CHAPTER ELEVEN: Tom’s Restaurant – Morningside Heights
Tommy hid inside his apartment for another two hours intent on ignoring any incoming phone call or buzz at the door. When he was satisfied that he’d waited long enough, he threw on his coat and scarf.
But before closing the front door, he spotted the copy of BLANC still sitting atop his desk. He stared at the thing adamantly like it was a wild animal that had found itself trapped in the apartment. Since the night he typed the book’s final words, Tommy had been optimistic that Kaspar Delancey would be kind enough to stay folded within its covers forever. Now he found himself cursing his own creation and his reasons for ever deciding to bring Kaspar into his world in the first place. He closed his door, locking up as many foolish thoughts as he could.
After his daily detour to the CKY Grocery, Tommy walked back up Amsterdam Avenue, Spartan in hand. He was surprised to find that all of the grocery’s apples had been a little bruised that morning. The best apple he could find had a mealy consistency and lacked any crunch whatsoever.
Tommy approached the corner of 112th and Broadway with more trepidation than ever, for there was still something that was not sitting right. Patrick Kohn’s appearance earlier that same morning not only meant the man was officially back in Tommy’s life but it also meant that he was back in Tommy’s city. Patrick knew the coffee shop was their eatery of choice because he’d been in its familiar booth himself only ten years earlier, and he’d eaten the very same rubbery scrambled eggs and cardboard pancakes that the coffee shop was still serving ten years later. What was to stop him from being there that morning, waiting for the gang to meet like they had always done? But what could Tommy do? He wasn’t going to change his life to accommodate Patrick. Tommy had to be sure though, and he peeked through the coffee shop’s window. Jesse was sitting alone at the table.
Tommy swung the restaurant door wide open. Ringing bells indicated his arrival but not a single head turned. Jesse was giggling quietly to himself as he read the morning paper. It was reassuring how Jesse would always find something in the funnies to laugh at, no matter how bad they were. Kate’s coat was sprawled across the opposite seat, and Tommy plastered it against the wall as he made himself comfortable.
“Hey Tommy,” Jesse muttered, without lifting his head. Tommy had no reply, yet Jesse still knew something was amiss. “Are you in a mood today? I don’t know if I can handle one of your moods this morning, Tommy.”
“I think it’s going to be one of those days,” Tommy said. “Do you realize how shitty it’s been so far?”
Jesse answered with nothing more than shrugged shoulders.
“It’s been so shitty that I didn’t even feel the need to point out the misspellings on the sign this morning.”
“Hobolicious?” Jesse asked.
Tommy nodded. Hobolicious was the homeless man who occupied the corner of Amsterdam and 110th Street, and every morning he would have a new sign scribbled in crayon on the inside of a cardboard box lid. Tommy enjoyed correcting the man’s spelling and sentence structure, justifying his actions by dropping a dollar or two into the plastic Double Bubble pail. Tommy, Kate and Jesse gave Hobolicious his nickname so long ago that they couldn’t recall how or why they’d ever decided on it in the first place.
“That does sound shitty.”
“Yeah, well. You don’t even know the half of it.” Tommy squashed the coat into the bench a little more. “Has Kate been in the bathroom all morning? Was she cramming down cheeseburgers at McDonald’s again last night?”
“Very funny,” Kate said as she returned to the table, sitting next to Tommy.
“Shouldn’t you kids be at work today?” Unintentionally, Tommy would sometimes speak down to the two of them. Kate believed his condescending nature to be an extension of his success and their lack of the same.
“I’m covering Germ’s shift later. He’s got some band meeting in a garage in Queens somewhere.”
“And you Kate?”
“I should be at work,” she said. “But I’m thinking of quitting today.”
“What?” Jesse dribbled some coffee onto his Aquaman t-shirt, but seeing as the cheap shirt was already brown it would probably conceal most of the day’s stains anyway. “Why would you do that, Kate?”
“I just can’t take the corporate bullshit anymore.”
“What corporate bullshit?” Tommy asked. “You edit manuscripts.”
“You wouldn’t understand Tommy.”
“How does Gene feel about all of this?”
