All characters belong to Aaron Sorkin and ABC. The title's from Tom Waits' song "Shiver Me Timbers." Much credit due to William Gibson, Humphrey Bogart, mcsweeneys.net, Steve Miller, and the Eagles. Please send feedback. The Fog's Lifting Violet
My body's at home But my heart's in the wind Where the clouds are like headlines On a new front page sky My tears are salt water And the moon's full and high...
I don't think I'll go to work today.
There are water spots on the mirror. I'm not a bad housekeeper, but I never remember stuff like that. There are water spots, a streak of soap in one corner, and my face. I say it out loud to myself, as a test.
"I don't think I'll go to work today." Yeah, I sound like I mean it.
It's not like I'm hurting anyone. I work hard, every day. I do my job, I don't ask favors -- okay, I ask favors, but I do them too. And it's not like there aren't qualified people who can cover for a day. I'm not screwing anyone over. I can call in.
I can call in a little later.
The water in my shower tastes like tin, which leads me to suspect that I'm actually tasting lead, which leads me to suspect that I really need filters in here. But at least it gets hot, good and properly scalding. I've got the cheap soft soap you buy in the big bottles, which smells like absolutely nothing found in nature, and yet and at the same time not bad. I've got a razor and a washcloth. A washcloth and a microphone.
"I've been working on the RAIL-road... all the LIVE-long DAY..."
No one ever accused me of having perfect pitch. But what I lack in melody, I compensate for in passion. And everyone knows that music is about the passion, about pouring your guts out. No one ever complains because Tom Waits sings scratchy. No one ever complains about Bob Dylan -- all right, but they're wrong.
"I've been working on the RAIL-road, just to pass the TIME a-WAY..."
I wonder if someone owns the copyright on this baby. Then again, I don't care. I don't even care if I wake up the neighbors. What I lack in melody and, you know, the ability to be on key, I make up for in passion. Casey calls it volume. But Casey's wrong.
"Can't you hear the whistle BLOW-ing? RISE up so early in the MORN!"
Casey's wrong about a lot of things and I let him think he's right. So today he can just sit there in the office in a puddle of rightness and get comfortable, because I'm not going to work. It's not that I'm pouting, it's not that I'm being a child or that I can't balance personal and professional. I can. I can. I'm good at that. I just need a break.
"Can't you hear the captain SHOUT-- Fuck!"
Under the water long enough to get the last of the soap off, then out, stumbling and dripping across the three feet of tile back to the sink and the mirror. Hold the towel to my chin. It stings, until it stops. And I let the towel fall to the edge of the sink and stay there. The hell with this stuff. I'm not going to work today. I might not even go outside at all.
Which means that I have to call in. So I wrap a towel around me, find the cordless, lean against the wall, hit the speed-dial. Into the mouth of the lion. Dana's going to yell. Like a banshee with her tail caught in a door, except I don't think that banshees have tails. And she's going to tell me I have to come in, that I can't be replaced on such short notice, that they can't all be expected to cover my ass. And then I start feeling guilty and I go to work anyway.
"No," I say into the phone when she picks up.
"No," I repeat.
"Okay, I'm sure you know that 'hello' is the generally accepted way to begin a phone conversation." I can picture her without seeing her, leaning back in her chair, feet on her desk, phone cord twisted around her wrist.
"You don't sound sick."
I take a deep breath and attempt a hacking cough. It sounds kind of like someone trying to start up an old golf cart. "See?"
Dana snorts. "You don't sound sick."
"I'm sick." For a second I toy with the idea of hanging up. Then I decide I'd rather not die at the hands of my boss. "I'm... I've got to stay home."
This is where she should yell. This is where she should tell me off in tones that make my teeth hurt. This is where I brace myself for one of my least favorite sounds in the world, a woman I respect shouting at me like she's my mother.
"Are you okay?" she asks quietly. "You don't sound sick, Danny."
Damn. Damn. "Dana--"
"Has it ever struck you funny that you're a Dan and I'm a Dana?"
