“…right now, all I can feel is the distance. From everything.”
Tony is dead and Brian’s world has unraveled. He starts counting the days in Barcelona: barfights and threesomes. The months in San Francisco: short stories and a new romance. The seasons in Tucson, Nashville, Manila, and Seattle: The Crew growing up and apart. Three years unfold between before-Tony-died and after. Brian thinks he has finally left Virginia and its ghosts behind.
Then September 11th brings time to a standstill and Brian faces a new devastation.
With so much work to be done Before Pittsburgh, Brian’s world expands in unexpected ways but he is haunted by patterns of loss, redemption, and mourning. Can he earn his place in the lives of the people he loves? Or will he remain disconnected, unforgiven, and alone?
The person who answered the door wasn’t Kacie. She was a small Filipino girl who looked a lot like Tabby. She said her name was Marlene and offered to let me wait inside since Kacie was expected home any time.
I took in the neat arrangement of furniture, the hangings on the walls, the dishes in the sink. I sat on a barstool and tried to look non-threatening, all the time hoping she didn’t have a gun and wondering just what would have possessed her to let me inside.
“So how do you know Kacie?” Marlene asked, reaching into the refrigerator for a pair of bottled beers.
“We went to high school together,” I said.
“I’m sorry, where did you say she was?”
“She’s got this deadline thing every day. Five o’clock, so if she worked from home, she’s running pages to the paper. If she’s been there all day, she’ll stay until after the deadline.” Marlene handed the beer across the bar to me.
“She’s a reporter?”
“Copy editor. Lifestyle section. Only gets published twice weekly. The other days she’s covering a beat.”
“And what do you do?”
“I’m a journalist like her. Been trying to get her to come work with me.”
I raised an eyebrow and Marlene continued, “I’m on CNN’s website team.”
She nodded and took a long drink. “Basically anything they report on TV needs to be written up and posted. So, I watch a lot of CNN.”
“You write after they put it on the air?”
“Pretty much at the same time.”
Before I could ask her more, the door opened, and Kacie fell through.
“What a fucking disaster,” she said. “I don’t know how much longer I can put up with…” Then she saw me and stopped talking.
“Kace,” I said, and tried to smile but seeing her stung me, unexpectedly, even out of context, even after all that time. Even though she looked so beautiful. Maybe because she looked so beautiful. Her cheeks were flushed, her hair a wild mess, and her eyes bright and wide.
Then they narrowed and she said, “What the fuck are you doing here?”
“Glad to see me?”
“Kacie, let me explain.”
“How could you let him in?” This demand was thrown at Marlene.
“What? He said you went to high school together.”
“This is Brian!” Kacie all but shrieked it.
Marlene’s face went pale. “Oh, shit, like Brian Brian?”
“Fuck.” Kacie threw her purse and coat on the couch and stood, hands on hips, facing me. She tipped her head at the beer in my hand. “Make yourself comfortable.”
“Come on, Kace, don’t be pissed.”
“Don’t call me that. You have ten seconds to say whatever it was you came to say. Then you have to go.”
Marlene stepped away from the counter. “I’m really sorry, Kacie,” she said. “I’ll just give you two some privacy.” She slipped down the hall and I heard a door close behind her. I could almost hear Kacie’s huffy breathing. Imagined her nostrils expelling smoke. I’d write it that way. Like she was a dragon and I was a reluctant knight.
I took a drink from the bottle in my hand.
“You’re wasting time,” she snapped.
“I came all this way. Don’t kick me out. Let’s talk.”
“It’s been over a year, Kacie.”
“Since I saw you, sure,” she said, folding arms over her chest, “But not since your crazy fucking emails and letters. You chased me out of Charlottesville, Brian. I changed my email address. Moved. Told my parents to write return to sender on all the mail they got for me.”
“I never sent anything to Colorado.”
“How would I know?”
“Kacie, Barcelona was amazing and . . .”
“That’s what you’re here to tell me? About your European adventure?”
“No, I mean, yes, but that’s not all. I went and I saw these places and I wanted to tell you. To tell Tony.” She flinched. “I’m not doing this right. It’s not like I thought it would be.”
“What did you think? That I’d hug you?” She glared and her voice dropped on each of the next few fragments. “Hold you? Want to be with you? Want to see you? After the shit you said to me?”
“I was angry.”
“And broken. And missing Tony. And missing home.”
“And you took it out on me. Like always.”
“Stop, okay, just stop. I’m here to apologize. To explain.”
“I don’t want you to apologize!” she shouted at me, hands straight to her sides, fists clenched. “I don’t want you at all, Brian. I made that clear.”
“It’s been a long time.”
“Not long enough. Get out.”
“Kacie, please, just hear me out. For Tony?”
“Don’t you dare use Tony to get to me.” Her hand came up and she pointed at me. “Don’t you dare. I’ve been hurting, too, Brian. And healing. And part of that was getting the fuck over you. Now here you are in MY town? In MY apartment, and I should give you what? A minute? An hour? The benefit of the doubt?”
I’d stood from the stool and still had a few inches on her, but the distance between us made it seem like we were eye level, so I closed the space. Made her look up at me.
“Stop right there.” She was trembling. “Stop.”