I passed the fake Rolex guy every morning on my way to work. One day in early Spring, he was gone. There was a bright spot on the sidewalk where his cart should’ve been.
“What happened to the Rolex guy,” I asked the hotdog guy.
“No idea, buddy. You want a dog?”
I walked the next ten blocks with tears in my eyes. The fake Rolex guy smiled and nodded at me every day.
At work, I sat at my desk and acted like I was entering data, but I was actually writing a poem. It was terrible, clumsy and cliched, but it helped me cope with his disappearance. I couldn’t remember his name. Something beginning with A? Katherine from logistics popped her head in my cube, wrapping her knuckles on the partition.
“You seen Ken?”
“Ken? I’m blanking,” I replied.
My voice had a noticeable waver.
“Ken. Tall guy, glasses, kind of thinning hair, wears the same pair of pants every day.”
“Does he work in receiving?”
“No, that’s Kevin. Ken is mailroom.”
“Haven’t seen him.”
“Yeah, just tired. Long weekend, you know what I mean?”
“Do I. Well, if you see Ken, tell him I’m looking for him.”
I deleted the poem, put in my earbuds, and got to work.
I saw Ken at lunch. He was eating noodles out of a plastic container and drinking a bottle of apple juice. He caught me staring at him. I flushed red and put my head into my salad.
On the way home, I cut through the park. Sometimes a pair of swans circled the little bay next to a thicket of willow trees. I sat at one of the metal benches overlooking the water and tears welled again. The swans were absent. A man in a rowing scull sliced through the lake. I waved as he zipped by.
As I lay in bed, not particularly sleepy, I scrolled through Instagram. A young guy, someone I couldn’t remember why I was following, was hiking across Spain, posting stunning pictures of sun-drenched fields and crumbly villages. On impulse, I clicked my way to the airline website and bought a ticket to Spain.
Three weeks later, my ears popped as the plane left New York and ascended out over the Atlantic. An hour later, the flight attendant caught my eye and smiled.
“Can I get you anything, sir?” she asked, her hand resting lightly on my shoulder.
“Andrés,” I said.
“Andrés, his name was Andrés.”
“The fake Rolex guy. He smiled at me every morning for three years.”
Her face betrayed nothing; the practiced smile remained intact.
“Okay, well, you let me know if you need anything. We’ll be serving lunch soon.”
She walked down the aisle, her head swiveling from side to side as she went. I wanted to cry over Andrés so badly, but the tears wouldn’t come.
Justin Jahnke lives and writes in Austin, Texas. He is currently hunched over his keyboard working feverishly to complete his debut novel, North Coast Video. Find him on Twitter @JustinRJahnke
Artwork by Pat Palermo – check out – patpalermo.net