I don’t.

I close the door to the cab, sealing myself in it, and I feel, for a moment, saved.  This happens more often on winter nights, when the sudden halt of poor choices and careless movements pulls a blanket over it all.

“Train station please.”

I watch the mailboxes flicker past as we drive.

“I thought you would be going to the airport. At this time of night, those are the calls we get,” the cab driver says.

I don’t respond.  I wish I were going to the airport, leaving for somewhere.

“Was that your house?” he asks as we turn onto the main road.

I finally turn to look at him. His skin is so dark it makes his wide, white smile glow.

“No, no it’s not my house. Do you live near here?”

“Me? Yes. Well, two towns over,” he says, continuing to smile in earnest. “Do you live in New York?”


“So do you like it out here? It’s beautiful.”

“No, actually.” I pause, realizing this is the first honest thing I've said all night. “You like it here?”

“I am from Nigeria,” he says as he nods politely to me through the rear view window. “It is very different here. Do you like living in the city?”

I am tired of talking. I try to smile, for his sake. I take the pink razor out from my pocket and press my thumb against the blade. Dull from all its use, it doesn’t even leave a mark.

We pull up to the train station and the driver tilts his head towards his window to look at the early morning. “Well, I think the dark is leaving.”

I want to tell him that is a nice way of putting it, but I don’t. I keep my mouth shut. I just give him the money and smile wide.


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