“Good thing there’s so many underfed artists here. They could never have fit this many of the better-nourished,” Jack said. 

“They’ll be able to insert a few more, once this batch starts shriveling from the heat,” the lawyer responded. “Personally, I’m not sure how much more I can take.”

“Well, I’m glad for Amy. I think it’s going to be a huge success. I have to say I feel sorry for poor Dee Dee, though.”

“Dee Dee?”

“Dee Dee Free. The drag queen over there in the rubber getup, with the monumental hair.”

“Dear God, she looks like the love child of Dolly Parton and Gumby.”

Jack and the lawyer, whose name turned out to be Ira, were among the several hundred people crammed into the gallery’s two smallish white rooms. Located in the Chelsea district on the westernmost part of the fabled isle of Manhattan, it was one of the first to move to this area otherwise occupied mostly by warehouses and auto-body shops. Outside it was no more than twenty degrees and snowing; inside the air conditioning was on full blast in an attempt to prevent a rash of Victorian-style swoonings. 

The exhibition was a benefit, for an artist injured in an accident. Donated work by artists well known and not was being offered at fire sale prices; and because of this, the show attracted a slew of young people who had no money to buy art, a fair number of business people who wouldn’t normally buy art, and a sprinkling of collectors who were hoping to get in on the ground floor of something.

Jack knew one of the organizers, a friend of Amy’s, and so had been asked to volunteer at the checkout. This gave him the opportunity to talk to almost everyone who attended, since almost everyone who attended bought something. 

Although he didn’t generally have trouble talking to people once a conversation got going, he wasn’t very good at initiating them as a rule. Performing this task turned out to be an effective icebreaker.

He and Ira had already exchanged cards, since he had feebly, but with all sincerity, begun their exchange by asking Ira if perhaps they knew each other from somewhere. If it sounded like a pickup line, however, Ira didn’t seem to mind.

Jack had recently turned thirty-nine. In a hair over two months he would be two years past the midpoint of his life, if he were to make it all the way to the age of life expectancy for men (74.37, 2001 estimate). So he had calculated earlier that day, while taking a break from the piece he was finishing up in his studio.

Ira was about ten years older. He, unlike Jack, was quite established, entrenched as a partner in a law firm downtown. He was far too occupied with torts and countersuits to ruminate about where he was at on the timeline of his mortality.

Their conversation was interrupted when several people suddenly appeared to pay for their purchases. Before he moved on, though, Ira reiterated to Jack how much he had enjoyed their little chat.

After about two hours, someone offered Jack a break, so he decided to go outside for a smoke. He did a quick scan of the gallery to determine if Ira was still around, but he seemed to have left. He wondered if they’d ever run across each other again. He wasn’t counting on it, certainly. Their interaction had spanned all of four minutes.

Outside it was quiet; everything was closed, including the few other galleries on the block, as was traditional on Mondays. There being nothing else in this somewhat out-of-the-way neighborhood to attract people, the only ones out on the street were the small group clustered in front of this particular building, and the occasional wino or stray dog. 

It was one of the few areas of Manhattan to still have any degree of “edge," but the arrival of the art galleries signaled that that distinction might soon disappear. Jack sometimes marveled at the transformation that had taken place in New York since he had arrived from the suburbs of New Jersey in 1980. Back then, the city was a wreck.  Dilapidated, crime-ridden, and seedy, it was also a nonstop all-night-every-day party, where you could never predict what might happen. He missed it terribly.

As he stood enjoying his cigarette, delighting in the silence and the bracing cold that was such a relief after the noise and heat of the gallery, a woman approached him to ask if he could think of “anything with a bank machine in it that might miraculously be open in this godforsaken outpost.” She was on her way to the benefit, and needed to get some cash, that being the only type of payment accepted.

“Jeez, I don’t know,” responded Jack. “I don’t guess there’s much purpose in having one around here. It’s not like you could withdraw enough to buy an entire painting. Or pay for a car repair, come to think of it.”

“Wait a minute,” said the woman. “There’s one across the street! Sitting right out on the sidewalk. What weird place for an ATM! How did we not notice that? It’s lit up like a jukebox!”

“Oh my God, I can’t believe I didn’t notice it either. I’ve been standing here for almost a cigarette. Good thing I decided to be an artist, so I could make use of my extraordinary powers of observation.”

“Don’t obsess about it. Everything worked out in the end. I bet if I hadn’t stopped to ask I would have slid right past it.”

“I tend to doubt that. But it’s nice of you to say so.”

“Well, now that I’ve found it, let me go empty it out. If some miscreant with a crowbar hasn’t already. Anything left up there?”

“Mm-hmm. It’s amazing how much stuff they managed to cram in. But so you know, you only get six square inches of floor space to call your own.”

“Hmm, I better move quick then, before everything gets vacuumed up. All right, see ya.”

“So long.”

As Jack turned to head back in, he was stopped by a handsome and somewhat intoxicated-looking young man, carrying a portfolio, probably in his mid-twenties.

“Uh, excuse me, can I get a light from you?”

“Sure.” Jack dug in his pocket for his lighter. 

“Thanks a lot, Jack.”

“How did you know my name? Do you have powers? Or have we met before?”

Hmm, thought Jack. Time to cultivate some new lines.

