Home > The Lost Night(13)

The Lost Night(13)
Author: Andrea Bartz

“Edie, tell us what just happened,” my voice prompted from behind the camera.

“Well, we just had a bit of a run-in with the law,” she replied.

A male voice murmured something off-screen and I prompted him to repeat it: “She just saved our asses, that’s what happened.” It was Alex, sounding stressed.

I panned to him and he sucked on a cigarette. “What happened was we were pregaming in McCarren and Kevin had a whole six-pack sitting next to him like a fucking idiot,” he said, turning to his left to shoot a glare. “Then a cop car pulls up with its lights flashing and they take all our licenses and tell us that drinking in the street would be a—what was it?”

“An eighty-dollar fine for drinking in the street, but it’s three hundred twenty if you’re in a public park,” Edie supplied, to general agreement.

“Then what?” I said. My voice sounded nasal.

Alex blew a plume of smoke. “Then Edie gets up and walks over to the cop car—”

“—even though they told us not to move.” Sarah’s voice, off-camera. Something sat up in me like a cat. So spooky, hearing the same voice I’d just heard over dinner, but younger, frothier.

“Right, even though they told us not to move,” Alex continued, “and she’s over there talking to them for like five minutes, and then they come back and say we’re really lucky we’re over twenty-one and they’ve already hit their ticket quota for the night, and they watched us dump our beer and then off they went.”

“Edie, what’d you say to them?” I panned back to her.

She shrugged, still smiling. “I just said we were all dumb, unemployed kids who should’ve known better, but that we’d never do it again,” she said. “And then I told them my roommate had called 911 last week after a man followed her into the building and forced himself on her in the foyer, and he matched the description of the serial rapist who’s been running around Williamsburg, and the cops who came to take her statement were so nice, and the work the policemen do is so important.”

“It isn’t true, for the record,” Sarah called, still off-screen. “About the rapist being in our building.”

“But there is a serial rapist in Williamsburg, that’s true,” I said.

“Yeah, maybe the cops should worry about that,” Alex muttered.

“…and then I cried,” Edie finished sweetly, with a shrug. Someone said something, then repeated, “Do it.” So the camera zoomed in to Edie’s head, her face, then just her eyes, shakily, and Edie looked hard into it until fat, pretty tears broke free.

The video ended and I Xed out of it, alarmed by Edie’s intense stare. I hit next: There was a Fourth of July barbecue with a shitty band performing on a rooftop; a mass of skinny humans in lamé bathing suits and bright eighties patterns and so much exposed, tender skin. Edie had climbed onto the brick ledge along the edge of the roof, standing up so she could see the stage. Fearless. Watching it now made my ribs contract. In the video, I screamed, “Get down from there, you moron!” and Edie just turned and waved.

Then there was a little video from mid-August, just a few days before Edie died, thirty seconds of the four of us—no Edie—playing Jenga in a bar’s leafy backyard. The game’s pieces had dares Sharpied onto them by previous players, and Sarah pulled one that instructed her to post a photo of herself wearing the Jenga box as a hat. She was reluctant and Kevin spazzed around, hyping her up, squishing his big grin into her photo.

That was it. Nothing new about August 21.

Perhaps there was a recently deleted folder. I held down the center button to try to call up a new menu and…

Black. I pressed the forward and back buttons and still just black. I hit play and the screen said “No new videos.” I’d deleted them all. Fuck.

Fighting down panic, I texted Tessa and Damien for help, then Googled “how to recover deleted Flip cam videos.” Incredibly, there were how-tos, dozens of them. I had to convince my computer to play nice with the camera, and then I had to download a sketchy-seeming program called Recuva (“pronounced re-cuh-va!” according to the cheerful Southern dad in the YouTube tutorial), but a half-hour later I had an ugly-looking folder just bursting with old videos.

The new file names were meaningless, but I counted forty-three of them. An uncensored batch of video files, up from a dozen—now we were getting somewhere. I checked the file creation dates and saw, with a pulse down my arms, that one was from August 21, 2009.

