You walk quickly down the sidewalk, as quickly as you can, quicker even than you walk in the office. The thick wine on your tongue, dry matzoh in your throat. It feels like the first time in months you've walked alone.
Really, it's been a week.
You've been walking from the office to the subway alone for a week.
Before last week, before he sneered at you and said what he said, you hadn't taken the subway home in a month.
Only a third as long as Casey kept Sally from Dana.
This is how long you kept him from everyone. And he. He hid you too. It's stupid, you know, it's stupid. Nobody cares about Jeremy's floozy, nobody would have cared about. About you. What you were doing. With Dan.
You run down the stairs to the platform. You fly through the turnstile. You can't move fast enough. Fast enough to catch up. To forgive. You have no idea how he managed to talk to everyone but you. Everyone but you.
The train goes by, car after car after car linkage and coupling and windows lights bodies blurred by motion. Your eyes are not fast enough to see them. And the enormous roar like a dragon, or a bear.
Like the space thundering past your ears when. Outside your apartment building. When:
He leaned down to you and in his eyes you could see you're just a child, really, a small thing, stupid and slow and useless. And you called him a son of a bitch, your voice was horrible, strung high with tears and he laughed and he walked away.
He got in his car and he drove away, tail lights flashing.
The platform is nearly empty, just a bum asleep in the corner, a couple of teenagers making out on a bench.
Because, he said, you should have let Jeremy play. You should have asked him to play. And you started crying and he just held you. When it started, a month and a week ago, you started it. It was your hand slipping inside the neck of his shirt. His grown-up sigh, your kiss. You started it.
This is, what has happened, the way he looked at you and the things he said, when the camera was on him and you told him to take it, dump it, this is yours too.
Maybe you should have spoken to him. Instead of just ducking your head. Instead of looking away whenever he looked at you. Instead of being so much more than glad Casey came to take up the space you wanted to bridge with your hand. The way Dana buffered you from Jeremy's steady, detached warmth.
Maybe you need to ask for forgiveness before he can ask you to forgive.
Maybe he thinks you have no right to forgive because. Because you started it.
You step onto the car that seems least crowded, you find a vacant seat but the vinyl is shiny with suspicious moisture so you lean against a cold metal pole. You slide your hands around it and you hold on.
Natalie, he would say in his weird voice, this is a bad thing. It was a bad thing, finding you standing beside his car after the show. And you would just get in the passenger side and he'd drive you home and come up with you. He would leave when you were asleep and you would take the subway in the morning.
You close your eyes and you do not open them until your station is called.
You move so fast out of the car it is like you cut right through the crowd, through the people, slicing them in halves and quarters. The ring of your boots on the cement stairs, somehow sharper, above the pounding of two hundred other feet, and at the top, streetlights, lit windows like stars.
The lights are against you when you cross the street, dodging the thickness of people. You have never gotten used to never being alone. This city. It sleeps, you know, but it walks in its sleep. Your head is down, you walk quickly, quicker still.
Arms folded around yourself. April is chilly at night. You walk quickly to keep warm, arms around your body to stay together.
You can't move fast enough to move on.
You hear the train roar by under the pavement. The city roars on, dreaming, you think. A nightmare of the world shaking to pieces, crumbling and shearing into dust.
You keep your head down. You see a body not moving but you don't look. You're almost up the stairs to your door when you recognise.
Thunder pounds, in your torso, your chest cavity, against your diaphragm. You turn quickly.
Hey, your voice light. Your voice not even.
He looks up over your shoulder, approaching the stoop. You see his car down the block at the corner. He once spent twenty minutes looking for a spot.
Natalie. The way he says it it's like there's a hidden syllable. The way Jeremy always used to add an a: Naatalie. Jeremy doesn't say your name so much anymore.
That's m'name, you say. Cannot smile, but you try and you're aware you probably look sad and ugly in the orange security light.
And he looks you in the eye, like he did before everything. Adult and brotherly and understanding. You hated it then and you hate it now, but it's better than the mocking of last week, the laughter and the loathing.
His hands in the pockets of his jacket, the leather is as dark as the street but it shines, you fix on the crease of his left shoulder.
I'm sorry, he says. I am so, so sorry.
He is pleading, you see this. You don't know what to say.
He comes up two steps, he is eye-level and you won't look away.
You sniff because suddenly you want very much to cry. Yeah, you say.
His hands settle--grounded; gentle--on your shoulders.
You're choking but you manage. You were right, you say, it was a bad thing.
He pulls you forward, closes his eyes, and your face is pressed into the fold of his scarf, you are crying. Hands curled under your chin.
Why this is yours you don't know. You do know he is forgiven because he thinks you don't need to be. He leans his cheek against your hair. He hushes you but he doesn't mean it. It is only comfort.
You are slowing down. Your breath and the hitch, slowing. You and he are symptoms of madness, mutual. Slower still.
And you lean away, you push against his chest until he lets you go.
It was nice, you say. Pressing your fingers under your eyes, slipping the tears back. The seder was really nice, you say.
His thumb joins your fingers, but he's pulling the tears down, not trying to hide them.
You want so much. You want the clear dark treble of Jeremy's voice. You lean into his hand. Will you, you ask.
He shakes his head, slowly. No.
I'm sorry, you say. Not just for asking. For everything.
His arm slips over your shoulder, around your back and he turns you. He joins you and walks you up to the door. He reaches into your pocket and clicks your key through the lock. He holds the door open for you, pressing your keys back into your hand.
Good night, Nat, he says.
Quickly you grab him, press your salty lips to his cheek. Good night, Dan.
The door closes between you and him. He walks sideways down the stairs, watching you watch. On the sidewalk he raises his hand and you wave back.
And then he is walking away. Your palm rests on the glass and your reflection stares at you while you stare after him. You're home.