Carver sits on an organic bamboo bench outside the tea atelier. A chalkboard sign advertises a grassy green-black blend from the Zhejiang Province. He was certain the store was a front, but an investigation earlier that morning turned up nothing but a newfound love for white oolong, harvested by monks in Kathmandu.
A girl with a turquoise yoga mat exits the shop. The faint smell of peppermint emanates from her recycled BPA-free mug. He watches her amble down the cobblestone street, and he knows that her sweat-wicking tank top and crop pants are probably from Lululemon. A baby blue pamphlet catches his eye—he realizes she’s dropped it: DENNIS’ YOGA—HATHA, VINYASA, IYENGAR, BIKRAM, ASHTANGA. IYENGAR has been circled in purple. In fine print, it says: BOXING ALSO OFFERED.
“Miss!” he calls after her, but she has already turned the corner, by the fixed-gear bicycle shop.
Early afternoon. Bearded men gather in a beer garden.
Walon sips a smooth oatmeal stout in which he can detect a slight note of toffee. His dog, a rescue from the no-kill shelter housed in the space of a former strip club, laps up water from a bowl the waitress has brought him.
Across the street Bubbles pushes an ice cream cart: EARL GREY ICE CREAM WITH GINGER TONES AND SOURDOUGH CHUNKS, $6 PER CUP. He spies Walon—his NA sponsor—drinking, and darts across the street.
“Walon, how’s it going? You okay?”
Walon ignores Bubbles and asks the waitress to recommend a dry honey ale with a citrus nose. He motions that he’d like to purchase an ice cream.
Bubs notices a familiar face across the patio: round, smiling, her hair pulled into a loose bun. Kima. Her fork lifts a bite of omelet to her mouth, and Bubs knows the eggs are probably from free-range hens. She is with her wife and child and she looks happy. What has happened to Kima? He shudders.
McNulty’s Tinder date goes bad after he pretends to forget his wallet. After his date leaves he downs eighteen shots of vodka imported from a village in the Russian tundra. Struggling to stand, he leans against a Super Mario Bros. machine. A pretty, tattooed twentysomething punches buttons with her index finger.
“Less go home,” he says and she gives a nod to Marlo, who owns the bar—it’s full of Ms. Pac-Man and Centipede and other video games from the ’80s and ’90s. A doorman with suspenders and a handlebar mustache escorts McNulty out. McNulty thinks he’s a ghost and doesn’t resist.
Legs dangling from a barstool, the girl thanks Marlo. He tells her that McNulty’s a drunk who lives in West-West Baltimore, an area that may never gentrify.
“That’s so sad,” she says later, in bed in Marlo’s loft—a gut-renovated former typewriter factory with eco-friendly bamboo floors. He won’t call after that but she can’t blame him. He owns three video-game bars in a three-block radius. He’s a busy man. And she doesn’t, like, need to be tied down, anyway.