In a window at the far end of a darkened office floor that night, across a labyrinth of cubicles, a bent horizontal blind offered, if a co-worker should have happened to peak, a view of Addison Parker at his window, behind his desk, gazing down toward the powdery Midtown streets below. Cars were visible from this height, but people were not. It had been snowing for weeks. He looked down as if he were disconnected from his body, his head a satellite orbiting the earth, letting the cool vacuum of the universe contract his muscles, skin and brain.
He flipped the light-switch and left.
The downtown F train was crowded and hot. Addison stood by himself in the far corner, headphones in his ears, shifting his weight back and forth with the gravity of the train-car. If one looked closely, they’d notice the cord of his headphones was dangling freely at the bottom of his jacket, but nobody on the train noticed this.
He ducked out at a random stop, as he tended to do on Friday nights, without even checking which it was.
He was somewhere in the Lower East Side, and it was freezing. He walked by an older man, seated, with his back up against a brick wall with a broken rear-view mirror in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other. His hands trembled violently as he tried to trim his hair in the cold, but Addison never glanced up.
The snow had built up as grey slush along the sidewalks. Pockets of warm, putrid, steam rose out through the sewer grates, causing him to pinch his nose, and hop quickly between them to stay warm.
A snowball thwacked against a graffitied shutter behind his head, and he heard the titters of kids behind snow barricades on either side of the street. He heard the muted thump of bar music from across the street. He hurried under lobbed snowballs, toward the building.
Inside, the place was crowded, filled mostly with students and some patched-jacket punks; spillover from a DIY space down the street which he was unaware existed. Addison stomped the snow off his shoes, and removed his over-coat.
It was a strange place, with kitschy portraits of different families all over the wood-paneled walls. A jukebox filled the room with honky-tonk music.
A loud crack of pool balls resounded over the music, from the shadowed back corner. Addison noticed a man with long black hair in a jean jacket. He tried to make out his face across the poorly lit room, but couldn’t.
He motioned for the bartender, who rolled his eyes when he saw him. Addison felt self-conscious. He realized how much older he looked to everyone else at the bar. The bartender brought over a shot and a bottle of beer, and he sat on a stool at the wooden bar.
“Shot’s free with the beer,” said the bartender.
A warm burn glided into his stomach as he took it down. He smiled at a pair of girls seated next to him, but they frowned and moved away. He sat quietly, sipping his beer, and tapped his fingers against the wooden bar.
After what might have been the loneliest moment of Addison’s adult life, he felt a strong tap on his shoulder and a voice.
“Pool isn’t as fun alone. You should join me,” said the voice.
“I haven’t really played since college,” said Addison as the man stepped into the light.
It was at that moment they recognized each other.
“Holy shit! Addison?”
“Will? It’s been so long!” They did a half-hug, the one arm pat around the back, and backed up, looking at the different ways age had affected them. “What have you been doing with yourself these days?” There was a pause, as they glanced down at one another’s drinks, realizing they’d both come to this bar alone.
“This and that.”
“Yeah, same, this and that.”
They bought another round of drinks and went into the back of the bar, and took up two pool cues.
“Never knew what to do with that Lit degree,” said Will at one point. “Went back to South Dakota for a while, helped my grandfather with his business. Then actually went out to Hollywood, working as an extra in movies, funny enough. It’s weird out there. Sunny every day. I left after a couple years. Only so many times you can lay around dead and out of focus before it begins to wear you down.”
“What are you doing now-a-days?” asked Addison.
Will ground the blue square of chalk against the tip of his pole cue. He stepped back and lined up his shot. He looked up at him, and gave him a peculiar glance.
“I’ve found something to keep me busy,” he said.
“What do you mean?” he asked.
There was a pause, as if Will were about to speak, until an old country song came on the jukebox. Will lit up, and fired the cue ball across the felt table. “How about you, my friend?”
Addison told him about his job and his life, but kept everything vague, distanced.
“What did you mean you’d found something to keep you busy?” asked Addison, a little later on in the night. Will ignored him, keeping his eyes fixed on the pool table.
