My friend Benny owns a jewelry booth on the Bowery, deep into Chinatown, near the bridge. Well, his father owns the booth but Benny works there and someday it will be his so I guess he kind of owns it. Benny’s in his late forties. I met him when I was seventeen; I’m nineteen now. I like to sit at the jewelry counter and eavesdrop on Benny’s regulars while I should be in class. One woman comes in every couple of weeks and orders jewelry for herself and her two daughters – pieces like a platinum “A” bedazzled with diamonds or, like, a 14k gold infinity symbol. Benny’s father doesn’t speak too much English but he smiles at me when I come in so I think he thinks I’m okay. He’s never told me to take a hike anyway.
Once Benny made me a mixtape that had the song “A Little Respect” by Erasure on it. The night he gave it to me he drove me from his apartment on 81st street to mine on 73rd and we listened to it on the stereo in his blue Honda Accord. He didn’t really need to drive me home but he insisted, which I thought was strange because I walked home all the time and like, it’s basically around the corner, until I realised he wanted to give me the mixtape without his wife knowing. I should mention I was their babysitter, which I guess is weird, but it’s not like that.
Anyway, he has a jewelry client who has a connection at Veniero’s which is the number one best pastry shop in Manhattan probably and he brings me boxes of pastries sometimes. He got me Pearl Jam tickets from a different client and personally I think Pearl Jam kind of blows but I went to the show at the Garden with my older brother and it was super awkward so I probably won’t do anything like that again. What’s the deal with Eddie Vedder, why is he like that. Benny got me Springsteen tickets, too, but I accidentally threw them out because I was keeping them safe in an old magazine. Could’ve scalped ‘em for 300 bones, oh well.
I don’t babysit Benny’s kids anymore but I still use the gym in their building because it’s luxury and it has a pool and a sauna in it and I still have the fob. Benny asked if he could work out with me but I told him no. I don’t think his wife knows I still use the gym. I don’t know if the doormen know I don’t work there anymore. One night I went into the sauna and there was an older couple in there fucking missionary style. I ran out and into the locker room and the woman followed me in there and kept apologizing but I didn’t really care that they were fucking I just didn’t want to crush their vibe.
It’s really nothing with me and Benny. He’s a nice guy. We’re both lonely, I guess. Even though he has a wife and kids and a job and a family. I’m lonely because I want to be, because I push people away, because I like sitting in my room avoiding my roommate and watching the Bourne Identity or whatever. I never ask for any of the stuff he gets me and I never really even act pleased when he gives them to me. I think he does it for himself, not for me. I’m just the receptacle he can dump all of his good intentions into and that’s fine. I’m used to being a container, something to fill up or dump out. If it stopped I wouldn’t care, I’d still listen to his mixtape and visit him on the Bowery.
Claudia Lundahl is a writer from New York City. She went to the City University of New York. She now lives in London, United Kingdom where she writes stories and drinks a lot of tea.