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May 27, 2024

Dinner With Henry 54: A Day with Diego

By Bruce Memblatt

A fog remained over the bathroom mirror. Diego's arms reached through the gape in the shower curtain for a towel. She stepped out of the tub and began to dry her hair. Water dripped from her legs onto the tiles. As she toweled her hair she stared blankly into the mirror. When she finished drying her hair, she threw the towel in the garbage pail. Then she opened the bathroom door and she spied across the living room for several minutes, finally her eyes focusing on Henry, who was standing in the kitchen on the other side of the room.


"Good morning, Henry," she breathed as she stepped across the living room rug.

The light from the kitchen spilled over the darkened room. She nearly tripped over a box of Pampers that sat on the floor next to the sofa. When she reached the kitchen she saw a pack of gum on the table. She walked past Henry and reached for the gum.

Henry stepped towards the table. "Good morning, Diego, are you all right?"

"I'm going to get my hair done today. I need money."

Henry reached into his pocket and pulled out some bills.

"I guess I'll get the budget cut," Diego said, staring at Henry's hands.

Henry reached into his pocket and pulled out some more bills.

"I guess I'll get the no-frills cut," Diego said, still staring at Henry's hands.

"That only works once, Diego," Henry said as Diego grabbed the money from Henry's palm. Then he turned around and reached for the coffee pot on the stove.

"Later," Diego said, and then she grabbed her bag from the kitchen counter and marched to the door.

As Diego walked down the steps in front of the warehouse she reached into her bag and took out her sunglasses. She had a decision to make, subway or cab? She thought she could save the cab fare for something tasty, and she began to march down Delancey Street towards the train station. While she stepped around the corner, she saw a woman walking a dog, and she suddenly had an urge for a bagel, or some babka if she could find it. Then she wondered if Clarissa had babka.

The street was crowded as she made her way into the station. She marched down the stairs, and while pushing her way through the turnstile, she noticed the train was pulling into the station. So she pulled off her high heels, and as she ran towards the platform, her bag halfway open, her gum fell onto the floor.

She just made it into the train, the door closing behind her, just jibbing her shoulder as she entered. Then she searched for a seat. The car was crowded; she noticed there was theoretically enough room for her to sit between a large man who was sleeping and a woman with a baby on her lap. Whilst she shimmied and squeezed her way down into the seat, the baby looked at her scar and cried.

Diego turned toward the mother and said, "You know, your child is very rude."

The woman looked at Diego and said, "You know you are missing an ear? How dare you come on the subway and scare little children?"

Then Diego said, "I see the tree doesn't fall far from the apple." She turned her nose and turned her head and stared at an ad for McDonald's, and she thought, maybe she didn't really want babka, maybe she wanted a Big Mac.

Her stomach began to growl and she reached into her bag for a stick of gum. Frustrated, she began to rummage through the bag, because she couldn't find her gum. The baby stared at her, and Diego stopped searching and gawked back at the child, as the train rumbled underneath Broadway.

Diego breathed to the baby, "Did you steal my gum?"

The baby continued to stare at Diego.

Then the mother said," My child did not steal your gum." Angered, the woman grabbed her baby tight and stood. Just at that moment the train came to a halt, the doors opened, and a bunch of passengers left the train, and another bunch of passengers entered the train.

Diego was staring at the McDonald's ad just as the car began to move again, when she noticed that the woman sitting down across from her looked familiar, a short stocky woman with frizzy hair. Diego was thinking, It couldn't be Rosie, when the woman started to wink at her and smile, and then she knew it WAS Rosie, her friend from the hospital where she lost her ear to a deranged patient wielding a knife. Then Diego remembered how Rosie testified at the hearing that resulted in her dismissal from the hospital, and she smiled back at her.

Rosie waved at Diego and said, "God, it's really you, isn't it?"|

Diego said, staring at her from across the train, "Yes, who else would I be?"

Rosie called as she fixed her lipstick, "So, Diego, couldn't they do anything about your ear?"

"I lost it completely, and I lost my job, no thanks to you, Rosie."

"Why don't you get a fake ear?"

"Fake ears look stupid."

"Listen, Diego, I had no choice, I had to tell them the facts as they happened."

Diego hated the way her voice went up at the end of each sentence, making everything she said sound like a question.

"All I did was tell that deluded man that he didn't look like Connie Francis. Then he got loco and he pulled out that knife."

"Well, you know you have to humor the patients, Diego. I still love that song she did, Where The Boys Are," Rosie said and then she began to sing, Where the boys are...

"I don't humor anyone. Good bye, Rosie," Diego said and stood. She didn't look back at Rosie, who was still sitting in her seat smiling at Diego. Although when Diego turned around, Rosie did give her the finger.

At that point the train had reached Diego's destination: Ninety-sixth and Broadway, and Diego pushed through the doors of the car.

As Diego marched down the platform, she noticed the station was almost empty and she felt relieved, because she didn't want to run into anymore Rosies.

When she reached the end of the platform, she began to head for the staircase that led up to the street. At the bottom of the stairs she saw a girl with a flower in her hair holding a guitar. She stopped and stared at her for a moment, and wondered why she was wearing a dead flower in her hair. Suddenly the girl started to stroke the guitar and she began to sing.

"Where the boys are someone waits for me..."

It was then that Diego scowled at the girl and proceeded to march up the stairs saying to herself, I've never liked Connie Francis.

Then, out of the station, while she made her way up Broadway a few blocks further, she saw THE CLIP JOINT that was her beauty parlor; she knew she didn't hadn't far to go ... when she passed by a bakery that had a sign up: FRESH BABKA.

She sighed.

Diego never did get her hair cut on that sunny day, but she did have the best babka in town.

Article © Bruce Memblatt. All rights reserved.
Published on 2011-08-29
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