Anya and I are on a walking tour of the park at night. The 40oz. bottles of Olde-E we are carrying are concealed inside brown bags. We detour at the playground, where Anya plants herself on a swing.
Push me, she orders.
I set my 40 down on the blacktop, place my hand firmly against the small of her back and give her a shove.
She thrusts her bare legs out, tucks them under and in, thrust-out, under-and-in, repeated, until she is going strong and no longer needs me.
I sit on the swing next to hers, sip from my 40, and watch what becomes a noisy pendulum, Anya squealing as she swings.
Why don’t you swing, Anya suggests between squeals.
No I’m not in the mood.
Party pooper, she says, then sticks out her tongue and makes a wet, farting noise.
Thirty seconds later—I’m going to jump.
You’d be a terrible . . . what do they call those people who try and talk suicide threateners down from roofs?
I don’t think they call them anything.
They must call them something.
I don’t know, downtalkers?
Downtalkers? That’s stupid, but okay. You’re a terrible downtalker. I’m going to jump, okay?
I pop up from my swing, drop to one knee, and plead—No Anya, please please don’t do it, you’re too young, you’ve got too much to live for, the earth will miss you, your family will miss you, I’ll miss you, don’t do it.
Anya begins laughing so hard she can’t jump. She scrapes the soles of her sneakers against the blacktop, slows down, and then stops completely.
Daniel you really do care, Anya rushes forth dramatically and hugs me.
I can smell and feel the summer of her animal.
She steps back, picks up her 40, takes a blast.
It’s so hot, she says.
Everyone complains about the weather but no one ever does anything about it.
Wait wait let me guess . . . Groucho Marx?
No Mark Twain.
Damn, Anya shakes her fist. Then she gathers her humidity-frizzed hair in one hand, produces a hair-band from the front-pocket of her shorts in her other hand, and binds her hair into a bushy ponytail. Her face is flushed and mottled with sheen.
Wanna go to the baseball field, she suggests.
Sure, I say.
The diamond and the dugouts bask in the soft bronze of streetlamps, while the outfield, which is outside the spherical reach of light, is a darkened mass. We plop down in the grass in center field.
It feels a little weird to be alone with Anya. Our isolated hang-outs have been few and far between, which is why I was surprised when she knocked on my door earlier and asked if I wanted to go strolling in the park with her.
It feels like we haven’t hung out in forever, Anya says. Like hung-out hung-out, ya know?
Yea I know.
What the hell’s up with you, Anya knocks me on the arm with her bottle.
What’s up with me? What do you mean?
I mean what’s up with you? What’s going on, you dating anyone, you writing a book . . . what about this L.A. thing? You still planning on going?
I’m not sure. Maybe spring.
Wow that’s cool Daniel. You’re really gonna do it. So many people talk shit in this neighborhood about what they’re gonna do, where they’re gonna go but you’re doing it—
I haven’t done anything yet—
Yea but you will Daniel, I know it. I have faith in you.
What does your father think about it?
He doesn’t understand why I wanna leave Brooklyn, he says it’s the greatest place on earth, but he says I should do what I wanna do.
Anya nods. And then sets her lips just above the mouth of her bottle and blows into it, producing the airy effect of seashell music. When she is done playing, she looks at me—I got some news too. Me and Angelo are getting married.
Really? Wow, that’s . . . wow, congratulations.
Anya pauses, returns to blowing into her bottle, stops, says—That’s a pretty sound, isn’t it?
It is, I agree.
She plays a little more, stops—I’m not pregnant.
I’m just saying I’m not pregnant. We’re not getting married because I’m pregnant, it’s not one of those deals.
Well that’s good.
Yea, Anya chuckles. Can you imagine me as a mother?
Anya chuckles again, then extends her hand—This is the ring.
It’s a nice one, I say.
Yea it is. Do you wanna know how he proposed to me?
We were eating dinner at Uncle Chang’s the other night and when the fortune cookies came mine had a ring inside of it. I have no fucking clue how he got the ring inside the cookie without cracking it but he did. Or the waiter did. Someone did. Impressive huh?
Yea, and novel too. So when’s the big day?
We haven’t set a date yet but maybe in the spring. Hopefully before you move to L.A. I would love for you to be at my wedding. Will you come?
Of course, if I’m still here.
Good, Anya nods. And stares off into the distance.
Do you think I’m too young to get married?
I don’t know. But for what’s it worth, my mother was the same age as you when she married my father.
Was she pregnant with you when she got married?
So she might have gotten married for that reason, huh?
Maybe, I don’t know. I never asked her.
Again the nod, again the faraway stare. Then Anya melts onto her back.
Lie down with me, okay?
I lie down.
Our sides are touching, barely, but enough.
You can’t see many stars tonight, Anya says.
Anya points out an airplane, cruising like a lighted blip across the night-sky—There goes a star.
Then Anya giggles and says—Remember?
Of course I remember, I say. Remember that I remember everything? It’s forgetting that I have trouble with.
Oh yea I forgot, Anya giggles some more. Maybe that’s why you drink.
When we were kids Anya would point out airplanes and say that some of them were not airplanes at all but stars that couldn’t stay put, stars that had to keep moving.
I’m gonna miss you when you move to L.A., ya know? What am I gonna do without my Daniel?
Before I can respond, Anya starts singing Elton John’s “Daniel,” something else she used to do when we were younger.
Daniel is traveling tonight on a plane
I can see the red-tail lights leaving for Spain
Oh and I can see Daniel waving goodbye
Lord it looks like Daniel, must be the clouds in my eyes
Anya takes my hand and holds it. I can feel the insistence of her nails scratching into my palms. I can also feel bits of my heart rising in manic flutters toward my throat.
I see a second plane, or migrant star, cruising across the night-sky, not too far behind the first one.
I raise myself to its arc, and become a bodiless spectator, looking down at Anya and me lying in the grass in center field, hand in hand, our sides touching.
Time leaves us alone for a little while.