“No, but us Gen X kids do know how to read, despite what everybody thinks,” the young man responded, indicating the sticker on Jack’s breast, visible under his coat, that said, “Hello, My Name Is Jack.”

“Oh. I suppose that would be a clue.”

“Unless you’ve done away with the real Jack and are attempting to assume his identity.”

“You’ve uncovered my fiendish plot.”

“I’m Ryan.”

“Pleased to make your acquaintance, Ryan.”

“Are you in the show, or just working at it? I’m drunk, by the way.”

“Not sure that’s a good thing to tell strangers. Uh, both. A friend of mine helped put it together, so she asked me if I’d run the register. My piece is hanging on the ceiling—it’s a life-size painting of Oscar Wilde flying by in a Superman outfit. Do you have something? I assume you’re an artist,” he said, glancing toward Ryan’s portfolio.

“Yeah, maybe you saw it. It’s a desecration of the cover of Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul.

“Oh, I liked that one a lot. You’ll be very happy to know it sold. Mine, on the other hand, has yet to find a home, unless it’s been snatched up in the last ten minutes.”

“Yours sounds awesome. Somebody’ll buy it. Do you have a card? Here’s mine. I’m gonna have my first solo show in about two months. Promise me you’ll come.”

For a second it crossed his mind that this kid was trying to pick him up. That would be too flattering, although hopefully not out of the question. But really, Jack knew that most likely he was only networking.

“Yeah. Hold on.” He pulled his card from his jacket pocket. 

“Thanks. Now promise.”

“You’re welcome. I promise. Listen, Ryan, your company is delightful, and I don’t mean to be rude, but I was actually on my way up. I have to go relieve the person who was relieving me.”

“I’ll go with you.” 

“Don’t you want to finish your cigarette?”

“Nah, there’s always more where this one came from.”

“Just be prepared. It’s packed to the rafters.”

“That’s what I was hoping for. I like to play to a full house. I’ll even lead the way.”

“Are you sure you’re in a state to be a human shield?”

“Bring ‘em on. As long as my hair’s okay, I’m prepared for anything.”

“It’s perfect. You’re invulnerable.”

“Then let’s go, yo.”

The flow of traffic on the narrow wooden stair was impeded enough to allow for an intermittent comment back and forth between the two of them. Jack was glad to be behind Ryan, who was teetering slightly. He’d be able to catch him if he toppled over, and prevent a domino effect that would undoubtedly continue all the way to the ground floor.

They arrived not a moment too soon. The crowd at the table was so large that it looked like a Blue Light Special at K-Mart, and the woman who had come to replace him ended up assisting him instead.

When things eventually simmered down, Jack, feeling utterly exhausted, saw that Ryan was still there. 

When he noticed Jack looking his way, he waved and zigzagged over.

“Awesome time. Check out at all the people I met!” he effused. He yanked a wad of cards from his shirt pocket, causing them to scatter all over the floor. 


Jack bent down to help Ryan gather them up. “You see how nice people are to you when your hair is perfect?”

“Is it okay? I haven’t been in front of a mirror for what seems like days.”

“Wait, stand there.” He reached over and pushed back an errant drooping lock. “Okay, summon the paparazzi.”

“Hey, want to go to Twilo?”

Jack couldn’t help but feel flattered, even if he didn’t know the motivation behind the question.

“Thanks, but my nightclub days ended long long ago, when the continents were still fused. Honestly I’m astounded there even are places like that any more. I thought it was all over when Danceteria had their ‘I Don’t Go Out Much Anymore’ party in, like, 1984, which, as I recall, I failed to attend. You go, but I want you home by noon.”

“Aw, you’re no fun.”

“I’m a barrel of laughs. Only I have a different idea of fun from when I was a young stripling. Hate to be the one to break the news, but one day you’re going to outgrow it.”

“Aw, come on, Gandalf. I could use a little company. Don’t worry, it’ll be dark in there. Nobody’ll see the crow’s feet.”

“I do not have crow’s feet! Do I?”

No, you do not have crow’s feet. I was just trying to hurt you.”

“Well, watch it. I’m sensitive. That’s how you get when your fortieth birthday is less than a year away.”

“I would never have taken you for a minute past thirty-eight and nine-tenths.”

“Eat me.”

“Calm down—I’m kidding. I really thought you were in your very early thirties. Or maybe even your late twenties.”

Jack looked at him incredulously.

“Okay, I lied. But early thirties is pretty good. What, did you have something more exciting planned for tonight? You’ve had a nice long rest for nigh on seventeen years.”

“I did not exactly slumber this evening.”

“Come on. I’ll count to three. One...”



“Still no.”




“I said, ‘okay.' Let’s go.”


“Yes. Really. Now move, before I come to my senses.”

Ryan was something of a fixture at Twilo, going several times a week. He knew an awful lot of people there; several times he went scampering off to the bar or God knows where, returning twenty minutes later and telling Jack all about having run into this one or that one.

After Twilo, they’d gone to Florent, a beloved eatery and artist’s hangout in the meatpacking district directly south of Chelsea. Like Chelsea, it had mutated into something barely recognizable. The meat factories, after-hours sex clubs, and armies of transvestite hookers sauntering up and down the streets in the 80’s had given way to pricey boutiques selling $900 handbags. Ryan sat transfixed as Jack regaled him with his stories from that bygone and magical era, like a small child listening to tales of whaling ships and pirates.

