Home > The Lost Night(8)

The Lost Night(8)
Author: Andrea Bartz


Sat, Jan 24, 2009 at 1:45 PM

He’s on the 4th floor, way east, which makes sense why I hardly ever see him. So wild, I can’t believe we bumped into him in Manhat. Ugggh. Do you want to watch a movie tonight? Greg’s friends are going to some bar that has bocce ball, but I really don’t think I can rally…

I skimmed further; the conversation veered off into plan making. But god, I remembered that night, Thursday, January 22, apparently—clear as if it were playing out documentary style before me.

The holidays were over and we were cold and bored. Weekend after weekend, we drank cheap whiskey and did lackluster, shuffling dances in the back room of Royal Oak, one of our go-to shitty bars. We racked up Friday after Friday at Calhoun, picking our way up and down littered staircases in search of another sweaty party or arbitrary open band practice or glimpse of the hot guy Edie had a Building Crush on. We sat in booths and sipped drinks instead of talking and finished too many nights with sad free pizza at The Charleston.

Until that night when, in a burst of motivation, Edie and I rode the train all the way to the Lower East Side to see some British band she knew about; the rest of our friends had been too SAD-addled to make the trip. After the show, we downed whiskey-gingers and held shouted, jerky conversation over loud music and were just about to call it a night when in walked Building Crush with a crew of cool-looking friends: model-y, thick-banged girls and a cute blond dude in an acid-washed denim jacket. Building Crush, of course, turned out to be Alex, but it was his friend I homed in on—ashen hair curved in a triumphant windblown wave, like he’d just stepped off a crotch rocket. High cheekbones and a square jaw around an impish grin. The goofy sidekick in a Molly Ringwald movie. Energy that bounded out spastically, bouncing off of things.

What followed was one of those New York City nights that we were too young to see as special: Alex wandered over with a confident “Hey, are we neighbors?,” setting in motion the whole movie montage. The blond dude, Lloyd, not of the building, said his friend had given him the code for her fancy condo in the East Village, and we walked there together, Lloyd running ahead to entertain us with stupid antics like climbing into and then reclining in the basket of an abandoned crane. Edie and Alex followed a half-block behind, talking and smiling shyly. It was an unexpectedly warm January night, and we all felt young and drunk and free, pretty hipsters in an ad for jeans.

Lloyd was a photographer with an insane ability to take a good shot of anybody; he snapped away on his iPhone 3G, and every time he flicked it around to let us see, we squealed in delight, our faces just the way we liked to think they looked. Humoring me, he took my shitty Razr flip phone and lifted a lighter above me as I held a cigarette and looked pensive. It was perfect. Longest-running Facebook profile photo to date, until I grew old enough to realize the fake-smoker thing was gross.

I think he was in a band, too. God, all the men of that era were both photographers and in shitty bands.

We clambered onto the roof of a gorgeous condo on Fourteenth, one I wasn’t ever able to locate again, and one of the girls magically procured a stereo and we danced to stupid nineties tunes. Lloyd kept us moving, pulling me in and then whipping me out to spin. Alex and Edie found some lawn chairs and settled in a little ways away, talking sleepily, while Lloyd finished a bottle of whiskey and, with a holler, ripped off the cover of a drained pool I hadn’t even noticed and vaulted himself into the deep end, demanding that we grab the stereo and climb in with him.

I still remember those smooth white tiles, how we threw off our coats and danced in and out of the deep end, laughing hysterically as one by one we lost our footing on the center’s slanted floor. Lloyd did pull-ups under the diving board. We discovered the stars overhead and clutched each other in delight of them. We were dizzy and drunk. The night screeched to a halt when I threw up into a drain, and Lloyd helped me clomp down to the street and obtain a cab home. But that happy little aquarium made the rest of winter survivable: a ceramic vault where the music boomed and swelled.

I’d gone on to develop an enormous crush on Lloyd, the jelly-kneed, stomach-flipping kind that only strikes every five years if you’re lucky. (I squinted at the emails again: of course Edie’s hadn’t asked if anything had happened between him and me.) I felt a little heart flip, remembering my intense infatuation. Then my mind jolted ahead to how it ended, and a sinking feeling rushed in to replace it.

