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Everything At Once

If my mother asks why I left the Bernini, tell her the noise gave me a migraine and I needed to get enough sleep for the Wythemans’ brunch tomorrow.

If you ask me why I left the Bernini, I would tell you that the black ties and floor-length dresses crowded closer and closer around me until the smell of champagne suffocated me in a pink-bubble sea of lights.

Had I seen you before I left I would have made sure my white-gloved fingers slipped through yours. I would have turned to look back at you fleetingly before the doormen shut the golden doors on the scene.

A clink of crystal glasses, a pearly peal of laughter. And I ran.

Everything hit me at once. The muggy night that kissed my bare shoulders wetly. The buildings, lost in shadow. The summer green ethereal and dark, like a Burne-Jones painting I’d seen at the Met.

And then there was the sky, a darkness that filled the space between dreams. A black slowly fading into midnight blue—the faintest hint of morning.

I found myself at the Central Park Lake, in a field overlooking the old buildings of the Upper West Side. The warm lights rippled onto the water. I slipped off my black Jimmy Choos and tossed them to the side.

I lay down on the grass and thought of you till the sun rose.

 

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Gesper Diamond

Gesper Diamond tasted the way New York City felt. If you closed your eyes and put your lips on his, the world turned into a black and white photograph of a skyline. But it wasn’t black and white because the colors had faded. No; the colors were still there, but they weren’t what mattered. It was the light. The window squares that twinkled to life one by one, thousands by thousands, as soon as the sky went dark. The radiance that reflected onto the river and shimmered as the black waves rippled. The lit-up antennas that soared up toward the stars. You feel the tip of his tongue and it’s the windows again—the promise of millions of stories you could write onto his back with your fingernail.

He bites your lip. A gust of cold night air whips toward your cheeks.

You have photographs of the city you look at sometimes. They’re in a nightstand drawer, and every six months or so you pull them out to remember what life used to be like, in the city.

It’s funny that Gesper Diamond tasted the way New York City felt. Gesper Diamond owned the rubble that now kneeled in the place where skyscapers stood.

The city was dead, nuked down, just like all the other big cities in East America. But I promise you, if you could have seen the way that Gesper Diamond thrived in the shadows of all that once was—led his band of intelligent thugs like a mafia in a neighborhood that didn’t exist—counted his cash sitting like a king upon the giant pile of debris that was San Remo—you would think it was still alive. You would have seen the way he pressed his tongue against his cheek and you would swear the world was as it used to be.

There were dreams, and there was Central Park. Gesper Diamond had both in his hands and he twirled them around his fingers until you couldn’t sleep without seeing green grass and massive rocks and white buildings overlooking it all.

None of it was there anymore. He was all that was left on the map—a speck made with the last ink spurts of a used-up pen. A light in a window you see in your head.