May 3rd, 2003
A few hours later, Ford had taken his seat across from Selena. They had parked up in Midtown, and after a short walk, located a new Italian bistro advertising authentic flavours and original recipes. The prices seemed fair and it wasn’t too busy, either.
“You know,” Ford said, starting on his soda, “I never really wanted to teach kids. I’ve always found them to test my patience. In class, or even at recess, you don’t really get a chance to sit down and think. Some of my colleagues actually believe they’re teaching young adults, and true, some of the things the kids say can be funny, or witty, but never insightful. And even then, the odds of one of them pulling out some smart ass remark is a certainty when they outnumber me, 24 to 1.”
Selena smiled, and her eyes surveyed the room, but her attention remained focused on Ford. “I’m glad we could do this,” she said.
“Me too, but what do you mean?”
“I mean what I say.”
“Yes. I feel like I’ve known you for a lot longer. It’s hard to get a decent date in this area.”
Ford inclined his head to the ceiling fan, his arms stretched out over the table. “I need to get out, just, God knows how I’m going to do it.”
“You should really loosen up.”
He noticed then a small insect scrambling up the sleeve of his shirt. He indicated the thing to Selena, before flicking it off like a well-practiced field goal.
Selena kept on smiling.
She smiles a lot, Ford thought, for a police officer. “A woman of the law,” he mumbled. “Selena. Tell me, how did you get into all that?”
“Into police work? It was my childhood dream.”
“Just like that?”
She nodded. “Yes, and it’s exactly what I asked for. I like following rules, I don’t mind the paperwork, and in some ways, it keeps me fit.”
“Well sometimes you get involved in disappearances, kidnappings, gunfights.”
“I bet only half of that is true.”
Ford realised then just how different Selena was to himself. She probably knows, he thought. She probably knows already that this isn’t going to go anywhere. So she must be in it for the sex.
“How about you?” Selena said.
Ford cleared his throat. “Jesus, where to start?”
“Did you say you went to college?”
“Right. So after college, I became a substitute. Math and whatever else schools needed. Emphasis on the need, because it wasn’t exactly hard to get into. You have some young guy enjoying his freshman year in the real world, and he can look hungry for pretty much anything. Anyway, I had to earn a living, and I thought Penn was for me, so I tried out all the different schools.”
“OK. So you graduated and subbed for a while. What then?”
“I came out here just after 2000, to be back with my mom. She was dying, then. Me and my sis took on joint care.”
Selena stirred the straw in her beer. “What does your sister do?”
“She’s always been here, living and working. A few years older than me.”
“I mean, what does she do?”
“Oh, well, nothing much. I think she was unemployed a few years ago. But now she works for one of the big cellphone companies. I can’t remember which. SBC?”
“You honestly don’t know?”
Ford shrugged. “We don’t talk about work much.”
“I see. So your mother, then?”
“Yeah, when she died, I moved up to Reno. To settle down, or move on.”
A young waitress with a birthmark on her face brought their orders over. The food looked good enough to justify the wait. Pizza, well-stacked, with tanned, fluffy crusts. Potato wedges. An assortment of condiments. None of it particularly Italian.
Selena took precise bites around her first slice of pizza, before working a potato wedge into a big jar of ketchup.
She stopped to talk after finishing her soda. “Aren’t you open?”
“There’s nothing to hide,” Ford said. “I wouldn’t say I’ve had an interesting life.”
“True. What do you think of the world?”
“The world has no mysteries.”
They continued to eat. Some of the wedges were crispy, but an unfortunate selection hadn’t been cooked through, and slipped about in the mouth like wet pellets of soap.
“The world has no mysteries?” Selena said. “Well, I’ve got some examples.”