“I, uh…I still haven’t spoken to him. Not about my job. Not about our marriage. I think I’m just afraid he’ll give me some reason not to leave him. If that makes any sense.”
Jesse agreed half-heartedly. “I guess so.”
What Kate really wanted to tell her friends was that she’d started writing a new book. She was excited about it, so naturally, she wanted them to be as well. Still, Kate didn’t want it to seem as though the other things in her life didn’t matter right now.
“Hold on,” Tommy said. “You said you were thinking of quitting? But that would mean you haven’t quit yet. So it would also mean you should be there right now sitting in your crummy corporate office chair, wouldn’t it?” Tommy flagged the waitress for a cup of coffee. “So what are you doing here then?”
Kate asked, “Isn’t it too early Tommy?”
“Being a jerk. What’s gotten into you lately? Is it Rachel?”
Tommy sighed. “No. I’ve just been having some bad dreams lately.”
“Tell me about it,” Kate said. “I had a dream the other night that I gave birth to a two-dimensional baby, like it was made out of paper. And then I accidentally dropped it through the sewer grate. And it was gone. Just like that. The strange thing was I wasn’t even that worried about it.”
Tommy didn’t know what to say about that. “How about you, Jesse? Are you still having your Alan Alda dreams?”
“Unfortunately, yes,” Jesse admitted.
In Jesse’s recurring dream he was grocery shopping with Alan Alda. For months, he couldn’t put his finger on who this person in his dreams was; he could only remember a certain familiarity to the tone of his voice, and that they would be doing different activities together every night: five-pin bowling (always as teammates), chasing pigs through mud (always as competitors), driving across the prairies of Saskatchewan (usually in a dark blue Ford Prelude, but not always), and most disturbingly, masturbating to reruns of Taxi together (but at least they sat on different chairs, “So it wasn’t as if there had been anything gay about it, right guys? Right?”). But it wasn’t until he’d seen a late-night episode of Scientific American Frontiers hosted by Alan Alda that Jesse finally made the disturbing connection. From that point on, the only thing Jesse Classen and Alan Alda would do together in his dreams was shop for groceries, and they would bicker with each other the entire time like an old married couple.
Kate needed some clarification on the matter. “Is it always the same shopping trip, or do you guys keep going back?”
“I think it’s the same trip. Whenever I put something in the cart, he takes it out when I’m not looking. I don’t think we’ve ever made it to the checkout.”
Finally, Kate asked, “What about you Tommy? What are these bad dreams of yours?”
Tommy had not even flirted with the idea of telling his two best friends about the surprise visit he had that morning. He wasn’t ready to make Patrick Kohn’s return any more certain than it already was. “I’ve just been having your basic, run-of-the-mill movie nightmares. You know, a Joe Pesci pen in the neck. An Edward Norton curb-stomping. The Polar Express. That kind of thing.” The waitress delivered a fresh cup of coffee for Tommy, and he stirred some sugar into it. He clanked his spoon against the ceramic mug as loud as he could with the hope that he might divert any further questions away from himself.
Through the window, a young boy peered into the restaurant. He was wearing a bright costume, some sort of superhero get-up, even though Halloween was still more than a week away. Tommy didn’t know what to think. He wanted to bang on the window but something stopped him. The boy stared at the three of them with a blank expression, almost like he couldn’t actually see them. It was unnerving. “What the fuck, kid?” Tommy asked through the glass. Taking Kate’s coat from the seat, Tommy pressed it up to the window to block the boy’s vision.
Moments later, the restaurant door swung wide open. Tommy, Kate and Jesse all ignored the ringing bells, just as they always did. Then a familiar voice shouted, “Ho! Manhattanites!!” Like he was a Viking or something. Instantly, Tommy knew his morning was not about to get any better.
Kate and Jesse turned to the door, stunned. It was him. Certainly more bald and bloated than they’d remembered, but there was no mistaking him. After ten long years and one strange, short letter, Patrick Kohn had finally returned to Tom’s Restaurant.
“Patrick!” They burst from their seats and ran over to him. Tommy stirred some more sugar into his coffee cup as the three friends hugged one another excitedly.
