Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Juniper's (Part 2)


Sam manages to slip out of Juniper’s after that. He doesn’t come back to the booth, just leaves without a word. 

The night is beginning to wind down anyway. People have started to peel off and the bar is emptying. Outside it’s still raining, and people huddle in the entrance of Juniper’s while they sort out drivers and Ubers. Vaguely, I wonder how Sam and his PCA -- which I’ve learned means personal care assistant -- got there. Sam used to have a condo across the street, but it was on the third floor of a building with a shitty elevator that only worked a fraction of the time. Somehow, I doubt he lives there anymore. 

The memory of the condo almost makes me smile. 

Almost everyone has their phones sitting on the table. Most are face down; mine is faceup, expectant. Eventually, there’s a series of almost simultaneous vibrates and chirps as everyone receives a text message. 

Everyone except me. 

It’s hard not to feel like a middle school girl being edged out of the cool kid's lunch table as everyone at the table grabs their phones. Amy once again leans across Roger and shows me the message. Just a simple little text from Sam that says: Had to dip.

For some reason, the words hit me hard, and I can’t help but feel hurt and slightly vexed at being left out of the group message. Admittedly, those feelings are perfectly invalid, especially after everything I did -- or didn’t do, rather -- but it’s the way I feel nonetheless. 

I guess Sam’s olive branch only extends so far. 

“Everything okay?” I try to keep my words light and nonchalant. 

“He just went home. He didn’t leave to keel over in private, Lucy.” This comes from John. It’s the most he’s said to me all night. He’s by far the most reserved and mild-mannered of our friends, so the harsh acidity in his voice stuns me. “Which you would know if you had cared at all. Or, if you’d so much as answered a fucking text message in the last three years.” 

I look down at my pint glass. 

I care more than you can imagine. 

But the words sound empty to me, so I don’t bother saying them out loud. Instead, I drain the last of my beer and heave a big sigh. 

“You know what? I’m going to head out, too.” 

No one says anything, but Roger at least has the decency to look sorry that I’m leaving. Or maybe he’s just sorry that the night is suddenly in a chaotic free fall. They say that time heals all wounds. It is supposed to be a panacea. But clearly, that is not true. Not with this group. 

Amy grabs her purse and gestures for Roger to let her out of the booth. 

“No, I’ll just get an Uber back to my parents,” I tell her as I stand up. Rationally, I know that John’s reaction is a direct consequence of my own stupid and careless decisions, but my feelings are hurt, so I can’t help but look directly at him and add, “Great to be home.”  

As I walk away I hear Amy snapping at him. Unleashing. Something about how it’s a complicated situation -- one that none of them know anything about -- and how he should have kept his mouth shut. 

Well, that’s true. 

Unless Sam told her, which I highly doubt, not even Amy really knows what’s going on. To the best of Amy’s knowledge, I’m just upset by the unfortunate turn of events that have happened in the last few years. 

Sam’s diagnosis. Losing my job. Getting kicked out of The Purple People Eaters group text. 

It is all of those things. It’s none of those things. It’s the banality and reality of everything crashing down in front of me. 

But there’s also more. 


My Uber comes, and ten minutes later I’m safely ensconced in my childhood bedroom at my parent's house. I’m surrounded by familiar, comforting memories. Pictures from high school and college, postcards and souvenirs from family vacations. Right next to my bed, hanging above my desk, there’s a calendar from July 2015 hanging on the wall. One date -- a Wednesday -- is marked with a smiley face drawn with a blue highlighter. The ink is faded, but the memories are stronger than ever. 

You see, that Wednesday night in July, while at a going-away party he organized for me, Sam drunkenly kissed me, surprising absolutely no one. It sounds dramatic -- especially because it was just a sloppy, drunken kiss -- but it was also perfectly sublime. But two days later I left for a job across the world. Then a few hours after my plane landed, Sam sent a text, casually informing everyone of his “imminent doom” via motor neuron disease. 

