This story comes from my collection, School Police, available now.
It’s true. Ask anyone. The first time we noticed it, we were all in Gerry’s basement bored and doing this kind of tickle fight teenagers do and you could feel the tension between some of us and some of the slow learners just wanted to tickle. But Nikki and Josie never touched, just looked. All their friends were either worried or jealous.
Everyone said that they met secretly. They would go to art movies together, the ones that no one else went to. They went to the Geriatric Pantry, what we called the buffet restaurant on Noose Hill Road, where none of their friends ever ate or even worked. They were just rumors and, during that period, those last few months before we all graduated, I wanted to know everything I could about everyone I knew. The rumors were frustrating.
We were seniors, our whole group. We were the geeks, the drama kids, the after-school smokers, and nascent punk/indie rockers at Bishop Grosseteste Catholic High School in Del Ray.
Nikki had black hair, Josie had black hair. Nikki had green eyes and small ears, Josie had blue eyes and a cute nose. They were compatible. They were both seventeen: Josie was Taurus, Nikki was a Cancer.
But they weren’t in erotic love, then, they were in the surface kind, that’s full of ice and sweaty palms. They were in love, sure, that was easy. But the rest was hard, and nobody gave them any Your Changing Body and Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul books that told them how to kiss. You could tell they dreamt about each other.
Gerry was going to be an artist, Josie was a writer and Nikki was a writer, too. Our friends April and Leah were the dramats: April was in the musicals and Leah was always the serious actor. She couldn’t sing. I was the guy with the car. I drove us around until Gerry got his license.
We had a Reading Circle for the AP tests and we read Woolf and Wolf and Salinger and Eliot. Josie always sat across from Nikki. Nikki’s friend Leah always sat next to Josie. When the conversations got boring, you could see Nikki and Josie start to roll their eyes at each other. We saw it on the first day of the group, how their eyes rose to meet at the center of the circle. Even Sister Hope, the moderator, saw it.
Winter came and we had the Cotillion dance. No one knew who to ask out, so we went as a group, kind of. Nikki went with me and Josie went with Gerry. I was in a tuxedo and Gerry was in a tuxedo and Josie and Nikki had the same dress, only different colors. Nikki’s hair was all done up, Josie’s lay flat. The told us they went shopping together.
Nikki and I danced to slow songs and then I sat and looked at the candles and didn’t want to dance. Our group was all dancing, and Josie was talking to Gerry and April told me if I didn’t dance she’d hit me. She smelled like some kind of vanilla. She had candles in her eyes and she was wearing a red dress with sequins. She reached over and took off my tie and took me to dance to a slow one, then made me dance a fast one, AC/DC. She made me spin her and I tried to do a dip and almost dropped her. I kept looking above April, at everybody else dancing.
When I went back to the table, Gerry was alone. We sat next to each other ripping up the paper tablecloth. There was another fast one, which April took me out to dance to, then a slow one. That’s when we saw Nikki and Josie dancing.
Sprinkle pepper on water in a bowl and then add a drop of detergent. That’s a science experiment. The pepper shoots out in a circle, because of surface tension, I think, leaving this empty hole. That’s where Nikki and Josie were, in the hole surrounded by people, dancing too, but watching.
Josie was leading. Josie spun Nikki; Nikki lay her head on Josie’s shoulder. Sister Hope, who knew us all and liked us, came over to them and asked them to stop dancing. Then the song ended thirty seconds later and they stopped.
When April saw them dance, she looked me in the eye and kissed me soft on the lips. Just real quick, then she looked back, smiling, candles in her eyes and on her sequins.
Nikki’s grandmother died and I went to the funeral with Leah and April and Josie and Gerry. Nikki was in a black dress and her mother was a big woman and her father was a big man. The whole family came to talk to us at the funeral home. They thanked us for coming. Nikki’s eyes were all red, so were Josie’s and Leah’s. Leah had just lost her grandmother, too, after Christmas.
It got late. I gave Nikki a hug and gave her sister one, too. Then the whole family went to talk to someone else and we left to go to eat at the only diner nearby. I had a milkshake and April had a cheese sandwich. Gerry had a chicken sandwich and Josie had the Greek salad and none of the food was any good.