“Hey, Fart Tart,” Patrick said to Kate. It was the same bizarre nickname he had always called her. “How you been?” As happy as he appeared, there was still a hint of something not quite right about him. Like something had broken him somewhere along the way. The boy in the costume was directly behind Patrick. He tugged on the sleeve of Patrick’s blazer and quietly asked if he could go to the bathroom. Without stopping to think, Patrick pointed to the washrooms. Tommy watched the boy apprehensively until he disappeared from sight.
The group wrapped up their greeting, sharing brief stories of reported plane crashes and sleepless nights, before making their way back to the table where Tommy remained. Jesse and Kate sat back down, and Jesse wiped tears from his eyes. Patrick held out his hand to Tommy. “It’s good to finally see you again Tom.”
Tommy inched his hand cautiously toward the middle of the table. If Patrick Kohn was planning on hurting him again, he wouldn’t have committed himself so fully. It appeared instead that he was generously welcoming back the past. But Tommy refused to shake the unwanted paw before him and neither man made any mention of the morning’s cheerless encounter.
Patrick asked the waitress for another chair and for two glasses of orange juice, as if he already owned the place. He then sat down next to Jesse. He tried to position himself comfortably, wriggling his rear end into the cushion. “Lordy! These booths sure haven’t changed much, have they?”
Against his better judgment, Tommy fixed his gaze upon his old friend. Rubbing his eyes and scratching his scalp, Tommy tried to find the best way to say whatever needed to be said. But he couldn’t find the words. The din outside was deliberate in its attempts to spoil his concentration. The chirping. The barking. The honking. The yelling. Even Patrick ruined the moment for him too. “You haven’t changed a bit, Tom,” he said.
“Not at all. Are you?”
Tommy did not have an answer for the man. For that matter, he realized he hadn’t one for himself either.
Patrick had probably changed more than Tommy, Kate and Jesse combined. This was really no surprise to Tommy, since he saw leaving New York City as being the easiest way in the world for a person to change, and never for the good. Trapped somewhere beneath the receding hairline, rounded face, wrinkled eyes and graying chin, was the same young man with the same old dreams. He was never one to resist change and he was always positive about the uncertainties that any change might bring.
But Patrick Kohn certainly was not the same man he used to be. When he was younger, he tried his best but he could never match a pair of pants to a shirt to save his life. Now he wore pressed suits and sparkling ties. His morning diet once consisted of nothing more than two cups of coffee, now he drank orange juice with a piece of toast. He used to bite his fingernails to no end, but his hands now appeared as smooth and clean as surgical gloves. His favorite color used to be blue, now it was green. His favorite movie used to be Jaws, now he didn’t have one. His preferences for music, books and humor had once been so incredibly specific, but they had all changed as well. And just as he could always be expected to articulate on any discussion topic, he would now only fall silent. If pressed, Patrick would rather agree with someone than force himself to voice a singular opinion. And still at other times, he found himself incapable of finding an opinion on anything at all.
He used to be able to sit completely motionless. Now, he could barely stay still for more than a few seconds. He used to enjoy watching magic tricks for their sheer mystery; sometimes not knowing what existed behind a closed door was enough to make him smile on a bad day. But now he couldn’t be happy unless he knew all the answers to everything. Patrick once believed in the freedom of unanchored decisions, but now his world was one of stifled business acumen and legalese. Numbers coursed through his head constantly. Where once he had to think about reaching out for a handshake, it was now done instinctively.
His elbow skin was forever peeling, like a bird in a constant molt. He had a scar on his right leg from a childhood knee surgery that resembled a branch of winterberries. Both of his earlobes still had the noticeable pinholes of piercings from long ago. The one sound he hated more than any other was the sound tissue paper makes when squeezed between fingers. In fact, he really could not bear the rubbing sound of any paper, and yet if given the choice at grocery stores, he would always opt for paper bags over plastic. He was slightly neurotic, and didn’t like to sit at the front of a bus or movie theatre where he couldn’t view everyone at once. He had a laugh that could only be described as maniacal. Jesse used to say that Patrick’s laugh was not unlike a super villain’s upon discovering his archenemy’s single weakness. Without meaning to, Patrick would often scare people away who happened to be anywhere in his vicinity when he found something funny.
