“Ma! How many times do I have to tell you, it’s Gene, now!”
“Eugene, Gene, I can call you whatever I want. I gave birth to you!”
Mama Finkelheim bustles around the kitchen making the biggest stack of pancakes you’ve ever seen. She’s talking to herself, some of it is old testament scripture, some of it is yiddish most of it unrecognizable.
Down the stairs comes a man who is short in stature and wide in presentation. Eugene is approximately 5 feet 4 inches tall and every bit of that from shoulder to shoulder.
“Ma, what-a-ya doin’ down here? It sounds like half the neighborhood is here. And jeeze, it looks like you’re feedin’ ’em too!”
“Eug- GENE, I have to feed my boubala a hearty breakfast before he starts his day. I made pancakes, bacon, potatoes and toast. What’s wrong with you? You look tired. Are you tired? Did you get enough sleep? What’s bothering you?”
“Ma, I can’t eat all this. I got an early training session up at the gym with Gino. I gotta leave. And I have been working late and reading up on the best positions to highlight my build for my competition. I can sleep after I blow those judges away!”
“Eugene, you gotta sleep. Your mother worries about you! You gotta leave? You won’t even make time to sit down to a nice breakfast your mother cooked for you before you leave?”
“Ma, you know I gotta get to the gym. I take this very seriously, alright. I got a competition in a couple a weeks and I gotta work on sculpting my back. After that, things will get back to normal.”
“Fine, whateva. Just leave me here, you’re poor elderly mother to eat alone. Without any grandkids.” Mama Finkelheim collapsed into a chair and glanced out the window, tearing bacon in half and eating it sadly.
“Ma, how many times do I gotta tell ya? You’re not elderly. You’re 58. Why don’t you go down to the community center and meet up with Mrs. Reubenstein and Freddie for a game of rummy?”
“Well, since no one else is here to keep me company I might have to. You know, I could ask Janice about that gorgeous grand-daughter of hers. Last time I heard, her relationship with that doctor was on the rocks. She needs a nice boy like you! I think her name is Celia or Celeste… Something like that. I don’t remember exactly. I’ll find out for you, I’ll get you her number.”
“Ma, I don’t have time for that right now.”
“Eugene, you are 34! You don’t have time for it now… You don’t have time for it now… it’s always the same excuse! You know, you gotta start settling down and starting your family! Don’t you want your loving mother to have a house full of grand babies?”
“Fine Ma, get her number. I gotta go. I’ll be back tonight for dinner. Tell Freddie and Mrs. Reubenstein I said hello.”
Out the door and down the street Eugene is lost in the music pouring from his headphones. Listening to the music for his routine he runs through his poses in his head. He can do it in his sleep at this point.. if he were to be getting any sleep. He’s been up for 3 nights in a row fueled only by energy drinks and pre-workout supplements. At this point, he is so wired that he doesn’t even miss the sleep.
He takes the subway downtown to the gym. He sees all the same faces on the subway: the old lady carrying her specialty groceries. The young punk thinking he’s tough. The young group of teen girls cackling about something they saw at the mall. He ignores them all. He gets off at his stop, like normal. He gets to the gym and has a long day of working out. He works on his back, his quads, his biceps and his triceps. At the end of the day he gets back on the subway to head home. The A3 is always on time. Like clockwork. He sees the same faces he always sees riding this train at this time. Leaning back to soak up his music for the ride home, he dozes off. If he stops at “Jimmy’s Market” on the corner of 5th and 13th for an energy drink he might make it one more night. He has some more work to do and he doesn’t want to lose his edge.
Here’s his stop. He gets up, shakes off the thick layer of 3 days of no sleep that has began to settle over him like a heavy wool blanket. Standing up and slogging off the car seems like the hardest workout he’s done in days. While collecting his gym bag as the train rolls to a stop he looks up and sees a woman mixed in with the crowd of people waiting to get on at his stop. He can’t look away from her. She’s gorgeous. She has dark hair, full lips and if he’s being honest, a nice rack. She is oblivious to him.
He gets off the train in a hurry to try to talk to her. He gets all the way to where she stands and freezes. She looks up at him and he’s paralyzed by either lack of sleep or her stunning good looks. He can’t tell which. She looks right at him and waits for him to say something. He said nothing. She takes a step to the left and walks past him to board the subway train. Eugene stares at her as the doors close and the train pulls away.
When he finally gets home he looks around for his mother and she’s nowhere to be found. He finds a note on the table.
“Eugene, Janice invited me to go to her women’s group for a casino lock in. I will be home in the morning. There’s a casserole in the fridge. Wish me luck!”
“Casino lock in? But you play the slots!” Eugene says out loud as he pulls the casserole dish out of the fridge to heat it up for dinner. There is never any shortage of food in this house. Even for the two of them, There is enough food to feed an army. It’s not a rare occasion for half the neighborhood to be invited over for dinner. Mama Finkelheim is always prepared.
After dinner Eugene heads upstairs. This is the first night his mother has been gone. He’s never home without her. She runs like clockwork. In bed and asleep by 9:00 every night. He tries to focus his attention elsewhere. All he can think about is the gorgeous girl from the subway. What’s her name? Where is she from? How come he’s never seen her before? Why couldn’t he talk to her? He was so close! Why didn’t SHE talk to him?
His energy drink is now kicking in and he’s wide awake. At least, he thinks he is wide awake. He’s actually in a dream-like state thinking of all of the ways his interaction with the mystery girl could have gone. He lays awake dreaming, listening to the traffic outside. Somewhere down the street people are yelling. Cabs are honking. All he can think about is mystery girl. Before he knows it, he’s drifting off to sleep. It turns out after 3 days without sleep even an extra strength energy drink is powerless. His dreams are filled with images of his life with mystery girl. A wedding, babies, a new home, all the normal dream like images of your future.
Eugene opens his eyes. It’s already 8:00 in the morning and breakfast is cooking. All he can think about is mystery girl. He’s going to skip his workout today so he can sit in the subway. He is going to find her.
“Ma, I saw the girl I’m going to marry.”
“Good! It’s about time you try to make your mother happy. Sausage?”
“Yeah. She was gorgeous. I’m going to find her today and I’m not coming home until I do.”
“Good. While you’re out, will you pick up some feta from Jimmy? Get the full fat kind with the big crumbles.”
“Yes Ma. I gotta go. I don’t want to miss her.”
Eugene gives his mother a kiss on the forehead and walks out. Mama Finkelheim grabs the morning paper and sits at the table with her coffee to read about current events. The only event that matters to her is that her son find his mystery girl.