I sit up and angrily throwback my bed covers. I walk over to the stupid calendar and rip it off the wall as the memories of what made me draw that juvenile smiley face in the first place threaten to drown me. 

The two carefree days between the drunken kiss, radio silence, and diagnosis that were spent in that little third-floor condo and filled with lots of promises, laughter, and sex. 

Stupid, stupid Lucy. 

Stupid for so many reasons, but mostly because I was the only one who didn’t know how to respond when Sam delivered the news about his health. Stupid because mine was the response he needed most. 

I pull out my phone, and my finger hovers over his name. 

It’s an exercise in futility, though. One that I’ve engaged in far too often over the years. Because even now, it’s me, not Sam, that is still truly paralyzed by the catalyst of that kiss. 

I put my phone back on my nightstand without calling or texting. Just like always. 


An entire week after our truce begins, it ends. 

It’s preposterous that what causes me to pick up the phone after so long is a literal dumpster fire. The irony that I couldn’t call him when his life was devolving into one is not lost on me. But, as I stand across the street from the Midtown staple and watch the fire spread from the dumpster to the building, the flames lapping the old wood up greedily, I tap his name in my phone for the first time in three years without overthinking and chickening out. 

“Juniper’s is on fire,” I tell him, trying to keep the tremor out of my voice. It’s hard not to see the flames consuming the building where we met, formed our friendship, and unexpectedly redefined our relationship, as a cruel cosmic sign

“I know.” His answer surprises me. “I can see it,” his words are punctuated by a pause for breath, “from my condo.” 

I spin around towards the building that Sam used to live in. “I didn’t know you lived there anymore.” 

He laughs, and the sound isn’t the comforting, warm sound I’m used to. It’s short and raspy. “Yeah, there’s a lot you don’t know anymore.” 

As usual, I don’t know what to say, so I don’t say anything. Instead, I just watch as fire engines arrive on the scene and start dousing Juniper’s with thousands of gallons of water. 

“Don’t take it as some macabre symbol.” 

If we weren’t still dancing around everything, his words might have made me laugh. Somewhere in a parallel universe, Another Sam just made that remark to A Different Lucy, and they’re laughing fondly at how well he knows her. 

But this is the universe we’re stuck in, so Sam sighs instead and the sound is heavy and loaded. “It’s just life, Lucy. Nothing lasts forever.” 

My throat tightens, and it has nothing to do with the smoke that fills the air around me. Tears spring unbidden to my eyes, and I silently curse myself for not keeping better control of my emotions. 

“I moved to 1108, but the gate co--,” his words end suddenly and it sounds like he runs out of breath. “Code is the same,” Sam says, trying again. A moment later he ends the call without waiting for my response. 

That’s Sam. Extending yet another olive branch. 

I tip my head back and look up at the sky. It’s naturally overcast, but it’s also darkened by the thick, gray smoke filling the air. The tendrils spiral upwards, looking as anchorless as I feel. 


  1. The pain between them is palpable, and the sadness that still exists is so deep. Thank you so much for posting and I wish there were still many chapters to go.

    1. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment!

  2. Oh my... I can feel all the tension in the air and I have no idea how I'll get over the next chapter being the last one... So many things unsaid. I love the story. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you for reading! :) Next chapter is up!

  3. A great story! For Lucy and Sam there are many things left unsaid and for the readers many things unknown - so I can't wait for the next part! Lucy IS going to Sam's, isn't she? Please, please, please... ��

    1. We'll see... :) The next chapter is up! Thanks for reading :)

  4. Wow. This is so raw, their story feels so alive and the feelings so real, even though we barely know these characters. I keep wishing it was looooonger so they could make things right, all those years of baggage, but I understand the point in making it a short story. I'm loving it, EJ! I'm counting the days to next thursday!

    1. Thank you! This is such a nice compliment. :) I appreciate you taking the time to read!