Chapter One:
A Chance Meeting: The Frailty Of Friendship

"Remy! Wow, it's great to see you!"
Remy could see that he meant it too. His hand was thrust forward enthusiastically, his red tie cast aside awkwardly against an expensive blue suit that wrapped neatly around his limbs. His hair was short and well cared for, but disrupted by anxious hands over the course of the day. Mostly though, Remy saw it in his eyes. The bottom portion of each turned up sharply in semi circles beside deep smile wrinkles, to such an extent that they betrayed any false or pretentious emotion. Remy reached out and grabbed the hand, shaking it firmly in what he supposed was a rather gentleman-like shake. Remy smiled back, his mind racing through past emotions and memories. "What have you been up to?" Remy inwardly cringed and felt a sharp pain in his chest. He hated that question and all of its implications. The other continued: "I'm just headed to a coffee shop for a meeting, but I have some time, would you fancy a quick coffee?" Despite himself Remy nodded, and dropping the other man's hand, the two walked down the pavement. Remy was filled with a tentative sense of joy.

It was Fall. The air was cold, the sun dazzling, and gusts of wind shook leaves from the trees. The pair stepped indoors to the aroma of freshly ground coffee and warm croissants. Remy took stock of the interior. The walls were a pastel blue, the trimmings were white. At different intervals hung mediocre paintings by an arrogant college student. The barista looked to be in her early twenties. Her face was symmetrical, her nose slightly upturned and splashed with freckles. Her hair was dyed an electric blue. "Hello, what can I get for you guys?" Her voice sounded deeper than Remy expected, like that of an ex smoker. They ordered and were served promptly.

The two found their seats, Remy with his back to the door. It made him uneasy. His shoes, which were large black timberlands, took up too much room and the thought that someone might trip over them nagged at the back of his mind. The other man began to speak: "So, how has everything been?" Remy felt a strong sense of loss. Smiling in what he hoped looked like a sincere manner, he spoke.

"Let's see, I've been doing some art and reading which is cool. I got a dog, her name is Bella." "Wow! That's a good name, is it Italian?" "Yeah, I lived in Italy for about a year and a half and learned Italian." "What! That's amazing!" The other was genuinely excited, eating up every word. It probably sounded good thought Remy. In reality it had been possibly the worst year and a half of his life, depressed, crying, and drinking incessantly in the perfect Italian countryside. "Yeah, it's an amazing place, you should visit if you haven't already" "Oh I've been to Rome and Venice, and Milan, (the other man said this in a steady drawl as if those places no longer interested him) but I would love to live there, it's different as a tourist of course." There was a pause, and the two sipped their coffee. The other's phone buzzed, and he picked it up. Looking at the screen he smiled and put down his coffee to type back a reply. Remy looked around the room. In the corner a mother sat on a black leather couch looking at her phone. Her toddler played with a few plastic toys on the carpet in front of her. Against one of the pastel blue walls a pretty young girl worked on a computer, papers and binders spread out around her table in an organized chaos. She nodded her head to music which played through a pair of battered headphones.

Remy looked over to the other at his table. He was casually drinking his coffee with an ease that annoyed Remy. It was as if the prolonged silence didn't bother him remotely because there was nothing significant in their meeting. "But what have you been doing?" Remy asked. Putting down his coffe the other man flashed a neat white smile. He spoke as though he were waiting for precisely that question. "You know the same old thing really, my wife and I are working on expanding the company, it's been doing well. A lot of real estate clients in the market here these days so it takes up a bit of time, but we like to travel, we just recently got back from Sri Lanka" "Oh wow that sounds amazing" Remy was interested. "Yeah it was incredible, all the wild-life and the people, and the food! Oh, you've got to go through India if not just for the food, I mean the culture there is so palpable." "How long were you there?" "Only about four weeks, mostly on the beaches, but I would love to take a longer trip through the region, although I think we'll be going to New Zealand next. I've got a friend who just moved there for about a year so we want to visit her while she's there. Yeah mostly we've been working on our company, you might have seen our Billboard? That was wild to put up. Yeah..." The other man trailed off and the two sipped their coffee. "Where are you working these days?" Remy knew it was going to be asked, one of the most basic small talk questions that he always dreaded. "I'm a manager at REI, or sort of upper management, there are about twenty five people I need to look after." Remy grimaced inwardly. The way he'd rambled out his duties sounded like a pretense to impress the other. Remy hated his job. Every five months or so he would insist that he was leaving to his friend at work. He'd been there for seven years.

