Home > The Lost Night(11)

The Lost Night(11)
Author: Andrea Bartz

“Ha! No.”

“No high school boyfriend?”

A ping of shame: Even after years of friendship, Damien didn’t know that the answer was no, not then, not ever. “Nah, definitely not cool enough for that. I was a weird kid. And I was chubby.”

He laughed delightedly. “Oh my god, you must have been adorable!”

“No, it was just bad-chubby.” Once or twice I’d awkwardly asked the nerd clique if I could be in their all-female dinner-and-photo-taking group for homecoming, but that was the extent of my social life. In college, too, I’d made mostly drinking buddies, other girls in my dorm who partook of the cheap whiskey I procured from a junior and stored under my bed. I’d availed myself of the university gym and Madison’s legendary party scene, discovering in alcohol and the occasional Klonopin all the mood-lifting effects I hadn’t in SSRIs. But close friends hadn’t come until I moved to New York, far away from my parents, the ones who only occasionally wanted to claim me. Far away from my whole sad youth, really.

“Hey, did you ever find anything in those emails?” he asked, as if hearing my thoughts.

“Not really. Just a reminder that I was twenty-three to the max.”

He laughed. “Weren’t we all?”

* * *

That night, I kneeled on the floor and pushed dusty boxes around under my bed until I’d found what I was looking for: old photo albums, anachronistic even then, cute ones with bikes and planets on their covers and endless permutations of the Calhoun gang inside. There were stacks of loose photos, too, and I carried everything into the living room, piling it on my lap.

Damn, had Edie ever taken a bad photo? She’d awed me even then, and sometimes, alone in my insecurity, I’d play out the impossible scenarios: Did Edie ever fart? Trip? Say the wrong thing and then blush bright red? For twenty-three years, she floated through life a few inches above us messy, gaffe-prone mortals. And then…

A photo of me pointing at my new cartilage piercing, coral pink and swollen. My fingers floated up and found it; ten years later, I still walk around with the piercing ring in. I remembered that day, early in the spring: I’d vaguely mentioned wanting a new piercing and Edie had jumped on it, declaring Saturday “bruncture day” because we were to get drunk at brunch and then make our way to a piercing place. I’d been distracted and nervous as we picked at our eggs, but I tried to hide it, to mirror Edie’s effortless cool. I lay on the piercing table, my head flopped to the side, while she flirted with the tattoo-covered piercer; he smirked at her as he snapped on his gloves. Later, she told me she could see my pulse pounding in my neck. With the steel hoop in place, Edie had hugged me and bought me iced coffee at the café across the street. As we’d browsed the racks of nearby vintage stores, I kept touching the earring, the flash of pain a permanent reminder of our “bruncture” bond.

I opened another photo album: Here were Sarah and Edie, monkeying around on the boys’ guitar and drum kit. Here were Kevin, Edie, and me, playing a drinking game while snow piled against the windows. I’d been so delighted to be part of a group, and a hip one at that, the kind of club that kids all over the nation would kill to be in. I turned the page: Here were Kevin and Edie, giving cheesy smiles and middle fingers to a flyer posted on Calhoun’s front door.

I squinted at it and remembered: People were trying to make TV shows and movies about our kind, and someone had hung flyers around the building to cast for a reality show; from what the gossip blogs reported, the concept was “hipsters in incongruous situations,” kids dressed like us working on farms and struggling through military boot camp. Sarah and Alex had been so irritated by the whole thing, so scolding whenever anyone used the h-word around them, but Edie had remained amused, simultaneously above and inside of the whole amorphous mass.

The grin on Kevin’s face. Nothing seemed to get under his skin. Kevin, who’d snicker good-naturedly or crack an off-the-wall joke or make a farting sound with his mouth if the moment got too prickly, if you were feeling self-conscious or judged or small.

My feet moved before I knew exactly what I was doing. In the kitchen, I had his profile pulled up in seconds. He had his phone number listed. It’s a habit I picked up from being a fact-checker: Don’t think, just dial.

“Hullo?” It was him. Everything in me buzzed.

“Is this Kevin?”

