The Falling – Chapter Six

CHAPTER SIX: Tom’s Restaurant – Morningside Heights

It’s a vagina, not a clown car?” Kate asked. “What the hell were you thinking Tommy?”

“Well, obviously he wasn’t thinking,” Jesse added. “It’s no wonder she left him.”

Tommy pleaded, “Hey, how about a little compassion here?” Just as Jesse and Kate had arranged earlier, they met at the coffee shop after work. The two of them sat across from Tommy, who had been there since Rachel left the apartment a couple of hours before. It had been one of those gloriously blue New York fall days, but the skies had clouded over the moment Rachel left. Tommy ran through the pouring rain just to get to the restaurant. “And Rachel didn’t leave me,” he added. “She’s just not here currently.”

Kate couldn’t leave it alone; she had to twist the dagger a little deeper. “You can really be an insufferable idiot sometimes. You know that Tommy?”

“Of course I know that. You tell me every day Kate. Whether it’s the Insufferable Idiot, the Narcissistic Prick or the World Champion Ass-Hat. But don’t you guys think it was funny?” He was hoping for maybe just the smallest trace of a smile from his friends, but Tommy wouldn’t receive any response at all. “Not even a little bit?”

“I think it’s funny,” said a fat, balding man who was seated at the counter and listening in on the group’s conversation. “It’s a fucking riot.” He didn’t turn around though; he simply continued to shove another fist-sized bite of a reuben sandwich into his mouth.

“Hey asshole, mind your own goddamned business,” Tommy retaliated.

The restaurant went silent, and some uneasy diners exchanged fearful glances. One couple immediately got up, paid the cashier for their unfinished meal and exited into the comfort of the rain. Tommy knew they were tourists; any true New Yorker could easily have put up with such a fine sampling of the city’s time-honored belligerence.

“I don’t think I’ve ever called you a World Champion Ass-Hat,” Kate muttered.

“Besides,” Tommy said, turning back to his own table. “Rachel’s left before and she’s always come back.”

“God only knows why…” Kate continued, mumbling deep into her coffee cup.

Jesse finished mixing his concoction of two-parts-ketchup/one-part-mayonnaise, and dipped a flimsy, tepid French fry in. “Has she called you yet?” he asked.

Tommy shook his head. It was hard to tell just how much Tommy cared for his girlfriend, since he almost never talked about her. And he was always happiest there at the restaurant where more often than not it was just himself, Jesse and Kate. What was apparent to both Kate and Jesse at that moment was that the argument Tommy had with Rachel was not what had been weighing on his conscience. But neither of them was prepared to broach the subject. Tommy felt the balled-up letter in his pocket with the palm of his hand, knowing he had to plant it on the table again.

“You’ll be just fine Tommy,” Kate reassured him, even if part of her wanted to believe otherwise.

“How about you, Kate?” Jesse inquired. “Have you thought about what you’re going to do?”

“Not yet.” Kate had been looking over the restaurant’s menu for the last ten minutes, trying to decide whether she should get dessert. Milkshake? Cheesecake? The black and white cookie? “There are far too many choices in life sometimes. And I always seem to make the worst ones.” Flagging the waitress down, Kate pointed to the cheesecake.

“You won’t regret it,” the waitress told her before scuttling off.

“I kind of wish there was an actual reason for me to divorce him, you know? Like if he was cheating on me, or if he wanted kids.”

“Or some weird sex thing, right?” Tommy added.

“Everyone’s got weird sex things Tommy.”

“Everyone? Even Gene?”

“Well, he likes to do this one thing…we call it the Fondue Pot. And–”

“Whoa! Whoa!” Tommy and Jesse both pulled a napkin from the dispenser, Jesse to shield his eyes and Tommy waved a surrender flag. “I think that’s more than enough information for now Kate.”

“What’s wrong with you guys? We used to always come here and talk about sex.”

Tommy said, “Yes, but that was back when you were having sex, Kate.”

“As far as I can tell, you two boys aren’t doing much better.”

“How about we just change the subject,” Jesse suggested.

“I’ve got just the thing.” Tommy straightened his legs under the table, and pushed himself up enough to reach deep into his pocket. He slumped back down in the booth and held out a closed fist for his friends.

“What’s that?” Jesse asked, licking the pinkish sauce from his fingertips.

“Pick one,” Tommy said, as though he had extended more than one hand to choose from. Jesse took the opportunity to poke Tommy’s hand with his fork. Tommy opened it up to reveal the crumpled letter.