“I was here one time playing pool and the dude I was playing against threw up right on the table,” said Will. He cackled. He had a strained smoker’s laugh which took awhile to get going. It reminded Addison of cartoon characters who are about to run really fast, and their legs spin underneath them for a moment before they’d shoot forward.
“Next rounds on me then,” he said.
Addison moved over to the bar and signaled.
At one point in the night, Addison vaguely remembered asking Will about his family, who were partly Sioux, and wore it proudly.
“What’s your Indian name, like Running Bull or Soaring Eagle or something?” he asked, slurring.
“Eyanosa,” he said.
“What does it mean?”
“Yes,” he said. “Eya translates to shark.”
“What does –nosa translate to?”
“So your name is shark pool?” He paused, letting his mind catch up. “Wait.”
Will began to laugh.
“Pool of sharks?”
“Pool shark, Addison. Pool shark.”
“Get the fuck out of here!” he said. He slapped Will on the shoulder.
After ten games of pool, and a dangerously sloppy match of darts, the bar closed up and they were back in the cold.
“Wanna see something?” asked Will.
“I really should head back,” he said, forced through chattering teeth.
Will motioned forward, and took off. Addison followed, tired, and annoyed.
They moved up along Houston, near where their freshman dorm had been. The building where he’d lost his virginity to Caitlyn Monroe. He remembered the anxiety that floated above their unsure bodies in that room. He remembered the little details. The tip of his finger in her belly-button. Her citrus-yellow hair. The way she playfully licked his nose with her tongue. The sound of her laugh. Her soapy shoulder smell. How he hated the shirtless Morrissey poster above her bed, that seemed to watch them as they went into it. He’d been so young, stupid, and content back then. He wondered how she was doing these days.
“There,” said Will.
Together they crossed the street and slunk down into the subway.
It was warm inside, but smelled foul; a concoction of piss, hot dogs, and street salt. The fluorescent lights buzzed overhead. Addison leaned over the edge of the platform near Will, who nuzzled a metal flask against his lips. He tipped it to Addison, and they passed it back and forth looking down into the interminable nothingness that waited at each end of the station.
The metallic rumble of an oncoming train began to slowly build and vibrate the station around them.
“We’re going up. On top.”
“What?” Addison choked, suddenly scared. The doors opened, and they walked into the empty train-car.
“No, no, no,” said Addison.
He followed Will toward the emergency-exit door, who opened it to the screeching of metal.
“You’re you going to get me killed aren’t you,” said Addison. He watched as Will heaved a boot onto the side-railing, and hoisted himself up into the darkness above. “Oh, this is just great.”
After a moment, the head and shoulders of Will appeared, hanging over the side.
“You’re next, buddy!”
Addison’s fear had all but been replaced with a desire to be elsewhere, to be someone else. He swung his foot up and balanced along the side of the railing, his hands tightly gripping the top edge of the train car. Will extended his hand down and pulled him up. Addison lay face first, next to Will, along the chrome exoskeleton.
The train came to life beneath them, lurched, and took off.
He dug his fingernails in.
Sour wind whipped wildly against his flesh.
He felt every rumble along the tracks.
The endless black cavern thundered.
His face went numb.
They screamed in exuberance.
Their throats tingled.
He felt powerless.
He saw a pin-prick of white light in the distance, quickly expanding. It opened up into the next station.
It was over.
The station was nearly empty. Nobody noticed Will, or Addison, climb down or walk up the stairs and out into the bitter morning sunrise.
“Where are we?” asked Addison, still disoriented.
“Brooklyn,” said Will.
Silent, they wandered the streets together. The morning seemed more visceral than he remembered, almost meditative. They watched store-front shutters begin to rise, businesses open for the morning. Bodegas began brewing coffee, and serving egg sandwiches. They watched as tightly bundled families waddled cautiously across the icy streets, like penguins.
A young girl ran past them in a bright pink jacket, her breath visible in the air. She waved at them and continued running. Addison waved back.
They continued up the snowy street, until reaching an intersection at the end of the block. Will stopped and looked over at Addison, each were waiting for the other to break the silence.
“What now?” asked Will, after a while.
“We should go again.”
Postcard: Found at the Melrose Trading Post in Los Angeles, CA in October 2011.