No One Makes Plans

Patrick Cottrell

“Patty,” the man called out. “Patty, I’ve been looking for you.”

I stopped what I was doing and said hello. The man leaned on his crutches and smiled. I liked the man because he was a composer of elegant musical compositions that sounded like snowfall. He also had an urgent way of talking that made him sound rich. Was he rich from writing his musical compositions or was he rich from his parents? I couldn’t be sure. The man repeated that he had been looking for me, but he said it in a gentle way and offered to buy me a hot chocolate.

“I don’t really like to drink chocolate,” I said, “especially hot.”

“It’s hard for me to make friends,” he said.

“Why do you think that is?”

“I call people to ask them to do things but they don’t call me back.”

“Do you think it’s harder for you to make friends because of what happened to your leg?”

“I think it’s harder for me to make friends because I’m older. Listen: I’m having a party later. Would you like to come? Other people will be there, too.”

“I don’t know,” I said. “No one in this city makes plans with each other. Perhaps I will drop in, perhaps not. Either way, I’m not one to worry.”

“That’s right,” said the man. “When we first met you conducted your business this way, do you remember? It was way back when you had long hair and now it’s all gone.”

“I did have long hair. And we eventually became friends and we’ve been friends for a long time.”

“A lot has happened to me since then,” said the man. “My mother and sister passed away and I moved out of my apartment and into a new one, but people can never run away from their problems, their complexities. All I want in my life is a great abandonment.”

“Like a gray crumbling. Like the coral reefs scrubbed free of plankton.”

“Like that,” he said. “Like that.”

Later that afternoon, on my way home, I saw a different man almost get hit by a bright yellow car in the crosswalk. The man was wearing a nylon jacket and the wind blew into it and puffed it out like an airbag. The bright yellow car jerked to a stop. The man in the nylon jacket pounded the windshield with his fist. The driver got out and yelled, “Hey!”

No one was injured. Suddenly I realized that remaining open to the city was perhaps at odds with my true nature. Personally, I did not like to take risks, only calculated ones that I could attempt to control or read about. I made vague gestures toward the reasonable and remained harmless, shiny with life, a tolerant Korean.

I looked at my reflection in the glass of a shop that sold wigs and wigs only.

There was some information there and I didn’t know what to do with it.