“Oh no,” Kate sighed. “Again with the letter?”

Unfurling the paper orb in his hand, Tommy flattened the letter out along the edge of the table. He read it aloud word for word, not allowing for any interruptions. They had their suspicions and hunches as to whom the letter might have been from, jogging their memories and considering crossed paths and chance encounters from the past, but neither Kate nor Jesse seemed totally convinced until Tommy had read the very last word.

“Patrick?” Jesse asked, almost spitting his drink onto the table. He knew now why Tommy was in such an anxious mood earlier, and he felt bad for not giving him a chance to share his own troubles, to throw them into the pot with Jesse’s struggling post-Edie love life and Kate’s failing marriage to Gene.

The cold rain did not let up, and it continued to machine-gun against the thin windows of the coffee shop.

~~~~~

It had been eleven years since Tommy Mueller, Katherine Prince, Jesse Classen and Patrick Kohn had sat together in the small Pike Place coffee shop. It was graduation day, and the four of them decided to meet for coffee to plan their futures rather than going to the upscale hotel in downtown Seattle with the rest of Franklin High. They were all wearing their graduation gowns, wet from the West Coast storm raging outside but warm from the comfort of the small café. Jesse was the only one still wearing the hat. Of course, “planning their futures” as Tommy had put it, was more about the other three listening to what he had decided for them. Earlier that morning, Tommy had received notice that he’d been accepted into the Hunter College literary program.

“Congratulations Tom!” Patrick declared, raising his latté.

“Listen,” Tommy started. “I know you guys are still deciding or still waiting to hear back from other universities, but I wanted to take this moment to see if I could maybe sway the lot of you. This acceptance isn’t just for me. It’s for all of us.”

“What are you saying?” Jesse asked, dipping a torn ribbon of cinnamon bun into the mixture of honey, pepper and candy sprinkles on his plate.

“I’m merely suggesting that you guys come with me.”

“What? You expect us to just follow you to New York?” Kate couldn’t fully grasp Tommy’s intentions sometimes. “That seems incredibly presumptuous, doesn’t it?”

“I don’t think it’s presumptuous, I just know you guys.”

Tommy and Patrick had been best friends since the tenth grade, ever since Tommy’s brother had died. Patrick was happy to fill that void for Tommy and he did it well. In the eleventh grade, Patrick started dating Kate, who had been in all of Jesse’s art classes. By the middle of their twelfth year, the four of them were inseparable, and they were perfectly content not to socialize with the rest of their graduating class. Of course, Tommy was right when he stated how well he knew his best friends. He was fully aware that if he suggested it, they would come along with him to Manhattan.

And that’s exactly what they did.

Two weeks later, the four of them boarded a train in Seattle and stepped off into Grand Central Station. They didn’t know where they were upon emerging from the station; they found themselves in the middle of a massive, breathing concrete beast. With countless limbs and organs and arteries, it was sometimes impossible to tell day from night. But Tommy knew exactly where he was going; he’d had every street in Manhattan mapped out inside his head since he was eight years old. And the other three knew well enough to follow him.

By fall, Tommy was attending Hunter College, while Kate and Patrick were both studying at NYU. Jesse had taken a series of part-time art classes, photography courses and architecture programs over the years until he realized that he really had no idea what it was he wanted to do with his life. It didn’t matter though; they were all happy in New York, just as Tommy had predicted they would be. Jesse sometimes thought he might have made a mistake by not accepting enrolment at the Columbus College of Art & Design, but his faith in Tommy had always been unwavering. The four of them lived together for what felt like only a sliver of time, on the first floor of that 113th Street apartment in Morningside Heights, but Kate, Patrick and Jesse gradually bounced around the city every couple of months to wherever the rent was cheapest.

Kate and Patrick had lived together until the morning she awoke to find him gone. It was almost one year to the day since they’d left Seattle. It wasn’t until later that evening when the four of them were supposed to meet at the very same coffee shop they would meet in for the next ten years that suspicion was aroused: Patrick didn’t show. And he hadn’t returned to their apartment that night either. Kate received his phone call from Seattle the following day. He told her that he dropped out of university. He told her that New York City wasn’t the right place for him. He told her the subway trains freaked him out and that the pigeons’ stares made him uncomfortable. He told her he wasn’t sure if he loved her as much as he should have, but that he did love her enough to cover the next two months of rent. He went on to explain how the money he’d left behind was inside an envelope tucked into the back pocket of a pair of Kate’s pants hanging in the bathtub, still wrapped in the dry cleaner’s plastic. His description of where he left the rent money was far more explanatory than his justification for why he’d ever left in the first place. And that was the last time the two of them spoke.

It was the first time any of them truly felt lost and misplaced.

It was the first time any of them thought that moving so far away from home had maybe been a mistake.

It was the first time any of them were faced with disillusionment.

The first time Patrick reached for independence.

The first time Kate would have her heart broken.

The first time Jesse realized the complexities of adulthood.

And it was the very first time Tommy flirted with the idea that maybe his friends didn’t love him as much as he loved them.

Of course, Jesse was the first to forgive Patrick for his selfish decision. Kate, always a tough nut, seemed bitter for a while but she eventually got over it. Patrick was the only guy she had ever dated, but Kate forgot all about him and welcomed the idea that she now had every reason in the world to sleep with as many men as she wanted. Tommy on the other hand had lost a very significant piece of himself the day Patrick Kohn disappeared. Patrick was the peg filling the hole left open when his brother died. Tommy’s imaginings of a perfect life had become reality, but he was suddenly faced with ideas he couldn’t understand. Feelings he didn’t want to feel. Questions he couldn’t solve. And most importantly, he didn’t want to see or think about Patrick Kohn ever again.

