Authors: Kevin Emerson
“This is 911 dispatch. Please state yâ”
A hiss, and the screen goes blank. I stare at the phone, as if it's going to shrug and apologize. All this power, to speak to any other human on the planet via a quick space walk, to like what they're having for lunch from thousands of miles away, and still . . .
The battery goes dead right when you need it.
“Ugh!” I want to throw the stupid phone Iâ
“Summer . . . ,” he groans from my lap.
I bite my lip and squeeze back the tears and shove my phone away in my jacket pocket. It's not the phone's fault, not the phone company's conspiracy to build batteries that start sucking after two years. It's not the 911 operator's fault or the fault of the inventor of the steam engine that made
the human dream of long-distance travel even possible in the first place.
It's my fault.
A pack of adults stumbles by. A couple of them eye me mid-laughter. Twentysomethings with liquor-glazed eyes. Their cheeks are rosy above their fashionable scarves.
“Are you okay?” one of them says, nearly serious, her eyes starting to clear.
“Girl, you are
getting any there,” another says, appraising my situation, and this trips the alcohol-loosened triggers and they all start giggling and leaning into each other and the almost-lucid girl sinks back into the pack and they stumble on.
“Can I borrow your phone?” I ask quietly after them.
He coughs in my lap, a thick sound. I wonder if there is internal bleeding I don't know about. Probably not. But still . . . His body starts to shiver.
I take off my coat and drape it over him. My own shoulders won't stop trembling. My ears and toes are starting to feel numb. My butt is long gone from sitting on this ice-slicked staircase. I should get up and head back to the club, get someone to help, but I don't want to leave him. Or risk hurting him by trying to drag him inside.
I don't want to move at all.
Hasn't there been enough? Three thousand miles of wild plans, lies, and dreams that soared like magical leaps to the stars and back. . . . Maybe my battery is dead, too. We
tried, though, didn't we? A for effort? But it doesn't matter. This is what I get, deserved or not. Everyone's gone. Everything's ruined. No band, and no future. Just pain, loss, and a dead cell phone.
This time the tears come. I wipe at the snot on my sore, freezing nose and look desperately up and down the street. Williamsburg at one a.m. You would think there'd be no shortage of people. But not on this street, not in this weather.
Something stings on my already frozen cheek.
They drift down through the yellow streetlight, large and solitary and sentient-seeming, floating to earth like little paratroopers, making tiny whispering sounds as they land on the pavement.
“It's okay,” I whisper to him, but once again, I am a liar.
Nothing is okay.
3 MONTHS EARLIER . . .