In return, Ryan gave him the lowdown on the essential facts of his own life, “but only as much of the first two-thirds as I feel is necessary”. He had moved from the rural town in Minnesota he grew up in to Duluth, and then made his way to Minneapolis before arriving in New York four years ago. After his Dorothy Gale-like upbringing, he’d vowed to remain in any one place only for as long as he enjoyed being there. Minnesota could most assuredly now be checked off the list. He told Jack he was “in tight” with St. Luke, the patron saint of artists, and showed him the religious medal he wore around his neck. He always counted on St. Luke to take care of him, and he hadn’t been let down yet.

They were making their way to the subway when Ryan blithely asked, “Do you want to come over?” 

Jack had always thought a double take was something you only saw in movies. Guess not.

“Come over?”

“What are you, singing backup? Yes, I would like to invite you to come over to my apartment.”

But I’m so much older than you. I mean, not old enough to be your father, but I definitely have a head start.”

“Doesn’t bother me. And if it’s anybody’s prerogative to be bothered by it, it’s mine. I think it would be the perfect ending to a perfect night.”

“I have to work tomorrow.”

“And at what hour do you report for duty, soldier?”

 “Four,” Jack admitted, realizing it made for a pretty weak argument.

“That’s just insulting.”

“I don’t know—I feel funny about it somehow.”

“What’s wrong with you? Any pink-blooded American male would take advantage of an opportunity like this.”

“That’s it exactly. I’d feel like I’m taking advantage.”

“Are you going to make me count to three again?”

“Sounds like something my mother would have threatened me with when I was five.”

“See, you’ve already shed a few years. Maybe too many.”

“Okay, I’ll save you the trouble. Three. A chez vous.”

As Ryan turned the key in the door, he tendered an apology for the condition of his apartment.

“Forgive the mess. Maid’s day off.”

“Don’t worry, mine’s no magazine spread either.”

Jack woke up about one. He looked around to take in his surroundings. The maid hadn’t taken the day off; she was just buried in the rubble. He saw, in the light of day, that what he was lying on only loosely fit the definition of “bed”, being composed as it was of nothing more than a box spring and mattress deposited directly on the floor. The room was full of mismatched furniture that was barely visible for the clothes strewn on top of it. Near the overflowing desk, an equally overflowing ashtray sat atop a stack of books. On the walls, framed, were a couple of posters of eighties bands like the Smiths and the Cure. In short, it was his own first apartment in the city.

He was sore all over. I guess partying is something you have to keep up with, like the violin, he mused. But he couldn’t help smiling, beaming even. He never thought he’d have a night like that again. 

He carefully peeled Ryan’s arm off his chest so as not to wake him.

“Lucky he didn’t wake up and see me,” he thought as he caught a glimpse of himself in the bathroom mirror. “He probably would have turned to stone.”

When he walked back into the living room, he saw that Ryan was now sprawled out over the entire bed. He decided it would be best to just steal out and leave him a note.

When he got home, he fixed himself a breakfast that was as lunch-like as possible.  As he concocted a sandwich loosely based on the Egg McMuffin, he thought about the previous night. The benefit had done very well, earning more than $14,000. He was happy to have been a part of it, by lending a hand as well as by selling his piece (a short while after he got back, as it turns out). Not only that, he’d shut down a club! With a twenty-six-year-old! Who’d asked him to stay over!

In any event, he wasn’t going to begin making a habit of it. His days of sailing past the velvet ropes and being given a handful of drink tickets were a distant memory. If it hadn’t been for Ryan, he probably wouldn’t have been so much as a blip on the doorman’s radar. 

But meanwhile, being with Ryan made him think about how much more circumspect he had become, maybe more than he cared to. Used to be he was always up for some excitement, and would talk to just about anybody if they looked interesting enough. Now, it was like he always needed a pretext to meet new people—being at the same dinner party, being introduced by a friend, something. Part of it was that the novelty of living in the big city had worn off, which, he supposed, was inevitable. He’d also learned to be a trifle more prudent about associating with certain characters that it wasn’t necessarily prudent to associate with. And somewhere down the road he’d come to the conclusion that such behavior, while charming on a younger person, just seems weird on someone a bit older. Nevertheless, he felt like Ryan could prove to be a good influence.

Tuesday night he made himself go to bed closer to his regular time. Wednesday was a work night, and he wanted to tinker with his new painting before he went in, this one of Gertrude Stein dressed as Batgirl. When he arrived home at about one AM as per usual, there was a message on his machine from Ira, asking him if he’d like to have dinner over the weekend. Jack decided he needed to check his horoscope more often, so he could be prepared for weeks like this. 

He returned Ira’s call from his job the next day during his dinner break to say he’d be delighted. He also put in a call to Ryan, but only got his voice mail. 

If Monday night was a rare experience of one type, Saturday night was a rare experience of quite another. Spending two hundred dollars on dinner wasn’t anything Jack was at all in the habit of doing. Even if it wasn’t him doing the spending. 