~~~~~

If asked what the greatest moment of his life had been, Tommy’s answer would only ever be: “Right now.” He loved his life that much. If Kate or Jesse had thought to ask him that question on that rainy night inside Tom’s Restaurant, Tommy would have had a different answer for them. He would have answered: “This morning.” He would have told them: “It was the moment right before I checked my mail and found that fucking letter.”

None of the information within the letter, no matter how vague it might have been, had mattered at all to Tommy. What was of greater importance was why Patrick had decided to send it in the first place. “What would possess someone to write a letter like this?” he asked. “It’s the kind of letter that should never be sent. Nobody’s talked to the guy for how long? And who mails letters anymore anyway?”

“Don’t you miss him though?” Jesse asked. “Even just a little, Tommy?”

“No. I don’t. Do you?”

“He was our friend. He was one of us.”

Tommy crumpled up the letter, reverting it back into the spherical shape he was much more comfortable with. He spiked it across the table at Jesse. “Well, that’s the difference between you and me, Jess. I don’t carry around all of that sentimental bullshit.”

“You don’t have to be so cold Tommy,” Kate said.

“Oh, I’m sorry Ice Queen. Did you want to say something?”

“Guys, guys,” Jesse interrupted. “What happened in the past is in the past. I don’t think we have any reason to be mad, do we?” Tommy and Kate looked at one another. “Forgive and forget, right?” Jesse’s positive spin was almost heartbreaking in its nostalgic sympathy.

“Jess is right,” Kate agreed.

Tommy wanted to say something constructive, but he could only flick his finger against the napkin dispenser in front of him. He flicked it a second time, hard enough to knock it over. “The guy’s a class-A jerk. That’s all I have to say.”

“You know, it’s really not like you to be this negative Tommy. That’s more of a Kate thing.”

“Jess has a point,” Kate hubristically acknowledged. “I can’t believe you’re still harboring these feelings against Patrick. I know you’re not one for sentiment Tommy, but isn’t holding grudges basically the same thing as being sentimental? It’s all about how you choose to deal with a memory, right?”

Tommy set up the napkin dispenser only to knock it over once more. He turned to see if the fat man with the sandwich was still at the counter, hoping to at least vent in that direction, but he was already gone. A heaping pile of grease-stained napkins was the only evidence left behind.

Jesse took a moment to unfold the letter, and he looked it over for himself. He wasn’t surprised at all to discover Patrick had typed it, rather than having written it by hand. However, he was more than a bit surprised that it was typed entirely on one single page. Just as Tommy had always been the group’s big talker, Patrick had always been their biggest thinker. He would never have restricted himself to a one-page letter in the past. It was almost as if he’d run out of ways to express himself. Or maybe he was afraid of saying too much? Jesse wasn’t sure. “I guess the thing we should probably figure out here is what do we do next? How much do we let this letter affect our lives?”

Tommy kept his mouth shut. He leaned back with his arms folded over his chest. To his left, he could see a stranger press her face to the rain-soaked window. Once again, he pounded his fist on the glass, sending the latest voyeur running away.