Josie left to go to the bathroom, but we think she went to the pay phone. She left a five-dollar bill on the table and said she’d see us at school.
Picture Nikki in her winter coat, all bundled up. Picture snowflakes on her shoulders and in her hair and she’s looking at us through the side window of my car and she’s angry. We had a bad snowstorm in early February.
Picture Josie in the back holding Gerry’s hand and I’m in front with April and April is motioning for Nikki to get in. It’s cold and the heater is on and it’s loud.
Josie started dating Gerry and nobody said anything until we all went to the park for sledding. We started a snowball fight and Nikki threw one at Josie with a rock in it, and it cut her face. April just went to the car and we followed and Nikki didn’t get into the car but stood in the snowy lot and watched us drive away. I don’t know how she got home, but Gerry said she lived close. Josie was crying.
“She’s crazy,” said April, finally, explaining Nikki’s problem. We all had to agree, because Josie was just nodding and nodding, holding onto Gerry.
In March, Gerry and Josie and April and me were sitting on a damp hill on this old blanket from the back of Gerry’s station wagon and we were talking about religion. There were stars out, lots, now and it was so warm we all took off our sweaters. Josie and Gerry were still going out, and Nikki stopped hanging out with us. I asked Gerry what was going on and he didn’t know. He just knew that he loved Josie. I knew I loved April.
She was talking about radios.
“We all the get same signals, you know? But the signals go through us differently. So think of God as that signal and we’re all built to receive the energy from God differently,” she said.
“Like a cumulative life force, kind of,” I said. I had been reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and thinking about Taoism, but I never really got it, then.
“What do you mean?” Gerry asked.
“Like we’re all part of the same mass,” I said, “But we’re just cut different and when we die we fit perfectly into the mass.”
“Like we can connect with somebody? And fit perfectly?” said Gerry, rolling to face Josie.
“I guess,” April said. “But that’s not what I meant.”
“I guess,” I said. “I don’t know.”
“I don’t know either,” Josie said.
Picture thousands of meteorites coming down over us. There was some kind of big shower at the end of March and April and I were on the same hill, on the same tarp. Gerry and Josie were at a party with beer.
You could see the meteorites coming down out of the corner of your eye and April and eye kept looking sideways at the sky, trying to catch one.
“Got one,” she said.
“Big one?” I asked.
“I can’t remember.”
I turned over and tried to kiss her because I really loved her, just then. I noticed she was still looking, out of the side of her eye, trying to catch more.
At the beginning of April, we were worried about Josie. She wouldn’t talk to Gerry or Leah or me. Nikki never talked to us anymore.
I was in my room. It was the first warm night in a long time. I was reading on my bed and the reading light was on and my parents were downstairs, watching television. April called me and asked me to come over with my car. She said it was an emergency.
I told my parents I was going to a movie and took the car to April’s house. Josie told April, finally, that she had taken a half bottle of aspirin and now she was puking. April’s parents were in Florida. We called Josie’s parents and they came to get her.
April and I lay together on the carpet of her dining room with the lights out and we were holding our arms up over our heads to see who could do it for the longest. I did it for five minutes, April did it for six, then we stopped. It wasn’t hard, but our muscles cramped.
“Josie still loves Nikki,” April said, finally. I nodded, next to her. “Really, a lot.”
“So what’s going to happen?”
“Nikki’s going to college in Maine.”
“So what’s going to happen?” I asked again.
April shrugged next to me and curled up to me, under my arm. “With Nikki and Josie? I don’t know. I think she’s breaking up with Gerry.”
We kissed on the floor. We got so close. I had my pants off and she had her skirt down and my hand was up her shirt and I touched her breast. I was shaking. She put her hand on my heart.
“Your heart beats a lot,” she said.
I kind of smiled and I took her hand and kissed it.
She lay back on the carpet and looked up at the ceiling. That was the end of it.
For a week in May, as it was getting warm, our group was split up. Josie broke up with Gerry, and he didn’t come to school from Monday until Wednesday. I got accepted to a school in New York.