When Ira suggested “heading over to One If By Land," an upscale eatery in Greenwich Village, Jack knew he was going to have to make it known right away that, at last inspection, his checking account contained roughly forty-two dollars, slightly more than a dollar for every year he had resided on the planet thus far. This state of affairs, he informed Ira, could conceivably last in perpetuity. 

“Don’t worry about it. I afford to can donate to a good cause every once in a while. I look at it as supporting the arts.”

“It’s not exactly the same as donating to the Whitney Museum so they can build a new wing. And I don’t know if I like being thought of as a charity anyway.”

“Relax! I didn’t mean anything by it. I just didn’t want you to fret over the money. And besides, indirectly I am giving it to the Whitney, since I have no doubt that someday you’ll wind up there.”

“I’ve already been there. Lots of times.”

“I’m hungry. Let’s eat. Tell you what—I’ll complain about my job and write it off as a business deduction instead.”

“Okay. Just so long as you know what you’re getting into.”

They had a wonderful evening, even if the restaurant was a mite on the stuffy side for Jack’s taste. The atmosphere, though charming, was so hushed that you could hear someone buttering their bread. He was actually relieved when they stepped outside, where they could speak above a murmur. His observations to that effect were lost on Ira, who declared it to be one of his favorite places. 

Ira, it turned out, had also grown up in New Jersey, but in a ritzy town inland from the southeastern coast of the state. They compared notes about the cultural differences between the two regions, the one being New York-centric and the other revolving around Philly. Ira did make reference to how much he hated being a lawyer, as promised, especially since this was be his last spell of relative freedom before he had to take part in a huge merger that threatened to eat up all of his weekdays and seep into his weekends for an indeterminable period. It made him shudder to think about it. He’d come from “good Republican stock” (which, he commented, contained mostly vegetables). He told Jack he’d always had a passionate interest in art, and had once planned on studying himself; that is, until his innate practicality and attachment to creature comforts had made him decide differently. He loved going to galleries, but didn’t usually frequent openings (“Too much of a scene.") He was at this one only because his nephew had had a piece in it.

After dinner, Ira suggested taking in a movie. A lively discussion ensued, as they tried to decide between them which of the films on Ira’s short list they would see. “The two hours wasted on a bad movie is time of your life that can never be reclaimed,” he said. “And since I have so little that even vaguely resembles a life, I have to be very careful about these things.”

They found something to agree on, and Jack couldn’t help but wonder if Ira felt as strongly about the time spent arguing about which movie to see.

Nonetheless, they both were happy with their choice, and a second lively discussion ensued as they dissected the film over drinks afterward, which Jack insisted on paying for, over Ira’s protests. They parted company at about 1 AM, after making plans for the following Saturday.

Sometime in the middle of the week, Jack tried to reach Ryan, but once again got his voice mail. Well, two messages were enough. If he wanted to call back, he would. If it had been a fling, it had been a really good one. 

For their next night out, Jack suggested going bowling, both to show Ira that he was fine with being a cheap date, and because he thought it would be fun. But Ira asked if maybe that could be put off till some future point, saying he would rather go to dinner and a play. 

“Please indulge me,” he said, “I deserve it after my week. I had to review a brief today that was anything but and had more bullets in it than Bonnie and Clyde’s car. But that would be a topic for later discussion." 

His third Saturday rendezvous with Ira stretched into Sunday. They went to a museum, followed by brunch. If once again Ira chose a place he might not have, their day was as pleasant as the night before had been. Sadly, Jack’s having to work that night and Ira’s needing to be a lawyer on Monday precluded the possibility of extending the weekend any further. 

It was beginning to look as though he wouldn’t be hearing from Ryan; close to three weeks had passed.  And he wasn’t likely to bump into him at Twilo, since he probably wouldn’t be popping in there again even given another seventeen years.

But then, as if summoned, Ryan did call, the very next day. 

“Sorry it took so long to get back to you. I was finishing some unfinished unpleasant business. What do you say we go out and do something interesting? Or if you want, we can do something dull and make it interesting.”

Jack wondered where what he seemed to have had been all these years. 

“Which is your preferred option?” he asked.

“I say we do something dull. It’ll be more of a challenge.”

“Then let’s wait until tomorrow. You can accompany me to my unbearably tedious office job.”

“There are some challenges even I’m not up for.”

“Look, it’s actually a nice night out. Why don’t we go for a walk? It doesn’t get much more commonplace than that. We’ll even go to a colorless neighborhood. I vote for the East 30’s.”

“Let’s reconsider this. The irony of my suggestion seems to have escaped you. I say we venture down to the East Village. It presents a much greater likelihood of being amusing, and you can revel in the feelings of envy you arouse in me with tales of how much more so it was twenty years ago.”

“Deal. We’ll try to recreate Ye Olde East Village as much as possible. I’ll see if we can arrange to have some junkies strewn about on the sidewalk.”

“And then we’ll hit Twilo.”

“When should we meet? Ten?”

“Cool. I’ll meet you outside the Astor Place subway stop.”

Jack, uncharacteristically, was whistling as he got ready. He was finally escaping that middling sort of muddle he’d allowed himself to get mired in over the past few years. He felt as if he was climbing off a treadmill and onto a merry-go-round. What a difference a day makes (great song title, he thought—until he remembered it already was one.)! If he hadn’t gone to the art show—more specifically, if he hadn’t been doing what he was doing at the art show—none of this would have happened. Ah, the vagaries of fate.

