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The Way to San Jose

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 “Daniel,” said Iris, “you’ve got to come.”

“I do? Why?” He grinned, tucking the phone under his ear as he slid open the door to the deck. “Are you sure?”

Daniel,” she said plaintively.

“Fine, fine, of course. I will come and see your art, and I will be suitably impressed and murmur very profound things about it.”

“You’ll be there and you’ll look nice.”

“I always look nice!”

“I mean it. I’m talking a suit. This is going to be a high-class affair.”

“Hey, if it’s an affair you want—”

She made a rude noise and he subsided, laughing. After a moment she added, “It’s important to me.”

“I know.”

“This is my first show since New York.”

“And it’s going to be amazing, and someone’s going to buy every single piece.”

“From your mouth to God’s ears.”

“Fingers crossed.” He leaned against the railing, staring out at the ocean. “I’ll buy something, how about that? I’ll get the dot party started.”

“You better. How many times did I feed you pizza? I should be credited on everything you write.”

“I have thanked you, many times.”

“You owe me your very life.”

“That seems a touch overstated.”

“But you’re coming?”

“I’m coming. Look, I’ll get the tickets today, okay? I will get the tickets and get a hotel. Somewhere swanky.”

“Good. Pamper yourself a little bit, then pamper me.”

“I will, I will.”

“I have to go. Looking forward to seeing you.”

“You, too.”

“Love you, babe.” She disconnected before he had to say anything back; it was one of her many small mercies for him.

Dan leaned against the railing for another minute, listening to the waves rolling in. It was early. He’d have to leave for work in a couple of minutes if he wanted to beat the traffic. He saw the sun more in LA than he had in New York—being on an earlier show, putting fewer hours in, and then there was just more sun in LA to see.

He liked the sun, it turned out. Somehow he’d managed to half-forget that in New York.

 

In 1987, Dan, who was still Daniel then, met Iris Moorhill at a Dartmouth party that prominently featured smiling rich assholes from one end of the frat house to the other, the kind of mealy-mouthed cowards who would never even imagine what their lives were costing society.

He met Iris because she was outside, standing on the back porch in the crisp air of an early October night. She was having a smoke.

“Hey,” he said. “Got one of those I could bum off you?”

She glanced up, giving him a frankly appraising look, before tapping one out of her pack and handing it over.

He held it towards her in a wordless request for a light. She rolled her eyes and flicked her lighter, a beat-up heavy old Zippo, and a moment later he could take a deep and thankful breath full of nicotine. They enjoyed a few moments of peaceful silence.

“Aren’t you loving this?” she asked dryly, cocking her head back at the house behind them, streaming lights and blaring music pouring out of it.

“Honestly? No.”

She snorted and tapped off her ash. “Yeah.”

“Are you a freshman?”

“Sophomore. You?”

“I’m a freshman.”

“Makes sense. You don’t know better than to come to these things yet.”

“Don’t you?” he asked.

“You’d think I would.” She sighed, propping her elbow on the railing, putting her chin on her fist. Her Afro framed her face, a counterpoint to the white drifts of smoke. “I’m dating some asshole who wanted to come, though.”

“And he ditched you? Bad form. And bad taste.”

“He didn’t ditch me. I ditched him.”

“Well, then, you’re already one step ahead.”

“Of who? It’s not a competition.”

Dan shrugged. “If you try hard enough, anything can be a competition.”

“Bullshit.”

“Think about current competitive sports. Some of it is really weird stuff, right? Competitive synchronized diving? Why is that more legitimate than synchronized break-ups?”

She smirked. “Relay smoking?”

“Sure. I start off a pack of cigarettes and can’t hand it off to you until I’ve finished the first one.”

“First team to barf loses.”

“Exactly.”

“There’s some things you can’t make into competitions, though.”

“Name one.”

“Dying,” she said, easily and carelessly, and Dan had to suck in a breath.

There was a long beat of silence. She looked up at him.

“Jesus Christ. What is it? I’m sorry.”

He shook his head. He couldn’t talk.

She hesitated and then motioned him over; he shook his head again, and her mouth tightened. She took a step closer to him and put her arm around his shoulder.