Leah and Nikki were spending a lot of time together. Josie wasn’t talking to anybody.
If you asked anyone in my group to name the most beautiful girl that year, they’d say Nikki. I thought April was beautiful, sure, but Nikki was radiant after Christmas. I never really looked at her, but she had this way of walking that was very proud and very strong. None of the boys would talk to her, really, except for her friends. Nobody could tell me what happened after Christmas. Maybe she and Josie were back together, and she was happy, but I didn’t hear anything about it. All I heard were rumors: Nikki and Leah kissing in a car, Nikki and Josie fighting in the downstairs restroom, Nikki and Josie spread out in somebody’s imagination.
Then, on Friday, Nikki and Josie were in love again. Everybody was talking to each other again. Leah told April who told me who told Gerry. That weekend, Leah and April and Nikki and Josie and I went to the movies.
We all sat down next to each other, me at the end. Josie put her hand in Nikki’s, Nikki put her hand in Leah’s, Leah put hers in April’s, and April put her hand in mine. We sat like that the whole movie. It was a vampire movie, and Leah and April were making fun of it. I looked down the line at Nikki and Josie. They were just staring straight ahead. Josie had both hands in Nikki’s hand, intertwined.
When the movie was over, we all went for ice cream at Paul’s Ice Dream where Gerry worked. He was there, in back, and came out to see us. He sat at the table and looked only at me.
“Tad spit in somebody’s shake today,” Gerry said.
“Who’s Tad?” I asked. Gerry didn’t hear.
“He did?” Josie asked. She was shocked.
“Yeah, he spit in this guy’s shake who was yelling at Ming at the counter.”
Ming was a girl who went to our school. She was at the register. I guessed that Tad was the tall guy in back with the acne and long, flat black hair.
I was drinking a shake and I looked at it.
“Did he spit in this one?” I asked.
Gerry smiled, finally. “No,” he said.
Nikki and Josie were holding hands.
Gerry went back behind the counter and talked to Ming and Tad for a while. He yelled to us and looked around, then held out a cup.
“This one is going to a wrestling team asshole in a convertible at the drive through,” he said. Tad gave us a goofy thumbs-up.
Gerry got fired from his job for always being late. He hung around with me a lot. We were about to graduate. Prom was soon. I was wondering if Nikki and Josie would dance again. I hoped Nikki and Josie would dance before we all left. I felt like we all had cancer, that’s how bad I felt about splitting up with my friends. I was crying a lot with April. She was going to school in Wisconsin.
Gerry and I were sitting in my car in the parking lot by the movie theater, drinking milkshakes. It was late. It had rained all day, but now the sky was clear and the air was warm. We wanted beer, but we didn’t want to have to go get it. We didn’t know anybody old enough. We were talking about sex.
“Josie and I did,” he said.
“It?” I asked.
“You’re lying,” I said.
“If you don’t believe me, fuck you,” he said. He turned and looked out the side window at the mall. Paul’s Ice Dream was closing. I saw Tad come out and smoke a cigarette.
“Tad is sick, man,” Gerry said, “He came in one of the milkshakes.”
“Really?” I asked.
“If you don’t believe me…”
I nodded. Tad would do that kind of thing, I decided. He went to the Art Academy in North Umberland.
“Did April and you do it?”
“No,” I said.
We had tried to do it again, after the first time, but it didn’t work. We didn’t want to. It was like a Ouija board. Someone was moving us in the wrong direction the whole time. Someone wanted Yes, someone wanted No. I felt sick to my stomach thinking about it. I thought I had hurt her.
“I’m not feeling too good, Gerry,” I said. He didn’t hear.
“What are we going to do?” I asked.
“About what?” Gerry asked.
“About school and all of us, like April and Nikki and Josie.”
“We’re going away,” Gerry said.
“Why did you and Josie break up,” I asked.
“You know,” he said. “Lesbian love.” Then he tried to throw the milkshake out the window. But the window wasn’t rolled down. It splattered inside the car, all over his pants, in his hair, on me. I hit him in the arm and he wiped milkshake off his hair onto the floor. I went over him and rolled down the window, then opened the door and shoved him out into the parking lot.