"It couldn't possibly strike me less funny." My throat is dry. "Look, Sandy Southwark owes me a favor. If you call him--"
"Don't worry about it."
"You're not going to yell at me?"
"Oh, I'm sure I will." I know she's pivoting in her chair now, maybe raising her eyebrows to Natalie in the doorway. "But right now I'm going to hang up the phone so I can do some work. I'll call Sandy. Don't worry. Don't worry about it right now."
She doesn't say goodbye, and neither do I.
"She knows too much," I say out loud, trying to sound like a hard-boiled detective. I do a very good impression of Humphrey Bogart. Most people just aren't skilled enough to catch the subtlety. "She knows too much," I say, in a perfect Sam Spade voice. And then I say, "Stop talking to yourself."
And then I stop.
* * *
I would explain what happened last weekend, but words -- words can't yet. Or maybe, just barely, if I was even going to begin to explain...
There was a time when I was an eighteen year old kid who was on his way home for a funeral, and I was about as fucked up as it gets. As fucked up as it gets if you're a privileged, modestly intelligent white kid. There was a time when I was standing in a train station, on a platform with a white-haired woman who was saying a tearful goodbye to her three schnauzer puppies and a curt one to her daughter. And I thought -- for no longer than a few seconds -- about how easy it would be to just step down on the tracks. And how no one would know how to handle it, because people don't do that kind of thing. And how, when you do something completely surreal and self-destructive and nonsensical, it's as if no one can see you.
That's how it was, last weekend. Insane and invisible, Casey and me.
I don't want to think about what we did, or what we drank, or what we said. We're not living in a movie, and if we are, it's not a romantic comedy. And I don't give a damn about meanings or metaphors, or buying flowers or two tickets to Aruba, or wacky chases across the country. I'm not worried about feelings, because I can -- fuck, I don't want to think about it. I also don't want to disappear.
Sandy Southwark owes me a favor, and I owe myself a moment to breathe. And I know there's a ballgame on, and where there's a bagel and an emergency pack of cigarettes, and -- hell, it's ten of noon and close enough, I'll have a beer.
* * *
I have seen many, many women naked.
Perhaps taken as a percentage of the entire female population of the planet, it doesn't seem like much. And I'm also not counting my grandmother -- I accidentally walked into the guest room once, it was a traumatic thing, I'm not gonna dwell on it. But really, when you take into account that I'm still in the prime of my life, I've seen a remarkable amount of beauty.
I can't imagine what most of them were thinking. Look at me, for crying out loud. I can't spread cream cheese on a bagel without getting it all over my hands. I can't remember to open the window when I smoke. I've lived in New York two years and I don't know any of the channels besides ESPN and Fox and CSC. It's a wonder I can dress myself some days, except I'm sitting here in my shorts, so maybe I can't.
Some of the women -- I'd say the women I've loved, but I'm careful with words and I think that might be a misstatement -- some have been incredibly smart. Granted, a handful of them have been, well, less than intellectuals, but several have been so brilliant that they physically shine. Most of them have been spectacularly talented at one thing or another, be it trigonometry -- Ellen, tenth grade -- or photography -- Valerie, my fifth semester of college -- or market analysis -- let's hear it for Rebecca -- or sex, which is a bit of a list, but it would definitely include Valerie. And Ellen. And Rebecca.
I'm a nice guy, or I try to be, and I think I am. I'm smart, and I'm honest. I'm not hideously deformed. I don't kick puppies. I've never killed a man in Reno just to watch him die. I'm employed, I'm hygienic, I'm not too badly out of shape. But I'm also pathetic, with the bagel and the smoke, almost as pathetic as the stupid Mets, who are being taken out to the woodshed. Although that tag was crap, which spoils the simile. The point is, I walk into work and I become the guy who can handle things, who can handle them with ease and humor and what I'm pretty sure is called aplomb. And I'm at home and I'm sitting here with ashes on my knee, a Sam Adams in one hand and the remote control in the other.
I have a horrifying suspicion that I also have Casey's socks under my bed. But we're not going there today. No. It's my day off.
