The city’s cold is always sharp. It clings to the edges of your ears until they’re numb, and somehow creeps its way into your belly. Em and I pretended to wander aimlessly but really, we were each scouting out for that warmth found in boutiques and coffee shops. The kind that twinkles like the candles Mom puts in my windows during the holidays. But those candles face out on the side of my house, invisible to passerby. They’re merely for my own comfort, a dim light for when I dream of new snows and the same people.
We ended up at Dan’s apartment, the four of us sitting on the hardwood floor and laughing so much that our mouths got dry. Dan made us cocktails to pair with the bottle of wine we shared earlier at that Italian place. A redness emanated from that restaurant, like a neon sign in a window, humming with an energy I couldn’t pinpoint. Dan welcomed us with free copies of his new favorite book. We held them in our hands as if they were nuggets of gold, but when it was time to leave, mine was left hidden beneath my chair. On the way home, I realized its absence and had to call the restaurant, asking them to save my book to be picked up by my cousin the next day. I also realized that I’m now a part of a select group of people who have ever forgotten books in a restaurant.
“You’ll like this,” Dan said, handing me a negroni. I peered into the glass and the amber glowed, like everything does in this city. Liquid gold.
We spent twenty minutes trying to figure out how to play his favorite card game. With my hair fanned out on the hardwood, I felt, for a moment, that things after college might not be so different. I felt that little burst, the one that comes when I pause a moment and look back at it from my 30-year-old self. It comes when I check the clock and realize Alex and I haven’t stopped talking for three hours, despite our espresso breath and four years of friendship tucked into my back pocket. He leaves to take a nap, only to come back for my house party in an hour, hollering “lock the door behind me!” I wash the suds off my Bialetti, bookmarking the memory to return to it later, and it’s filed away into a flood of similar moments. Walking to the greasy food joint in my pajamas to meet him and a friend who can’t help but dance. Blasting Queen in the car on the way home from the movies. Fried eggs at midnight.
The burst comes like an unexpected camera flash. I let it sit, watching New York shimmer on Dan’s records and Em’s cheeks. We talk up until I have to rush out to catch the last train home. It’s only on the subway, disco sizzling through my earbuds, that I realize the memory has ended. The car clunks on.