Alberta likes to walk the Italian Market and look at the fish. She thinks they watch as the people pass, awareness lingering in the black marbles of their eyes, kept cool and alive by the boxes of ice in which they sleep. She smiles at the sturgeon and stickleback to let them know she knows.
When we get back to Catherine Street, the Vietnamese couple are having sex in the apartment under ours. Their passion increases as the temperature rises, and with the sun blazing hard at 92-degrees, they can’t seem to keep their hands off of each other. The woman’s moans echo up the chimney and pour out of our fireplace.
Alberta lies across the bed and watches me undress. Her gaze follows as I shed my underwear and stand next to her, breathing deeply. I fall forward, into her smell of limes and grass.
When I wake, Alberta is crying, fingering the glass fox on our night stand. I lean close and push the hair off the curl of her ear.
“I dreamt I left you,” she says.
“You are leaving me,” I answer.
Alone, I make coffee and stand next to the fire escape, slick with sweat in the twilight. A little girl sits on her step as an old man walks his dachshund along the curb. From the roofs and telephone wires, the birds sing their last songs.
The next morning, I stroll the market until I see Alberta coming toward me.
“How was Susan’s?” I say.
She palms the back of her neck. “Her couch gave me a crick.” In a brown bag she carries rhubarb and wine. “You knew I’d be walking here?”
In the heat of the afternoon, the Vietnamese couple fights, their curses rattling in my fireplace. Then there’s the clap of a hand on damp skin. “Don’t hit me,” he says, and she answers, “Why shouldn’t I?”
Alberta comes over later that week and we have sex in the shower. It’s tremendously hot as the steam creeps around our legs and over the wings of her shoulders. When we’re finished, we look at each other and blink.
“I found your bracelet under the couch,” I say to her on the phone. I pretend to admire it on my wrist, the cherry garnets and opal.
Alberta breathes into the receiver. “So that’s where it was.”
By August, the last of her clothes are gone and all of her records—except for the one I hide from her. Time takes a cigarette, says Bowie. The old man walks his dog, the little girl sits, as the street lights fill the street with light.
Joseph lives in Baltimore. His work has appeared in numerous magazines, both online and in print. For links to more of his work, his image and word pieces, and other features, click here.