That did it. He started crying, hating it, shaking as he tried desperately not to. It was useless. The tears were boiling up and over, hot on his cheeks in the cool night.

She held him until all the tears were gone. She walked him back to his dorm room and fell asleep, chastely, on the floor.

In the morning he woke up, feeling muzzy and vague, to see her sitting on the floor and going slowly through his record collection. She forked over a cigarette and they smoked together in silence, blowing the smoke out the forced-open window with the sticky latch. Somewhere in the middle of New Moon on Monday he abruptly said, “It was my brother,” and she nodded slowly.

He ended up telling her everything. It had been two weeks and three days. He was not even close to okay, and he was trying to manage without drinking or getting high, and God, it was so hard.

Iris listened carefully, with an attentive, solemn face, and he always loved her for that. She never slept with him; he never tried anything with her. He couldn’t stand to think of her seeing him vulnerable in that particular way. There was something unbearably precious about how she saw him already, with the clear, piercing eyes of a photographer, and when he attended her first gallery opening he was still young and broke, and he looked around at the pristine gallery walls and thought how fitting it was that she should succeed so brilliantly.

 

“Did she ever take pictures of you?” asked Casey casually. They were talking; it had been a couple of days since Dan had mentioned the plan. He had tickets for a hotel with a spa called Perfect Luck, which sounded auspicious and which J.J.’s wife’s best friend had recommended.

“Oh, yeah.” Dan laughed. “Plenty of times.”

Casey was rattling something in the background. “I guess photographers can’t be choosers when it comes to models.”

“Big talk from a small man. Are you doing dishes?”

“Yeah, I’ve almost got a load put together. Any pictures of you at this show of hers?”

“Nah, this is all her new stuff.”

“You said she was in Iceland? How does that work?”

“Well, she got on a plane—”

“Smartass.” Casey’s voice was fond.

“She got some kind of grant to work there. Or study. I’m not sure.”

“Nice work if you can get it.”

“Yeah, her style’s a good fit for them. Vaguely Bjork.”

“And Bjork is—”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Casey.”

“Maybe I have more important things on my mind!” said Casey, but he wasn’t really annoyed. He enjoyed a good bicker as much as Dan did. “Maybe I have a life outside of keeping abreast of pop culture.”

Dan started laughing helplessly. “Abreast?”

“You have got to be mature enough to handle that word.” Casey paused. “Okay, having said that out loud—”

Dan couldn’t catch his breath for a bit.

“You know,” said Casey, aggrieved, “I’m sure I don’t give you this kind of shit.”

“Only because it’s beyond your capacity.”

Casey tutted faintly. Over the line Dan could hear the soft thump of the dishwasher closing. “It’s not my fault that your sense of humor is so juvenile.”

“You realize that makes you over the hill.”

“More of an elder statesman.”

“A decrepit grandpa.”

“A senior partner.” Casey cleared his throat. “You taking anybody to this thing?”

“Nah, are you kidding? I might see if I can pick somebody up there, but that’s about the extent of it.”

“Cool,” said Casey. He’d seemed more interested in Dan’s personal life lately, and Dan couldn’t help but wonder if that was the newfound spirit of sharing talking—if Abby’s insistence on openness, which he knew well, was worming its way into Casey’s psyche. God, he hoped not.

“Plenty of artsy types at these things. The champagne flows free.”

“Sounds like a good time.”

“I’m hoping.”

“Surrounded by art about which you will at some point be expected to say insightful things.”

“Don’t remind me. I’m going to say something nice about the colors. Those are usually a safe bet.”

“Great,” said Casey, a laugh in his voice. Dan smiled into the receiver. He missed seeing Casey smile. It was good to hear it.

 

The flight to San Jose was easy, a quick hop, skip, and a jump. And then he was renting a car, an utterly boring white Toyota, and driving to his hotel.

The hotel lobby was great. Little fountain made to look like a waterfall. Sweet-spicy fragrance wafting in the air. The décor was very minimalist, very chic, and he felt more relaxed already. His room had a big window that looked out over the pool, which was fine, and the sky was shimmering slowly into dusk.

