To These Guys

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Monica appeared in the doorway.

“Baby, baby I’m sorry,” Ray said. “I don’t know — ”

She stood by him, holding and kissing his head. “I was out in the hall listening to you,” she said. “You did it for me.”

“I did ... I did it for you,” Ray repeated, seizing the phrase.

Bob came in and stood looking.

“Mike.” Monica leaned over and whispered in my ear: “I peed your bed.”

“We’ll be on the road tonight anyway,” I told her. “We have to take off around nine.”

“That’s right, you guys are leaving!” said Ray. “We still gotta celebrate.” He twisted the cap off a fresh bottle of tequila, held it high and said: “To these guys.”

The bottle made a circuit. The second time it came around to Monica, she said: “To law students.”

“To law students and lawyers everywhere,” I added when it was my turn. “May they all live happily heretofore and/or theretofore ever after.”

“Amen!” said Ray, reaching across Monica for the bottle.

Monica slapped his hand away. She’d fixed me in her narrowing stare, squinting as if she were threading a needle. “Aren’t you going to law school?”

“I don’t know.” I gave the bottle to Ray. “I don’t want to anymore.”

After several rounds, we did in the tequila, and Ray and Monica got up to leave. Bob surprised me by offering to drive them home.

My face couldn’t feel the night air; I was that drunk. A red bus with trompe l’oeil cable-car trimmings swerved onto Leavenworth.


We piled into the Pontiac, pushing aside boxes. It was a minute’s coast down Nob Hill to O’Farrell and the Hotel Winton.

As soon as she got out, Monica went half-swagger, half-stagger down the sidewalk, away from the hotel, every step a near collapse. Ray started off toward the Winton; he didn’t seem particularly worried about Monica, about anything. Welldressed couples exiting the theatre were glaring at Monica. I could hear her bellow: “WHAT THE FUCK YOU LOOKIN AT? YOU GOT SOMETHIN TO SAY TO ME YOU SAY IT TO MY FACE!”

I shut the car door and shouted her name, but it didn’t carry far against the traffic. I jogged after her, out of breath and feeling in my voice, in my lungs, the frustration of the slowed runner in a dream.

I turned and held up an index finger to Bob, mouthing, “Wait.”

His head floating, disembodied, in the car, Bob looked out with enduring sullenness, his hands still on the steering wheel in a vague hope for escape.

Monica was almost to the corner, leaving her trail of resentment behind. She stood yelling at a passing businessman, eyes closed and fists clenched with effort, went on a little further, then wheeled to scream at a gay couple. Ray stood chuckling, one foot on the sidewalk, the other on the Winton’s doorstep. The bigger of the two men said, to the world at large rather than to Monica: “Oh shut up, you sow.”

Did Ray hear it? He turned back from the doorstep with a grin. I’d seen that soft smile many times before as we sat on their hotel room floor, the TV at legs’ length on its wooden chair, our backs against the bed, slumping more and more into the summer night and the warmth of the beer.

Ray waited until the couple were passing the Winton. “You say something?” he asked quietly.



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