When he was a boy he would stare into the window from the backseat on family car rides; but his attention wouldn’t be focused on what was on the other side of the glass, but rather on his reflection. He was fascinated by his own dark brown eyes. Now he could barely stand shaving in front of the mirror for the chance that he might accidentally catch a glimpse of his eyes.
As far as Tommy could tell though, Patrick’s brown eyes were still the same as they’d ever been. Perhaps they were the one part of him that had not changed at all.
Patrick boasted, “I knew if I came to this coffee shop, I’d find one of you guys here. Nothing ever really changes, does it?”
Tommy did not wish to answer Patrick’s question. Instead, he asked one of his own, spitting out the one question that had been on his mind for what seemed like forever. “Why’d you leave us Patrick?” Patrick’s sudden disappearance was hard on them all, but to Tommy, it was nothing more than an outright betrayal.
“Lordy, Tom. That was so long ago.” Patrick was not really fazed by the question, since he’d expected it sooner or later. “We were just kids, weren’t we? There were no limits to the amount of stupid mistakes we made back then.” The four of them all took turns glancing at one another. They had all made different mistakes over the years. Some of their mistakes affected the group while some had no impact whatsoever, or even went completely unnoticed. “You know when people tell you to roll with the punches? Well, that’s a bullshit suggestion. The truth is that when we take a punch sometimes it’s really hard to recover.”
“I want to say it never bothered me,” Tommy said. What he really wanted to say was that he had some amount of interest in throwing a punch of his own at that moment. “But it did bother me, Patrick. It bothered all of us.”
The waitress came with the juice, and Patrick almost swallowed a full glass in one gulp. “All I can say is I’m sorry Tom. That’s it.” He shrugged his shoulders, indicating that really was the best he could do.
With nothing more than a thumb’s up for the waitress, Tommy indicated he would have his usual for breakfast. “But you still didn’t answer my question,” he reiterated. “Why did you leave all of us? We had something good back then, didn’t we? We did everything together, but before I knew it I was standing in that tennis court by myself, looking like a big loser.”
“What tennis court?”
“You don’t remember? We had plans to finish our tennis match in Riverside that morning. I waited for you, but you never showed.”
“Tennis? Is that what’s bothering you? The fact we never finished a tennis match?”
“That’s just one of the things.”
Patrick looked over at Kate. It was easy for him to recall every time she’d ever looked at him, but there was still something different beneath the surface now. Ten years was enough time to damage anybody. “Listen guys,” he finally said. “The truth is that I had to choose between Kate and Natasha. I left because I chose Natasha.”
The truth hit her hard, but Kate remained silent.
“Natasha Seward? Your burnout ex-girlfriend?” Tommy had nearly forgotten all about her too. “I can’t believe you would dump our Kate to go back for seconds with Natasha C-Word.”
Patrick sat silent for a moment. He shifted in his seat a little. “It was the choice I made Tom. It was killing me being in New York, realizing I’d left so much that was unfinished back home. And it hurt too much to have to explain myself. Especially to you. So I just left. I hate to say it, but playing one last tennis match was not a priority of mine at the time.”
“What about Kate then?”
“Shouldn’t you have at least explained yourself to Kate? Instead of abandoning her, I mean.”
“It’s okay,” Kate said in her own defense. “It’s forgotten. Really. Just let it go.”
Tommy took a sip of coffee and turned his attention back to Patrick. “So what, did Natasha dump you before you could leave her too? Is that why you’re back?”
Again, Jesse and Kate looked at one another. In one quick look, they both knew instantly that the other was aware of the same thing. And neither of them was sure if they should say something. Just as Kate’s mother had called her with the news, Jesse found out when his own mother called to wish him a happy birthday last month. Obviously, no one had said anything of the matter to Tommy.
“Natasha’s dead, Tom,” Patrick said. He stated it quite matter-of-factly. “She died just a couple of months ago.”