"My day off," I say out loud, and I can hear the cigarettes in my voice. Kind of cool, like Tom Waits. But my eyes are watering a little. I should either commit to doing this smoking thing, cancer or no cancer, or I should quit dabbling.
The phone rings. I'm sure it's going to be Natalie compensating for Dana, yelping in my ear for dereliction of duty. But the caller ID says something else. I can't quite place the familiar number, and then I do. I don't want to talk to her, and I've been pretty happy living under the assumption that she never wants to talk to me. And I can't imagine how she'd know I'm home.
I'm scared. Talk about pathetic. She can't bite. Over the phone. Not hard, anyway. And I pick it up on the fourth ring.
"Lisa," I say.
"Hello," she says coolly. Did I mention I'm scared?
"Lisa," I say again.
"I know who I am, Dan."
It's getting old, I know it, but I kind of like that it's annoying her. And I honestly can't think of anything better. "Lisa."
I wonder if saying her name three times will make her explode through the phone line. Instead she sighs, making sure I can hear it, loud and clear. "Jeremy said you were home."
That makes sense. Almost. "You talk to Jeremy?"
"I don't talk to Jeremy on, like, a regular basis. I talked to Jeremy when I called you."
"Why were you calling me?"
"If you'd stop interrupting long enough to let me--"
"And what was Jeremy doing answering my phone?" I demand.
She snaps. "I don't know, Dan, maybe he was in your office doing your job."
I am suddenly very tired, not that I was the picture of vim and vigor before. "What was it you wanted?"
"Casey has a problem."
She's telling me. "Casey has a problem?"
"This is why I've always loved talking with you," she says, in that voice of hers like pencils being sharpened. "You're always so quick to catch on."
I'm biting the inside of my lower lip. "Lisa--"
Finally, mercifully, she decides to get to the point. "He missed Charlie's game on Sunday."
"He called and everything, last night, but he wasn't there. And that's not like him."
"No," I agree. "It's not."
"So what's going on?"
Is it possible that the devil has gifted this woman with some kind of monstrous psychic power? I stand up, stretch a little, walk over to the window. "Why are you asking me?"
"Oh, come on. You're his friend. You're his partner." Her word choice makes me wince. I guess her evil eye can't see that over the phone. She keeps going. "Casey complains about his problems, either to everyone in a five-mile radius or to one of two people. And since no one's taken out a billboard saying 'We Get It, Casey' yet, and he's been fooling around with Dana--"
"He's not!" I kind of squeaked a little there. Gotta watch that. It blows the whole Tom Waits voice thing when I get pissed off and sound like a Muppet. "For one thing, he's not fooling around with Dana, and for a second, how would it be fooling around, when he's not married? Not to mention you're a crazy woman, and thirdly--"
"You can't count," she interrupts, like that's the point. "What's going on with him?"
There are lots of things I could say here. I could tell her I have no idea -- which is mostly a lie. I could tell her it's none of her business, which is mostly true, but I doubt it would be very effective. I could tell her the truth as I understand it, which isn't very well. It might give her a heart attack (the upside) but it might also make the next Sports Illustrated special report (the downside). Or I could make something up. And none of those things will make either of us happy, so...
"He's upset because he doesn't like the Arizona Diamondbacks' logo," I say, leaning my back against the sun-warmed window. It seems like a pretty nice day out there. "He thinks they could've come up with something a lot more creative than a big misshapen 'A'."
"Fuck you," Lisa says.
"Dan, he flaked out on our son."
"He missed a Little League game." I sound a little more defensive than I'd like. "It's not, like, unprecedented in the history of fatherhood. It's hardly flaking out. And Casey doesn't report to me."
"I don't believe you."
"I can't communicate how sad that makes me."
"You know something's going on. I don't care whether you know what it is or not." She sounds tired, as tired as she's making me. "Be a good friend and figure it out and fix it. I gotta go."
My throat hurts. "Thanks," I reply. "Never call again." But she's already hung up.
I throw the phone over the top of the couch. It bounces and stays on the cushion, and I take a walk to the kitchen for another beer. It takes me three minutes to realize that it's not a twist-off top. That's my fine news-gathering skills taking effect.