“Fucker,” he said.
“No, you’re the fucker,” I said. I was scooping milkshake out onto the ground. I got some napkins out of the bag the milkshakes came in, then pushed out the rest of the ice cream with the bag.
“Get in,” I said. Gerry was shaking himself off like a dog.
I closed the door and started the car. I yelled to him. “Get in, I said.”
He shook his head. “Sorry,” he said, laughing. Then he started walking home. I followed at his heels for a little while, honking the horn like New Year’s. But he didn’t get in or even turn around.
Gerry started going out with Leah a few days later and we didn’t see him much after that, except at prom. I had trouble getting the milkshake stains out of the carpet. I wasn’t expecting his reaction.
Picture Josie kissing Nikki in front of all of us during Truth or Dare, them kissing like it was completely natural, accidental that their mouths just touched, but expected. It was the prom after-party at Leah’s house and everybody was there, watching this kiss. April was laying over me in her blue satin, Nikki and Josie were sitting together in matching dresses again, only in different colors. Leah had turned the lights low and Leah’s parents had finally gone upstairs.
“Truth or Dare,” Gerry had said to Nikki when we began.
Nikki and Josie hadn’t danced together at prom. Somebody asked them not to, I guess. But they hadn’t asked dates to go with them. They had gone together.
“Dare,” Nikki had said.
“I dare you to kiss Leah.”
So she did.
Then Nikki Truthed me and asked if I was a virgin, and I said yes, then I asked Josie, “Truth or Dare.”
I dared Nikki to kiss Josie.
So she did.
So picture these two beautiful women in dresses kissing in low light. It was a real kiss, one of Josie’s hands on Nikki’s cheek, April in my lap, her hair tickling my chin, Gerry on the floor, sprawled out flat, looking up. The clock was ticking in the kitchen, I guess. Nikki and Josie were kissing, dressed alike.
That’s all I can remember about those last months. It’s difficult to tell now what happened. Everybody dispersed.
I came back home once every three months and met with Gerry, sometimes. We would sit at the Geriatric Pantry putting vodka in our orange juice and eating. It had become our haunt, a safe place to go when we were home. Gerry was getting fatter and studying philosophy at the state college forty miles south.
April broke up with me three weeks after we left for school. One night we were talking about her, and Nikki and Josie came up. “They’re living together, somewhere, I heard,” he said. He and Leah broke up and he barely talked to anyone, so he didn’t have much news.
Josie had gone to Pitt and Nikki went to school in Pennsylvania. Both of them were studying literature and they both called me one night at school. I told Gerry about it.
“They were somewhere, at a bar I guess, and yelling into the receiver. They were trying to tell me something, but I couldn’t hear.”
“They called me in New York, too, but I wasn’t home,” he said. “They called everybody I guess.”
I could imagine them, chin to chin, yelling into the telephone.
*** Josephine Debney and Nicole Kramer are both spending a school year in Milan next year. Josephine is a sophomore studying technical writing at Penn State and Nicole is a sophomore at the University of Pittsburgh and is studying physics and creative writing.****
I never submitted my info to my alumni association. My mom kept sending me clippings. Of all my friends, I was the only one who seemed to be having problems.
So that means they finally were living together. I was trying to study math, but it wasn’t working for me. I switched to philosophy with a minor in business. I was alone a lot and started drinking more. Gerry didn’t call me anymore when I was home for Christmas. I felt like that most of my time was up at home, that I couldn’t really go back anymore. New York was like nothing I had ever seen. It was crazy, insane. I had a girlfriend freshman year, a Russian girl named Anna, but we broke up and I was alone for a long time after that.
I spent a little time sailing with a friend from the math department. He taught sailing and tried to teach me. We’d go around the point of Manhattan for an hour or so and he’d teach me to trim the sail and steer. That happened once in a while in the summer. Not often. It was too muggy on the water.
