Not A Big Deal by Phillipe Chatelain
Author’s note: Not a Big Deal tells the story of a tragic situation that serves as a catalyst to connect very different people. New friendships are formed and old friendships are questioned, but at what cost?
“Holly!” I could hear my name from outside the door but I stayed put under the kitchen table and tried to ignore it with all my might. “Holly! Open up, it’s Stephen! I came as fast as I could! Hello?” The bitter cold whisked through the apartment though all the windows were closed.
“One sec!” With my socks pulled up as far as they could go, I shuffled toward the entrance and opened it.
“My goodness, it’s colder in here than in the hallway.” Stephen made his way into the apartment and I shut the door behind him, making sure to readjust the doormat to cover the drought from the crack underneath.
“I’m dying here. If we don’t get this heater fixed before the snowstorm on Tuesday, I’ll die.”
“Bloomberg says he’s going to have an army of snowplows on those streets.”
“Tell Bloomberg he should come fix this heater!” Stephen had just cut his hair. His team had just been knocked out in the NFL playoffs and he took the opportunity to ‘manscape’ as he says. “Nice haircut, you look like a pedophile.”
“Why thank you, Hollister. I guess I’ll be going now.”
“No! Just kidding, hun! It looks marvelous. Would you like some coffee?”
“I’m trying to kick the habit, no thanks.” Seated at the kitchen table, he leaned back on the chair to balance it on two of the legs. “So, about this heating situation. Have you checked the boiler downstairs?”
“The super says that everything’s fine. Instead of calling the professionals, I figured why not treat you to some lunch if you can help with my heating problem. But then, you decided to take forever and I froze. No lunch for you.”
“You do know it’s eleven forty-nine on a Thursday evening, right? Where’s Jeremy? Couldn’t he fix it?”
I lowered my head for a second to avoid eye contact with him. That was the real reason why I called him. I fought with Jeremy again, and he went to spend the night at his grandmother’s. “He’s out,” I said blankly. He could tell I was upset and brought the chair back to its stable equilibrium with all four legs on the floor. I felt his judging stare for just a few moments, before he got up without a word and approached the radiator in the kitchen.
“Were they working earlier this week?” he said, gesturing toward the useless utility.
“Yeah everything was fine up until earlier today, and within minutes I felt my world get colder and colder.”
“A little dramatic, are we?”
“Stephen, he’s gone,” I admitted.
“What? It’s just a radiator, we’ll get you a new one, Holly.”
“No.” I broke down and I think he understood. “Why, Stephen, why? I do everything I can to make him happy. This time, who knows…” My voice stayed within my chest, lips moving without the accomplishment of sound. “…who knows if he’ll come back.” Tearfully I went up to him and embraced him. His warmth gave me momentary relief. I looked up at him with damp eyes.