Jack came out of the station at a few minutes before ten. Ryan showed up in a taxi half an hour late but profusely apologetic. He was having insurmountable hair problems as it was, he said, and then his friend Pillz (“he spells it with a ‘z’; I suppose he should”) called and he was very upset because his girlfriend had just left him for his boyfriend and Ryan couldn’t get him off the phone for forever and next the jacket he wanted to wear that was the only conceivable option for the outfit he had on was nowhere to be found and the subway was running local, which meant it stopped between stations too, so he finally wound up taking a cab the rest of the way that got caught in traffic.

“If not for that I would have been here lifetimes ago. With rare exception, I am the very definition of punctuality. I hope you haven’t been waiting long.”

“You have a friend named Pillz?”

“His real name is Dennis, but I’m not even sure his mother knows that. He considers ‘Pillz’ to be more provocative, which, it can be argued, does have some basis in fact. So, tell me I’m forgiven, give me my three Hail Marys, and I’ll let you forge a path.”

“Don’t worry about it. As long as you had a good reason.”

The East Village, which consisted of mostly small, shabby 19th-century tenement buildings, while still a magnet for young people, was, during the 1980’s, the world epicenter of bohemia. There were violent demonstrations, protesting the gradual influx of neophyte stockbrokers attracted by its relatively low rents and arty atmosphere. Then, it had been home to hundreds of small galleries, all now long gone. 

As they meandered down the sidewalks all leopard-spotted with blackened chewing gum, Jack reeled off a steady stream of anecdotes about his days hanging out there. Like at Florent, Ryan absorbed them all in wide-eyed wonder. 

“I am so jealous.”

“Don’t be. If you had been twenty then you’d be hovering dangerously close to forty now.”

“I’m going to have to be almost forty someday anyhow. I’d rather be almost forty now than in 2019, when, should trends continue, the boundaries of dreariness will be pushed far beyond those we now know.”

Jack enjoyed his role of tour guide. It added a whole layer of legitimacy to what had essentially been mindless hedonism, transforming it into an Era of Significance. Some vestiges of the old days remained, like Veselka, the homey Ukrainian restaurant where they ate dinner, and Trash and Vaudeville, the punk clothing store. Jack had had memorable moments at each.

At the same time, he was in awe of Ryan’s gift for turning any activity into a party. They talked to more people in the course of this one walk than Jack customarily did in a month, just by virtue of Ryan’s enormously ebullient personality.

Shortly after midnight, they set out for Twilo. Around four, they went back to Jack’s place, since it was more convenient for getting to his job the next day than Ryan’s was.

Jack continued to see both Ryan and Ira, with greater if not great frequency. When was largely dictated by their completely dissimilar work schedules. Ryan was weekdays, whichever ones Jack had free; Ira, weekends, or at least those that weren’t eaten up by the merger.

He found himself developing a certain fondness for each of them, and for what they as individuals added to his life. Their wholly opposite natures complemented one another perfectly. It was just like getting to hang out with the two identical cousins from the Patty Duke Show. 

Obviously, there was a possibility that things might get knotty down the road. Jack started wondering if, when, and how he should make Ryan and Ira’s existence known to each other. Did it even really concern them, at this stage of the game? Or did putting it off for too long carry the risk of unnecessary complications and hurt feelings? Here, of course, he was thinking of Ira. Based on his knowledge of Ryan’s lifestyle, Jack imagined it wouldn’t faze him in the least. 

It wasn’t required of him to broach the issue in either instance, however, since the issue was broached for him, exactly two days short of two months after Amy’s benefit.

Jack and Ryan were on their tenth outing together. Discovering that neither of them had ever done so, they decided to take a ride on the Staten Island ferry, in defiance of the crisp weather that was hanging on into March. It was one of those activities that New Yorkers usually never did unless they were entertaining friends or family from back home, or if they in fact did happen to live on Staten Island. 

They contemplated the skyline of Manhattan, its dramatic and imperial presence increasing even as it became smaller and smaller in the distance. If only for the sake of not doing that which was expected, or maybe as a basis for comparison, they decided to face Staten Island on the way back.

The were taking a stroll around South Street Seaport, a once-shadowy precinct of cobblestone streets and maritime lore whose history had been sanitized into a tourist-friendly “historic district”, complete with mall, when Ryan brought up that his much-anticipated opening was going to take place that coming Saturday. This, of course, was usually Jack’s night with Ira.

“Uh, can I let you know? I may have a conflict for Saturday night.”

“But you have to come. It’s my first-ever solo show. What could possibly be more important than my first-ever solo show?”

Jack could see this wasn’t going to be anywhere near as simple as he hoped.

“I’m going to be honest with you. I may have a date.”

“I know you were speaking English, because I recognized the words, and yet somehow I failed to comprehend what it was that you just said.”

“I’ve been seeing someone—someone else—well, for exactly as long as I’ve been seeing you. We met on the night of the benefit. We’ve been getting together most Saturdays ever since.”

“I can’t believe you never told me this. Do you have any bastard children you’d like to clue me in about? A secret life as the high priest of some bizarre religious cult perhaps?”

