Home > The Lost Night(7)

The Lost Night(7)
Author: Andrea Bartz

I sat down at the table and bathed myself in the computer’s bluish glow. I opened up the text files Tessa had made and realized that it was going to be more of a nightmare than I’d anticipated; each email was in its own file, some of them with the earlier exchange clinging to the bottom of the message but never organized into conversations. I could sort them by date, which split conversations up over weeks, or by subject, which glommed convos together but strung them into a senseless timeline. Shit.

Instead I searched for “Modern Love” and found three sad little emails, each ending with a polite rejection, two form letters and one that seemed at least a tiny bit more personal (“Sorry to say I don’t think this is quite a fit, but thanks for trying me with it”). Even all these years later, rereading these replies sparked a mix of disappointment and self-consciousness. I opened up the piece that got the longest answer.

I Don’t Want to Be Sedated

A very determined cricket has chosen the tree outside my window as his podium. I love him and pity him and feel for him as he chirps his question mark over and over into a dark street. There don’t seem to be many other crickets in Bushwick, and with the odds against him, I worry that his trills will slow, that his optimism will flag.

My own odds ought to be much more favorable: The city holds millions of single men, and the company I keep—beautiful, creative young Brooklynites—pretty much comprises the graduates of gifted and talented programs from high schools all over the world. The options are excellent. The problem is me.

I don’t mean to be difficult to impress. I didn’t pick this particular pickiness. It’s the butterflies in my stomach, I tell you. It’s like they’re sedated or possibly bound up in cocoons.

It’s so very easy to get dates in New York City. Anyone with an internet connection and mild self-portraiture skills can line them up in a few quippy sentences. It’s so hard to get good ones. When I came to the city six months ago, I felt nervous before each first date, sipping a cocktail and listening to Beyoncé and swirling on bronzer as I fought down the urge to vomit. All those nerves, not the good kind of eddying in my torso, but motion nonetheless.

Now I don’t get nervous at all, a change that strikes me as a little sad. He’ll be fine, I predict, and I won’t really want to see him again. I’m almost always right. At night, I lie awake and wonder why the butterflies refuse to stir. I fear they know something I don’t, something dark and jagged about me. The skeletons in my skeleton. The reason I don’t quite deserve it.

The last time they showed any movement was when I met Jonah, a cute bearded fellow, at a concert in the fall. I liked his wide grin, his unbounded enthusiasm. He’d moved from the Midwest to Manhattan only three weeks before, and I was into the idea of an unspoiled specimen, too fresh and transparent to be over everything already. He and I sat knees to knees at a bar, and the little moths showed movement, an unfamiliar, almost-forgotten rustle.

He ghosted after the third date.

It’s nice to know the butterflies haven’t calcified, but I’m not entirely sure I’m glad I met Jonah. It’s made hollow first dates even hollower since then, two strangers in a mahogany booth deciding to become estranged. But I keep going to shows and parties, keep setting up dates, keep entering bars with a smile and a question mark on my face. Like the cricket, like the bird in the children’s book who keeps on asking and asking and asking. Are you my lover?

I must have written it before I fell for Lloyd. Aw, little awkward Lindsay. A girl I’d like to reach back and hug. Except that I wouldn’t have too many soothing words for her, I suppose. If only she knew the trend wasn’t temporary, that in a decade she’d be as old as Jesus with a list of sex partners exceeding her age but no identifiable capital-B boyfriend in the ensuing years.

And Jonah—him I just barely remembered, a dull “Ohhhh, right.” That idiot.

Time to start reading emails then. I attempted to sort them by date but accidentally brought them up by size, so the one at the top had huge files hanging off of it as attachments. Edie’s subject line: “HOT BUSHWICK JAMZ.” I opened it and found twelve .mp3s tacked onto a quick hello—oh god, it was a playlist, from back before songs streamed through the air, when we bought music piecemeal (or ripped it off LimeWire) and uploaded it into devices that didn’t yet intuit what we’d want to hear based on our constantly fine-tuned preferences. I popped in earbuds and dragged the files into my toolbar’s long-dormant iTunes player: first, a lush synth-heavy number with braided, building chords. I hit next: a dramatic eighties-style hit, something appropriate for the climax of a John Hughes movie.

