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Monday, August 22, 2011

Ten in the Morning

Jack Wong sat in a chair behind the sofa. I stared at him across the sofa's back.

He had changed little since I had last seen him over a decade ago: middle-aged, thick glasses with black rims, slightly bulging eyes, short black hair. He was wearing the same white pharmacist jacket as he always did, with the tie knot showing at the neck. I had never seen him in anything else.

"Do you want to come work for me?" he asked. "I still need a couple of people."

"Where?" I asked in a daze. "Where is this place?"

"It's in Venice," he replied. "Pretty quiet. Not like West LA."

"I ... " I should have said I had not practiced pharmacy in over 10 years and did not know half of the drugs' names they hand out nowadays, but what came out of my mouth was, "Sure. After I quit my job at the XXX, I'll come help out a couple of days a week."

He nodded stiffly without smiling. I did not remember ever seeing Jack smile. I had thought him mean and harsh when I first started at the pharmacy, but Ann, the other intern, told me he was in fact a big softy. And so he was.

A trickle of doubt crept into my mind. It seemed too real. The morning light shone in from the big apartment window behind me. The drowsiness that had plagued me earlier this morning was gone. Am I dreaming? I wondered. To test it out, I reached out a hand toward Jack, "Let's shake on it." He took my hand and shook it briefly. I could feel the warmth and the squeeze. So I was not dreaming? I was almost convinced now. Everything seemed so real. Yet, still, something was bugging me, "How did you get in?" I looked behind him toward the door. "I don't remember opening the door for you."

At that moment I woke up. The morning light flooded in my face from the window. I crawled out of the couch and, still oozy, went to the kitchen for a glass of water. Am I so desperate to get out of XXX, that I am willing to go back behind the counter? On the other hand, this job lets me work at home on Mondays, so that I can take a nap at ten in the morning.

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