“I was going to tell you—you and him. Except this came up before I could.”

“Before you did, is what you’re saying.”

“I haven’t been trying to hide anything. Look, Ryan, he isn’t anything like you. That’s the point. He and I do completely different things together.”

“Who is he?”

“He’s a lawyer. His name is Ira.”

“A lawyer!? What the fuck are you doing with a lawyer?”

“Exactly. We go out to boring restaurants. We go to the ballet.”

“So what you’re telling me is that he has more money and is rather more cultivated than me.”



“I. More cultivated than I.”

“Don’t try and change the subject.”

“I’m not trying to change the subject. We happen to have a really good time together, the same way you and I do.”

“No, it’s slightly different. I think I want to go home.”

“Oh, don’t do that. There’s still a lot of the night left to go.”

“No, I don’t want to hang out any more.”

“Can I call you tomorrow?”

“You can call me when you decide my opening is a significant enough event to merit your attendance. Have a pleasant evening.”

He turned around and walked away. And Ryan was supposed to be the easy one.

Jack now began to wonder why he’d waited so long to admit to his knavish duplicity. As it was, the possibility existed that Ryan might not ever speak to him again. And it was fairly apparent that should he neglect to attend the opening, that outcome would be pretty much guaranteed.

Lying to Ira about why he couldn’t make it Saturday night wasn’t an option either; he would no sooner deceive him than he would Ryan. But the reception Ryan had given the announcement did not bode well. He saw himself spending Saturday night over a tearful dinner with one of his friends. 

On the train back to his house, and then at his house, he pondered what amounted to two choices. He searched in vain for a third. 

Working the next two days was, unusually, a welcome distraction from his predicament. Thursday, Jack got an unexpected call from Ira—what was he doing late tonight? He had a little surprise. It was a fair assumption that Ryan wouldn’t be returning calls, so Jack told him he’d come by. Showtime.

He arrived around nine-thirty.

“Happy Anniversary!” Ira exclaimed as Jack walked through the door. 


“Today marks exactly two months since the benefit where you executed your overall rather lame attempt at making my acquaintance. And not only that, your being here now makes this our tenth date. In honor of the occasion, I have prepared a feast of sweaty cheese on stale crackers, accompanied by cheap rancid red wine.”

“I don’t know what to say.”

“I would like to suggest that you remove the question mark from the word ‘anniversary’, replace it with an exclamation point, and put the word ‘happy’ in front of it.”

“Happy Anniversary,” Jack said, with a conviction as hollow as a chocolate Easter egg.

“My lawyerly instincts are telling me that there is a certain lack of enthusiasm in your delivery of these sentiments.”

Jack sighed heavily.

“Stay tuned for the big climactic Perry Mason courtroom confession scene. We need to talk.”

Jack proceeded to fill Ira in on the details of his relationship with Ryan. He explained why he was telling him tonight, and precisely how horrible it made him feel that he was telling him tonight, of all nights. 

“I hope you know this is really hard for me.”

Ira’s response caught him completely off guard. 

“Midlife crisis.”


“Midlife crisis. All this business of going to nightclubs, pretending it’s twenty years ago--it’s the classic behavior of midlife crisis.”

And here Jack just thought he was having fun.

“One of the partners at the firm went through it. It started with more colorful neckties. Next thing you know, he runs off with one of the junior admins to open a ski lodge in New Zealand. We never saw him again.”

“And you think that’s why I’m hanging around with Ryan?”

“Psychologist is only part of my job description. But I would venture to say so. I think you should go to this young whelp’s opening on Saturday.” 

“It wouldn’t bother you?”

“I didn’t say that.”

“So you’ll be upset if I go.”


“I won’t go.”

“No, go.”

“Don’t you want to see me?”

“I think that’s my line.”

“I don’t know what to do.”

“This is turning into a standup routine. I won’t be upset if you go. Tell you what—I’ll be upset if it happens again. Would that make you happy?”

“No. Because I usually see Ryan on the only other two nights I have free. So we’re going to have this discussion somewhere down the line. Next week probably.”

“I’ll still be too busy at work.”

“It’ll come up sooner or later.”

“How’s this--I’ll be perturbed when I feel the time is right.”

“When will that be?”

“I don’t know—I don’t have my appointment book in front of me! But I’ll send you a “save the date” card as a courtesy.”

“Why are you being so understanding about this?”

“Because I have other things on my mind right now. Because it’s still too early on for either of us to be staking claims on the other. Because I asked for it by not being around. Because I have no doubt you’re merely in the middle of some phase that you will outgrow, like teething. Because I don’t see you running off to New Zealand somehow.”

“You’re being very good about this.”

“Yes. I am.”

“What about our two-month, ten-week anniversary?”

“It was an excuse to see you. I’ll be working all this weekend.”

Jack could almost feel the breeze from the heads whipping around as he walked into the gallery. It was obvious that Ryan had told every last one of his friends about what had happened on Tuesday. 

He greeted Jack enthusiastically, if cautiously.

“Is the lawyer lurking back there somewhere?” 

“No, the lawyer is at home in his penthouse dining on hummingbird livers while the Metropolitan Opera stages a private performance in his living room. But he sends his best.”

“So you told him you were coming here?”

“Sure I did. And I told him all about you. You know, you two should meet some day. I bet you’d get along swimmingly.”