"Fix it," I say, disgusted.
If I'm forced to, I'll admit that Lisa isn't actually the devil. It's true I'd rather spend eternity locked in a small room with a large Rottweiler than be in Lisa's company. It's true she's unpleasant and self-centered and childish, and doesn't like anyone, and wouldn't know what respect was if Aretha Franklin was standing on her foot and shouting in her ear. But she takes care of her son, and she pays her bills, and if I know it was miserable for Casey to be married to Lisa, I'm not sure it was a cakewalk for Lisa being married to Casey.
That being said, I hate her guts. And asking me to 'fix' Casey is like asking Len Bias to talk Daryl Strawberry through the twelve steps.
Obviously there's a lot she doesn't know, and not all of it is her fault. I take a swig of my beer and think about how to spend the rest of the afternoon. I could take the subway out to Rockaway Beach, or hang out in Central Park, or take in a movie, or do any of the dozens of things people in New York City do when they have lives. Or I could go get in bed and take a nap.
Compromise is the soul of, you know, something. Back to the couch.
* * *
It started in Texas.
My memory's funny the way it fades in and out, not quite sepia-toned but not Technicolor either. I wonder if everyone gets that. I'm not always sure it's accurate. And I hate to have to point to Texas, where everything's bigger, and everything owns more guns, and say that's where it started. But that's where it started.
Lone Star Sports was a good show, but not a great show. That's not anyone's fault. We were all younger. We didn't have experience, or a national-level budget. We learned a lot, made some connections and impressed the right people, but in and of itself, it was only a good show. Sports Night was the one that turned out great.
So it was those days. It was late. There had been college basketball, and a lot of Tequila. And, as usual, we were arguing.
"Pompetus of love," Casey kept saying.
"Prophetess of love," I kept correcting him. "Pompetus isn't even a word."
"Nevertheless, that's what the song says."
"Why would he say that when it isn't a word?" I wanted to know.
"Why would some people call him Maurice?" Casey countered.
I know now that I was wrong and he was right. It's just that I still like my version better. The prophetess of love, you know? I had this mental picture of a goddess rising out of the ocean, hair shining, promising that love will come to you. Which I admit is a little high-minded for Steve Miller, but hey, I'm a Pisces, I can dream.
"Warm smell of colitas, rising up through the air," I remember singing at some point. "Colitas are pot."
"Maybe a pompetus has something to do with pot too," Casey suggested.
I had slid off the couch somehow and I was sitting on the floor. And this is where I need to explain that something happens to me sometimes when I've had way too much to drink. When it happened in France, apparently, I spent a weekend in Spain.
The first stage is that I start to cry like a little girl.
"What's wrong?" Casey asked. I think he slurred the 's' a little. "Are you thinking about -- Jesus, Dan, your brother, I'm sorry."
"No," I said, trying to wipe my face on my sleeve. "I'm fine. I'm fine. You don't have to stay. Go home."
"I'm not leaving."
"Go home to your wife," I said. Or maybe I said, "Go home to your life." I don't remember now, if I was ever sure.
Casey patted my shoulder uncertainly. That was when we entered stage two. Stage two is when I decide that I need to be touched.
The memory blurs here, and I'm not sure how it happened. I'm not sure if I asked permission, or if it was one of those encounters that consists of fragments like, "Hey, I don't--" and "We've had too much to--" and "Oh, God." I wish I remembered. I wish I had burned it into my neural pathways. I wish I had stopped.
I think what he was doing, at first, was trying to stop me. I think he was being a gentleman and holding me off and trying to calmly explain to me how I was getting out of control, and if I'd just go sit somewhere else, and settle down, he'd go in my kitchen and make me some coffee. I think I persisted. That was why he pushed me away. That's how I hit my head on the coffee table. And that was how we ended up on the floor, apologizing to each other.
Casey's always been better with reality than I am. Except when it comes to women, and that's saying something, since I'm not exactly the king of sensible. But he never did drugs, he never had quite the escapist tendencies I've got. So I know that on some level he knew what he was doing.
