"Milton, are you listening to me?" Reginald asked.
I brought my gaze up from the dirty checkered floor and to his eyes, but couldn't bear meeting them for long. They settled on the cardboard mug of coffee in my hands. It was steaming hot, but the physical discomfort was doing an excellent job at distracting me from the emotional.
I don't even like coffee, I thought. And really, I didn't. For as long as my Grandmother allowed me, I took my caffeine in the form of sugar-filled fizzle drinks. He would know that if he was around for any part of my later life.
"They took me prisoner," Reginald continued, "I got back to the states as soon as I could."
Steam billowed from the mouth of my paper mug like a miniature train chugging it's way up Mt. Everest. I could almost hear a determined whistle as I leaned forward and sniffed the steam. It burned my nose with bitter heat. How could anyone enjoy this?
"Listen, I know this isn't easy. But I am back now..." Reginald said, starting to lean in closer.
I met his eyes, and he stopped. "I don't even like coffee," I said.
He treated my comment like a squirrel in the road and continued, "I am sorry about your Mother. I was devastated when I found out. I can't even imagine what it was like for you. How did you survive? Who took you in?"
"Grandma," I said, standing up from our table at the sweaty and cramped, polish meat market. Links of sausage hung from the ceiling, surrounded by the occasional buzzing fly. My stomach growled and Reginald asked me where I was going. I treated his question like a squirrel in the road.
This can't be real, I thought, desperate for some sense of familiarity. I swung open the aluminum door of the market to find some. A voice called after me, but I didn't recognize it. I ran down to the corner of the street and ducked into an alleyway. I was utterly lost, according to the words on the street sign at the end. I ran for a while, taking frequent breaks. Dogs barked, always in the distance. Strangers popped into my view now and then, always soliciting something before fading away. Some of them got angry, but I just kept moving, my bag steadily bouncing against my back. After a while, my rest breaks synced up with the absence of street thugs, and I found comfort in the routine of getting away. Just like usual.