The music of Tom Waits was coming from El Floridita, on the corner of Fountain and Vine, and the sign on the restroom door said, “Out of Order.” She went in, anyway. Mirrors are never out of order.
She looked at herself, dissatisfied. She wasn’t a little girl anymore. It was time to stop acting like one. She unbuttoned the top of her blouse a little. She let her hair down from the bun atop her head. She opened her purse to search for makeup.
There she found her car key, with the little monkey attached to it. Zooey had won it when she was five. Her mother had let her have a quarter to play one of those grocery store games with toys and a forklift. She had retrieved the monkey on her first attempt. She had, over the last twenty years, confided her every childish secret to the stuffed animal. She had others. They were larger. They were more cuddly. But they weren’t George. George was Special. And now, she thought, unnecessary. She would be finding more exciting treasures soon, retrieving them from where they had lain buried for millennia.
She fixed her makeup, she fluffed her hair, and, with George in her right hand, she left the restroom to invite the man she had just met to walk her home.
Jim, looking down, walked into El Floridita. It was here he had met Zooey two years ago. She had just graduated from UCLA, and she was already being recruited for archaeological studies in Egypt, and he had just been tapped to be in charge of the new King Tut exhibit at The California Science Center. They fell in love over talk of embalming corpses in the distant past. And it hadn’t been long before they decided to pursue their futures together.
This was the first time he’d been back to El Floridita since he’d left her three weeks ago. The place seemed somehow emptier than it had ever been before, even though there was a large crowd, some of whom were complaining about the restroom being out of order. A plumber, they were assured, was on the way.
He wondered if she ever came back here. It had been, after all, “their place.” He felt almost as though he were cheating on her walking in here without her. But her number had been deleted from his phone, and his from hers, and they had gone their separate ways. She wanted to explore The Pyramid of Djoser, and he wanted to start a family on his curator’s salary. They couldn’t do both. They both had to move on… alone. And he couldn’t stay here another minute without her.
He left as he came in, wondering if she was happy in her life, then looked up to see the sun shine. He walked down the sidewalk, grass popping up between the bricks, and he never saw the car key and the stuffed monkey lying there looking helpless.