18. Moody Blues

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I left her standing in the open doorway as I turned back to the window, looking down onto the busy street. The afternoon sun glared off the windshields of passing taxis.

"What are you doing?" she shut the door and sat on the edge of the bed.

"Nothing." That was true.

She sat there waiting for something, for me, but I didn't move. She straightened her dress. It looked like a doll's dress or maybe a maternity dress from the sixties, covered with a dizzy paisley swirl of olive green and orange. It was the ugliest thing I'd seen her in yet. She batted her thick eyelashes in a sort of matter-of-fact rather than flirty way and said "I'm going to go out clubbing tonight. You wanna come?"

I shrugged like my arms were too dead to do anything else.

"You okay?" She stood up and touched my shoulders. I was too numb to throw her off. "What's wrong?"

"Nothing," I said again. "I feel terrible."

She tapped her chin. "It's all the traveling. Jet lag. You want to get something to eat?" She made a vague toward-the-outside gesture with one hand. "I've got it covered. I'm sick of hotels. And they don't need me for anything right now."

"Yeah." I turned away from the window and looked at her. She was being too nice, it ruined my bad mood. Maybe my disappearance in Madison had given her the hint, too. I could hope.

She took me out the back way from the hotel, through the alley where the tour bus was parked. I followed her into the subway. It was too noisy in the train to talk so it wasn't until we came to a station and she stood up that I asked "Where are we going?"

"I dunno," she answered, pulling me along, up the stairs and across the street by the hand. "Someplace that'll cheer you up." We stepped between street vendors' blankets covered with used books and records on the sidewalk. We crossed another wide street and I began to recognize where we were: The East Village. Carynne stopped to examine the concert bootlegs sharing a table with sunglasses in front of a used clothing store. Two men with identically sheared hair and leather jackets that still smelled new brushed past me, pausing to embrace at the bottom of the next steps. One went into the building, the other continued up the street without looking back. A dog barked at me from the terrace of a cafe. The sun was behind the buildings now, and the day's heat was beginning to rise up out of the streets, stewing up the evening. I watched two more men cross the street, hand in hand. I tied my denim jacket around my waist and waded through the heat, gripped by the feeling that if I stayed too still, I'd solidify where I was. You don't belong on this ground, I thought to myself, get away while you still can.

Carynne was following me now, I could feel her eyes searching my back for clues. I kept my own eyes ahead, trying not to stare at the graffiti splashed across the steps ("Queer By Choice") trying not to hear the conversation of the two men coming the other way, trying to shut it all out. My hands felt damp as they brushed against my jeans. Everything here was a signal, a secret handshake, a subliminal image, and I wondered how long it would take Carynne to see right through me. What would I do that would give myself away? Even I had no way of knowing.

"Hey, where are you going?" She plucked at my arm.

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