Down on one knee with a ring in the middle of the park, and Henry is such a fucking idiot, because she said no.

She said no, and that wasn’t even the worst word.

“You’re great,” she said. “You really are. But you’re not…”

And she doesn’t finish, and she doesn’t have to, because he knows what comes next.

You’re not right.

You’re not enough.

“I thought you wanted to get married.”

“I do. One day.”

The words, crystal clear, despite never being said.

But not to you.

And then she walked away, and now Henry is here at the bar and he’s drunk, but not nearly drunk enough.

He knows, because the world is still there, because the entire night still feels too real, because everything still hurts. He’s slumped forward, chin resting on his folded arms, staring through the collection of empty bottles on the table. He looks back from half a dozen warped reflections.

The Merchant is packed with bodies, a wall of white noise, so Robbie has to shout over the din.

“Fuck her.”

And for some reason, coming from his ex-boyfriend, it doesn’t make Henry feel much better. “I’m fine,” he says, in that automatic way people always answer when you ask them how they are, even though his heart is hanging open on its hinges.

“It’s for the best,” adds Bea, and if anyone else had said it, she would have banished them to the corner of the bar for being trite. Ten-minute time-out for platitudes. But it’s all anyone has for him tonight.

Henry finishes the glass in front of him and reaches for another.

“Slow down, kiddo,” says Bea, rubbing his neck.

“I’m fine,” he says again.

And they both know him well enough to know it is a lie. They know about his broken heart. They’ve both coaxed him through his storms. They are the best people in his life, the ones who hold him together, or at least, who keep him from falling apart. But right now, there are too many cracks. Right now, there is a chasm between their words and his ears, their hands and his skin.

They are right there, but they feel so far away.

He looks up, studying their expressions, all pity, no surprise, and a realization settles over him like a chill.

“You knew she’d say no.”

The silence lasts a beat too long. Bea and Robbie share a glance, as if trying to decide who will take the lead, and then Robbie reaches across for his hand. “Henry—”

He wrenches back. “You knew.”

He is on his feet now, nearly stumbling into the table behind him.

Bea’s face crumples. “Come on. Sit back down.”

“No. No. No.”

“Hey,” says Robbie, steadying him. “I’ll walk you home.”

But Henry hates the way Robbie is looking at him, so he shakes his head, even though it makes the room blur.

“No,” he says. “I just want to be alone.”

The biggest lie he’s ever told.

But Robbie’s hand falls away, and Bea shakes her head at him, and they both let Henry go.

* * *

Henry is not drunk enough.

He goes into a liquor store and buys a bottle of vodka from a guy who looks at him like he’s already had enough, but also like he clearly needs it. Twists the cap off with his teeth as it begins to rain.

His phone buzzes in his pocket.

Bea, probably. Or Robbie. Nobody else would call.

He lets it ring, holds his breath until it stops. He tells himself that if they call again, he’ll answer. If they call again, he’ll tell them he is not okay. But the phone doesn’t ring a second time.

He doesn’t blame them for that, not now, not after. He knows he’s not an easy friend, knows he should have seen it coming, should have—

The bottle slips through his fingers, shatters on the sidewalk, and he should leave it there, but he doesn’t. He reaches to pick it up, but he loses his balance. His hand comes down on broken glass as he pushes himself back up.

It hurts, of course it hurts, but the pain is dampened a little by the vodka, by the well of grief, by his ruined heart, by everything else.

Henry fumbles for the kerchief in his pocket, the white silk stitched with a silver T. He hadn’t wanted a box—that classic, impersonal casing that always gave away the question—but now, as he tugs the kerchief out, the ring tumbles free, goes bouncing down the damp sidewalk.

The words echo in his head.

You’re great, Henry. You really are. But you’re not—

He presses the kerchief to his injured hand. In seconds, the silk is stained red. Ruined.

You’re not enough.

Hands are like heads; they always bleed too much.

His brother, David, was the one who told him that. David, the doctor, who’s known what he wanted to be since he was ten years old.

Easy to stay on the path when the road is straight and the steps are numbered.

Henry watches the kerchief turn red, stares down at the diamond in the street and thinks of leaving it, but he can’t afford to, so he forces himself to bend over and pick it up.

Take a drink every time you hear you’re not enough.

Not the right fit.

Not the right look.

Not the right focus.

Not the right drive.

Not the right time.

Not the right job.

Not the right path.

Not the right future.

Not the right present.

Not the right you.

Not you.

(Not me?)

There’s just something missing.


From us.

What could I have done?

Nothing. It’s just …

(Who you are.)

I didn’t think we were serious.

(You’re just too …

… sweet.

… soft.

… sensitive.)

I just don’t see us ending up together.

I met someone.

I’m sorry.

It’s not you.

Swallow it down.

We’re not on the same page.

We’re not in the same place.

It’s not you.

We can’t help who we fall in love with.

(And who we don’t.)

You’re such a good friend.

You’re going to make the right girl happy.

You deserve better.

Let’s stay friends.

I don’t want to lose you.

It’s not you.

I’m sorry.


And now he knows he’s had too much to drink.

He was trying to reach the place where he wouldn’t feel, but he thinks he might have passed it, wandered somewhere worse. His head spins, the sensation long past pleasant. He finds a couple pills in his back pocket, slipped there by his sister Muriel on her last visit. Little pink umbrellas, she told him. He swallows them dry as the drizzle turns to a downpour.

Water drips into his hair, streaking his glasses and soaking through his shirt.

He does not care.

Maybe the rain will rinse him clean.

Maybe it will wash him away.

Henry reaches his building, but can’t bring himself to climb the six steps to the door, the twenty-four more to his apartment, that belongs to a past where he had a future, so he sinks onto the stoop, leans back, and looks up at the place where the rooftop meets the sky, and wonders how many steps it takes to reach the edge. Forces himself to stop, press his palms against his eyes, and tell himself it is just a storm.