Just when it appeared that the end of the career was at hand — the routine of nothingness made long for nothing — the rope of security bound me and tossed me into the corner for preparation of a prolonged assault.

Head down, crushing the helpless beans of joltiness, a familiar voice from long ago spoke.

“How ya been?”

A voice from the past, a friendly voice, directed my way. Lifting the smooth, light reflecting forehead of forthrightness, I looked out and there before me was one of the most dutiful small men a small doer of good could have at his side.

“Izzy? Is that...Izzy?”

Extending his hand, palm slightly up, presenting for a friendly handshake, Izzy smile a grin from ear-to-ear.

There was nothing to say. The parts of an awkwardly assembled universe seemed to be falling back into their proper orbit. I knew what he drank and made us each a crushed coffee bean treat, sharing his smile.

“I'll be back in a little while,” I told whoever was needing to listen, throwing my apron in the corner.

Handing Izzy his drink, I led the loyal man outside to sit.

It was good to shrink the world. With Izzy here I remember who I am, who I have always been, no matter how much I deny or pretend otherwise. I also learn Izzy bought some time on the compound when I disappeared, but it was eventually taken by the bank. He also said it was on the market, a bit trashed, but available — still don't have the resources and concerned that such a move would be a step backward. He offered to help in any and every way.

There was concern on my part about his ability to locate me, but he reminded me he still worked for various areas of the government and had set traps in the system over the years, so if anything regarding my memes had shown up he would be alerted. He had given me up for dead, so when he was alerted after 4+ years of nothing he had to come and see if there was an imposter — he brought a gun in case there was an imposter to dispose of. He is a good man.

I offered no clear explanation for where I had been and why. He noticed I seemed “a little darker, not as jolly,” to which I explained that there was a darkness within that was disconcerting, that I was trying my best to ignore. The comfort of being able to pick up a conversation nearly a half decade old bonded our Captainesque connection. Then, he made an offer of escape.

“Mariza's in Japan.”

“Why?”

“School, she says.”

“School? Shouldn't she have graduated by now?”

“She did, but couldn't find a job — I should say a job didn't find her — so decided to get a graduate degree,” Izzy spoke sorely of his daughter.

“In Japan?”

“Yeah, Asian studies. I don't know what she thinks she is going to do with that degree.”

“System job studying Asians? Didn't know you could make a living doing that...or that that could be one's passion.”

“She's really into anime and manga, and she says people think she is Japanese.”

“Anime? Manga? Japanese?”

“I don't know, don't ask me. It's Japanese animation and comics or something. I don't know. She is part Asian, maybe that is why she's interested. I really don't know. Don't ask me,” he answered in frustration.

“A tiny part, and not Japanese. And she's from this country, as mutty as the rest of us. Is she doing alright?”

“I was hoping you could tell me,” Izzy smirked.

“I haven't seen her since she was a little girl.”

“She's not so little anymore. She's short, but she's filled out, busted out, know what I mean? She's...”

“Fat?” I asked, getting quickly to the pointlessness.

“No, not at all. She is tiny, with big...” he began, finishing by holding has hands in front of his chest.

“Oh, I see. Well, she rules the world as she wishes then.”

“I don't know about that. She's mad at me and only talks to her mom to get money for school.”

“What did you do?”

“She said I was never there when she was growing up.”

“But she'll take your money, the money you were making not being there?”

“Oh yeah.”

“I'm sorry.”

“Well, I had an idea.”

“Ideas can be good. What is it?”

“How much do you like this job?”

“It's okay...it keeps me disciplined and helps me stay focused on a path. I managed a big payday when a customer sued; he gave me a nice cut, which I invested in him. And...no, I hate it. I think about returning to the streets every day. I'm dead in there, not sure how much longer I can do it. I think about walking out every day.”

“That's what I figured. You don't belong here.”

“I know, but that's one of the reasons I stay. It is easy to do what we want, but at times we have to do what is necessary.”

“It is nice to see you haven't changed. In fact, you look more fit and younger than you did 10 years ago.”

“You've always been a nice liar...and a crappy liar.”

“Thank you. Well, will you do it?”

“Do what?”

“Go to Japan and visit Mariza?”

“Why don't you? I'll go with you.”

“No, you don't know how angry she is. What I was thinking is you can run into her. She knows I have not seen you in years and have been looking for you, so you can just hang out in her area for a week or two and run into her, casually.”

“Where? In Nippon?”

“Nippon?”

“It is how many Japanese refer to their homeland.”

“Nippon, Japan, whatever you want to call it, yes. She has not told her mother her new address so she thinks we don't know where she is, but I got the information.”

“Of course. She has to know you know.”

“Who knows what she thinks.”

“We don't see each other for 4...5...6 years, whatever it is, and you want me to check in on your daughter?”

“You're the only one I trust.”

“Don't. I told you, there is a darkness within that is haunting me. I don't trust me.”

“That darkness has always been there. I have always known it is there, but there is truth within that you will not allow yourself to escape. I trust you to give me the truth. I know if my daughter is happy, you will tell me; if she is sad, you will tell me; if she is a junkie, you will tell me; if I am the cause, she will confide in you as everyone seems to and you will tell me.”

“Presumptive. I don't know.”

“I bought you a ticket,” he lied.

“You can't do that.”

“Yes, I can. I know you.”

“When do I leave?”

“Next month.”

“Japan?”

“Yeah.”

“Okay.”

“What's your number?”

“Don't really keep one.”

“Get a disposable one. How about an address, e-mail, something?”

“I am sure I will be here for another month and I can't guarantee I will check any electronic tethers. You know I don't do tethers well.”

“Darker? No, you're exactly the same, it just beginning to show more as the jolliness thins to truth.”

“You are the same too, my friend, though a tad smoother around the edges.”

“I can still kill.”

“No doubt.”

Izzy looked at his watch. “My flight leaves in a few, I'd better get back to the bird. It was good to see you alive.”

“And you.”

He extended his hand after we stood to share our goodbyes. I would not take the hand, instead giving his small frame a bear hug. I wanted to say, “I love you,” but was afraid of misinterpretation, but there were no other words I could find to express the appreciation of his dedication, his loyalty.

“Thanks for finding me,” is all I could offer.

“You're the one. And try not to get lost again,” he replied, then left.

Is not love the appropriate term to express when your existence grows in the presence of another...but we don't want any homoerotic confusion, especially with my ever growing youthful good looks...

Japan...in a month...and yet I return behind the counter to brutally crush beans. I do not know what a month in the future brings, but I know what is a in this moment...and Izzy still has to buy a ticket...he's an amateur manipulator, needing to close the deal before moving forward.

There is concern that letting people from the past into the present is a step backward, though, as he made clear, he has always been available, at the ready to loyally stand by my side...and it must be acknowledged that Japan is not this coffee house...quit...sabbatical...leave...disappear...difference? Indifference.