"I did," he said to me in a voice that wasn't quite even. "A couple times. In college."
Whether I asked permission or not, that was how he gave it. The alcohol, and those words, were what made it okay for me to touch him.
We didn't kiss. That would have been strange. And we were sloppy drunk and awkward and embarrassed, and I only ever had, you know, a couple times in college, and a couple times after. So we barely knew how to treat each other, even less than we knew how to deal with women. It didn't last long. Later he helped me get into bed -- I kept falling down on the way -- and he slept in the bathtub. In the morning, we went out for a greasy hangover breakfast, and in the McDonalds drive-thru we agreed that it would never happen again, that we didn't need to talk about it, that we were still friends. We were fine.
Stage three of drunken Dan Rydell hasn't got much to do with the drinking. It's just trying to forget.
* * *
It's getting warm and stale in here, and I finally open the window. There's a soft breeze outside even though the weather said it was going to be 85 and humid. Thank goodness for small favors. I like this apartment a lot. I don't feel cramped here, but I don't feel like this is just a strange place to crash in at the end of the day. It fits me so I'm not, like my mother would say, a little nut rattling around a big shell.
Right now, I should be at work. I should be checking the wire reports, making fun of the inevitable piles of soccer footage. On an ordinary day, I'd be wheedling Kim to order lunch, tossing baseball history around with Isaac, arguing with Dana over whether a basketball trade is worth noting in the tens or twenties. And writing my script, with Casey. I want that. I want my even keel.
I'm pretty sure this day off will help. We've known each other so long that it's the hardest thing not to fall back into the regular patterns. It's just going to be how it always is, because that's how we know how to behave. Maybe it won't happen when I walk in tomorrow; maybe this discomfort will devolve into one of our uglier hostilities that last a few days. More likely it won't take that long. I'll walk in, Jeremy and Natalie will be acting ridiculous about something or other, and we'll start cracking jokes and then there'll be some heroic or disastrous or unexpected moment in some marathon in China or Chile. And there we'll be. Regular and rational, Casey and me.
Or maybe it will never happen, and I'm deluding myself on an epic scale.
Scale is the difference between Texas and last weekend, the difference between Lone Star Sports and Sports Night. It's the strangest thing in the world to think of myself as a famous person, not a TV star or even a talk show host, but still someone with a profile. Someone who's recognized in public sometimes. You'd think a couple years would acclimate you, but they don't. It's indescribably bizarre that there are large numbers -- hundreds of thousands of people I've never heard of who know my name and face. I can see how real fame makes people crazy. I can see how it starts to distort things.
I vault over the back of the couch, and note that I shouldn't do that again, my back just did something weird. I must have missed the day I turned eighty. I grab the phone and speed-dial a number. Agents in the movies are always dripping in eccentricity. Mine is this very calm, intelligent, stable woman. A bit fanatical about rooting for the underdog -- she elected to be a Cubs fan, which makes very little sense to me -- but she's sane in most respects. She's in her early fifties, still attractive in this well-preserved kind of way, though she'd probably hit me in the head if I told her that. There's just this one quirky thing about her that drives me nuts. She answers her cell phone the same way every time.
"Talk to me, babe."
I exaggerate a groan. "Amelia, you're not Michael Ovitz."
"You're not Dave Letterman," she replies, as usual. Static crackles through the connection. "Guess where I am?"
"On a dark desert highway, cool wind in your hair?"
"On my new boat," Amelia says happily. "Noelle Finch signed a two-year contract with Channel Four and my bonus went right into the water."
"You're fooling around behind my back again?"
"Tell her congratulations."
"You bet." Amelia pauses. "It's the middle of the afternoon, Daniel. You're supposed to be working. Hell, I'm supposed to be working. Is something wrong?"
