Sorry I'm Late

Updated: Dec 23, 2019

Indian Summers tended to result in the kind of day that brought everyone out for their last hurrah for the year. Street performers and preachers attempted to attract the attention of the natives looking to enjoy the bright spot in the dreary November autumn. Cars and trucks moved at a molasses pace on the already crowded streets, contributing noise and fossil fuel pollution to the once tranquil lakeside city.

A sandwich food truck parked next to the sidewalk worked like a small peninsula bisecting the stream of traffic. The alluring smell of grilled meats drew in prospective consumers before going to war with the exhaust and freshwater air.

Charlie Gardner decided to join the rest of the city in taking advantage of this final, hot, sunny day on his lunch break from his internship through the city council. He leaned against the steel truck waiting for the cook to finish preparing his shrimp po boy. Unlike a majority of the crowd walking past with their noses in their phones, Charlie was attached to him by the ear, immersed in conversation

"When are you supposed to bring Maia home tomorrow morning?" he asked impatiently tapping the concrete with heels of his Doc Martens. He messed with his strawberry blonde hair, rolling his eyes at how the response turned out. "Why do we even need to throw her a party? It's not like she did anything worth celebrating."

"Shrimp po boy, mango, cilantro, and ghost pepper salsa, no sriracha," the cook announced from the truck's window.

Charlie mouthed thank you to her, grabbing the foil wrap with feigned interest in his phone call. He turned to walk back to city hall with the flow of bodies. "Yeah, let's throw Maia a party for going thirty days without doing whatever drug she is addicted to at the moment." Soon the crowd met interruptions from a renegade street preacher's gospel, a starving guitar player and a hula hoop dancer. Charlie fixated on the sidewalk ahead to avoid any disruption.

"The day of reckoning is upon us, atone for your sins!" the preacher shouted approaching Charlie with a sign covered in Bible verses. "It's not too late! Please come with me!" Charlie repelled the man with a sharp glance from his green eyes.

"Please, Mom, you know as soon as she gets overwhelmed or bored she'll just pick up some new addiction," Charlie insisted. He dropped some of the change left over from his lunch into the guitar player's case and the rest in a bucket for the dancer. "Because that's what Maia does. She gets all happy and normal before something happens and she does a new drug or whatever. She'll go on saying that she doesn't have a problem with whatever she dropped last, but will eventually get back to it."

He was getting more frustrated with every word his mother's insistence in Maia's recovery. He aggressively walked down the street, hoping to get back to the office faster. "I'm not gonna buy into her bullshit anymore. I can't do it and neither should you. This party is just enabling her to continue this cycle of addiction, rehab, happy homecoming!" Charlie confessed. His yelling started to garner attention from his sidewalk compatriots and peddlers, alike.

Soon Charlie felt a tug against his trim blazer from an old woman in a headscarf. "Can you not?!" he yelled at her.

The old woman gave him a look that harkened one of an elderly basset hound. Her near cataract blinded eyes stared into his soul as he shook her off. "Freak," he insulted her.

"Not you, some creepy old gypsy tried to scam me," Charlie said power walking to get away from her. "I'm not coming home for this." He looked over his shoulder to see the woman stood like a statue in the middle of the crowd, focused right on him. "You can do whatever you want, but maybe Maia needs some tough love"

A doorman ushered Charlie into city hall before security checked his person. He nodded in recognition for their work before dropping his sandwich, keys, and wallet into a tray. He gestured that he was on the phone as he walked through the metal detector. "Just because I'm her brother doesn't mean that I'm just gonna sugarcoat the pile of shit that she brings along like everything is okay," Charlie said to his mother as he pushed the elevator call button. "She'll learn someday."

Charlie picked up his necessities from the security check before walking to the elevator on the back wall. The doors welcomed him inside the car to go to his floor. "I love you all, but maybe this is the best way to help her," Charlie said clutching his sandwich. "I'm not sorry for not babying her so she doesn't learn from her mistakes." He pushed the four button on the panel to climb the building and the doors shut in front of him.

Despite the day early October heat, the temperate identity of the day waned in the early evening sunset. Charlie wore the effects of the long day with his untucked shirt and tie stashed away in his brown leather messenger bag. His hair mussed and matted from persisting frustrations at work. He clicked his key into the building's security door before climbing three flights of the pre-war staircase to his own apartment.

The apartment door swung open and locked behind him upon entry. "Melanie, food, please." Charlie dropped the bag and kicked off his shoes near the door to the three-room apartment. "What do you want?" He met Melanie at the bedroom door and he grabbed her by the waist of her off-the-shoulder purple dress before giving her a quick kiss. He stripped off his work clothes and tossed them on the bed. "I'm thinking something cold."

"What's going on with your sister?" Melanie asked sitting down on the bed.

"Sushi sounds really good today," Charlie continued laying flat on the bed only in his underwear. "Take out because pants just feel like a challenge."

"Are your parents bringing her home soon?" Melanie asked. "She has to be getting really anxious."

"Let's binge watch something tonight," he suggested. "Call in the food and live in pantsless joy. I just wanna forget about phone calls, councilmen and creepy old gypsy women."

"Are you even listening?" she asked. "It's like you don't even care about what's going on with Maia."