Kate finished her last spoonful of matzo ball soup and tarped the remainder of her cold fries with a napkin. She didn’t want to be the first one to answer Jesse’s question either.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

“Well,” Jesse started, and carefully folded the paper back into its wrinkled, but original envelope-sized rectangle. That letter had already been creased and crumpled so many times it was starting to resemble tissue paper. He left it in the middle of the table, between all three of them. “I for one, think this could all be happening for a reason.”

“God hating us is not a reason Jess,” Tommy finally muttered.

Jesse ignored Tommy’s comment. “Look at it this way guys: if Kate and Gene are getting divorced, she can get back together with Patrick. It would be just like the old days!”

“I really hope you’re joking,” Kate said with a red fire in her brown eyes.

Jesse didn’t mind the hostile response. “It’s far-fetched maybe, but still a possibility. Don’t you think?”

Tommy never missed an opportunity to razz Kate, and he smiled a little at Jesse’s evocative proposal. “Yeah, Kate. Come on. It’d be just like old times. We could all move back in together too. Grocery shopping trips on the weekend. Sharing the chores. I call dibs on vacuuming!”

Now it was Kate’s turn to sit back with her arms crossed. “Do you guys really think that I’d be dumb enough to jump back into a relationship with Patrick Kohn? I haven’t seen or talked to the guy for ten years! Do you know anything about how women work?”

Tommy raised his hand. “I’m pretty sure I don’t. Why do you think all of the female characters I write are either prostitutes or murder victims?”

Jesse snuck a French fry out from under Kate’s covered plate, and dipped it into the still potent mound of sauce in front of him. “You know Kate, I recall a time when a certain gal confessed to a certain fella that the only relationship she felt she’d ever totally valued was the relationship she had with a certain guy named Patrick.”

Instantly, Kate regretted that one drunken night from years back, when she and Jesse passed out in the middle of the Washington Square fountain. In fact, she was so extraordinarily drunk that night she might have also blatantly confessed to Jesse her jealousy of Tommy’s literary success. But she could barely remember the details of that evening, apart from her waking up in a downtown detox. “Forget it Jess. I may just pull the trigger on this marriage, but I have absolutely no intention of getting back together with Patrick.” Even while saying the words, she couldn’t help but glance at the letter between them and take a moment to consider how much Patrick might have changed over the years. The idea flashed in her head for perhaps only a second, but it was still enough to note. Was it more a question of unfinished business between the two of them that had Kate considering what was, what is, and what could have been? Kate asked, “Not to change the subject here, but what about you Tommy? What are you going to do when Patrick shows up? You can’t ignore him forever. What are you planning on saying to him?”

“Well,” Tommy started, “I might not have to worry about that.”

After a brief explanation of the news he saw on the television that afternoon, Tommy presented to his friends the possibility of another scenario: one where Patrick may not have made it to New York.

Jesse and Kate could only sit with mouths hanging open. A chewed-up French fry fell from Jesse’s mouth in much the same fashion as the bite of apple had fallen from Tommy’s mouth that morning. “What?

“Was he on that flight?” Kate asked, checking the facts on the discarded letter. “Was he coming to back today?” But there was no indication on the letter.

“I don’t know. But what do you guys suppose the chances are?”

“Hold on a minute Tommy,” Jesse said. “Are you actually hoping Patrick was aboard that plane crash? That’s awful!”

Tommy was quick to defend himself. “That’s not exactly what I’m saying. But it’s not like I was looking forward to seeing him either.”

“It’d be nice if you at least tried to show some interest,” Kate said.

“And even if he did show up here, even if he showed up right here in this coffee shop right now, do you guys think I would be itching to be all buddy-buddy with him again? Should I pretend everything’s just like it used to be?” Tommy grabbed the letter from Kate’s hand and waved it madly in the air. “Should I pretend that a fucking letter as inconsiderate as this could possibly mend any metaphoric fences?”

“I don’t see why not,” was Jesse’s more-than-optimistic reply.

“The answer you were looking for Jess, is NO. A resounding and unabashedly profound NO.” Kate hated it when Tommy used words like that. ‘Unabashedly’ should be restricted to novels, and never for real life. Tommy slapped the letter back down on the table, and for the moment, the coffee shop was silent again. The only thing anyone wanted to hear was the thunderous rainstorm outside.

But Kate was always the first to break a good silence, and she spoke up again. “So what do you guys suppose the chances are? What are the chances that Patrick was on that plane?” She caught a tear as it snuck out of the corner of her eye.

“Jesus Christ Kate!” Tommy yelped. “That’s the second time in one day I’ve seen you cry! What the hell’s going on with you today?”

