Nero Would Be Proud
Alex opened the meme Ming sent her. “me growing up: I don’t understand how an empire like Rome with so many resources and such a clear advantage could tear itself apart, it just seems unlikely,” it read. “me watching the 2016 election cycle: oh.”
“Lmaooooooooo” Alex texted back. She played with the gold metal-chain switch on the desk lamp next to her. On, off, on, off, on. The reflection of the glass lampshade’s flower pattern flickered in the storefront window.
Out of boredom, she stood up to charge her phone. She unplugged the Art Deco lamp first. Years ago, before she knew what ‘wattage’ was, she blew a circuit. Huo’s Lamps shut down for the rest of that afternoon while Dad futzed with the power breaker.
He never let her forget.
“You have no respect for this shop,” her Dad scolded her. “One day, you’ll learn the meaning of hard work.”
“Wyd” Ming texted.
“At the shop”
“???” All Alex saw was ☐.
“New emojis. Update yet?”
The bell chimed. Alex looked up, worried it was a customer. Only the mail woman.
“Thanks,” Alex said.
The mail woman said nothing back, like always.
Alex watched the people walk down Bowery. Girls in fluffy pink and blue down jackets and shiny latex leggings walked arm-in-arm with boys who covered their man buns with snapbacks.
She flipped through the mail, and opened one of the bills at random. Con-Ed, of course. Another unimaginable amount, too. She wondered why she had to keep all the lights on, anyway. Dad couldn’t argue with her anymore. Even if he could, he certainly wouldn’t argue with a stack of bills.
Her phone buzzed. She watched a couple wait outside the brunch place across the street. They didn’t talk to each other until the waitress called for their table. Alex wondered what they did when they were alone in their 500-square-foot studio.
Her phone buzzed again. She knew it was Ming, but sat, unfazed. She played with the gold metal-chain switch on the desk lamp next to her. On, off, on, off, on, off, on.
Kyle T. Armstrong is originally from Rhode Island, and now lives in Brooklyn. He works in nonprofit development, and is working toward his master’s degree in Urban Policy and Leadership at Hunter College. His work has previously appeared in Maudlin House, Hobart, and Black Heart Magazine.
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Art (cropped) museum in progress, Cy Twombly CC3.0