THIS IS WHAT I KNOW • by Haley Biermann

His first name is Charles. He works at a bank. He’s meeting me at a restaurant in the North End called Antico Forno. We’re going to get along great. At least that’s what my friend Kathy knows. But Kathy knows a lot of things. That I’m going to get along great with her boyfriend’s friend’s cousin is just the latest.

I for one know I’m doing just fine without Kathy’s help. Stephen Colbert and I get one another. I’m not talking the catch-up on the highlights when you have time sort of deal— I’m talking commitment. I know he may not be the best for my overall health, but Guy Fieri knows the way to a woman’s heart and to some of the best spots in town. I knew I was straight until I shared a bottle of wine with Olivia Pope. I know that she makes me forget about last month’s breakup. Don’t even get me started on my internal and anxiety inducing conflict of whether Josh or David should get a rose next week.

I’m riding on the T to Haymarket. I remove my tight grip from a pole to adjust my dress despite having done so at the last three stops when it hits me that maybe he doesn’t go by Charles. Maybe he’s a Charlie.

A Charlie would greet me at Antico Forno with a nonchalant wave and a quick hug. He’ll wear a striped button-down and jeans. We’ll sit down so that we are facing each other, and it won’t take me long to realize he has a way with people. His crooked smile, outgoing manner with the waiter, and his suggestion to eat our spaghetti Lady and the Tramp style will make the time fly by. I’ll tell Kathy it was a fun date, and that we exchanged phone numbers to plan a date to the Improv Asylum.

I realize the train is at Haymarket and follow the spew of people through the sliding doors. Maybe he does go by Charles but it’s followed by something like “the third” or “junior.”

Charles III’s cologne will be fresh off the shelves of a high-end men’s apparel store on Newbury Street. He’ll wear a blue suit that brings out his eyes and he will greet me with a kiss on the hand. Normally I would find that kind of thing really corny, but somehow he’ll manage to come off as smooth and sexy. I’ll be about to sit across from him at the table, but he will suggest that I sit in the chair right next to him. Although Charles III started his career by working at his father’s bank, he wants to make something of himself in his own way. I’ll hear myself accept his invitation for his personal driver to take us back to his apartment. The next day Kathy will press me for details, but I will just smile knowingly.

Unless of course he goes by Chuck.

Chuck will have a heavy Boston accent. He will be dressed in a dark trench coat and shiny shoes. The hostess will be about to seat us at a table, but Chuck will say that the bar is fine. When a little drop of his amaretto trickles down his glass onto the counter, he will erase it with a napkin using quick, deliberate strokes. I will get aggravated with the way he seems more interested in the conversations of people seated around us rather than our own. I’ll decide to make an excuse about forgetting to feed my dog and slip out into the quiet streets. Except I won’t know that Chuck followed me out. He’ll come up from behind me and place a hand firmly over my mouth that will try to scream too late. The next day Kathy will be horrified to read in the Globe about her friend’s body being discovered in the Charles River, likely linked to a string of Mafia cases emerging in the past month.

I stop walking. Antico Forno is right in front of me but I don’t think I want to meet Charlie or Charles III or Chuck anymore. I’m about to head back to the T when I see a man approaching me. He’s wearing a navy button down with the sleeves rolled up to his elbows, dark khakis, well-worn brown dress shoes, and a tentative smile.

“You must be Alison, right?” he says. He’s standing up straight, which only adds to his already tall height. His voice is calm and friendly, but his hazel eyes peer shyly at me from behind round glasses.

“Hi, yes I’m Allie. Nice to finally meet you, Charles.”

“It’s nice to meet you too. But I go by my middle name, actually. You can call me Joe.”

Haley Biermann is an emerging writer from North Andover, Massachusetts. She studies Writing, Editing and, Publishing at Emmanuel College in Boston. She loves to write in the evening at her kitchen counter where she can put the day’s simple adventures onto paper. In the future she hopes to travel and share her own stories as well as those of others. Her short stories have appeared in Kansas City Voices and Adelaide Magazine.

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