“What’s going on with ME? You’re sitting there wishing a friend of ours was dead!”

“Wishing? I just don’t want to see the guy again. You really think that I’d wish for anyone to die in a plane crash?”

“You want everyone to die in a plane crash,” Jesse answered. “Just like your brother did.”

In the eleven years that he’d been in New York, Tommy had yet to return to Seattle or travel anywhere else for that matter. Not that it was much of a surprise to anyone at this point. Even his book tours were restricted to the New York area and that one-time bus trip to Philadelphia. Tommy turned to Jesse. “I didn’t want you to die when you went to the Star Trek convention years ago.”

“That wasn’t a Star Trek convention. That was the Comicon.”

“Well, I’m not an expert on distinguishing one type of nerd from another, but I’ll just assume there’s a difference, okay?”

“Would you two please stop arguing like a couple of girls?” Kate interrupted.

“I say we just assume he’s dead and leave it at that,” Tommy suggested. It was a reasonable enough solution to him. But Jesse was quickly withdrawing himself from the discussion, like he often did when conversations become too intense.

“Come on Jesse,” Tommy relented. “I don’t mean to be like this. I was just so angry when I opened that letter this morning. All I could think about today was how things like this are always just the start of even worse things. And then I saw the news and I thought maybe that was the best chance we had to avoid it all.”

“Patrick was one of us Tommy. I loved him as much as I love the both of you. I know you don’t feel the same, but Jesus…” With his sleeve, Jesse had to wipe the emotion clean off his glasses. “You shouldn’t ever wish for somebody’s death.”

“How’s this for feelings: I’ll bet you guys didn’t know that Kaspar Delancey was modeled after him, did you?”

“Who?”

“Patrick.”

“No. Who’s this Kaspar guy?” Kate asked.

“Kaspar Delancey. The character from BLANC.” Tommy didn’t get a reaction. “My first novel?” he added, hoping to clear up the matter.

Jesse thought about it for a moment. “I never noticed a resemblance. Did you Kate?”

“Was he the, ah…was he the owner of the pet store?”

“What? Pet store? Kaspar Delancey was the amnesiac serial killer.”

“Amnesiac serial killer? How the hell did that book become a hit again?”

“It’s all about the characters Kate. You write a good character, and people will believe anything.”

“To tell you the truth Tommy, I never actually read the book.”

“Excuse me?”

“I flipped through it once though. What was the deal with all those blank pages?”

“That’s when Kaspar Delancey loses his memory entirely.”

“Seems like an easy way for a hefty page count to me.”

“Fuck. I’d like to think that if one of you wrote a best-selling novel, I would be a decent enough friend to read the goddamned thing! Did you at least see the movie?”

“I saw it,” Jesse noted. “Who was in that again?”

“Michael Vartan. And Shaquille O’Neal.”

“Really?” Jesse asked. “Maybe I didn’t see it…”

“What about you Kate?”

“I never read the book and I didn’t see the movie,” Kate reiterated. “Shoot me.”

“Unbelievable!”

“Can we move along here?” she asked. “I think the point we’re at is this: what are we going to do next?” Kate motioned towards Jesse with her right hand, and said, “We have the one extreme…”

“I still think things can be how they used to be,” Jesse said.

And then she turned her left hand towards Tommy, saying, “And we have the other…”

“I’m just going to assume he’s still burning somewhere in Kansas.”

“I don’t know which of you guys is more delusional. But what if we’re in for something else? Something that’s somewhere in the middle?”

“You know Tommy,” Jesse piqued. “Kal-El’s rocket ship crashed in Kansas.”

“What are you saying Jesse? That Patrick Kohn could turn out to be Superman?”

“I’m just saying, is all. Sometimes there’s good in what seems like a bad situation.”

Tommy clenched his fist so hard the tips of his fingers could have burst through the back of his hand. He wanted to bang on the window beside him as hard as he could. He wanted to shatter the glass and feel the heavy rain blow in sideways and drench the three of them and wash the letter away. But right now, there was no one outside to shoo away. “Your gift for wisdom is astounding,” Tommy responded. “Shouldn’t you be reading palms somewhere in the East Village, Madame Jesse?”

“I’m just saying,” Jesse repeated.

The three of them remained there for a long while. They stayed long enough for the night waitress to begin her shift, and she refilled their coffee and cleared the evening’s mess off the table. Tommy and Jesse had assumed that the balled-up letter from Patrick had been tossed in the garbage with their dirty napkins; they didn’t notice that Kate had slipped the letter into her purse before generously leaving a twenty on the table and exiting the coffee shop.