Tommy wanted to say he was sorry. He really did. But all he could do was stare across the table. Some tourists materialized outside the window, but he could not even summon the strength to shoo them away. He noticed Patrick’s phone face-up on the table, softly buzzing with an incoming call. Patrick ignored it, but Tommy noticed the picture on the phone; it was a picture of Patrick, Natasha and the same boy who was still in the coffee shop washroom. Natasha did not look anything like he remembered: she seemed taller, fuller, darker, and more beautiful. She seemed like a completely different person. Maybe she was. Their son looked like a nerd though. And Patrick was wearing exactly the same coat that he was wearing at that moment.
“One morning Natasha didn’t feel so good,” Patrick spoke sullenly. “So she went to the hospital for some tests. When the doctor called a week later, I watched her from the other room. I don’t know why, but I think I was more scared than she was. Too scared to even hold her as she listened to the worst news in the world. She sat at the kitchen table, and she put down the phone and smiled at me. That’s when I knew.” Patrick didn’t flinch or squirm or shed a tear. “She came over to me and said she wasn’t ever going to see another winter. No more Christmases. And that was all that was said. She loved the winter so much. It was her favorite time of year.”
Jesse put a hand on Patrick’s shoulder. It was one thing to know what had happened, but it was another to hear it from the person who had been hurt the most. Patrick wasn’t embarrassed by himself though. He didn’t quiver. He didn’t tremble. He didn’t try to wipe his tears away discretely. All he did then was get up from the table. “I’m sorry,” he said. “I should go see if Sheldon’s okay.” He made his way to the back of the restaurant, towards the washroom.
“Sheldon?” Tommy asked. “Who or what is a Sheldon?”
“That must be Patrick’s son,” Kate figured.
“That kid in the costume?”
“Go easy on him, Tommy,” Jesse encouraged. “Don’t you think Patrick’s been through enough already?”
“If today is going to be all about Patrick, I’m not interested.”
“I just think that he’s gone through a lot of shit recently,” Jesse continued.
“His shit is not my shit Jesse. Why should I be expected to deal with it too?”
“Because we’re friends,” Jesse said. But Tommy could only cross his arms and huff. “Because we were friends. Isn’t that enough of a reason Tommy?”
Hoping again for some passerby to come to the window, Tommy twisted his head to get a look up the street outside. But there was no one interested in Tom’s Restaurant at that moment.
It wasn’t too long before Patrick returned to the table with the costumed boy in tow. “Guys, I’d like you to meet my son Sheldon.” The boy managed his best wave, but he was really not keen on meeting a table full of new people. Especially these strange New York people.
Sheldon’s costume was a baggy, bright yellow number with a blue cape, gloves and a mask that tried to cover his bulbous forehead. He wore a pair of scuffed red rain boots that were obviously not part of the package. Everything about the boy seemed meek. He scrunched his fingers together awkwardly. He stood as though he didn’t want to be where his feet were planted, but he seemed to lack the capacity to do anything about it. At eight years old, he shared an uncanny resemblance to a much younger Patrick, but to Tommy, Sheldon Kohn could have been any other kid from anywhere else in the world. “Come on Patrick,” Tommy said. “Sheldon?”
“What?” Patrick said. Sheldon sat down in the booth beside Jesse. Patrick sat at the end of the table and slid the untouched glass of juice over to his son.
“Why didn’t you just name the kid Poindexter? That would have been just as traumatic for him. He probably would have been beaten up just as much.”
“Sheldon Seward was Natasha’s father’s name. The name was her choice.” Even if he had meant to be, Patrick remained unapologetic about the name.
Tommy turned his attention to the boy. “So what’s the deal with the costume, kid? Isn’t Halloween still a week away?”
Sheldon didn’t say anything. He tasted the orange juice cautiously, unsure whether he should trust it.
“He insisted on wearing it,” Patrick replied.
“I can’t blame you,” Jesse said to the boy next to him. “Superheroes are pretty astounding. Which one are you supposed to be?”
“I don’t know,” Sheldon finally spoke.
“I think it’s just a generic superhero costume,” Patrick said. “Natasha bought it for him months ago.”
Still, Jesse had to wonder. He couldn’t fathom the idea of a superhero without a name. It wasn’t right. There was some sort if universal imbalance to it. “So what, are you Captain Common then?”
