…The Chinese restaurant Murph’s mother Pearl loved to eat in was on the same block as the Roosevelt Theater, a bit further down the block and just before the curve. That block was a long one and it actually did curve, and just past the curve was the Long Island Railroad, still overhead at this point although by the time it got to the Bayside Station it was lower than the ground, down two sets of stairs. The Chinese restaurant wasn’t a Chinese restaurant anymore, but back across the boulevard, adjacent to the railroad bridge, on the second floor of a building whose first floor was vacant, was the pool hall and Tattoo Parlor that had always been there, their signs still in English. Murph had never been in either one of those places.
On toward Bayside and out of Auburndale, the memories were more adult memories than childhood ones. Murph sped up a bit and let his mind relax, thinking this wasn’t too far from where he lived now. If he didn’t follow the curve and left Northern Boulevard just before the tracks, he’d find his way toward a different part of Flushing than where he’d been, and with a couple of subsequent turns he’d be pretty close to his apartment. If he had come from there instead of from Carla’s, he would have made the trip on the Long Island Expressway, a faster and much more direct route. He could have done it that way from Carla’s too, but since he’d had the time he’d taken the cruise.
Murph and ugly Mary spent quite a few times together since Alan stayed with his girlfriend and eventually married her. At first they didn’t like each other. Murph thought she was ugly and maybe she thought he was too. She didn’t want to be there, wherever they were at the time, and neither did Murph. She was cold to him and he reciprocated in kind so that their first time at the RKO they could have been sitting in different rows, that’s how far apart they were. She was chubby and pimply and one corner of her blouse stuck out of her jeans. Murph was chubby, had a flat top haircut and wore thick black-frame glasses, a fat four-eyes with braces. Well into the movie, at one point they each looked over to Alan and Andrea and saw them deep into making out, Andrea’s hand stroking Alan and her pants open with Alan’s hand buried in there somewhere.
“Wanna make out?” Murph asked.
“No. I don’t even want to be here.”
“Well, me either. Want some candy?”
“No. Just leave me alone and we’ll get along fine.”
Their second time at the RKO was like an instant replay. Murph only went a second time because Alan promised to buy the beer for the next two months. Murph found out later that Andrea had promised Mary she would do her English homework for six weeks.
“Anyway,” Mary said when they were talking about it, “I wanted to see this movie and Alan had the passes.”
“I don’t care about the movie,” Murph said.
“So why you here?”
“Same as you, to help out my friend.”
“Well, that’s a good thing.”
“Yes it is.”
“That’s why I’m here too.”
“You have a boyfriend?”
“Would I be here with you if I did?”
“Well, same here.”
“No kidding,” Murph said. Then, in a bold and daring move, he put his arm around Mary and she didn’t tear it away, which was a surprise. In fact, he thought, she kind of moved a bit closer to him. Feeling emboldened, he started leaning in to kiss her.
“Wait, wait,” she said. “I really want to see this part.”
Disappointed, Murph sat back in the chair and he would have sulked to the end of the movie if ugly Mary hadn’t leaned over to him and kissed him once on the lips, closed-mouthed, when the part she really wanted to see was over.
“If we have to do this again,” she said, “I’ll make out with you…”