“Oh my god,” he says, throwing his arms around Henry, and for a moment, he thinks something awful must have happened, before realizing that it already happened to him.

“It’s okay,” says Henry, and of course it’s not, but today has been so weird that everything before it feels a little like a dream. Or maybe this is the dream? If it is, he’s not all that eager to wake up. “It’s okay,” he says again.

“It doesn’t have to be okay,” says Robbie. “I just want you to know I’m here, I would have been there last night, too—I wanted to come over when you didn’t answer your phone, but Bea said we should give you space, and I don’t know why I listened, I’m sorry.”

It comes out in a single stream of words.

Robbie’s grip tightens as he talks, and Henry savors the embrace. They fit together with the familiar comfort of a well-worn coat. The hug lingers a little too long. Henry clears his throat and pulls back, and Robbie gives an awkward laugh and turns away, his face catching the light, and Henry notices a fine streak of purple along Robbie’s temple, right where it meets his sandy hairline.

“You’re glittering.”

Robbie scrubs halfheartedly at the makeup. “Oh, rehearsal.”

There’s an odd shine in Robbie’s eyes, a glassiness Henry knows too well, and he wonders if Robbie’s on something, or if it’s simply been awhile since he slept. Back in college, Robbie would get so high on drugs or dreams or big ideas that he’d have to burn all the energy out of his system, and then he’d crash.

The door chimes.

“Son of a bitch,” announces Bea, slamming her satchel down on the counter. “Ostrich-minded motherfucker.”

“Customers,” warns Henry, even though the only one currently nearby is a deaf older man, a regular named Michael who frequents the horror section.

“To what do we owe this tantrum?” asks Robbie cheerfully. Drama always puts him in a good mood.

“My asshole adviser,” she says, storming past them toward the art and art history section. They share a look, and trail after her.

“He didn’t like the proposal?” asks Henry.

Bea has been trying to get a dissertation topic approved for the better part of a year.

“He turned it down!” She whips down an aisle, nearly toppling a pile of magazines. Henry follows behind her, doing his best to right the destruction in her wake.

“He said it was too esoteric. As if he’d know the meaning of the word if it blew him.”

“Use it in a sentence?” asks Robbie, but she ignores him, reaching up to pull down a book.

“That closed-minded—”

And another.


And another.


“This isn’t a library,” says Henry as she carries the pile to the low leather chair in the corner and slumps into it, startling the orange lump of fur from between a pair of worn pillows.

“Sorry, Book,” she mutters, lifting the cat gingerly onto the back of the old chair, where he does his best impression of an inconvenienced bread loaf. Bea continues to emit a low stream of curses as she turns the pages.

“I know just what we need,” says Robbie, turning toward the storeroom. “Doesn’t Meredith keep a stash of whisky in the back?”

And even though it’s only 3 P.M., Henry doesn’t protest. He sinks onto the floor, sits with his back to the nearest shelf, legs stretched long, feeling suddenly, unbearably tired.

Bea looks up at him, sighs. “I’m sorry,” she starts, but Henry waves her away.

“Please, continue trashing your advisor and my art history section. Someone has to behave normally.”

But she closes the book, adds it back to the pile, and joins Henry on the floor.

“Can I tell you something?” Her voice goes up at the end, but he knows it’s not a question. “I’m glad you broke it off with Tabitha.”

A lance of pain, like the cut across his palm. “She broke it off with me.”

Bea waves her hand as if that small detail doesn’t matter. “You deserve someone who loves you as you are. The good and the bad and the maddening.”

You want to be loved. You want to be enough.

Henry swallows. “Yeah, well, being me hasn’t worked out so well.”

Bea leans toward him. “But that’s the thing, Henry, you haven’t been you. You waste so much time on people who don’t deserve you. People who don’t know you, because you don’t let them know you.” Bea cups his face, that strange shimmer in her eyes. “Henry, you’re smart, and kind, and infuriating. You hate olives and people who talk during movies. You love milkshakes and people who can laugh until they cry. You think it’s a crime to turn ahead to the end of a book. When you’re angry you get quiet, and when you’re sad you get loud, and you hum when you’re happy.”


“And I haven’t heard you hum in years.” Her hands fall away. “But I’ve seen you eat a shit ton of olives.”

Robbie comes back, holding the bottle and three mugs. The Last Word’s only customer toddles out, and then Robbie shuts the door behind him, turning the sign to CLOSED. He comes and sits between Henry and Bea on the floor and uncorks the bottle with his teeth.

“What are we drinking to?” asks Henry.

“To new beginnings,” says Robbie, eyes still shining as he fills the cups.

New York City

March 18, 2014


The bell chimes and Bea strides in.

“Robbie wants to know if you’re avoiding him,” she says, in lieu of hello. Henry’s heart sinks. The answer is yes, of course, and no. He cannot shake the look of hurt in Robbie’s eyes, but it doesn’t excuse the way he acted, or maybe it does.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” says Bea. “And where have you been hiding?”

Henry wants to say, I saw you at the dinner party, but wonders if she has forgotten the entire night, or just the parts that Addie touched.

Speaking of. “Bea, this is Addie.”

Beatrice turns toward her, and for a second, and only a second, Henry thinks that she remembers. It’s the way she’s looking at Addie, as if she is a piece of art, but one that Bea has encountered before. Despite everything, Henry expects her to nod, to say, “Oh, good to see you again”—instead, Bea smiles. She says, “You know, there’s something timeless about your face,” and he’s rocked by the strangeness of the echo, the force of the déjà vu.

But Addie only smiles, and says, “I’ve heard that before.”

As Bea continues to study Addie, Henry studies her.

She has always been ruthlessly polished, but today there’s neon paint on her fingers, a kiss of gold at her temple, what looks like powdered sugar on her sleeve.

“What have you been doing?” he asks.

She looks down. “Oh, I was at the Artifact!” she says, as if that’s supposed to mean something. Seeing his confusion, she explains. The Artifact is, according to Beatrice, part carnival and part art exhibit, an interactive medley of installations on the High Line.