Sunday at Regina
Summer Sundays, he didn’t leave the house. He woke, made two Egg McMuffins, lifted, then it was total tanning from the top of the afternoon to the last finger of light. She usually found him asleep on his neon yellow float, Tito’s soda in one groove, phone in another. She knew how to let herself in. Picks up the drink he’d leave in the fridge, wriggles into bikini, joins the fray.
What do you do when it’s cloudy? She squints through the grey at the recalcitrant sun. Without rays on the water, the vibe’s not there. Regina?
The air’s muggy and her white tee sticks slightly against her chest. The bar is full, so they stroke out to the tent, which is deserted.
This O.K.? He scans each corner, takes a seat with the best surround vision as he’s trained to do.
Let’s hear about the fentanyl grab.
He raises his eyebrows, scans again. It’s nuts now, fucking nuts. The shit is coming in in the thousands of kilos.
Perky Blonde who hates her for no reason appears, she puts in an Aperol spritz for a change. He orders his same.
Do you know how rare it was to find a kilo back in the day?
Regina sits by a sprawling mall complex, down from a cluster of Ford and Chevy dealers and fast food chains, yet anything she has here is always amazing. She settles on the risotto.
We’re not making a dent. Sometimes I wonder what’s the point.
The demand is there, she shrugs. Locking up the dealers, the hustlers, the pimps, the users, didn’t change America’s voracious appetite for the blue pill. China and Mexico couldn’t pump them out fast enough.
I mean, how bad does it need to be? To take this shit that you know will kill you, in these numbers.
Either it was that bad, or the highs were that good. Her dad’s coworker at the local university dining hall had OD’ed last week, a young white kid. It happened every few months.
DEA’s on a man who we think is a major player. Fronts through a Puerto Rican bakery, owns a huge house in this part of town, a larger one back on the island. The wife drives a new Audi Q7. They were robbed this year, wife and kids bound. Probably owed people money.
She cools her hands against the sweating glass, mourning the droves of cochineals that sacrificed their lives to create the brilliant carmine of her drink. Last winter in Naples, she sipped a spritz a day, threading between Senegalese bag hawkers and Chinese grocers after stumbling across Caravaggio’s Martyrdom of Saint Ursula in the Palazzo Zevallos Stigliano. In the half light, Ursula’s skin glows the silver of the dead save a garnet entry wound. The perp is the Hun king who has besieged Cologne, incensed at Ursula’s rejection, but Caravaggio has painted him white, in Teutonic armor, wizened countenance grimacing with a tinge of guilt. Why didn’t curators talk about that absurd substitution? Caravaggio finishes the painting in May 1710, dies that July at 39. Karma.
Why do these people have kids? It pisses her off, adults roping children into the mafioso life, sitting ducks for extortion. It’s so fucking irresponsible. Then again, same went for the feds and their families. He stowed a pistol in every room in his house, kept the screen doors bolted even when he was home. Not sure how that worked when his kids were young, but she does know that his kids keep their distance now, neither a word on Christmas nor his birthday.
My daughter’s engaged. He kills his Tito’s, looks out across the lanes of SUVs turning into the megamall, parents with kids clamoring for cleats, Playstations, pizza. What had the ex said to make them turn like this? That would be the grand lie of the fucking century.
Shit, I’m sorry. She flicks away a mosquito.
Wedding already scheduled?
The Vineyard. Groom’s parents live there.
Not bad. Your brother going?
He asked if he should. I said to go ahead.
What if you crashed the wedding?
That’d be the worst thing I could do.
O.K. The girl was tall and blonde, not as tall as the mom, an architect in her late twenties. Their photos hung around his house, in the rooms with the pistols and the bolted doors.
Her risotto came stewed with peas and wild mushroom, not exactly summer fare, but it’s what she’d loved in Naples. The fried fish fritters on Via Pignasecca. The sweeping white marble double staircase at the entrance of the Palazzo Reale, seat of the Bourbons, and later, the Camorra more or less. Trash had littered wide swaths of the Piazza Plebiscito, the major commercial avenues, the immigrants’ quarters, but not the winding alleyways where the locals lived, probably where the parallel order ruled. He hadn’t been to Italy, but he’d lived with Italians, came of age on their food, wiretapped their bosses, and that’s what he and she share. A stupid loyalty to blood, to the cause of family, estrangement, abuse, nonsense be damned. No amount of therapy, prophecy, self-help books, roadside crooks, could undo the knot. They’d die with it, for it, on account of it, a genetic disposition they could only accept.
It’s next Sunday.
Jesus. She almost chokes on her peas. Well, call me. We’ll do Regina, or, just talk, I dunno, whatever.
He giveth and He taketh away.