Maybe I’ll go back to Des Moines while this fracture heals and take some time to think about what I really want to do with my degrees, because when it comes to liberal arts, one useless degree plus another useless degree equals zero jobs.
I look up at my uncles. “Did you call Mom and Dad?”
Jeff nods. “They asked if they should come out.”
I laugh despite my dark mood. I’m sure that without even seeing the extent of my injuries, Jeff told them not to worry. My parents hate the urban bluster of New York so much that even if I were broken in half, in traction, it would still be better for everyone if they stayed in Iowa. Certainly it would be less stressful for me.
Finally, Jeff eases down on the mattress next to me and glances up at Robert.
I notice that Jeff licks his lips before he asks something difficult. I wonder whether he knows he does it. “So, what happened, Hollsy?”
“You mean, why did I end up on the C line tracks?”
Robert gives me a knowing look. “Yes. And since I’m confident the little suicide intervention advice we were just given in the waiting room was unnecessary, maybe you can tell us how you fell.”
“A guy cornered me. He wanted my phone and when I got too close to the tracks, he shoved me over.”
Robert’s jaw drops. “That’s what was happening when you called?”
Jeff’s cheeks go brilliant red. “Did you file a—”
“Police report? Yeah,” I tell him. “But he was wearing a hoodie, and you know how making eye contact with crazies only encourages them, so I couldn’t say much other than that he was white, probably in his thirties, bearded, and drunk.”
Jeff laughs dryly. “Sounds like most of Brooklyn on a Friday night.”
I turn my eyes to Robert. “A train had just left, so there weren’t any other witnesses.”
“Not even Jack?” Both uncles know about my subway crush.
I shake my head. “His name is Calvin.” Answering the question that forms in their eyes, I say, “I’d had a couple cocktails and asked him.”
Robert grins down at me. “Liquid courage.”
His eyes narrow. “But you’re telling me Calvin didn’t see anything?”
“That’s what he told the paramedics, but I think he was the one who called them.”
Robert slides a sturdy arm around me, helping me up. “Well, you’ve been cleared to leave.” He kisses the side of my head and utters six perfect words: “You’re coming home with us tonight.”
I’m lucky enough to live alone in Manhattan—an absurd rarity, and owed entirely to the generosity of my uncles. Robert, for the job, of course, and Jeff because he makes a crap ton of money and pays a pretty big chunk of my rent. But as much as I love living in my little apartment, I’ll admit I’m glad to not be there tonight. Going home with a broken arm to my small but lovely space would only remind me that I am a useless, phoneless, privileged heap of bones who is so pitiful she let a drunk dude harass her and push her off a subway platform. Being at Jeff and Robert’s is cushy, but at least here I can scrounge up minimal value: after some sleep, I am the board game companion Jeff wishes he would find in Robert. I am the absurd singer-along Robert always wants in his company. And even with one arm, I am the cook that neither of them will ever be.
Jeff takes Tuesday off to make sure I’m okay, and when we’re all up and moving, around noon, I whip up a decent eggs Benedict for the three of us. Even with only one good arm I manage a better outcome than either of them would have. Robert fell in love with the dish sometime back in the nineties, and as soon as I was competent with a blender and frying pan he informed me that it needed to be my specialty because there is Hollandaise sauce on it. “Get it? Get it?” he always adds.
Jeff and I still groan every time.
The afternoon rolls by with the three of us curled up on the enormous couch, watching Brigadoon and An American in Paris. Robert told me to take the night off, and he doesn’t need to be at work until around five today anyway. I know I won’t see Calvin tonight, so I’m trying—and failing—to banish him from my thoughts. The memory of my first glimpse of his face and voice is blurred by a cocktail of feelings: First, there’s disappointment. He was my happy place . . . why was I compelled to venture outside my predictable routine and ruin it by speaking?
Next, there’s anger and confusion. Why didn’t he tell the paramedics the truth? Why did he run away?
And finally, there’s attraction . . . I still really, really want to make out with him.
With a hammering heart, I jog down the stairs into the station the next morning, bag tight to my hip as I nudge past the slower-moving commuters. At the bottom, I pull up short, always unprepared for the sound of Calvin tearing through more up-tempo, elaborate pieces. Most days, he’s strictly classical guitar. But for whatever reason, on Wednesdays he seems to favor flamenco, chamamé, and calypso.
The crowd is thick at 8:45. It smells like dirty steel and spilled soda, coffee and the pastry the guy next to me is unself-consciously shoving in his mouth. I expected to feel at least some emotional turbulence when returning to the scene of my near death, but other than wanting some answers from Calvin, I don’t. I’ve been here so many times that the banality of my memories still overrides the trauma. It still just feels . . . ooh, busker and meh, subway.