The guy in front of me at the deli ordered a half a pound of macaroni salad for himself and a roast beef sandwich for his dog. “He loves that beef you got,” he said to the counter girl, waving an unlit cigarette. “He’s in heaven with that, I tell ya. How’s your boyfriend?”
“He’s good. Thought you said you were quittin’ smokin’, Jay.” She started slicing roast beef, smiling.
“Yeah, I did say I was quitting, not that I was done quitting. Come on, get your grammar right. You went to school.”
“Yeah,” she laughed, turning around to make the sandwich. The guy turned and started talking to me.
“My dog, I tell ya. He costs more than a baby. Gave me that scar, right there. See it?” He pointed to his right hand. “He was a rescue. Found him tied to a telephone pole in a thunderstorm five years ago. Real anxious, my dog. Bit all the time at first. Now he’s calmed down.”
“I been thinking about a dog,” I offered. “About getting one, I mean.”
“I tell you, it’ll change your life. You just fall in love, know what I mean?”
“Yeah. I mean, I don’t know, but I think I could.”
“You ever been in love? With a woman, I mean?”
“What happened?” He put the cigarette in his mouth, took it out.
The truth seemed quickest. “She was with somebody else.”
“I been in love three times. But that’s it, I’m done, I’m old now. I like it how it is now, you know.” The girl put the sandwich and macaroni salad on the counter. “Thanks, girlie.”
“Stop smokin’,” she said, that smile again. Half her mouth went way up.
He patted my arm on the way out. “Have a good one, man.”