The next two years, I only came back at Christmas and always was in New York for New Year’s with my few friends. I hung out a lot in my department and talked about weird movies and theories, like Kabbalah and ciphers. I was twisting into myself. What I wanted, and what was impossible to find, was a group of people like Nikki and Josie and Gerry and all those guys. I wanted to see them again. One night, after I came back from a bar, I wrote letters to the all my old friends, asking them to come see me. I signed my name with a Chinese ink stamp I bought at a small shop on Mulberry Street. I mailed them the next morning and got a few calls over the next few days.
Gerry called first. He said he’d take the bus up.
Del Ray is almost twenty-four hours from New York by bus. It was insane, I told him. I told him to take a plane. He said he had already bought the tickets.
At that time I was studying Taoism so I walked through the crowds at Port Authority in a trance. People passed around me like water around a tumbling leaf. Gerry came down off the bus and was cursing at a woman behind him. It was eight in the morning.
“Eighteen fucking hours with that bitch spraying perfume into my fucking ear,” he said. Gerry had gained weight. He was always big, but now he was puffy.
“I need a drink,” he yelled. He yelled it again, but nobody turned to look.
We went to a crappy bar on Broadway, had a drink, and then Gerry pulled me out into the morning sun. A short guy in sneakers and a suit jacket held up a sign advertising an Italian restaurant down a side street. Another guy handed Gerry a flier for a strip club in Times Square. Even as a Taoist and even at nine in the morning I could tell New York smelled like piss.
We drank more, and by noon I was flying. Gerry and I walked down to my apartment and none of my roommates were home. He took a shower and I rolled a joint. We smoked on the fire escape, looking down at the massive base of the Triborough Bridge. Kids were playing basketball in a court underneath it. As I got stoned, I was able to pick out individual engines in the cars passing over the bridge. I was able to follow the sound of an old Cadillac, a bright yellow taxi, and a big truck. I could tell the red cars from the blue cars just by the sound of their engine.
Gerry and I didn’t talk much that day. He told me that he had dropped out of college and was trying to become a carpenter. He had been dating a girl named Melody who worked at Frisch’s Big Boy but he broke it off when she started crying every night after work and moping on the telephone with him for hours.
We listened to a friend’s band play that night and drank some more. By midnight I was drunk off my ass, my Taoism forgotten. Gerry led me to another bar then another. We went to a bar where all the waitresses wore cropped t-shirts. We went to another where they served German beer in tall metal steins. We ended up eating pierogi in a small Ukrainian restaurant near my apartment.
We walked back to my apartment. On the way we passed a man rooting through trash cans. He’d pull out an aluminum can, crinkle it a little, then blow into the top to expand it completely. Gerry screamed.
“You’re going to get herpes,” he said. I pulled him down the sidewalk. We were going along a thin street lined on either side with big brownstones. We came up to St. Mark’s place and I showed him the house they used on the cover of the Led Zeppelin album.
I was spinning. We sat down in an all-night diner, the light buzzing above us and the waiters looking like monsters. It was four in the morning. Gerry started to talk.
“I’m thinking, man, like, I got to leave Del Ray and I think I’ll move up here with you, it’s dead down there, you know, it really is, and I’d like to meet somebody nice because Melody was a big skag so I just need to like, find a good place to apprentice and work my way up to being a house carpenter or something, something I can do with my hands, my manos, you know, cause that shit is the only real shit out there, all the rest is bull, just plain bull, because if you’re putting something up with your hands, if you’re really creating life and shit, that’s the real stuff, I don’t know, man, I don’t know, it’s so frustrating back there, you know, my parents are into me to get a job and you have it so good and I’m thinking I’ll just leave too, go to Utah or some fucking place in Europe and just chill out, get my head straight, not be like everybody else, like those damn faggots who have everything in the right place, remember them that one night because I can hardly forget it, it made me sick to my stomach because of all the things that could have happened, all the good things that could have happened to all of us, I got none of it, I got sick a year ago, almost died, I waited for Josie to call one night and Melody called instead and she fucking stoned me to death with her complaining because I was sick as a dog, with appendicitis, and I couldn’t move after the operation, did I tell you that I had an operation? For appendicitis, because it was shit, man, shit. Nothing works out.”
