“Bruce,” I’m saying. “Bruce.”
He asks me about last summer. He mentions Saratoga, the lake, a night I don’t remember at a bar in Pittsfield.
I don’t say anything.
“Can you hear me?” he’s asking.
“Yeah,” I whisper.
“Is, like, the connection clear?” he asks.
I’m staring at a drawing: a cup of cappuccino overloaded with foam and beneath that two words scrawled in black: the future.
“Mellow out,” Bruce sighs, finally.
After we hang up I walk back to my room and change. Reynolds picks me up at seven and as we drive to a small Chinese restaurant on the outskirts of Camden, he turns the radio down after I say Bruce called and Reynolds asks, “Did you tell him?” I don’t say anything. I found out over lunch today that Reynolds is currently involved with a townie named Brandy. All I can think about is Robert on a raft, still somewhere in Arizona, looking at a small photograph of Lauren but probably not. Reynolds turns the radio up after I shake my head. I stare out the window. It’s the end of summer, 1982.
AT THE STILL POINT
“It’s been a year,” Raymond says. “Exactly.”
I have been hoping that no one was going to mention it but I knew as the evening went on that someone would say something. I just didn’t think it was going to be Raymond. The four of us are at Mario’s, a small Italian restaurant in Westwood Village, and it’s a Thursday and late in August. Even though school doesn’t start until early October everyone can tell that summer is ending, has ended. There is really not a lot to do. A party in Bel Air that no one expresses too much interest in going to. No concerts. None of us has a date. In fact, except for Raymond, I don’t think any of us sees anyone. So the four of us—Raymond, Graham, Dirk and myself—decide to go out to dinner. I don’t even realize that it has been a year “exactly” until I’m in the parking lot next door to the restaurant and almost hit a tumbleweed that blows in front of me too quickly. I park and sit in my car, realizing what the date is, and I walk very slowly, very carefully, to the door of the restaurant and pause a minute before I go in, staring at a menu encased in glass. I am the last to arrive. No one is saying a whole lot to anyone else. I try to keep what little conversation there is on other topics: new Fixx video, Vanessa Williams, how much Ghostbusters is grossing, maybe what classes we’re going to take, making plans for surfing maybe the next day. Dirk resorts to telling bad jokes we all know and don’t think are funny. We order. The waiter leaves. Raymond speaks.
“It’s been a year. Exactly,” Raymond says.
“Since what?” Dirk asks uninterestedly.
Graham looks over at me, then down.
No one says anything, not even Raymond, for a long time. “You know,” he finally says.
“No,” Dirk says. “I don’t.”
“Yeah, you do,” Graham and Raymond say at the same time.
“No, I really don’t,” Dirk says.
“Come on, Raymond,” I say.
“No, not ‘come on, Raymond.’ What about ‘come on, Dirk’?” Raymond says, looking at Dirk, who isn’t looking at any of us. He just sits there staring at a glass of water, which has a lot of ice in it.
“Don’t be a jerk,” he says softly.
Raymond sits back, looking satisfied in a sad sort of way. Graham looks over at me again. I look away.
“It hasn’t seemed that long,” Raymond murmurs. “Has it, Tim?”
“Come on, Raymond,” I say again.
“Since what?” Dirk says, finally looking at Raymond.
“You know,” Raymond says. “You know, Dirk.”
“No, I don’t,” Dirk says. “Why don’t you just tell us. Just say it.”
“I don’t have to say it,” Raymond mutters.
“You guys are being total dicks,” Graham says, playing with a bread stick. He offers it to Dirk, who waves it away.
“No, come on, Raymond,” Dirk says. “You brought this up. Now say it, pu**y.”
“Tell them to shut up or something,” Graham says to me.
“You know,” Raymond says weakly.
“Shut up,” I sigh.
“Say it, Raymond,” Dirk dares.
“Since Jamie …” Raymond’s voice breaks. He grits his teeth, then turns away from us.
“Since Jamie what?” Dirk asks, his voice rising, getting higher. “Since Jamie what, Raymond?”