The Layabouts in New York — Part 2
Standing on Moira’s back porch, I saw the lovingly maintained buildings of a pre-war America. My hand trembled in the January air as I took a long drag of a cigarette — a habit I should have given up months ago. Somewhere, echoing between brownstone and brick, I could hear the faint call of a future here. The South had been kind to me, but the North was where I belonged.
Will Montserrat, clothed in the wrinkled vestments of the previous evening, joined me.
“How’re you feeling Dan?” Will asked while rubbing his forehead.
“You know me, Will — I can get piss-drunk on a boat in a storm, and still wake up ready for work,” I said, which was more or less the truth.
“So Sarah’s coming in today with Erik. Are you going to be alright?”
“Talk to me after I’ve had a bloody mary or two at brunch.”
“You can’t still be hung up on her after all these years,” Will said as he lit up a cigarillo. “Are you telling me that there hasn’t been anyone else since?”
“‘Course there has, Will. But I haven’t seen or talked to her since… the thing. My last memory of her was a sweaty encounter in a janitor’s closet after the banquet,” I said, knocking the ash from my spent cigarette.
I fished another out of the pack, and flicked my lighter. The Observer awards banquet, which had begun with Grace and ended in Sarah, was a fitting end to my college experience. With half of the paper’s staff retiring, the senior staff decided to get lit before the event. Dressed in a tuxedo, I rode to the banquet with my date for the evening. Grace was sufficiently amused by attire, and a little confused by the invitation.
“Will, what the hell happened that night?” I asked, mid-remembrance.
“The banquet? Heck, Prickle ate seven salads, you and Howard stood at the podium for nearly twenty minutes doing vaudeville, somebody stole the Observer banner, and Al lit a bale of hay on fire. I can’t imagine what the wait staff thought of the entire thing.”
What a mess. We were dressed to the nines, eating on the company dime, and drunk on nostalgia and malt liquor. After the dinner, we went back to the news room for a nip of whiskey. John Fairbanks, Prickle, Al Dunne, Remi, Howard, Molly, Will, Moira, Grace, Sarah and I sipped at plastic cups of the cheap stuff. And then the thing happened.
“Will, I think I’ll be okay. We survived college, I think I can survive seeing my ex-girlfriend,” I said. I hadn’t thought about that night in nearly two years.
I had asked to talk to Sarah alone.
“You once told me that I’d never get the Editor in Chief slot if I didn’t step up my game,” I’d said, almost in a dream. “You’re why I’m here today. You did this as much as me.”
I wasn’t around when Grace disappeared that night and met up with Christie. We saw them later at a house party, and I was a bit red-faced.
“Dan, we’re getting old,” said Will. “The older we get, the more ex-girlfriends we’re going to have. I think it might be time to start being happy for them and forgive them and ourselves for all the crap we’ve been through.”
The sun broke over the apartment building in front of us. Brooklyn was awake.
“Will, you’re right — and I think I’ve decided something,” I said.
Staring into the sun, I replied, “I’m moving to the city.”