“I don’t know,” the boy repeated timidly.
“How about Non-Specific Man?”
Sheldon shrugged his shoulders.
Patrick leaned over to his son hoping to clear up any confusion. “Uncle Jesse works at a comic book store.”
Sheldon spoke softly. Even for an eight-year-old, the boy didn’t carry much of a presence. “I don’t like comic books or superheroes. I just like wearing the costume.”
“That’s exactly how Kate feels about lesbians,” Tommy joked.
“Shut up Tommy,” was her reply, although it wasn’t what she wanted to say. Kate didn’t know much about kids, but she did know swearing in front of them was generally frowned upon.
“I don’t understand,” Sheldon said.
“Hold on,” Jesse said. “Uncle Jesse? Which one was that? And please do not say Dave Coulier.”
“I’m pretty sure that was John Stamos,” Tommy said. “Either way though, you realize you’re still going to think Dave Coulier now every time the kid calls you Uncle Jesse, right?”
For a moment, the four adults sat without a word and watched Sheldon silently guzzle his juice. It almost felt like they were all eighteen again. The dark clouds parted, and the morning’s first sunlight bounced off the table’s scattered cutlery. Out of all the days that had ever been, there had never been a New York day like this. It was imperceptible to the naked and unassuming eye, but the sky had never been this kind of blue, and it never would again. Should it have been painted exactly as it was that day, the artist surely would have been accused of smearing his sky with a falsified hue.
Patrick’s phone buzzed again, but this time he gave in. “Sorry guys,” he said, rising from his seat. “I’ve got to take this.” He answered the phone only when he was entirely out of earshot. The others watched him as he crossed the coffee shop floor, through the dust that was caught within beams of sunlight. Jesse was ecstatic with the sudden return of their old friend. Kate couldn’t help but compare the mistakes she made then to the ones she was currently making now. Sheldon finished his juice. Tommy picked some apple skin out from his teeth, before turning back to Patrick’s son. It was the perfect opportunity for another question or two.
“So what’s your deal?” Tommy asked him, as if the boy knew how to answer the question.
“I don’t understand,” he said.
“Well, I assume you go to school, yes?”
“Yes.” Sheldon stared at Tommy as though the man was a masturbating monkey at the zoo. He didn’t want to look, but he was still a little curious. “But I’m transferring to a new school here.”
“Well, duh.” Tommy didn’t realize that in the very few times he ever talked to kids, he would channel the dialogue devices he used himself when he was much younger. Kate and Jesse silently witnessed their friend’s failing attempt at being folksy with the boy.
Sheldon reached into some hidden pocket in his costume and pulled out a small plastic object. “What have you got there?” Tommy asked. “Is that a toy?”
Putting the device to his mouth, Sheldon said, “It’s my inhaler.”
The boy nodded as he sucked back a couple of bursts of air. “I also have Attention Deficit Disorder.”
“Tommy!” Kate refereed, tossing a red card onto the field. “You don’t need to swear in front of him.”
“Come on, just look at him! That’s the most placid kid I’ve ever seen. There’s no way he’s got Attention Deficit Disorder. It’s just one of those titles parents slap onto their kids so they never have to admit they don’t know what to do with them.”
“Excellent prognosis, Doctor Freud.” Jesse was well aware that Tommy had no idea what he was talking about, but there was definitely something off with Sheldon. Of course, losing his mother couldn’t have been easy for the boy.
Patrick surprised them as he sat back down. “Sorry guys. It’s been crazy trying to find somewhere to live while dealing with work and looking for schools. But it sounds like there’s a place on India Street that we can take a peek at this afternoon.”
“India Street? Isn’t that in Brooklyn?”
Now it was Jesse’s turn to referee the conversation. “Don’t judge Tommy. There’s nothing wrong with Brooklyn.”
“Sure there isn’t. Unless you live on India Street.”
“Well it beats living out of suitcases at the Beacon Hotel. I’m hoping we won’t be staying there any longer than we have to.”
Kate recalled the conversation she had with her father about Patrick the week before. “What are you doing for work Patrick? I heard you were helping your dad with the family business?” The three men all wondered about the source of Kate’s quality Intel.