This is what I want to tell her: Sometimes my life, my history is like a cage around me. Sometimes I step back and look at these people -- not just my friends, but everyone, the makeup people and the guys down in Graphics and the strangers I nod to in the elevator, the chipper image builders and the snotty PR hamsters -- and it seems so complicated, so far from pure product that I'm not sure whether I even enjoy it anymore. Things like cameras and microphones and scripts make it difficult to remember who I was, who we all are outside one hour every night. This is what I want to tell her: I'm lost and trapped, and my friends are changing, and I don't believe I can fix it.
I guess I've been quiet a while, because she says, "Did I lose you?"
"I want to run away and join the circus," I say.
"Seen the traffic on the Triborough lately? You wouldn't have to run far."
"Maybe write a book," I say, though I hadn't thought of it until the words come out of my mouth. "Or work for a magazine, or something else, get out of television. It's been tiring. Will you start looking around for me?"
"No," she says smoothly and immediately.
"Which letter didn't you understand, the N or the O?"
I have to laugh. "What do I pay you for again?"
"Damn it, Dan, I'm trying to steer a boat and you're distracting me." She's sort of laughing, but her voice is mostly serious. "You love television. You've always loved television, remember? You love your job, and what's more, you're doing some of the best work you're ever going to do. And that's what you get high on, doing a good thing well."
"You're right," I say. And she is, of course. Things are not always wonderful, but things are not usually terrible. I've been sulking and feeling sorry for myself today, and I know it now.
"Of course I'm right. Look, you're stressed. It happens to talented people who work hard. If I didn't get this phone call from you once in a while, I'd worry that you were some kind of freaky robot guy." The call breaks up, and I lose a little of what she says until it's clear again. "...Kick in the ass sometimes," she's saying. "Not to mention that you have a contract, and if I even breathed a whisper of this anywhere near the Continental building, at least seven people would be screaming for my head on a platter. You know what you pay me for? To cover your ass so you don't get in a funk like this and make a bad decision."
"I know!" She's really laughing now, and it's infectious enough to make me smile.
"Freaky robot guy?"
"Don't laugh, I've worked for some of those," she says. "Sandy Southwark? I swear there's an outlet in the back of that guy's neck."
"He's a nice guy."
"I love Sports Night." Saying it out loud feels not exactly good, but liberating. "Things right now are just--"
"I know," she says, gently. "And even if I don't. This too shall pass, Dan. I think I read that in a book somewhere."
Maybe Lisa should have called Amelia to fix Casey. "Thanks," I say.
"What I'm here for. Hey, you sail, right?"
"Yeah." Not for a while, though, not for too long. There hasn't been time.
"I have no idea what I'm doing. You've got to get out here with me sometime and give me a clue." I can hear the wind behind her. "I figure, I'm still floating, I'm doing okay, right?"
"You're doing fine."
"We'll do lunch," she says playfully, and hangs up. I toss the phone from hand to hand a few times, staring up at the ceiling but seeing the sky.
* * *
I don't walk around lusting after my best friend.
That's one of those things that, when you say it, it sounds like you're lying even if it's the truth. It's like asking someone, "Do you still beat your wife?" There's no way to say it without protesting too much. Nevertheless, I don't do that, and I don't dream about him or anything, because before anything else, he's my friend, and after that he's the best writer I've worked with, and those two things take up most of his space in my life.
The sex wasn't the best, and wasn't anywhere near the worst. Not in Texas, and not last weekend. We were drunk, both times, which gives him an easy out if he wants one. And me. Although I know in my head I have nothing to prove to him, and vice versa, I suppose we still try.
"Danny, we're getting old," he said to me on Saturday night, after we'd gone off the air, and changed back into street clothes. "We work too hard and our credit cards are overweight."
I grinned at him. "You think we need to relieve the pressure?"
"When Natalie and Jeremy get over a rough patch," he said.
It sounds like a non-sequitur, but it wasn't, because I knew what he meant. Love is mysterious and stupid and it scares me, and I know those two are in it, but I'm not sure how they survive playing out their entire relationship at a high volume in the middle of a crowded office.
"I know," I said. "I'm not sure I can stand watching them be adorable."
"I'm not sure I want to hear about what she's going to wear to bed." He wrinkled his nose. "That's like seeing your little sister's underwear drawer."