I dragged it into my iMovie player and turned up the volume. The video jerked around in the dark for a while; there was music, tinny guitars. Tones of black and gray, the indistinct din of people hanging out. The time stamp read 10:48. When had Sarah found Edie? Shortly after that, wasn’t it, around 11:15, 11:30? The video was long, twenty-three minutes. What was I recording? Finally, 2009 me found something to focus on: I’d turned the lens to the New York City skyline and stopped wobbling long enough for it to focus. We were up on Calhoun’s roof; it had a great view of Manhattan.

Sarah’s voice rang out from my computer’s speakers. “Alex, can you hand me another beer?”

“This is our second-to-last Tecate, people.” It was Alex, off-screen as I’d struggled to zoom in on the Empire State Building. I realized why the cityscape looked odd: no One World Trade Center yet.

“What are you doing, Linds?” he called out. “Come back here.”

I’d responded with a single giggle, whipping the lens around to face them. I could feel it now, the bubble of pleasure that he wanted me there. A place in the circle.

Figures formed in the dark: Sarah and Alex lounging on the cement roof, facing the same way like sunbathers at the beach; dutifully, they waved. I hit pause and mapped my friends out like pieces on a chessboard: Kevin had already left for the big show with his band. I remembered him being on the roof earlier in the night; a headliner might not go on until midnight, but he’d want to watch the openers. And Edie. As far as I knew, at that moment Edie had been alone in SAKE. Pawing with interest at Kevin’s vintage gun, sadness swelling around her like purply smoke. If the story I’d heard was wrong—if Sarah and Kevin were right, and Edie hadn’t been alone in the final moments of her life—then this recording could be everything. An unchanging record of who was where, when.

I hit play: I’d wobbled over to the group and caught a span of the sky as I sat. Someone must have grabbed the camera from me—Alex, I could tell when he hooted, “Say something for posterity, Linds.” He was aiming at me, and suddenly I was staring into my own eyes. Old me looked surprised, squinted hard, and for a moment I had the eerie feeling that we were looking at each other, that she could see me. Then she—I—laughed and shrieked, “Give me my camera, you fucktard!” Christ, no wonder I’d deleted this mess.

The lens made another pass around the roof, a drunken version of the slow pans you take at tourist destinations. There were fuzzy orange orbs here and there, unfocused—probably other groups hanging around on the rooftop, kicking off a balmy Friday night by drinking in the dark. Someone else wandered up and I jerked the camera in surprise. Male voices said hey and asked if we had a light; everyone chattered, the staccato of cross talk.

“You guys seen…?” one said right near the Flip cam, loud enough that the microphone picked it up but not clear enough to make out the name. Jim? Jen? Jan? Then the guys wandered away and I caught their backs, cigarettes glowing between their fingers. One of them was wearing ironic light-up sneakers that glittered in the night.

“Where’s Edie?” I asked as Alex fiddled with the iPod attached to a speaker. I panned to Sarah, who was smoking serenely.

“She’s a fucking bitch,” I heard myself add matter-of-factly. It was loud but not angry—the know-it-all tone of a little kid sharing a dirty fact.

“I know, I’m glad she’s not here,” Alex said back.

Sarah murmured something inscrutable, then repeated it to Alex’s “Huh?”: “You’re on tape!” she said again, pointing at the lens.

“I don’t fucking care.” His voice rose to a bellow. “I want that bitch out of my apartment!”

I whooped in agreement, so loud next to the Flip cam’s mic, then shouted, “I want to push her off this building!”

“I want to slit her throat!” Alex hollered back. He grabbed the camera and leaned in close, steadying it on his face. He giggled. “I’m just fucking with you. It’s cool.”

He let go and suddenly the view swooped down to my feet and stayed there for a second, then went black as the tinny sound blared on. As the seconds ticked by, understanding dawned: I’d thought I’d turned the camera off and had instead left it recording, in a purse or pocket or something. We were only three and a half minutes in.

As nausea curled inside me, I jumped ahead in few-minute chunks, confirming by the blackness and slivers of butt-dial din that this was it—nothing but accidental recording. A little gurgle of female voices around the eight-minute mark, too muffled to decode. But in the last twenty-eight seconds, the sound died down and then—color again. I rewound the video and leaned forward. In the darkness, I heard the metallic clank of me clomping down stairs. Then I saw the bright yellow of Calhoun Lofts’ hallways, and I must have been walking, bobbing a bit as I lifted the camera waist-high and burbled, “Oh, whoops.”

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