"Oh nice! Management" The other's tone bore undercurrents of boredom or so it seemed to Remy. The response was too enthusiastic, and dropped off at the end unpleasantly naked in its lack of sincerity. "That's a valuable skill definitely, wow, that's really good" the other man smiled. Remy felt like a child watching a parent poorly act amazed at a shitty piece of art. "Sorry could you excuse me, I might use the restroom really quick". Remy stood up abruptly knocking the table slightly and nearly tripping over his shoes. His face flushed fully red. He walked over to the restroom, opened the door, closed it and locked it as the first tear rolled down his cheek.

Remy took stock of himself in the mirror. His face had no remarkable features. His skin was pale, his nose slightly left leaning and upturned, his eyebrows uneven. The left side of his face was slightly more compressed than his right, and the corresponding asymmetry yielded a face that could affectionately be called "moderately attractive." He'd never cared tremendously about this, not to say that he would mind having a nicer looking face but he supposed it wouldn't make any spectacular impact on his life. This lack of care extended to his appearance as a whole. He rarely exercised and didn't eat healthy food. Perhaps surprisingly, he was not considerably overweight. His clothing was whatever would make the least remarkable impression possible. Remy wiped the tears from his eyes and washed his face. Checking the rims of his eyes to ensure that they were not noticeably red, he gave himself a quick smile in the mirror, and turned toward the door.

Resuming his seat, Remy took a sip of coffee. It was cold and tasted bland. He looked at the foam rings around the sides of the cup. The other man was on his phone again reading something with a bored expression. Remy felt a growing anxiety. He couldn't determine exactly why. The muscles in his neck and stomach tightened, his palms were sweaty. The other sounds in the room grew more noticeable to Remy, as if to highlight their lack of conversation. The coffee grinder clicked loudly, and cold milk screamed as it was torched with steam.

Remy interrupted, there was no reason not to. "Have you been playing music?" The other's eyes darkened, his face grew instantly serious. "No." He said simply in a neutral tone, his seriousness giving way to a vacant gaze directed at the door. Remy looked as well. Outside the weather had undergone a dramatic transformation. Grey clouds had swallowed the sun, wind rocked the cafe's sign back and forth and rain fell swiftly down at a steep tilt. Three women walked up to the door, covered by sleek black umbrellas. Two wore expensive looking suits. The third was neatly dressed in a dark blue shirt, black skirt and overcoat. They entered the cafe along with a gust of wind. There followed a series of clicks and taps as three umbrellas were undone, the woman wearing black and blue waved at the man across from Remy. He smiled back broadly, showing his neat white teeth. Turning to Remy he spoke. "I am sorry, but I'm afraid I must go to this meeting, it was great seeing you Remy". "You too, thank you." Remy responded forcefully, lacking sufficient time to say what he wanted. The other man was turning away, starting to stand. "Do you think you might have time to do something at some point?" Remy was appalled at the desperation in his voice. He gazed up at the other unable to hide the hope written across his face. With a hasty smile, the other replied. "Of course, here's my card with current ways to contact me." Reaching out a neatly cuffed wrist he produced a card with practiced ease. "We'll make a plan for sure, I'm not sure when just because I'm very busy but sometime soon." Remy fumbled for the card. "Thank you, I'll give you a call!" His voice was too loud. "Nice seeing you." He clutched the card in a sweaty palm, crumpling its black matte finish and crisp white lettering. Standing carefully so as to not knock anything with his shoes, Remy gulped the remains of his coffee, pushed in his chair, waved at the barista who wasn't facing his direction and didn't notice, and stepped out into the pouring rain.

Chapter Two:
Self Delusion: Unveiled Lies in the Face of Desire

Remy opened the door of his fridge and looked blankly at the contents within. The shelves were mostly empty, an apple, half-gallon of milk, and a torn beer box were all. The light from the fridge was the only one in the room. It cast Remy's silhouette against the sparsely decorated opposing wall. Reaching into the beer box Remy swore loudly. "Fuck!" It was empty with the exception of a single dented can. Remy put on his coat and grabbed a leash for Bella. He whistled and the dog came bounding toward him. Remy smiled and knelt down to pet her. "Headphones" he said out loud, looking around the room. Remy grabbed them from the couch, and his keys from where they sat beside the sink. It was full of dirty dishes. "I'll deal with those later. Let's go Bella."

It was November. Cold rain fell steadily down, illuminated by street lights in shimmering cones of light. The road curved slowly. Long, winding, and dull like any suburb. There was nothing to see there.