CHAPTER TWENTY-TWO: Mince Wilson’s Apartment – Alphabet City
Mince Wilson still lived in the same old apartment building on the corner or Avenue A and 11th. Tommy was not surprised at all to see the familiar M.WILSON on the door buzzer, because Mince had always said she would never move from that spot. And she was without a doubt the least hyperbolic person Tommy had ever met; Mince never exaggerated. She never lied, never stretched the truth, and never assumed something to be something it wasn’t. And because of this, she was also always right. In fact, she was absolutely correct when she declared The Garbage Pail Kids Movie to be the worst film ever made. It was true. And when she said that The Brothers Karamazov was undoubtedly the only book anyone would ever need to read, she could not have been more accurate. She knew the best places in the city for milkshakes, borsht, sunsets and public washrooms. It was uncanny just how right one person could be. The singular untruth about her was her moniker: “Mince” was only a nickname, and yet Tommy never once discovered what her real name was. And he’d never once asked.
Mince consistently amazed Tommy. To her, the best thing about it was that she never even had to try. She was the first girlfriend Tommy had in New York and very nearly the first girl he’d ever spoken to in Manhattan. That alone was enough to satisfy him. To Tommy, having dreamed his whole life of coming to the greatest city in the world and making love to one of its native residents was surreal. In truth, there really wasn’t much that Mince Wilson could have possibly done to screw up their relationship. She always had Tommy wrapped around her finger.
Tommy pressed the buzzer. Nothing. He tried it again.
“Yeah?” said the voice on the other end, loud enough to speak over crying kids. The wonderful noise of the street traffic returned once her finger was released from the intercom.
“Mince? It’s Tommy.”
The screaming picked up right where it left off. “What?” Tommy cringed a little from what sounded like some daycare of torture.
“It’s Tommy Mueller.”
“The guy from Seattle?”
“Seattle? Come on, I’m a New Yorker, babe!” Tommy didn’t mean to confuse her, but he also didn’t want to pretend he was anything he wasn’t. Nevertheless, the door clicked open and Tommy made his way back up the once-familiar stairs.
But the higher Tommy stepped the more unsure he had become. The details of his relationship with Mince Wilson were now nothing but watered down memories: he couldn’t recall how long they had dated or where they had broken up, and it was no surprise that the memory of where they had kissed for the first time was now misplaced. It wasn’t until he approached her door, behind which emanated the miserable squeals of malcontent children, that Tommy found one of the missing pieces. There was a fist-sized dent in the wall beside the door; the only physical evidence that the two of them had ever broken up was still waiting to be repaired. He placed his hand in the cavity just to make sure it still fit, but the door opened before Tommy could decide if it made him feel any better.
“Tommy? My goodness, it is you.” The evidence that ten years had passed had never been more obvious than it was on Mince Wilson. But maybe that was still her being truthful about everything. She was noticeably heavier, and grayed at the temples with her frazzled hair tied back in what was possibly the worlds’ most unflattering ponytail. Her smooth, dark skin had somehow worn lighter and was now covered with unappealing bumps. She was trying her best to hold on to a two-year old who, much like Tommy, did not want to be there, and she failed miserably. The kid ran off somewhere inside the dark apartment, the exact opposite direction Tommy wanted to be at that moment.
“What are you doing here?” The television volume suddenly went up roughly eight notches. Some incessant cartoon was trying its best to out-yell the kids.
“Honestly, I’m not really sure now.”
“Do you want to come inside?” Mince stepped back a little in order to give Tommy access to her cave of hell.
“God no!” Tommy jumped back a little. “This will only take a minute. Can we talk out here in the hall?”
She stepped out and closed the door, muffling the noise only somewhat. Tommy noticed her t-shirt had ridden up a little above her bulbous waist, revealing the dark void of what was once the world’s cutest bellybutton. “What is it Tommy?”
Tommy decided the best thing to do would be to simply cut to the chase. “Here’s the thing. I just came back here to ask you why we broke up.”
“I don’t want you to get the wrong idea…” The television went up again, followed by the sound of something hard hitting something even harder. Mince just ignored the clamor while Tommy continued. “I’m definitely not trying to spark an old flame or anything. I just–“
“Wait, you’re not going all John Cusack on me right now, are you?”
“Uh…um. Yeah. I guess it sounds pretty stupid, but that’s exactly what I’m doing.”
Mince almost answered immediately, but then she took a little extra time to think about it. She glanced at the dent in the wall; Tommy imagined she ran her fingers along it every day, as though it was a precious memento left behind. A trophy for surviving the world’s worst relationship.
Finally, she said, “The last time we ever ate pancakes at the Veselka. Do you remember that?”
“We ate a lot of pancakes at the Veselka,” Tommy admitted. “You might want to narrow it down for me.”
“You kept going on and on about some friend of yours. About how you were doing this with him, and then doing that. I couldn’t get a word in. I just kept eating my pancakes.”
“I don’t understand.”
“I was fed up with competing, Tommy. I just felt like you wanted to be with him more than you wanted to be with me.”
“Was that his name?”
“No,” she thought back. “No, it wasn’t Jesse.”
Tommy didn’t want to say it. But he did anyway. “Patrick?” After all, Patrick was the reason why he came to Mince Wilson’s apartment in the first place.
“Yeah. Patrick. That was it.” She looked down the hall, past Tommy. As though that pancake breakfast was happening again right behind him. “Patrick always came first with you, and I just had enough of coming in second.”
“Huh.” As eloquent as Tommy liked to consider himself, he had a knack for failing to recognize the times he wasn’t. Times just like this. “Huh,” he said again with even less panache.
“We came back here. I told you what was what and that was that. You punched a hole in my hallway and then you left.”
Tommy took another look behind him. “In the wall’s defense, that’s really more of a dent than a hole,” he noted. “But I see your point.” Something ran into the other side of the door and started crying. Tommy jumped back a little more, while Mince didn’t even flinch. “You gonna tend to that?” he asked.
“I’ll get to it when we’re done here,” she said coldly. “I’ll tell you Tommy from Seattle, I actually thought we were done ten years ago.”
“I guess this was all just a waste of time then?”
Mince clutched the doorknob. Not because she was making a move towards the relative safety of her home, but simply because she felt she needed something to hold on to. “Goes to show you how little can change in such a long time.”
The city breathes out. And Tommy exhaled. Mince Wilson was as perceptive and frank as ever. Kate may have been right about the High Fidelity plan being a bad one. “Maybe Cusack was wrong,” he pondered.
“Cusack’s an idiot. And I don’t care what anyone says, that book was much better than the movie.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Of course I am.” She was never less than one hundred percent sure about anything. Mince opened her door and stepped back inside, just as the crying came to an end. “You know Tommy, you always were a chowderhead. And you still are a chowderhead.”
Mince Wilson was right. She always was. And there was nothing Tommy could do but agree with her.