But Greg—there’s someone I hadn’t thought of in a while. Edie’s boyfriend at the time, the reason nothing could happen between her and Alex on that magical January night. Greg and Edie had begun dating shortly after I met her; I couldn’t remember how they met, but there was something cute about it, something serendipitous that she got a kick out of sharing with people. Greg was older and intimidating, with a real job and expensive clothes and a condo by the water in Greenpoint. He rarely made appearances in Calhoun; Edie often headed to his apartment after a late-night show or dance party with the rest of us. Now I wonder what emotionally stunted thirty-two-year-old man wants to date an impulsive twenty-three-year-old with a bit of a drinking problem, but at the time, he was a catch.

What had happened to Greg? I searched for his name in my inbox and confirmed they’d broken up in February 2009, shortly before Edie had begun dating Alex and moved into his apartment (the apartment, SAKE, the one with Sarah and Kevin—plus me as an honorary roommate). That had been such a fun spring and summer, right before everything went wrong. The first summer of Real Life, a hot season pulsed into the year instead of twelve demarcated weeks before the next semester. We were adults, we thought, but still soused on the sense memories of summers past.

And my friendship with Edie had been everything. I remembered a rainy afternoon when we’d holed up in my bedroom, drunk on boxed wine and high on our mutual friend-crushes. We were playing Truth or Truth, killing time with probing queries: detailed sex questions, humiliating childhood stories. It was thrilling and personal, like staring into each other’s eyes.

“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” she asked, setting her glass on my windowsill. I adjusted the pillow behind my back, squeezing it flat and pushing it around.

She realized I was stalling. “I’ll go first,” she said, turning to pour herself more wine. “My mom planned this big dinner for my eighteenth birthday. She was cooking all day—and she hates cooking—and she’d invited some family and close friends. It was all really unlike her; normally she’d just pick up a cupcake that day or whatever and I’d celebrate with my friends.” She took a long sip, then wiped her wine-stained lips. “So that morning she and I got into a huge fight—like, an all-out-screaming, plate-smashing fight. And I yelled ‘Fuck you!’ and stormed out of there. Then I proceeded to email everyone except my mom and tell them the dinner was canceled because I wasn’t feeling well. I stayed over at my friend’s that night, ignoring her calls, and when I came back, my mom didn’t say anything. Then my dad told me that she’d still cooked everything and set it all out and sat there while nobody showed up. She had no idea I’d canceled it.” She closed her eyes. “I mean, she is a bitch, but I still feel bad about that.”

I scooted over on the bed and rested my cheek on her shoulder. She tipped her head onto mine and we sat there for a minute, pop music playing in the background.

“I can beat that,” I offered finally. “It’s about my parents, too. Only I was younger.” And I told her the story they told me not to share, the one that scorches my cheeks and forehead still. When I finished talking, she raised her chin up to look at me, then nuzzled it back against my hair. She’s still the only other person who knows. Knew. Now there’s no one again.

It was hard to put a finger on exactly when my friendship with Edie began to come apart at the seams; by July, we were having icy half-fights via email, infuriating ones where I’d write something long and detailed and she’d respond, with neither punctuation nor capitalization, “sure” or “what time” or “k.” Edie said no to more and more group activities and closed herself into her little white room, especially sad because its square windows looked out not on the world but on the apartment’s gloomy interior. Alex and Edie broke up in July, too—just a few months after they’d finally gotten together—for reasons neither of them really bothered to explain, adding that they were going to stay friends and not move out or anything. Now I saw that it was probably FOMO that kept either from being the one to leave, fear of missing out, fear of being ostracized, seeming maturity masking massive insecurity. It had to have been uncomfortable.

That summer, Edie and Sarah spent more time than ever hanging out in my apartment, a tiny but comfortable share with cracked walls and scuffed linoleum floors and a normal layout, a quiet roommate from Washington State, bedrooms with windows onto the street below. I felt a humming anxiety that the Calhounies must be instantly bored in my apartment, unstimulated by its lack of weird wall hangings, life-size portraits, or swings suspended from the ceiling. And I was jealous, too, jealous and in awe of the offbeat creatures in Calhoun and other Escherlike buildings who could coolly live in those strange setups. They did it so casually: “Oh, this?”

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