(Not scratch fiction)
Y picked me up at the airport, one arm hanging out the car window, cig between two fingers, head cocked to one side while he talks, driving with one hand, eyes half-closed, lanes and traffic signals bare suggestions to Y, we progress like water through a stream bed, stream of water stream of consciousness, the car following the conversation, you might think I'm white-knuckling it, but I'm lulled, tranced into a fatalistic calm by the meditative near-misses that wash off our backs like water, we're fish in the stream.
I gape at the narrow Boston streets, my first time here, not bothering to hang a jaded indifference on my face, letting it glow bare out the passenger window, brick buildings that would have been piles of rubble after the first California quake, standing for a hundred years and more here, wooden shutters, cobblestone streets, pubs, churches, the Commons all swimming by.
I drop my bags and we pick up people and it's on to Harvard Square, smokers all crowded around the outside steps of the first pub, it's Karl's birthday, he's been celebrating already for hours, eyes drowning, and we sing to him - I've never seen him before and probably never will again, but I sing to him with the rest - we down our beers & then crawl to the next pub. The Brit woman has been drinking too much, and keens to us, one foot in the taxi, "C'mon, c'mon," but after she disappears into the belly of the cab we convince Y to take us straight to another place, we want to dance. Y's driving no more impaired than usual with cig, and phone, mumbling to the Brit that we're not following her, we can hear her digitized whine through the phone.
We set ourselves up with mojitos after fighting past the dancers struggling in the front of the bar: it's Latin dancing, we can't wait to finish our drinks before getting out on the floor, bodies bumping up against us, passing around a drink, I dance with my colleagues, all of us work in translation, the languages shifting as we shout in each other's ears, I let A lead; she's far stronger than me, K is Brazilian & I mimic her samba, dancing the perfect antidote to six hours in a metal tube hurtling through the sky.
Two a.m. comes too quickly, we're out on the sidewalk talking to the band, rumors of the party moving on to Someone's apartment die when we learn that Someone has nothing to drink there. A plastered Bostonian in painter's whites is talking up A and K, insulting Y, and when he starts a vaguely racist rant that begins, "when I was in the joint..." we fade warily back to the car, out on the road, and into the night.