“Yeah. I took my father’s advice and relocated to New York. He said a change would be good, and he needed somebody to run the new warehouse out here.”
“That’s super news,” Tommy muttered. He didn’t like the way Patrick said the word father. It was so cold and clinical. There was no reason for him to not say dad instead. “Just fantastic.”
“What’s the business?” Jesse asked.
“Titanic Utilities. We manufacture and distribute the latest in self-cleaning toilet seat technology.”
“Titanic?” Tommy mused. “That sounds like you’re producing toilet seats for giants. Or people with really big asses.”
“Actually, we do make over-sized seats too.”
“Who knew there could be a career in toilet seats?” Kate wondered.
“They’re mostly for bulk orders. You know, for airports or restaurants or shopping malls. I’m working out of an office in Midtown and running our warehouse in New Jersey.”
“Good for you.” Kate didn’t want to sound like she was patting a child on the back for finishing third place in the science fair, but that was how her words came out. Patrick knew the life he was living was not the life he imagined when he first came to New York City a decade before, but he knew that whatever he was doing, he was doing for his son now.
Sheldon excused himself to use the bathroom again. Tommy meanwhile, started to wonder if the boy suffered from Irritable Bowel Syndrome as well, or maybe he had the world’s youngest cocaine addiction. No kid should be disappearing into the bathroom that often.
The waitress came with Tommy’s usual: two soft poached eggs, extra crispy bacon and sourdough toast. He doused the eggs with pepper, and began slopping them up before realizing the yolks were hard. “This is bullshit,” he said, pushing the plate away into his coffee cup, spilling some on the table. A week ago his life was perfect. And now it was all he could do to stop himself from screaming. He wished his lungs were the size of Madison Square Garden so he could scream even louder.
“Listen Tom,” Patrick started. “I’ll admit that what I’m going through right now is not easy for me. I’ve seen my share of bad news. I’m sure that Jesse and Kate have too. But awful things will happen to everyone eventually. Everybody falls at some point.”
“Not me,” Tommy said, hoping again for a shadow to appear outside.
“When Natasha was diagnosed, I was in such a horrible place. But she seemed to be at peace almost right away. I don’t know how she did it. And when she died, her father told me about what he called the falling. He told me that everybody falls eventually, and the best thing we can do is be prepared to know how to get back up again.”
Kate considered her marriage and her novel just as Jesse thought about Edith and the talk he’d had with Sharona the week before.
But Tommy did not think about the past. He did not stop to consider any of his own mistakes. “Don’t worry about me,” he tried to reassure them all. “I’ve got a great girlfriend and a new novel coming out. I’ll be just fine.”
“But Rachel’s gone Tommy,” Kate reminded him.
“She’ll be back. I’m not worried about it.”
With his coat still on, Patrick stood up and removed some money from his wallet. Jesse got up from his seat and slipped his own coat on. “Come on Patrick. I’ve got some time before work to come with you and look at that apartment.” Tommy remained motionless, arms crossed in front of him.
“You can come too if you want Tom,” Patrick offered. “It wouldn’t bother me.”
Tommy glared him. Patrick was not the same person Tommy used to know. Leaving New York had changed him completely. So maybe that was enough reason to give the man a chance, to let him back into his life again. The past had passed.
“It wouldn’t bother me at all,” Patrick reiterated. He dropped some bills onto the table for the two glasses of juice.
“Sorry,” Tommy said begrudgingly. “I’ve got a meeting with my agent today. I might even play some tennis too if I feel like blowing off some steam.”
Kate reached over for her coat too, and kissed Tommy on the cheek. “Things really aren’t so bad Tommy.” She buttoned up just as Sheldon came back from the bathroom. The four of them were all lined up and ready to go. Kate added, “And it could always be worse, you know?”
They said their goodbyes. Jesse even threw his arm around Patrick as they exited the restaurant together. From the window, Tommy glared at them all as they walked down Broadway. His three oldest friends and the strange little superhero. The season’s first snowflake fell from the sky and stuck to the window. It only took a moment for it to melt, but even as it did, Tommy was already on his way out the door.