I skipped ahead to a stripped-down head-bobber with reverb-y guitars and droning male voices. I could picture them, onstage just inches from Edie and me in a semilegal venue: a troupe of skinny guys in plaid shirts or big trench coats, nodding their heads with their hair shaken over their faces. I read over the band names and smiled—lots of woodland creatures, a few colors. None of them had gone on to greatness, which probably would’ve made Edie and me turn on them anyway.

We’d loved going to shows together. One night I had turned to Edie from the packed audience of a concert, what felt like the millionth, and the whole crowd was so excited and the band onstage was killing it and Edie and I had just locked eyes, happiness rushing up through me like froth. She’d reached out and squeezed my arm with both hands, and for one second, life was perfect.

Edie had that air of never seeming to care what anyone thought of her, which of course made everyone desperate for her approval. She spoke lazily, softly, and people leaned in to listen. She smiled and raised an eyebrow when you said something dumb, a look that hurt like a hot iron. And when she laughed, when you got it right and she tipped her head back to guffaw…

I hit forward again and got an intense drum intro, then a hyperpulsing bassline: same venue, different punk kids onstage sweating and flailing while the crowd slammed into itself. I pictured us playing the song on Edie’s computer speakers, shaking our hips as we applied eyeliner and got ready for a night out in Williamsburg. The music felt ageless now; it was angry but somehow defiantly joyful, a middle finger to the sky.

As the song pummeled into my headphones, I searched by date and found the last email Edie ever sent me. It was a group email from our mutual friend about her coworker’s show at Spike Hill that Friday (the Friday); Edie had replied-all to say that she was probably going to stay in. No other emails from her that week, which made sense given our big blowup the weekend before.

I decided to work the other way, beginning with the oldest emails, from January. We volleyed back and forth almost daily, mundane emails peppered with our own affected shorthand: “see you on fridaze” and “let’s get some burr” and “sofa king” as our go-to adverbial clause (“sound it out,” she’d prompted on first usage). She complained about her fashion-school classmates; I told her about a hot but “possibly aspy” boy who’d left his socks on during sex. A sense of privacy infused every email, our own little world. People have described romantic relationships to me that way; perhaps this was the closest I’d gotten.

I saw a long chain that had tracked in one email, indented further and further so that my first email to Edie was a skinny column along the right; the subject line was “UM.” I started at the bottom:

From: Lindsay Bach <[email protected]>

To: Edith Iredale <[email protected]>

Fri, Jan 23, 2009 at 2:06 PM

LADY. WTF happened with BC after I left last night? There was so much heat between you guys that everyone else was, like, shielding their eyes. Did anything happen??

From: Edith Iredale <[email protected]>

To: Lindsay Bach <[email protected]>

Fri, Jan 23, 2009 at 6:16 PM

Ugggghhh I am so hungover I want to DIE. Isn’t he insanely hot? I know you’ve seen him around here too but there’s something about his voice, and those eyes when he’s listening to you…I want to have sex with his voice, Lindsay. Someone should come up with a way for me to do that.

But to answer your question, NO, don’t be stupid, of course nothing happened! I wouldn’t do that to Greg. It was totally innocent, just…intense. I don’t know. He got my number and said something about hanging out in Calhoun this weekend but right now I can’t even wrap my head around it. I’m going to have to make him use a voice changer thing like they do on TV so that I can be around him without spontaneously orgasming…

From: Lindsay Bach <[email protected]>

To: Edith Iredale <[email protected]>

Sat, Jan 24, 2009 at 12:10 PM

Okay, I am glad to hear you two didn’t jump each other’s bones because it TOTALLY FELT LIKE THAT WAS ABOUT TO HAPPEN. Just saying. Did you figure out where BC lives?

From: Edith Iredale <[email protected]>

To: Lindsay Bach <[email protected]

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