“Don’t get any funny ideas. Threesomes are stupid unless you’re bisexual. Well, you’re here, so you might as well grab a glass of wine, congratulate me, and join the party. I’m glad you made it.”

Shortly thereafter, the deal Ira had been laboring on finally closed. The big fish had eaten the little fish, although it hadn’t gone down without a struggle. It had been an ordeal of such proportions that he couldn’t let it go by without being acknowledged in some fashion. He gave Jack a ring to feel him out about doing something that night.

“My client gave me two bottles of Cristal as an inadequate token of his esteem. Want to come up here and we’ll break them open?”

“Well, I did make plans already...”

“Anything I might be interested in? Maybe I’ll tag along with you instead.”

“There is nothing that exists that you would want to do less. I was going to see some band in a dive bar near Saint Mark’s Place.”

“Au contraire, sounds enchanting. So you’re going with Russell.”

“Ryan. How did you know?”

“Ryan. Because you were going to see some band in a dive bar near Saint Mark’s Place.” 

“Right. I am a lawyer; therefore I deduce. So you want to go? Really?”

“Of course not. That was sarcasm. It was especially sarcastic because it had French in it.”

“I’ll be over in an hour.”

As his next order of business, Jack began to worry in earnest about whether, or rather when, he would have to make his mind up concerning Ryan and Ira, based on one or both of them growing tired of the arrangement. As of now, barely two months in, the chances of him being able to make such a decision were hopeless at best. 

His conflicting emotions gave rise to an entire game show’s worth of questions. Was it even possible for one single person to accommodate all of another’s needs? Was the search for some nonexistent ideal the reason he had been with no one at all for so long? What would he do if the tables were turned? Was he simply enjoying the attention? 

Weighing the two relationships against each other accomplished nothing but to make the decision that much more difficult. He tried to factor in their downsides, to see if that would be of any help. On consideration, Ryan was petulant. And flighty. And self-involved.

Ira’s tastes didn’t veer toward the conventional—they followed it like a store detective. He was married to a job he hated, indicating a whole lot of issues he had no time to even admit to, much less work on fixing. Even with the merger over and done with, there were still cancelled appointments and grumblings, despite Jack’s observation that no one went to their grave wishing they had enjoyed themselves less.

But the fact remained—Jack liked one as much as the other.

A bit of soul-searching also forced him to admit that picking one of them demanded that he address a question about himself—namely, what direction to steer his own life in. Was he on the road to becoming a paunchy middle-aged Peter Pan? Was he trying to avoid joining the Grownup Club? Or was he gathering his rosebuds while he may? Maybe it was midlife crisis...

His self-examination and breast-beating turned out to be a complete waste of perfectly good anguish. Just like with the decision over whether to tell Ryan and Ira about each other, Ryan once again provided a not-necessarily-sought-after solution. One Monday afternoon, the first Monday of May, as a matter of fact, he phoned Jack as he worked on his new painting of Sandra Bernhard as the Amazing Hulk, the rendering of which was proving exceedingly difficult. 

“I am so hung over.”


“Rough night at Twilo?”

“Nuh-uh. Twilo’s closed. They raided it last night and shut it down.” 

“Shut it down? Get out! I hope you weren’t there.”

“No. I was at a party. But I heard.”

“So what happened?” 

“Oh, something to do with ‘quality of life issues’. And an overdose or two too many. Did anyone trouble themselves to consult me about the quality of MY life? What am I supposed to do for fun?”

“Looks to me like you’re managing somehow.”

“I may have to make do with the Tunnel.” 

“You’ll adjust. The young are adaptable.”

“TWILO WAS OPEN EVERY NIGHT. THE TUNNEL IS ONLY OPEN ON WEEKENDS. This may have serious implications for my social life.”

“There must be some clubs around that are open seven days. Maybe a change of scenery would do you good. Or you can go to the movies more. Think of it as methadone.”

“This place is turning into Minneapolis. I’m going backward in time! It’s not only this. It’s everything. Whatever happened to the city that never sleeps?” 

“I guess now it goes to bed at a reasonable hour. I shouldn’t have told you all those stories about the old days. I made it sound like too much fun.”

“I go to clubs. I already know they’re fun. Have you ever thought about moving to Paris?”

It turned out to be more than an offhand comment.  Two weeks later, as they sat in Jack’s apartment, watching the cold, damp rain and wondering how it could possibly be May, Ryan announced that he planned to do that very thing.

“My lease is almost up. If I don’t go now I’ll be stuck here two more years.”

“And you’re going to pick up and leave, just like that?”     

“I had a long heart-to-heart with Saint Luke. I don’t like it here any more.”

“But you haven’t given it a chance. Or me, for that matter.”

“I know New York is nowhere near as interesting as it used to be.”

“How can you have nostalgia for something you weren’t even around for?”

“It wouldn’t make a difference whether I was here or not, or whether the city was ever really like that once upon a time or not. I see the way it is now, and it’s not my cup of hemlock.” 

“I don’t want you to go.”

“Come with me.”

A vision flashed through his mind of Ryan and him living la vie de bohème in the City of Lights, making art and complaining about French coffee. It was a beautiful image. 

But Ira had been right. 

“I can’t.” 

