I went for the toilet but because it was dark I didn’t see the seat was up and nearly fell in. Mike and Kim renovated their house since I’d lived there, so it was now easier to get to the upstairs bathroom from the basement. When I moved in with them in the fall of ’98 and had to go in the middle of the night the yard was easier than the toilet, but I was upfront with Mike about it and we agreed on a place back by the garage, though some nights the rain was so hard I just went on the grass. Pulling down his street Saturday I saw the bus stop where I’d wait for work and remembered the Friday after Thanksgiving I had to go in, the buses were running a Sunday schedule so the wait was long and when it finally came and they opened the doors everyone inside looked sad.
I didn’t have any vacation to speak of, had to go into work even though no one else did. I decided I’d leave early, come in late, take a long lunch — and afterwards, I’d meet Rob in the afternoon for a beer and buy my first cell phone. I had to call someone to activate it and then realized I didn’t have anyone else to call, so I just put it away. Someone shot the bus driver Rob said and then themselves, and the bus almost went off the bridge and a few years later I moved apartments and started taking the same route, the 26.
We all had land lines then, and when I found a new girlfriend I saved the first message she left on my machine because she sounded like a phone sex operator, sultry and suggestive, and I played it back several times and the more I listened the more meaning I assigned to it — and I knew I should wait to call her back but I couldn’t — and we had fun for a while but it soon collapsed into game-playing, when all I really wanted was a mate. The last night she popped by my bedroom window I didn’t invite her in; I said I had to get up early, my grandparents were flying in, and we never talked or saw each other again.
It was the middle of November and the woman I moved out west with was moving back east, and it was our last Saturday night out together in Seattle. Though Shana didn’t drink, on that night she did — we went to my favorite bar in the U-district that doesn’t really have lights (it just takes in the glow from the streetlamps) and sat where I always did, at a table by the window.
When we left our old friend Myki from Pittsburgh was there, which seemed dream-like and odd since we hadn’t seen him for a couple years and didn’t know he was coming to Seattle, he just showed up. I took it as a sign, that one of my best friends just appeared as I was about to be alone, restarting my life as he was his. But while it felt good for me I think it only saddened Shana, to have to explain what happened between us, to say hello and then goodbye.
All of us went to another bar, the same place I met the new girl I was now seeing a few months later. When she and I shared our stories though, we realized she already knew half of mine because she’d met Shana in a bathroom at the bar that same night we were out together, she’d been there too, had consoled her because Shana was crying, and I thought how strange.
Now when I go to Mike and Kim’s it’s usually when Kim’s out of town and Anthony comes, ubers home, I sleep in the basement, we play records and eat and drink and pretend we’re single again, the feeling that anything could happen but nothing ever does. Anthony replays his favorite scenes, the story of me and the mask at Halloween — the one of Eberhard at our wedding anniversary in the mountains, him in a Speedo by the hot tub with a hatchet chopping wood, doing it right every time.
In the morning Mike and I take the dogs for a walk and keep the music soft, take aspirins and sip coffee, hug and say goodbye until the next time — and I stop for another coffee and pick the four dollar one, a Tall, from a girl with blue hair but she can’t find the button on the screen when I try to pay and I say it’s from Ethiopia, in Africa, and isn’t there a map of the world there I joke, doesn’t she just have to press the right country to key it in?
No one has land lines anymore and if they do, the only people who call are the ones we don’t want to talk to — the rest know how to find us anywhere they want, and sometimes we don’t even need phones for that.