After Jesse said goodnight, Tommy sat until he was the only customer left. Unmoved, he dwelled on the past. I could feel him there in Tom’s Restaurant. I felt his weight on the bench, his eyes on the wet, foggy glass beside him, the only thing separating him from the world that looked on. He remained there long enough for the rain to die down, which was exactly the amount of time it had taken for him to eat the last four pieces of pie in the display case. While he ate the first piece, Tommy wondered where Rachel was. Was she back at his apartment waiting for him? He ignored the very realistic possibility that if she did want to talk to him by now, she probably would’ve tried to call. He fingered the phone in his pocket but it still refused to buzz. He considered the feelings of Kate and Jesse as he slowly consumed the second and third pieces. Was it a mistake to mention the letter to them? He had expected his friends to mirror his own thoughts on the matter but he couldn’t have been more wrong. I could feel him slowing down. The waitress suggested he maybe not finish the entire strawberry-rhubarb pie but Tommy dismissed her rudely. The uncertainties of Patrick Kohn had been saved for that last piece. However, many of the details had begun to blur from stomach pangs. The dessert might have seemed excessive but it didn’t really mean anything to Tommy. He had lost count after the first two pieces anyway.

Tommy stumbled back home along 112th Street. He made an effort to step in as many puddles as he could because he loved the sound his heavy foot made as it stamped through a fresh New York rain puddle. He refused to admit to himself the possibility that any puddle splashing would sound the same no matter which city he was in. But if he had been anywhere else, the buildings would not have been the same. The architecture would not have been so perfectly exact, and Tommy could only love the echoes bouncing off New York’s weathered structures.

He stopped for a moment and sat on the front steps of St. John’s Cathedral. Again, I felt the weight of his newfound misery as he sunk into the stone. It didn’t take him very long to throw up everything he’d consumed that evening. He cursed out loud, and hoped that there would be more rain coming to wash his insides away. Maybe it could take all of his rancid discharge and drop it off in New Jersey.

He tried his best to recall the last time he’d felt so angry. Maybe it was when Patrick Kohn had disappeared in the first place? It was such a long time ago but I’m certain that was it. Maybe not so long ago compared to some events, but it was long enough for Jesse, and apparently even Kate, to find a certain amount of forgiveness for their friend’s impetuous and unexplained actions. Tommy couldn’t grasp why his two best friends had found so much hope in that letter, and yet, the only hope that he could weed from it was that Patrick might have died in a plane crash somewhere in Middle America. Was it a destination he deserved? All Tommy knew was that Patrick did not deserve New York; he’d already blown that chance.

Along Amsterdam Avenue a couple walked by. Tommy watched them intensely but they paid him no attention. They should have been holding hands, but they weren’t. The man was talking on his cell phone, yelling at whoever had the wretched misfortune of having to listen to him. The woman was completely engrossed in the most important text message of her life. Those stupid little keys beeped gleefully with every depression. Tommy hated the man for ignoring the woman, but she wasn’t doing much better herself, now was she? Neither of them seemed happy with their situation, and yet each of them had more than Tommy did at that moment.

~~~~~

When Tommy returned home, he had hoped that Rachel would be there. He hadn’t missed a call from her all evening, so he was certain she’d be in his bed. Probably naked, although preferably waiting in that mesh bodysuit thing she would sometimes pull out for him. But she was not there. The envelope from Patrick’s letter still sat on the couch; an empty coffin whose contents were alive once again, and were somewhere in the city haunting anyone who had tried in vain to forget them.

I felt it once more: Tommy’s heavy frame as it slumped onto his bed. He contemplated Rachel, reconsidering his feelings for her and for all the others who had left him. Maybe Keekee Kaufman was right when she shouted out a methodical list of all of Tommy’s faults just before jumping off the Triboro. Maybe Polly Robinson had a point when she left Tommy to find his own way home from New Jersey. Maybe Patrick Kohn’s reasons for leaving his friends behind in Manhattan were not so far-fetched. Did he really just compare Rachel to Patrick Kohn, of all people? Tommy’s blood boiled just thinking of the man. But the fact remained that all of them had left Tommy and none of them had ever seemed to regret it. Surely he could do the same with Rachel Ponzini. Three years was not such a long time, was it? Her memory wouldn’t stand a chance. Tommy fell asleep thinking about just how easy it would be. Not surprisingly, I was not entirely convinced.

NEXT CHAPTER

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