Coffee and the news

“What do you think?”

Raefe turned away from the subway window. They were underground anyway, nothing to see.

“What do I think about what?” he replied, turning toward Lina.

“About us going to Miami Sea Islands for winter break. Have you been listening at all?”

No, he thought, not at all, I was daydreaming. We were in the middle of giant firestorms, running for our lives.

“Sorry, I must have dozed off. You know how I am on the subway.”

“I do. Now that I have your attention, what do you think?”

He thought that Miami was a full day’s journey on the solar train, through some areas where the United States of America was mostly a memory. Through miles of ruined coast, and snow season coming soon.

“Maybe. I haven’t been there since the seawall broke. Wouldn’t it be depressing?”

“I hear it’s actually cool – you can swim along all these old hotels, all kinds of fish come in and out. It’s like those coral reefs you see in old movies from the vidstream archives.”

“I don’t know, let me think about it.”

Lina was used to his indecision. “You’re having those dreams again? Just when you dozed off now?”

“Yeah. Surprised me. Usually only happens after I’ve been asleep for a while.”

She began the “shouldn’t you get some help for it” conversation for the nth time and he forced himself to smile and look away. He had never told her about the hours of therapy, the drugs, the deep brain stimulation cap he had worn for months, all the rest that his parents had dragged him to in his adolescence.

Fortunately, his parents didn’t like coming to East Somerville — they had grown up in sketchy neighborhoods and didn’t like to be reminded. Out of sight, they couldn’t exercise their irrational belief in the power of psychopharmaconeurology on him from afar. PPN could get out of control and he tried hard to avoid it. He knew they were just dreams, even if they were frightening and often ruined his ability to sleep. They came and went, and when they went, he got all the sleep he could.

The train glided to a stop in TechTown, with its 40-story glass towers towering over  Cambridge. Several heads jerked upright, their Voices telling them through their fashionably invisible tiny ear implants that it was time to wake the frick up and get off the sooty train and head home to their fancy little condos. Shiny little office nerds, nervously tapping their eyeglass puters on. Must check those messages, wouldn’t want to have to look at all the grimey losers on the train.

Some of his friends longed to work in TechTown after graduation. Not Raefe. Sleep on the 11th floor, work on the 17th floor, exercise in the basement, party on the roof, you were basically a well-kept serf. Your company crashes, not only do you lose your job, you have to move. All for the promise of “earning a spot among the best and brightest.” Or at least the most impressed with themselves. No thanks, there had to be a life that was better than that. If only he knew what it was.

Finally, they reached Union Square. Kiko and Kayam’s Deli trike was out  and Lina wouldn’t walk by without stopping for Kayam’s Cairo Cubano. Plus, K&K were human message boards for the fugees that flowed in and through Somerville.

“What’s shaking, Lina,” Kayam said. “What you hear from East Africa?”

“As little as possible, Kayam,” she replied. “I’ve got all the memories I can stand from that place.”

“I hear you. I haven’t heard from my cousin in a while, though, and I’m  getting worried.”

“Well, it ain’t getting better. Last time I faced with my folks on the net, they said word in South Africa is the pirate gangs are banding together in Efricar and giving the Chinese big trouble.”

“If I know my cousin, he’s in the middle of that.” Kayam shook his head as if his cousin was already in jail or worse. “That’s the thing in Efricar — you either be a stooge for the Chinese or fall in with the local crazies. Seems like that’s the only choice they get.”

“Well, if he can get himself down to Sofricar, maybe my folks can hook him up,” Lina says, but she knows his cousin is from a little village far from anywhere and barely even knows where Sofricar is.

Kiko has ever been to Efricar, but she knows the whole fugee diaspora scene all too well. Her family fled Yokohama after Emperor Kim VI sent hundreds of drones filled with radioactive waste all over the city. Many hit ships in the harbor filled with export goods, which cratered the economy. There was no welcome for her family elsewhere in Japan, so here she is in East Somerville. Raefe’s the odd man out. Six generations ago, his family was like hers, refugees from Czarist Russia and all its pogroms and unrest. But they’ve lived within 150 miles of here for six generations.

“Stay warm!” Raefe said. They walked down toward the old highway, his arm around Lina, her ‘froish hair scratching his nose. He inhaled the scent of her skin mixed with coffee and dark sugar. She could be fierce, but he felt like they had each put tendrils out toward each other in the last year, and they had begun to mesh. It was a new feeling and he liked it.

The last rays of the sun glinted off the harbor, just past their little overpass. In ‘41, the big Arctic ice sheet disaster that sent tidal waves into Miami also pushed the Mystic River far into East Somerville. The waters stopped about 50 yards from a small section of elevated highway that was underwater except for this section.

“Seeing that sunset past the bridge always reminds me of when we met,” Raefe said.

They’d been working all day on project to reclaim the neighborhood after the flood, and Raefe was exhausted. He was trying to push a cart overloaded with building materials, but it was rough going across the cracked terrain of the broken asphalt. Before he knew it, Lina had leaned in to the front handle of the cart. As she pushed her shirt rode up a bit and he could see the muscles ripple in the small of her back, and she just seemed to be bursting with life. In the sunset light, she took his breath away.

The next day they wound up working together on the project, and when it was finished three months later, they’d already coupled up. So when Somerville gave preference to the reclaim workers for some of the housing units, they put in for the lottery and here they were, unlocking their own Tiny under the old overpass.

Raefe remembered their conversation on the train.  “Do we have enough carbon credits to go to Miami without paying extra?”

“Yes! And if we spend one day helping to build the tidal power generation station, we can not only get some of them back, but get a free place to crash for the week.”

And no puters to consume the day studying recent ancient history. And maybe he and Lina could use some time alone.

He agreed, and Lina was happy. Doing well enough to muddle through Somerville Community College and keep Lina in his life were about the only two things he could focus on at one time. Maybe some fun time would calm him.