Marty remembers a dreary day in 1968 when he and Cosmo were smoking weed on the fire escape outside Dahlia Dobson’s fourth-floor apartment, holding a newspaper over their heads to keep off the steady drizzle of rain. He remembers talking about Project Apollo and Sirhan Sirhan and Goldie Hawn while traffic and pedestrians splashed through the puddles below. He mostly remembers the moment he felt Cosmo’s lips almost touch the skin of his cheek as Cosmo said his name and for a moment it occured to him that something about their friendship was different from his other friendships. He hasn’t thought about that day in years, buried under the guilt of later days, but the memory still exists in exquisite, painful detail.
Maybe he’s remembering it now because the sky is the same color of gray today, and because he can still hear Cosmo saying his name in a voice that might be twenty-some years older, darker, and rougher but still carries that same want. That same hope that bursts through no matter how much he tries to suppress it. Martin knew what it was then just as well as he knows what it is now, even layered with decades of baggage, but he doesn’t know any better what to do with it.
There’s been no one, not Liz, not anyone in all these years, who understands him the way Cosmo did.
It’s been a week, and the idea that Cosmo is out there in the world haunts him. He wants to know if he’s still hiding mob money, or if he’s on the run, or if he’s in the shadows preparing to take over a corporation or small nation. And he doesn’t want to know, because if he doesn’t know then the Cosmo he knows from their college days still exists, young and idealistic and full of hope. The Cosmo that prison damaged but never quite destroyed.
He would take either one, though, over not having him at all, and he never said that. He couldn’t say it, because he feels like the Cosmo that could give the order to kill him is the Cosmo a part of him thinks he deserves. He knows what he did. He’s had to live with it all this time. So a part of Martin knows that he created this Cosmo. He did this. In a way, he’s still doing it.
Seven days and he’s sat in front of twelve different monitors and done nothing to try to track him down, not because he doesn’t know where to start but because he knows exactly where and how to start and he can’t make himself do it. Because what do you say, after everything that went down between them? How do you come back from that? Do you come back from that? But they’re too many years past starting over, so what choice do they even have.
That day in 1968, that was really when things changed for them. Not just Martin’s dawning realization of what Cosmo’s looks meant, but the day their ideas started to mesh. The day when the conversation got faster and faster until they forgot about the newspaper and the rain and everything else and dropped it to be able to gesture broadly with both hands. The day when Dahlia had to come out and find them and remind them that they were supposed to take her and a friend of hers on a double date and didn’t their mothers ever teach them to come in out of the rain?
Martin is sitting in front of a computer now, an old box in the back room of a library donated by the local college when it upgraded its computer lab last year. Nobody uses it because nobody really knows how, which means he’s alone by the window waiting for today’s rain to start and watching a flag flutter in front of the courthouse across the street. All he’s doing is checking email on three different addresses anyway, typing without even having to think about it, nothing that would make anyone bat an eye whether they were looking over his shoulder or tracking his internet traffic. The crew is all over the possibilities of the black box, and Martin is right there with them when he’s with them, but the rest of his moments are spent deep in his head.
He doesn’t recognize the address but he knows who it’s from the moment he opens the email. The address is irrelevant. The message is what matters. He doesn’t know how Cosmo has this address, but it doesn’t surprise him that he does. They were breaking into bank systems when they were barely out of their teens. Finding an edu email address is child’s play, and definitely doesn’t require any level of codebreaking.
Well played, Martin. Do you remember Cairo?
Martin had a dream once, a long time ago but not so long ago that Cosmo wasn’t already in prison and Martin wasn’t still in Canada, where the arrest never happened. Where they were still together, laughing and drinking beer and changing the world one piece at a time. There is no one else in the dream, just the two of them. And Martin was okay with it. He was okay with it in the dream and he woke up feeling okay with it. He would have been okay with it, only it was too late to do anything about it.
A few years later Cosmo was dead, or so Martin thought, and then it was really too late.
He wonders even now if he’ll ever see Cosmo again, but even as he wonders he knows that decision is in his hands. Cairo isn’t a city in Egypt. Cairo is the name they called a student in their electrical engineering class, which neither of them could remember the origin of but both could never let go. Barry Skibinski was his real name, and Barry moved to Boston after college to work for a small aeronautics firm. To the best of Martin’s knowledge, he’s still there.
Cosmo is telling him where he is. All Martin has to do now is decide what to do with that knowledge.
He stares at the stark green words for a few more minutes, then cracks his knuckles and starts to type.