We walked back uptown to my apartment. My roommates weren’t home. We went up to the roof and drank beers and spit over the edge.
“I miss you guys,” I said, finally. It was almost six. I had to work that morning, but I decided I’d call in sick. The stars were gone now and the sun was just a pink rumor on the horizon, hidden by Queens.
“Like fuck you do,” Gerry said. He threw his bottle into a corner. It clattered then rolled to a stop.
“My landlord lives downstairs. Stop it,” I said.
“This is all shit,” said Gerry, quietly. He sat down on the silvered tar.
Eventually we both went down and watched soft porn on cable while the sun rose. I called the Chinese guy who worked with me as a desk attendant in the dorms downtown to take over for me and went to bed. The rest of the visit we were pretty quiet. Gerry and I went out a few times but I always ended up going back to the apartment without him. He bought a map and tried to figure stuff out alone and always came home in the morning after having ridden the train all night and ending up somewhere like Coney Island or the ass end of Queens.
The last day he was there, he came back in the morning and told me he might have found a roommate and that he might stay in New York.
“I met this girl down at a bar and she says she wants to move out of her apartment and go to Williamsburg. Is that far?”
“Not very,” I said.
“So maybe I’ll call her. That would be cool. We could hang, you know?”
He called her and she didn’t remember him. He rode home on the bus that night.
School was over and summer started. I was going to be a senior and I still hadn’t found a real major. I was kind of between English and Philosophy, but I didn’t have the patience to do the work. I was squeaking by, whatever that meant, and my teachers liked me so I was alright. One more year and I’d be out in the world.
April came in July to visit a friend of hers and she called me when she got into town. I hadn’t seen her since graduation. She got big. A lot bigger. She told me that she busted a knee playing lacrosse and couldn’t work out. She was still nice and we had a good time. She told me she was in town visiting this guy she liked and I met him. He was a jackass. They went to school together. A few days later April flew from JFK to Florence to visit a friend who had just finished studying abroad in London and was traveling Europe for a while. She said she might go and see Nikki and Josie. I took her to the airport because the jackass didn’t want much to do with her.
Before she left, I asked her to take a letter to Nikki and Josie. She asked me why I just didn’t email them and I told her I hadn’t gotten anyone’s email. Plus, letters were more personal. It made me feel better that someone was reading something I wrote out by hand. Email was just a simulation of my feelings. Letters were real.
So I wrote a letter, just kind of glossing over whatever was going on in my life. I told them about seeing Gerry and what I was studying and how cool New York was. I encouraged them to visit.
April left and I stayed up for about a week straight. I was looking for a job, but couldn’t find anything better than working at the dorms. There were a lot graduate students from China staying in the dorms and I talked a lot about the Chinese vision of communism with this one political science Ph.D. student named Ping. She was extremely well versed in the history of totalitarian government and she gave me a bunch of books on pre-war fascism and the People’s Revolution. We hooked up one night after I got off work. We went down the street to this crappy Apple bar and kissed a little. She was drunk and distraught because her husband had stopped writing her. She found out that he had left their children with her parents in Beijing and disappeared. She couldn’t go back because it would invalidate her student visa.
I would come home from work, go for a run along the river, come home and drink with the new roommate, Holloway. Holloway was in a punk band called the New Rock Motherfelchers and he was good at telling stories about touring. He told me about one girl who made him sign her breasts and how they met R.E.M. In Augusta, Maine. He was staying in our other roommate Lucy’s room while she was in Spain with her parents.
Holloway and I talked a little about Nikki and Josie. I showed him high school pictures while we were stoned and he kind of stroked his stomach and thumbed through the yearbook and the photos I had.
“So they’re lesbians?”
“Yeah,” I said. I flicked a picture of Nikki, Josie, Gerry, April, and I all standing at the Del Ray Botanic Gardens. Nikki and Josie and April are holding hands.
“I’ve got a buddy in Toronto. He’s dating lesbians.”
“Yeah. He’s a little older but he’s cool as shit. He scored, you know? Double your pleasure.”
