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Story by Andrew Bomback (Read author interview) December 15, 2004

Salt. That’s what I was thinking about as I struggled up twenty-six flights of stairs. Salt in a salt shaker on a table in a restaurant in Raleigh. You know what I’m talking about. Not just any table, not just any restaurant. Our table, our restaurant, and we’re on our third date, and it’s still exciting to kiss you. I can’t control myself. I want to kiss you every time you smile or talk or just put a forkful of rice in your mouth, and I tell you this, because it’s nice to want to kiss someone. Except I don’t want to make a scene, I explain. I don’t want to get out of my chair every ten seconds to lean across the table and touch you. Even though I do. I really, really do. Therefore, every time I get the urge, instead of sharing my feelings with the entire restaurant, I’ll just tap the salt shaker with my index finger.

I’m sure you remember that night, how often I tapped the salt shaker. I’m sure you remember later that night, in bed, when I told you that forty years from now, we’d be eating dinner with our children, their husbands and wives, maybe their kids, too, and I’d be sitting on one end of the table and you’d be sitting on the other end, and I’d smile at you, because we would have made ourselves such a great life. I’d smile, and then I’d tap the salt shaker, our sterling silver salt shaker, and you’d remember when we were young. I’d keep tapping the shaker throughout the meal until our son would make a joke about his father getting Parkinson’s disease.

The lights went out around four. The subways were shut down. The buses weren’t moving. Cabs were charging a hundred dollars a ride, no matter where you were headed. So I walked home, eighty blocks, and wondered if the lights were out in North Carolina, too. And I wondered why I ever came to New York in the first place. I wondered how in the world I forgot that you and I were supposed to get a sterling silver salt shaker as one of our wedding presents. By five, I was in Morningside Heights and on the verge of tears. By six, I was at my building and regaining my breath for the twenty-six flights of stairs that still awaited me. Twenty-six flights that could have been a whole lot easier if you were waiting for me in the apartment.

I thought about salt with each step. I thought about salt as I finally opened my front door. Salt as I fished around my kitchen for the largest pot I owned. Salt as I filled the pot with all the ice in my freezer and the eight beers in my refrigerator. Salt, salt, salt as I pictured the two of us making this blackout an adventure we’d tell our kids about someday, just like we’d eventually tell them that their father doesn’t have Parkinson’s disease. Salt as we’d tell them how we used to be in love. Salt as we clinked beer bottles and enjoyed the darkness together.

About the Author

Andrew Bomback lives in North Carolina, where he is an internal medicine resident. His stories and poems have recently appeared in the Bellevue Literary Review, Pindeldyboz, Hobart, Crab Orchard Review, and Diagram.

About the Artist

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison’s work here.

This story appeared in Issue Seven of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seven

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