They were on their way home from a party at their friends’ apartments. It was a summer night and the city was half asleep and you had to dodge the air conditioners’ drips when you were walking on the sidewalks but there weren’t many cars so they were zig zagging in the streets, taking the long way, talking about nothing.
The party had ended up being more of a get together. It started loud and got quieter which was how they both liked it. They didn’t talk to each other much when they were there, they didn’t need to really, and they both were catching up with different friends, knowing they would recap together on the walk home, because that’s what they usually did. Occasionally one would see the other across the room or they’d bring the other a drink or something like that. If you weren’t paying attention you wouldn’t have known they came together and had been living in the same little studio apartment and had moved to the city together from a smaller one they had grown up near.
Walking next to each other she asked what Alex had been talking about for so long, he was giving a monologue. Oh you know Alex he said, he was talking a lot without saying a ton. He likes to complain about things because he thinks he want to hear his takes. Brutal she said. He laughed and said he didn’t mean it to sound mean. He waited and asked about John and Cayla. Oh god she said, they are so gross. They’ve been on a five-year honeymoon he said laughing. She laughed too and said they kept giving each other looks like they had just gotten back from war. They came with Duncan I heard? He asked. Duncan lives with them! She said, fake excited by the scandal. Duncan and Dylan are done? Duncan and Dylan are done! He’s going to have to meet a Daphne now, or a Dierdre. A Deborah, he said. Dana, she said. They walked for a bit more.
They meandered along the lake, back on their usual route, under the walkway that smelled like pee and past the playground that was usually raccoon territory at night. He asked if she’d heard from her mom. She said she hadn’t, or not since Thursday she said. He asked if she was going to call her or just wait it out. She said objection leading. He said withdrawn your honor. He waited and she didn’t say anything and he changed the subject.
Did you hear about Spencer’s band? She said she hadn’t and said it like she was raising an inquisitive eyebrow. Apparently they have an EP coming out he said. She groaned. He kept going, smiling, it’s self produced. She said, you’re kidding, sarcastically. Spence described it to me as Thai-Moby. She paused a beat and said what could that possibly mean. He said I don’t think it means anything at all. There are trumpets in his band, she said. He added, and a slide guitar. Does Moby play either of those, she asked. Maybe Thai people do, he said, fake-wistful.
They almost broke up a year ago. They watched Eternal Sunshine which was a movie they had seen before but she said that she felt she was the Jim Carrey in their relationship and he didn’t think their relationship was anything like Jim and Kate’s and she backed off and it dug at him and then days later they had a big blowout argument with crying and throwing things, very unlike them. They were fighting more about the other stuff they didn’t talk about. About how they were growing apart a little and how he felt she was bored with them and her with her mom’s stuff even though he didn’t know about that all yet but he knew some of the backstory. They’d make up quickly and talk about it all and they both would feel better but they also wouldn’t watch that movie again.
Did you see Rachel, he asked. Hard to miss that hair, she said. Tangerine she called it, he said. That’s exactly what it looked like. Her and Elijah are engaged. Elijah? She asked. The one in New Zealand? Yes. The one that’s been there for 16 months he added. She waited a little, making a little thoughtful-frown while she looked at the ground and he looked at her without making it obvious. She finally said, if it works for them I guess. He asked, looking at the ground, if she’d thought any more about what he said. She didn’t wait very long and said, I think I want to wait for everything to settle before I can decide. He wondered what settle meant. He wondered if it meant her mom or them or something different. He couldn’t decide what it meant but he also knew he couldn’t push so he dropped it and changed course and asked if she had talked to Melissa at all. He had seen her talking to Melissa about something, laughing. She said no, she hadn’t seen her.
They wound their way back to the apartment. The late train rattled the tracks above them and the hum of the air conditioners filled the little alley. A cat darted past them while they found their steps. Neither talked as she fished in her purse for the keys.