So I would go to bed and think about Nikki and Josie in the long dark of midnight, kissing, holding each other in some dark room. The room is always almost empty, just maybe their backpacks against the wall, their boots on the floor. Clothes in little piles, like kindling, and the moon washes over the while sheets and the curtains blow into the room and out again. There’s a bottle of table wine by the bed, they’ve been drinking from it straight and they’re so much in love.
The world rotates and the moon sets and the sun rises and the sun sets and the Ponte Vecchio crumbles and they are in love.
* * *
April came back on August 12. She was tan and happy and asked if she could stay at my place for a week, to kind of figure things out with her jackass in New York. Holloway was in North and South Carolina with his band so Lucy’s room was empty. All my other roommates rarely came home and I was alone a lot. I told April she could stay for a while.
The next night the jackass dumped April completely. He just wasn’t interested and he made this abundantly clear by dissing her at this Mexican place. He came with a couple of his friends, two girls, and they were kind of vying for his attention and April couldn’t get in. Then he invited them all back to her place and they got stoned and the jackass and one of the girls went off to bed, leaving April and the other girl to see themselves out. She came back in absolute tears at 5am after getting on the wrong train, just like Gerry, and ending up in Harlem.
I fried her up some cheese, this kind of Colombian cheese I liked, and some eggs and we sat at the kitchen table and she kind of sniffled.
The next morning April and I went to lunch and I went to work for a while and then met her to go to a movie. She wanted to visit New York even though jackass had blown her off. She went to Times Square and I told her to meet me at Battery Park a little later and we could go to the movie and maybe eat dinner somewhere. I met her by the big fort there and she told me she went to see where the Towers were and that she needed to laugh so we saw some crappy comedy and then went to a pizza joint. We went walking, after that, up Broadway. We ended up at Union Square. It was warm and she looked OK in her red shirt and this skirt and she must have lost some weight in Europe. She told me I was too skinny when she held on to my arm going up Broadway.
“Just not too hungry,” I said. And it was true. I never got hungry.
“I’m ugly,” she said, smiling kind of.
“No, no you’re not.”
“Thanks. Whatever. He’s a fucker.”
“Sure he is,” I said.
We sat down in the park there and started to talk. The sky was floodlit from below and we sat and sat. It was midnight then it was one.
“How come you left?” asked April.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean you never came back. I never saw you.”
“At Christmas or whatever. This is the first time we talked in a long, long time. We were buds.”
“Sure we were.”
“I don’t know, April,” I said. “Who knows. I never wanted to come back. There was always something here. I had a girlfriend for a while, then I got a job here and no job there. Whatever.”
I guess I had been quiet. I let her talk. It was easier.
We were quiet.
“I saw Nikki and Josie. They’re doing great.”
“Really?” I kind of sat up.
“They’re in Florence. It’s an incredible program. You take history and language. You’re really immersed.”
“I saw the alumni thing.”
“They’re still together, which is incredible. They’re the only couple still together.”
“I never knew them.”
“Sure you did,” she said. She looked at me. A guy in shorts and no shirt rolled past on skates.
“I never did. You guys did.”
“I don’t know. You guys never included me sometimes. After we broke up.”
“Oh, honey. We did.”
“I don’t know. I liked Josie a little.”
“No you didn’t.”
“I did. I did.”
“OK. I guess. Why did we break up?”
“Funny to be here now.”
“Funny. We’re graduating soon. Are Nikki and Josie graduating on time?”
“I guess. They’re moving to King City later. For Nikki’s graduate school.”
“God. They’re perfect.”
“No, they’re just our friends. They’re cool,” she said. She put her head on my shoulder.
“Want to go sailing tomorrow,” I asked her.
“My friend from school works at a yacht slip. He can get us a boat.”
“Can you sail?”
“When did you learn?”
“Or he can take us out. Its slow down there.”
“Did you learn?” she asked.
“So you lied.”
She kissed me on the cheek and then the mouth. I closed my eyes and then looked up at the washed out sky. God, I thought. Somewhere else, a dog is barking and you can see stars. Here just the water and the sun.
Image by Atheby.