The First of the Month (Story by R.C. Peris)

By the first of the month, December, the month of sneezing and shopping; you had moved your cracked, stretched suitcase into my closet. You hung three shirts, a jacket, and two pairs of pants. Your clothes were sandwiched between my winter coats. It was a mild winter in Nice and the breeze that lifted and flung across the sea was only slightly brisk though in the mornings our breath formed small puffs on our way to croissants and coffee.

There was very little in my apartment and it was small. I was paying a 1000 euros a month, courtesy of my parents, as my job as a graphic designer and online violin teacher only kept me fed with the lights on. You had arrived from Syria via Marseilles in Nice with a lost look and an open heart. You were an aid worker and had a dwindling stipend. You had two LPs – Bob Dylan and Robert Frost reciting poetry. I don’t know how the LPs survived Syria. The LPs you set on my coffee table. In my free time, we listened to music on YouTube. We discovered Willa Amai and listened to Charles Aznavour.

“I should buy a record player,” I said. I frequently fingered his LPs like they were an extension of him. We found one in a music shop. We flipped through the records and you twisted my hair and pinched my nipple. I laughed and I know the clerk saw your hungry hands. I bought the Red Army Choir. In a second-hand shop, we tried on hats. They were military hats. Yours looked Russian. Mine was the French Navy. We went back home and practiced saluting each other while the Red Army bellowed through the tiny record speaker. We drank vodka and hung tiny, plastic berries on a gold tree.

Christmas we were sleepy. We played Frank Sinatra and ate Spanish ham, manchego, brie, and a round hunk of bread that had a slightly sweet taste. Lots of wine. This time you had a surprise. Brandy. A good brand too.

“Merry Christmas to both of us.” We clinked glasses. There was something in your eyes. Your body was near me but your eyes were far away.

That was December. By the first of the month, January, the month of shivering and doldrums, the suitcase was gone. The only thing left was your LPs. When I went to buy art supplies, you wrote a note and walked away.

DEAR KATHARINE:
YOUR GLORIOUS. I GOT ANOTHER AID GIG. YEMEN. TAKE CARE OF MY LPS.
FOREVER, DANIEL

I played the Red Army LP. I hummed the Internationale while I cried and drank cheap vodka. I laid in bed. I could have sworn there was an imprint of you. That was the new year. A melancholic love and sweet companionship. Better than resolutions breaking in the brittle marathon to Spring.

THE END

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