Home > The Lost Night

The Lost Night
Author: Andrea Bartz



I had the dream again: lying on the floor with blood pouring out of me, trying to cry out but I can’t make a sound. The scratched floor spreading out around me, round yellow lights overhead. This time, for added fun, I knew someone was coming for me, but I couldn’t figure out if it was to help me or finish me off. This morning I finally Googled around to see if there’s a universal meaning, like dreaming that your teeth fell out. Apparently all the blood means that I’m emotionally drained, my life force leaking out. One site even noted that it could indicate “bitter confrontations among you and your friends,” which is a little on the nose.

I’m still mad about the fight. We’ve started speaking again, and I can tell she’s eager to just pretend it never happened and go back to normal. She thinks she’s such a good friend, but she has no idea what’s actually going on with me. She never asks. She thinks she loves me, when really she just likes showing the world we’re a pair: This is my cool friend Edie, and never mind whether anything’s going on below the surface.

It’s almost funny that she’s jealous—you really want all this? I’ve got a boyfriend who doesn’t trust me. A best friend who’s using me. Parents who alternately call me up crying or remember I exist only when I’m somehow inconveniencing them. I guess she and I are both pretty fucked up, in different ways.

It’s the Fourth of July. Independence Day, as Mom and Dad always insist on calling it, like card-carrying snobs. They’re at Uncle John’s again this year, Mom probably on her sixth vodka soda, sitting on sweaty lawn chairs and eating overbarbecued burgers and feeling smug about the fact that they’re in Connecticut. I scoffed at the idea of going with them, but of course now I’m alone in a musty apartment in Bushwick, writing a stupid diary entry while all my roommates and friends are on the rooftop drinking from red Solo cups and watching some band.

It’s sunny, and a holiday, and those are both facts that make things a little worse, because I know I should be enjoying the day like a normal human. It’s hard to describe: When I’m out with a crowd and we’re having a good time, it is fun, I do recognize it as fun, but I don’t quite connect with it. It’s like I’m eighteen inches away watching all the fun happen. And then as soon as the fun thing is over, a fog settles over everything again.

Okay, I can hear the band on the roof from all the way down here, so I guess I’ll head up there. Maybe I’ll get up on the ledge, make people nervous. Standing four feet closer to heaven and looking at the sidewalk eight emptied floors below.

Maybe today’s the day I’ll jump.

Chapter 1


Fat chickens packed into factory farms, maggots wriggling like a thick white carpet, buffalo fumbling toward the edge of a cliff: all spacious situations compared to the New York City subway at 6:00 p.m. The doors slid apart, but I was stuck; my fellow commuters barely moved, and I bleated out apologies as I smashed against bodies, squeezing onto the platform right as the doors thudded closed again. I took a few steps and peered through the windows at the people still inside, crammed like stuffed animals at the bottom of a claw vending machine.

I was so tired. A feeling I had a lot these days. A part of me wanted to go straight home, heat up something frozen, and maybe watch old, stupid reruns, but I’d been the one to suggest these plans. In a rare flare of nostalgia, I’d fired off the message, forgetting in the moment that I’d once sworn to myself that I’d never open up Pandora’s box. It was almost as if boredom had made me reckless.

I pushed through the throng of commuters at the foot of the subway stairs. Outside, rain made its way through fabric and onto my ass, my knees, my feet. The feeling I’d been wrestling with all day grew, the panicky dread that swells before a first date. What if this reunion mucked up my last good memories from that single, singular year? When I reached the restaurant, an inoffensive bistro in boring Midtown West, a man snapped his umbrella closed in my face and for some reason I apologized to him, knee-jerk.

Inside, I was just pulling out a chair at our table when Sarah entered. She spotted me and waved, and I thought she looked exactly the same. She didn’t, of course, and neither did I, a fact I only realized much later that night when I was clicking through old photos, tears rolling down my cheeks. At twenty-three we had that alienoid bone structure, big eyes and sunken cheeks caving into dewy little chins. Now, ten years later, we’re old-young and round-faced and just human again.

Then we hugged, and maybe there was some chemical trigger, a smell or invisible pheromone, but the hug felt exactly like it did a decade ago. We relaxed and smiled at each other and thought maybe this would be fun.

