Eric rummaged through his laundry hamper to find a pair of black socks that didn’t smell too bad. As usual he was running late. He hadn’t been sleeping well for a week and was hitting the snooze button every morning. He could hear his neighbor’s six year old son racing his Hotwheels up and down the apartment hallway.
“Frankie, you come eat now,” Mrs. Cefalu called from three doors down. Eric coveted the smell of bacon coming from her apartment as he ate a bowl of stale Cornflakes.
“I’ve got to go shopping and do laundry,” he thought. He had been putting in overtime at the office working on complicated trust issues for a widow on Nob Hill. She was a trophy wife and her elderly husband had kept her completely in the dark regarding their financial affairs. Despite the fact that they were insolvent, he had indulged her extravagances on credit, fearing she might leave him if she knew how bad things were. Now he was dead of a heart attack and she was fighting against creditors to keep her home. Eric was not only the woman’s CPA but her grief therapist as well and it was taking it’s toll on his private life. He dialed his office with one hand while simultaneously combing his unruly, red hair with the other.
“Aaron, it’s Eric. Could you pull up that State K-1 form for me and shoot it over to my email?” He paused. “Thanks, pal. I’m on my way now. See you in a few.” He grabbed his keys and pocketed the change in the ashtray on the dresser.
“Hey, Frankie,” he greeted, as the boy raced up to him, singing a brruumm sound effect over the clacking of the plastic wheels.
“Hi, Mr. Beckman.”
“When we gonna’ play checkers again?” Eric asked, locking his door.
“I dunno’,” Frankie replied, ringing the tin bell on the bike. Eric smiled and patted the little boy ‘s head.
“You have a nice day at school, Frankie.”
Frankie pedaled off down the hallway for breakfast. Eric liked kids and had always hoped to have some of his own but at forty-two, with no committed relationship in his overworked life, his prospects of a family were dimming. Ruth, the woman he was presently involved with, was a workaholic with no apparent desire to get married, much less have kids. Between Eric’s job and hers as a partner in a law firm downtown, their relationship was hit and miss at best. Mostly miss lately.
With his coat collar turned up against the light rain, he walked down Grant Avenue to his car. He passed Melvina’s coffee house, inhaling the aroma of espresso mingled with the steely, mechanical smell of wet pavement. The olfactory sensation brought back memories of a youthful trip through Italy the summer he had graduated from college. He and a couple of friends had taken trains across the country, staying in youth hostels or crashing with the young Italians they met along the way. Over picnics of chianti and cheese in the Tuscan countryside, they had charted their individual paths to success. The world was theirs for the taking then and the future had seemed like a straight, smooth road. That was the last time Eric had felt truly hopeful and those memories had been the impetus years later for renting his apartment in the predominantly Italian, Northbeach neighborhood.
As he drove down Broadway toward the Marina, the spires of St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral were partially obscured in fog and the expanse of lawn, like a green sea, rolled rain drenched before the church. A slurry of rainwater ran down Eric’s windshield, softening the sharp edges of the city like a Percy Gray watercolor.Waiting at a stoplight, momentarily lulled by the rhythmic flapping of the windshield wipers, he looked up at the bus idling next to him and caught a glimpse of a sad woman through a fogged window. He recognized her but couldn’t remember her name or where they’d met. The light changed and the traffic moved on.