“I could sleep for a thousand years.”
He looked at the lighthouse flash of the digital dashboard digits. 11:58am. They’d started their trip only ninety-three minutes ago, almost strangers. Everything they knew of each other were outlines that vaguely made out the shape of the who, what, when, why, and was: names, origins, faint mutualities. It was all they knew, packed into the back of a car, along with duffle bags and only the most conscious of carry ons in their mobile cabin.
“Feel free, as long you don’t get jealous of the music keeping me company while you’re out.”
“Deal. Just don’t let the music get fresh with you, I don’t want to wake up to you crying about how the music got fresh with you.”
Three days earlier, Benni and Liam met for the first time. A random change encounter bridged by a mutual friend. When Liam first saw her talking to Stacy, one thought crossed his mind: “Who is that?”. He made sure to find out. Cornering Stacy, Liam asked him the same question out loud.
“Who? Benni? We used to work together. Why?”
It was a good question. A great one, even.
“I don’t know. What’s her deal? Tell me everything you know about her.”
Stacy rolled his eyes, simultaneously sighed, and replied to the audastic statement.
“You want me to introduce you to her?
They found her reading a book in the midst of the party - a collection of short stories by DH Lawrence. Liam was familiar with the anthology - his own copy was scrawled pages and pages over, illegible to anyone but himself.
“Have you read ‘The Blind Man’ yet?”
“Nevermind, I don’t mean to be bothering you”
“You’re not bothering me. The music’s just really loud and I could hear you.”
Benni’s words were barely taking flight, but Liam had already started walking away when Stacy intercepted him, bringing him back.
“Benni, this is Liam. He’s visiting me from California.”
Liam waved proudly. Benni threw one back at him.
“What part of California? I just got back from spending some time there.”
“I wish I could say that.”
Stacy shook his head, and walked away to leave the two birds.
“What’s your deal? What brought you out to Broolyn?”
It was a long story. Would he tell her about the copious life disappointments that had brought his here, to this visit, or tell her he was just visiting, the most empty of answers filled with nothing? It was a question loaded with .44 caliber bullets, all chambers firing up. He aimed, he fired.
“Not much. Just came to visit some friends.”
Most women would’ve loved the dickish romantic mystery of his reply.
“That’s cool. But what’s your deal, really? I mean, really really.”
“I missed New York.”
Three words, but they were the three words that mattered, precise and honest.
“Yeah? Me too. It’s why I moved back.”
Liam was already liking this girl, even though he’d only exchanged less than 50 words with her. He decided to let himself be vulnerable. She seemed worth it.
“There’s just something about being in New York. Its like going on a work trip for a long time, and the whole time you’re gone, you forget about your bed because you’ve been sleeping in so many of them for so long. You get comfortable. But then your work comes to an end and you get home, you drop your bags, and you envelope yourself in the bed. And you remember - your sheets, your pillows, your mattress, your blankets, the hairs you forgot to clean up. All of it. And you remember you’re home. I feel all of that when I’m walking down 14th, grabbing a bagel, hanging with the city, and finishing the night with hot dogs and weird papaya magic drinks. Except right now, home isn’t New York. Home is Los Angeles.”
“But LA’s more like work,” Benni replied.
The stillness of their moment was lit only by the yellow burn of a porch light. Benni, always the brave one, asked another question.
“Why don’t you quit working and come home, then?”
Her eyes tilted down, his pupils multiplied on top of themselves. Maybe from the glow of the light. Maybe. Liam cut through the silence with another simple question:
“What’re you doing tomorrow?”
In real time, it was only a few seconds. But every movement Benni made in those seconds lasted for minutes, hours. She crossed her left ankle behind her right achilles, dropped her left shoulder from 90 to 45 degrees, brushed her hair back behind her left ear, and bit the right side of the inside of her cheek ever so slightly. She winced ever so slight, then used the precise words at the exact time with completely perfect pitch: