It rained all night long and the old man spent most of his time on the balcony, overlooking the ashy metropolitan. I could hear him cough and spit and I rolled around for a while on the ground before I decided to join him.
“I’m having trouble falling asleep.”
“I thought I woke you up.”
“Not at all,” I said.
“It’s a nice night.”
“It sure is.”
“It’s good that we get the rain,” said the old man as he let out a deep cough and spat off the balcony. “Goddamn, I sure could use a woman.”
“Couldn’t we all,” I said and smiled.
“Oh man, if only I had some young fit-bodied Asian woman around, who’d look after me and the house.”
“Why Asian?” I said.
“I wouldn’t want to marry her.”
“Why Asian though?”
“Because they truly know how to take care,” he said. “They have a simple sense of love and a deep sense of loyalty.”
“Is that right?”
“Oh man,” he exclaimed, “You don’t know. Asian women are the best. They’re simple and beautiful and they really know how to care for men.”
“Asia is pretty big.”
“They’re the best! Anywhere in Asia you can find the best women in the world.”
“What about Africa? Some of them are pretty damn sexy.”
“Yeah, Africa too,” he said.
“They’re everywhere I guess. You’ve just got to look for them.”
“Not around here. It’s different around here and besides you can’t find women like that in any place as much as in Asia.”
The rain was pouring steadily and the old man’s eyes remained transfixed on the view of the city beneath him. Sitting next to him, I could feel his hand groping in his pocket. He did that every so often; he would reach deep into his pants pocket, as if in search of something and his hand would remain there for a while before he’d take it out again. “I lived with a native girl back in the day, when I was up north. I owned a restaurant up there. She’d come there all the time; one of the most beautiful girls I’ve ever seen, but she was very poor. I mean really poor. Practically homeless,” he said as his eyes fell from the view and he slowly took his hand out of his pocket. “Good times,” he muttered gently. “She lived with me for about a year.”
“What happened to your restaurant?”
“Ah, don’t worry about it kid. It’s a long story.”
“I appreciate you letting me stay here Fred.”
“It’s all good kiddo. I understand.”
“You know Fred; you’re actually a whole lot younger than you’re supposed to be.”
“Are you saying that I look old?”
“Not at all,” I said. “You look a lot younger than your age.”
“Which one am I then?”
“You’re young Fred.”
“Damn right I am!”
“Damn right you are,” I said patting him once on his back.
“No kiddo, I’m young and old. I look a lot younger than I am, and I’m a whole lot older than I look.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“You’ve gotta be double,” he said with a laugh and repeated it a couple of times as if singing a blues song.
“You think it’s going to keep raining all through the night?”
“Let it rain. I hope it rains all throughout tomorrow.”
“It gets boring after a while.”
“That’s the problem with you people; you get bored of everything. Everything’s gotta be quick and run by you or else it’s boring.”
“I guess you’re right.”
“Of course I’m right.”
“I guess the rain isn’t all that bad.”
“Gotta be glad we got it.”
There was a sudden flash of lightning in the distance that came down upon the earth in a straight line, suddenly bursting in three separate directions. “Whoa, did you see that?”
“Goddamn it. No, I blinked.”
“It looked nice.”
“Listen kid, are you planning on going home tomorrow?”
“I don’t know Fred, the thing is, I…”
“Listen kid, its okay if you want to stay. You’re always welcome to stay. Tomorrow you’ve gotta help me with some shopping. There’s nothing in the house.”
“That’s no problem Fred.”
“Good. Do you know how to cook?”
“Well, it all depends on what you mean by cook.”
“I’ll take that as a no, and boiling eggs doesn’t count. I’ll teach you something tomorrow. Maybe you’ll go home after and surprise your mom.”
“Yeah, maybe I will.”
“Alright, I should be calling it a night.” He got up slowly and stretched his arms into the air and arched his back. “You should try and get some sleep too.”
“Yeah, I will. By the way Fred, what was her name?”
“I don’t remember. It was a long time ago kid.” I got up and followed him inside. He stopped at the hallway that led to his room and said, “Sleep well kiddo, I’ll wake you up at eight.”
It felt strange, staring at the ceiling and knowing that my mother was only four floors above me. She was probably still awake and wondering where I was.