"Something you'd know a lot about?"
"At least it wasn't my grandmother."
So we didn't go to Anthony's, and we decided we were probably still banned from El Perro Fumando after the Dana incident. Then there were about six places that were too loud, or that didn't have a television to watch the extra innings in the Arizona game, or that just didn't feel right. And in the end we spent a lot of money on obscure beers at the package store across the street from my place.
I'm not sure why we ended up in my place. I'm not sure I'm not lying to myself again, that on some subconscious level I'm not staging all of this. I don't think I am. What I do know is that we'd tired of talking about work, so we'd moved on to talking about women. It's not like a locker room, except it is like that, because this is what men do.
I was trying to explain something I can't remember and probably wasn't very clear about in the first place. It had to do with women, with how they seem to slip in and out of my life and I'm always giddy and never sure where I stand. And I wound up by pointing out that the longest romantic relationship of my life lasted not quite a year.
"They all went to heaven in a little rowboat," I said.
"You're quoting someone." He frowned.
"Tom Waits," I said.
"You do that a lot."
"The point is, the point is you were married for like eleven centuries. You did something right."
He shook his head at me. "I did a big thing badly."
"Now you're quoting Dana." I drained the last of my bottle of... whatever it was. "What's worse? To work really hard at one thing and have it not work out, or to piss all your time away in a lot of little disasters?"
"Doesn't matter, in the end." He drank some of one beer and some of another. "All goes to the same place."
"I don’t want to look at it like that. I don't want to believe all our lives are interchangeable and blank, yours, mine, anybody's." At least, that's what I tried to say, but I doubt I was anywhere near that articulate. Whatever I did say, it boiled down to that we're not all the same.
"No, we're not all the same," Casey said. "You know what we need to do?"
"Get you a woman?"
"Get you a woman," he countered. "I was going to say we need to go get real beer."
So there was this drunken rambling return to the package store, and we bought the Sam Adams. And I was trying to get the apartment door unlocked. I'm not that dumb, but it's tricky with the double deadbolt. And I was balancing the beer too. Casey reached around me and moved my hand and made the key fit where it was supposed to go. It all sounds like a very bad metaphor, but there it was. There it went.
We skipped a couple stages. I didn't cry this time. We didn't kiss. He slept on the couch, and in the morning, we didn't talk about how we weren't going to talk. When I got up, he was already half-dressed. I poured him some orange juice; he put his shoes on and went home to shower. He forgot his socks. I suppose he couldn't find them, since they were under the bed.
I drank the hangover away with the leftover Sam Adams, because I didn't want to think about it.
* * *
I don't want to think about it. But, God, Casey missed his son's baseball game. And as much as I'd like to pretend that's nothing, as much as I'd like to assume he just drank too much Saturday night and had to sleep it off -- no, I know. I know, because how he feels is probably like me calling in sick.
I get up off the couch and go back to the window. The sun's descending down the Western side of the sky. We're entirely fucked up. This I know.
Sometimes you can become invisible, because you're such a common sight that you become a permanent blur in someone's eyes. Sometimes you can become invisible because you're such a wreck people can't look at you. And sometimes if you choose to retreat and forget, you can make yourself disappear.
This happens from time to time. Then--
I walk to the bedroom, dig out some passable clothes, and into the bathroom to brush the tastes of beer and cigarettes off my teeth. There are a couple spots of blood on the edge of the sink, but the place where I cut myself stopped hurting a long time ago.
If you've got something you love, you come back to it. In spite of, or because of, the fact that it's difficult. Maybe I understand Jeremy and Natalie a little better than I ever thought I wanted to.
"When you're slapped, you'll take it and like it," I tell my reflection, and I sound exactly like Humphrey Bogart to the trained ear. And I put on my shirt. If I'm quick, and the trains are running on time, I'll make the rundown. I can catch up on the wires. I can give Dana one less reason to yell at me. I can't fix Casey, but I suspect that too shall pass.
I haven't done it in a while, and it can be hard work, but I love sailing.