“Yes, it i-is.” The suspicious singsong of anyone who suspects a telemarketer.

“Wow, hi! It’s Lindsay Bach. How are you?”

“Whoa, hey! I—I’m good, and yourself?”

“I’m good, thank you, I’m really good. So, I know this is so out of the blue—”

“Hey, I’d really love to catch up, but I’m actually waiting on another call? From one of Evelyn’s doctors.”

Evelyn? Was he straight now?

“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to—”

“No, not at all, it’s just my daughter—you don’t even know who Evelyn is, do you?” He chuckled and for the second time that week, ten years dissolved; it was his same whispery titter, tssh-sh-sh-sh. “But listen, can I call you right back? Just at this number? It shouldn’t be long at all.”

I took that to mean I wouldn’t ever hear from him and so was elbow deep in soapy dishes when my phone rang a few minutes later.

“Hello!” I cried, after too many rings. “Everything work out okay with your daughter’s doctor?” I’d meant it politely, but it came off as invasive.

“She’s…Yeah, I heard back from him, so no worries. Thanks for waiting. What’s up?”

“Um, thanks for calling me back. I’m actually calling ’cause…well, I just had dinner with Sarah, if you can believe that.”

“Sarah! How is she?”

“She’s good, she just moved back to the city, so…it was nice to catch up. Her husband’s job transferred him here.”

“That’s good, that’s good. You tell her I said hi.”

“Yeah, definitely.” What would happen if I just blurted it out: So Sarah claimed that I wasn’t at the concert the night Edie died. Isn’t that insane?

I went with the smaller, sillier revelation instead. “We spent a lot of time reminiscing about the old days. I didn’t remember that she’d had that weird freak-out where she was insisting Edie hadn’t committed suicide.”

“Ah, that’s right.” He sang: “Paranoia, paranoia, everybody’s coming for Edie.”

“It was the least suspicious suicide of all time, right? Gun near her hand, suicide note on her computer.” I drummed my nails against the counter. “But I have to say, hearing it now, all these years later…I mean, maybe I’m just glorifying our youth, but it did kinda feel like, ‘Yeah, why would Edie kill herself?’ ”

“I mean, I always thought that was bullshit.” He said it quickly, casually, like he’d been waiting for the chance to tell someone.

I froze. “What do you mean?”

“The suicide thing. I told the cops that, too, that just a few days before her death she looked me in the eye and told me she wanted to live to be an old lady.”

I had to grab the edge of the counter to steady myself. “Wait, what?”

“I can’t—it’s a long story. But, dude, people don’t just up and kill themselves out of the blue. They think suicidal thoughts and they get their affairs in order and they tell people about their plan and then maybe, maybe, after one or two false starts, they do it. That wasn’t Edie.”

I was silent, my mouth hanging open, so he went on. “I don’t want to go into it, but she had, like, a health scare that I helped her through, and she came out of it basically determined to live forever. She talked about how there was still so much she wanted to do, it was like she was begging the universe to let her make it.” A thump, like he was doing something else as he soliloquized. “Not that Edie believed in that shit, at least as far as I know.”

“And you told the cops this?” I finally said.

“Hell, yeah, I did. But they didn’t listen. I think at first they thought if anything, I was somehow involved and trying to pass off the blame. It was scary enough getting arrested in the middle of all that. Possession of an unlicensed firearm, a Class A felony, punishable by up to a year in jail: I must’ve heard it a hundred times.”

“I forgot about that. You took a plea deal, right?”

“Yeah, pretty lucky to be a white kid with no priors. Fifty hours of community service and a thousand-dollar fine. I was such a dummy, keeping that thing there. But yeah, I think the detectives thought something was going on between Edie and me after I was the one she dragged to the ER with her.”

The ER? I started to interrupt, but he barreled over me.

“Which is a whole ’nother story. They tried to spin it into another reason she committed suicide, but believe me, they’re wrong, nothing about that whole shebang would make her kill herself.”

Another few clunks. What was he doing?

“What was the health scare?” I asked.

“Nah, it was embarrassing for her, I don’t wanna go into it.”

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