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What transpired must have been major, because Robert’s calm voice carries through the entire theater: “Let me be clear, Seth. You know what it means if you walk out today: Ramón Martín begins in a month, and you won’t be joining him.”

“Fuck you, Bob.” Seth jerks his arms into his jacket, and doesn’t look back as he yells, “I’m done.”


My new phone vibrates just as the credits roll on my third consecutive Vampire Diaries episode of the night. I wouldn’t normally be mainlining addicting teen dramas on a work night, but Robert balked when he caught me awkwardly trying to fold Luis Genova T-shirts and kicked me out after the Wednesday matinee, thereby exacerbating my guilt spiral. I can’t go to yoga, I can’t try to write, I can’t go have a drink because of these painkillers. I can’t even focus on reading without the intrusive worry about what Robert is going to do without Seth leading the orchestra.

My phone vibrates again and I cross the room to where it’s charging on the kitchen counter, next to the laptop I haven’t touched in weeks. I’m wholly expecting it to be my brother Davis calling to ensure I’m not out venturing the mean streets of Manhattan with only one arm to protect myself, but am pleasantly surprised to see Lulu’s smiling face light up the screen instead.

“Hello, there.” I open the fridge, scanning the contents.

“How’s my little invalid?” Judging by the sound of voices and clanking silverware coming from the other end of the line, Lulu is at Blue Hill, where she is—like many in Manhattan—an actress waiting tables while awaiting her big break.

I tuck the phone between my chin and shoulder, and with my good arm pull a casserole dish out of the fridge and set it on the counter. “I’m home. Robert said I looked like a three-legged puppy at a dog show and told me to go home for a few days.”

“What a monster,” she says with a laugh.

“Are you at work?”

“Yeah. Actually . . . hang on.” A few moments of muffled silence pass and then she returns, the background quieter now. “I had an early shift, so I’m leaving soon.”

“You’re off tonight?” I stop with my plate of cold lasagna just shy of the microwave, outlook suddenly brighter. “Come over and I’ll make you dinner. I’ll only need one of your hands.”

“I have a better idea. I got a two-for-one on the cover to see this ridiculous band, and Gene can’t go. Come with me!”

I know this story well: Lulu found tickets to a venue on Groupon and couldn’t pass them up because they were such a good deal. Most of the time, I love her impulsivity and obsession with random adventures. But it’s cold tonight and going out requires changing out of my pajamas—which means putting on actual clothes that I’d have to wrestle my way into.

“This is a pass for me, Lu.” I pop my food into the microwave while she whimpers into the line.

The sound is so pathetic, it chips away at my resolve and I don’t even have to say anything—she knows it. “Come on, Holland! The band is called Loose Springsteen! How amazing is that?”

I growl.

“Don’t make me go to Jersey by myself.”

“A cover band in Jersey?” I say. “You really aren’t sweetening the deal here.”

“You’d rather stay home in your pajamas eating leftovers than have the night of your life with me?”

I snort. “You might be overselling it just a bit.”

She whimpers again, and I break.

Lulu was absolutely overselling it. Hole in the Hall is a . . . bar? That’s really the nicest thing I can say about it.

The subway station lets out just across the street from a nondescript brick building and Lulu giddily dances down the sidewalk. The neighborhood is a mixture of business and residential, but at least half the surrounding buildings look vacant. Opposite the bar is an empty Korean restaurant, with shuttered windows and a sign hanging crookedly near the doorway. Next door is a converted house with neon letters that spell House of Hookah; the once-bright tubes are now dark and dusty against the tin roof. It’s not exactly a mystery why Hole in the Hall would need to seduce potential new clientele with Groupon deals.

Lulu turns to perform her dance backward, luring me across the shiny wet street. “This is promising, at least,” she says brightly as we join a small crowd of people lined up near the door.

The opening notes of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin’?” can be heard through the brick walls, and each time the door opens the music rushes out, as if escaping. I have to admit it feels good to get dressed and leave my worries to languish in the apartment for a few hours. Leggings and a dressy top weren’t too much work, and Lulu and her two good arms helped me blow-dry my long hair. For the first time in a couple of days, I don’t look and feel like a troll doll. This night might not be so bad after all.

When it’s finally our turn to enter, Lulu brandishes her two-for-one coupon like a badge and shimmies through the line.

Unsurprisingly, it’s pretty no-frills inside. The walls are lined with old video games, and carved-up tables stand in clusters surrounding the bar. The decor is a questionable mix of Harley-Davidson, taxidermy, and Old West paraphernalia. A stripper pole stands proudly on a platform at one end, and a stage at the other. The lighting is dim and dusty, and combined with a makeshift fog machine, it makes the band members little more than backlit figures moving around onstage.

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