“Why not?”

I don’t have the jawline for a beret. I’m lactose intolerant.”

“Would you care to put forward some legitimate arguments?”

“Because everything I have is here.”

“Ira, you mean.”

“Ira is a consideration. In the same way you would be a consideration if Ira talked about moving. But he’s hardly the only one. I’ve lived here longer now than I lived in the place I grew up in. And that doesn’t count how often I came here to get away from the place I grew up in. I have friends, and, such as it is, I have family. I need to think about what I would do for a living. These are not inconsequential matters.”

“Yes they are. I thought you were trying to live more like the way artists are supposed to live, and you were grateful to me because I was giving you a refresher course. Bohemia 101.”

“I am. But there’s a difference between staying out late and uprooting everything you own to move to a different continent.”

“Not as much as you think. Well, mull it over. I’m not leaving for a month or so.”

“I’ll be thinking about it more than you know.”

Over the course of the next few weeks, Ryan’s was thoroughly occupied with preparations and packing. Jack did his best to convince him not to go, but it was hard when deep down inside he not only knew that his wishes had more to do with what he wanted more than what Ryan wanted, but that he was also perhaps the tiniest bit envious.  

With the era of excursions to East Village bars and Chelsea nightclubs ended, and Ira’s work schedule as intrusive as ever, Jack started seeing more of his friends. 

He appreciated that they had been very understanding about his neglect over the past few months. They had given him an ear; now they gave him a shoulder to cry on.

Needless to say, Jack did not accompany Ryan to Paris. The day of his departure, though, Jack asked Ira if he would mind if he skipped their usual Saturday that weekend, so that he could see him off. “Send my regards,” Ira responded, “I need to go over some things for work tonight anyway.”

A small mob was gathered at the airport in his honor. Jack had to wait on line to say goodbye, like at a wedding.

“So I guess this is where I bid you a fond adieu. I’ll miss you.”  

“I’d prefer au revoir. It implies that we’ll cross paths again.”

“Take care of yourself.”

“Don’t worry, I have my St. Luke’s. He’ll keep me out of trouble. Always has.”

They said their final goodbyes. Ryan turned and caught Jack’s eye as he boarded the plane, as if expecting him to follow.

In retrospect, Jack would have seen it coming if he’d been paying attention. Ryan had practically presented him with a notarized document saying such a thing might happen the very first night they met. 

‘I know you must feel terrible”, said Ira when they met on Sunday afternoon, “But I’m not exactly sure the I’d be the go-to person for helping you to get over it. Come on, I’ll take you out someplace extra-special. What are you in the mood for?”

“Anything but French.”

“Fine. I know a great little Italian place. But before we go I have a question for you. Do you know what today is?”

“Uh, Sunday?”

“Yes, but Sunday the...”




“Now count backwards six months.”

“All right, but why?”

“Humor me.”

“June, May, April, March, February, January.”

“Which brings us to January eighth. Do you remember what January eighth is?”

“Elvis’s birthday?”


“Uh, David Bowie’s birthday? Oh, and it’s my friend Scott’s birthday too.”

“So many Capricorns, so little time. But what else is it?”

“I don’t know.”


“I honestly have no idea.”

“You wound me to the core.” Ira brought the back of his arm to his forehead in a deadpan gesture of mock grief.

Jack stared at him blankly.

“January eighth was the day of the benefit. It was six months ago that you met me. And, for what it’s worth, Raymond.”



“I’m sorry. I guess I’m not real good at dates. Happy six months anniversary.”

“Don’t apologize. It’s not a holiday with storewide sales. Just a minor landmark. But think about who’s still around. And who’s not.”

It certainly gave Jack something to contemplate. 

Acting on the assumption that Ryan’s exit meant a change in the nature of their relationship, Ira started to talk in terms of taking things a step further.

It certainly was tempting. Ira had a great deal to offer. But after thinking it over long and hard, Jack saw that for as different as Ryan and Ira were, they had one thing in common—each of them wanted him to join their world full-time, while only supplying him with half of what he needed. Even if it was they who had shown him what it was he needed in the first place. Ryan combined with Ira had made for one great tag team. But neither alone was sufficient.

He told Ira, meaning it, that he hoped they’d still be friends. Whether he would ever find what he was looking for conveniently packaged in one human being was a question for a later date.


He wouldn’t be moving to Paris. But he might hit the Tunnel once in a while, especially now that his weekends were free. Which, he decided, was no indication whatsoever that he was under the influence of male menopause, channeling Peter Pan by way of Tinkerbell. 


That was Ryan. What had he gotten from Ira? Well, now that he knew it wouldn’t be a way of life, he would occasionally go out for a nice dinner, at a grown-up restaurant. Tinkling crystal and muffled laughter could be nice sometimes. Even if he wasn’t exactly sure what he’d be using for money. Ira had inspired him to work a little harder on getting somewhere with his art career, too.  


He’d start talking to people more. Trying things, just for the sake of trying them. Making his own adventures. And getting laid, for Christ’s sake.


New York might not be the way it was, but that’s what made it New York—the fact that it was always changing in unexpected ways. Giving itself a major overhaul every few years. 


There was a lesson in there somewhere.


Originally published in 2012 in Satellite magazine as a serial over four issues (