“Lindsay, it’s so good to see you,” she said, dropping into her chair. “You look great.”

“So do you!” I chirped. “I can’t believe it’s been ten years.”

“I know, it’s crazy.” Sarah nodded, eyebrows up. “How have you been?”

“Really good! You know, keeping on. I was so happy to hear you moved back to New York.” Once, for an article, I’d read a linguistics study on conversation patterns: In any duo, the lower-power person imitates the speech style of the alpha. I wondered who was following whom here.

“Yeah, I’m glad you reached out. When we found out my husband was getting transferred here, I was like, ‘Wow, I don’t know that I know anyone in the city anymore.’ ”

“Your husband,” I said. “I can’t wait to meet him.” I’d looked him up on Facebook: He was annoyingly handsome. At least when friends paired up with unattractive people, I could blot at the jealousy with smugness.

“He’s great.” Sarah smiled and snapped open her menu, looking down. “Are you seeing anyone?”

“No, no one special!” I said brightly. “So how is it being back in New York?”

She scrunched up her features, preparing some middle-of-the-road answer, when the waiter appeared to rattle off the specials. Sarah ordered a vodka martini, and after a moment’s hesitation, I asked for my usual seltzer with lime. I didn’t often miss drinking, but I knew I’d feel a pulse of envy when her conical glass arrived.

“Oh my gosh, is it okay if I drink?” she asked after the waiter disappeared.

“Of course! I’m totally fine. Otherwise I would have suggested meeting for tea.” She giggled and shrugged, and we both went back to reading our menus.

Christ, was this really Sarah? The same literary, witty, hard-partying friend I’d counted among my clique during that first wild year in New York? I’d messaged her the very day she announced on Facebook that she was moving back from St. Louis, forgetting in my sentimentality that things had ended pretty icily. And then I’d felt embarrassed, until a few weeks ago when she’d replied, apologetic, to set a date.

“It’s good to be back here, but weird,” she said finally. “So much has changed. It almost feels like coming to a new city. But what about you, you still love it?”

“I do,” I replied. “I mean, I’m really lucky to still have a job in magazines, and I’ve been living in the same place in Fort Greene for…five years now?” I took a deep sip and bubbles flooded my tongue.

“That’s great,” Sarah said. “That’s definitely a neighborhood I want to check out.” She pushed her black hair behind her ears and a few silver streaks twinkled like tinsel.

“Well, if there’s any way I can be helpful as you guys look around, just let me know,” I said.

“Thanks, Lindsay. It’s tough because I want to find a place ASAP, but I also don’t want to end up somewhere terrible. Right now we’re living with Nate’s parents in Trenton.” She gave me a knowing look.

“You’re in Jersey?! Wow.”

“Right? I’m one of those people we totally hated back in the day.” We both chuckled.

“Do you keep in touch with anyone from back then?” I asked.

She shrugged. “I mean, just online, like with you. For a while, Alex and I would call or have a little email exchange around the anniversary. You know, raise a glass.” She sipped her drink. “Kevin doesn’t really update anything, so I’m pretty out-of-date on him. I think he and Alex keep in touch, so I get reports every once in a while. Last I heard, he and his husband owned a little music store in Nashville and he was, like, giving drum lessons.”

“Wait, Kevin’s married?”

She laughed. “You didn’t know that? Apparently he met this great guy, like, two seconds after he moved away. A pianist, I think.”

Of course—like everyone who moves away from New York. I smoothed a napkin on my lap. A husband: Kevin was still twenty-four in my mind, jumpy and juvenile. “When did he move again?”

“As soon as he’d finished his community service. That winter after…afterward.”

Her face darkened, but then the waiter reappeared and we politely placed our orders, Sarah nodding eagerly when he offered to bring another round. She asked me more about my work, and I learned a bit about the executive recruiting she’d been doing in St. Louis and how now the tables had turned and she had to get herself hired and the bar was set high when every headhunter is so good at the game, and my god, the irony. We giggled at the appropriate times. Twice she made a cute hand gesture, her little fists up near her chest like sock puppets, and she was Sarah Kwan again, Sarah Kwan with the cool raspberry lipstick and an impossible crop top and a yard of thick glossy hair.

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