by Eric Silvera
I’m walking up York Avenue, holding an ice pack to the back of my head. It’s Sunday in late August, about 5:45 a.m., and it’s still dark out. I’m on 66th Street, but by the time I get to my apartment on 78th it will be light. Even though it’s the end of summer, and the earth will soon waltz into fall, it always surprises me how quickly the sun rises during this season. How one minute I can be drunkenly drooling in the darkness and the next, it’s the shame of sunlight, the embarrassment of being awake, the depression of drinking into day; God flipping the switch to show me what I’m becoming, or maybe already am.
I’m covered in your blood. My shirt, my pants, my hands, even though I washed them in the hospital, are stained with you. I’ve slept maybe two or three hours since going to work on Friday. When was I sober last? I guess I feel sober now. This type of thing always sobers me up. I need to sleep. I need to shower. I need.
It feels like the times we’ve spent together this summer have been leading up to tonight’s catastrophe: the night in June I ran out onto the street from the inside of Dorian’s, after seeing you get headbutted onto the sidewalk, and stopped a guy from doing worse damage to you. I threw you into a cab. You left me multiple blacked-out voicemails telling me I’m a shitty friend for not having your back when you walked out of the bar to fight this guy, even though you threw a beer bottle into his face. I didn’t care, we’ve all been there. You apologized in the morning, not really remembering what happened, but knowing you were wrong.
The night I broke up the fight that you started at the diner on 82nd and 2nd. It started as a booze-friendly conversation with some finance clichés – hair slicked back like Patrick Bateman, Black Label Ralph Lauren polos, loafers with no socks – who were competitors to your bank. You threw ice at them, poured your soda on one of their heads, and told them their bank was bullshit. I let them mess with you until they called you an Arab motherfucker, terrorist, and spat on you. I told them I would bite off all their fucking faces if they laid a hand on you. I quickly grabbed one by the ear, pulled his face next to mine, and chomped at his cheek. My cousin taught me that defense tactic when I entered junior high school in the Bronx.
The early morning I unsuccessfully tried to stop you from bringing to your apartment a dazed woman with an Eastern European accent and a bad blonde dye job who we found wandering the street. She was holding her crotch, claiming she had to pee so badly, and when you told her you only lived a couple blocks away, she said “cocaine” and made a sniffing noise with her nose.
This weekend was heading towards this collision course with your brain leaking onto the 54th Street pavement.
I spent Friday getting fucked up and having the strangest sex of my life with a woman who’s at least forty years old, fifteen years my senior. I had met her in a bar at the Jersey Shore and couldn’t remember what she looked like, but knew she was a smoker because she sounded like Marge Simpson’s sister Patty. I left her apartment quietly, shortly after sunrise. As I walked east through Chelsea, the streets still empty except for some vagrants and bread delivery trucks, I wondered what I was doing with my life. I might have taken myself seriously if my body wasn’t covered in dried jelly and Vaseline, and I hadn’t been eating a sausage McGriddle and drinking orange Hi-C.
Saturday morning got Matt stoned for his 25th birthday and took him to the MOMA to see the Dali exhibit; spent the afternoon continuing getting him high and sneaking beers into a movie theater to watch Death Race 2000 with Matt, Dave, and Jeremy. Spent the night in the East Village at Ace Bar, raging Matt’s birthday into oblivion, when I finally texted you to meet up. You told me to head to this club on 54th between Park and Madison. You were with the other Indian guys and a bunch of preppy, white chicks from Bowdoin College. You called them “squash hos.”
Despite the previous incidents this summer, it wasn’t necessarily your fault this time. You were in front of that club trying to stop an Asian “gangsta” with metal skull rings on his fingers and loop earrings in both ears, who wasn’t getting the hint, from talking to your friend Julie. Maybe you didn’t have to insult him. I was surprised when he punched me in the back of the head after we had walked away, already halfway towards Park Avenue, because I hadn’t actually said nor done anything. I was just standing with you. He was surprised when he came at me again and I kicked him in the face. Then it was disharmonized screams of Indians and Asians fighting in the middle of the block.
Soon your body was hanging off the sidewalk, into the street, as blood pooled out and around your skull. I checked your pulse like they do in the movies, but really couldn’t tell if you were dead or not. Me and your friends got you onto the sidewalk and I yelled “Call a fucking ambulance!” I bent down and took off my shirt, not caring if the crying girls from Bowdoin standing over us would gag at my shoulder hair, and pressed it against the back of your skull. I checked your pulse again and felt something. One of the Asians from the brawl bent down next to us, while the rest had already fled. He flashed a badge, said he’s an off-duty cop, asked if you were still breathing, then ran off too when I told him yes. The whole time I’m applying pressure to your head, as you bled out onto me, feeling my hand getting warmer and stickier from your blood, I’m thinking that I’m watching my friend die tonight. The ambulance eventually came and we took you to the hospital on York Avenue. You were conscious at this point and some intern stapled your brain shut.
I’m in the seventies now and feel myself reaching for my phone. I call Emily. I haven’t talked to her in almost four months, not since we broke up, but it’s the first person, the only person, I think to call. I get her voice mail and I need to fight the urge to tell her how much I miss her. Instead I say, “Hey, uhhh…it’s me. It’s six in the morning. I’m walking up York from the hospital covered in blood. It’s not mine. It’s Sachin’s. I..uhh..need to get my life together. I’m sorry I called.” Hang up.
I’m almost home. I feel my phone vibrate. It’s Emily. I pick up.
Eric Silvera has been published in Underground Voices, Shelf Life Magazine, BadDateGreatStory, The Promethean, and his poetry was shortlisted for the 2010 Matrix Magazine LitPop Awards. He’s currently an MFA Creative Writing candidate at the City College of New York. He also performs stand-up comedy in clubs and dive bars throughout New York City and works as an ad executive to pay the bills.