He settled in and got room service for dinner—it was his vacation, he could waste it however he wanted to—and put on ESPN. And then he muted it and called Casey, the remnants of his mediocre steak at his side, a glass of overpriced wine in his hand. He got up to pace around the room while they talked, looping the bed, the flickering television, the view of the glowing blue pool.

“What’s up?” asked Casey, audibly smiling, and Dan waxed poetic about the ease of his flight and the qualities of the hotel.

They talked a little, in the pleasant, meaningless way they did, where it was just good to share stray thoughts out loud. Casey mentioned Natalie saying Dan was cuter than J.J., which was satisfying.  

And then Casey said, with a nonchalance that seemed oddly forced, “Did you ever go out with her friend?”

“Levi?” Dan frowned. Great, Casey was freaked out that Dan was thinking about dating men again. Dan started to mentally compose a joke about how he would beat Casey to all the best-looking ones, to take the tension out of the moment. “Nah, I told her I’m not feeling it.” He was starting to explain—he didn’t want to date another corporate type, and in his heart of hearts he was thinking bitterly about Rebecca when he said it—when Casey broke in, sounding winded.

“Levi?”

“Her friend?” Surely Natalie had talked to Casey about him, but maybe she hadn’t mentioned his name. “They went to college together.”

“She tried to set you up with a guy?”

“Yeah? Because,” Dan started to say, and then fucking dead-ended on the sentence.

Because if Casey was asking that—

If Casey was asking that question

That meant. But it couldn’t mean—because Casey had known, had always known, surely, at least since 1990, when he’d called Dan too early in the morning and Dan’s company from the night before had laughed too close to the receiver as Dan tried to shush him; Dan had freaked out about that for days, but Casey had never treated him any differently. Or the time in 1992 when he’d showed up after a night out with his friend from college, Eric, who’d left a string of hickeys on his neck. Or the—no. Casey had known! Casey had to have known.

Dan’s entire worldview had been organized around the stipulation that Casey knew.

“Casey,” he got out through a mouth going dry, “don’t tell me you didn’t know!”

Casey actually shouted back, “How exactly was I supposed to know?

“I’m not that secretive about it!” Dan yelled, while his mind raced, and he realized with a kind of blank shock that he had said and done things over the years because he had assumed that Casey knew, but if Casey hadn’t, then Casey must have simply—passed them over. Ignored the thing he didn’t understand. Like Casey always did. Like he always fucking did.

“I beg to differ!” Casey sounded mad. Casey sounded furious. Why, why did he sound like that. Dan couldn’t breathe.

He got out, “Natalie knew, and you didn’t know?”

They yelled at each other some more. Dan started to lose the track of the conversation. He couldn’t breathe, he couldn’t catch his breath. It was a panic attack, he knew that much, but he couldn’t think, not when he couldn’t even breathe. He couldn’t remember the breathing exercises Abby had tried to teach him. He was shaking, shaking so hard he could barely hold onto the phone.

“Casey,” he said around the building nausea, the tears stinging his eyes, “it’s not a big deal.”

But it was very, very clearly a big deal to Casey. Casey was so angry. Dan couldn’t keep standing. He slowly knelt on the floor.

“I have to go,” he said. “I can’t have this conversation with you right now.” His own breaths were like sandpaper in his ears.

He hung up. Casey was saying something. Dan couldn’t hear him anymore.

He rested his forehead against the side of the bed. He was touching the dust ruffles. Probably filthy, he thought distantly; probably never got changed or cleaned.

He had to keep breathing, and breathing, and breathing. His chest felt so tight. He wasn’t sure whether he was breathing too fast or not breathing enough. Eventually he remembered that he should count, and he started counting, and then he remembered that he was wearing his watch, and he looked down at his wrist. The ticking of second hand slowly settled him, breathing in measured time with it.

Finally, a million years later, the metallic dusty taste of fear in his mouth receded, and he could stand up. He had to piss. Then he went back into the bedroom. He stood next to the bed for a while before he registered his half-full wine glass still sitting there, and he knew better than to drink it when he felt like that, so he carried it to the sink and poured it out before he could think better of it.

He had made a list, with Abby, of things he could do. They’d phrased it like that: Things To Do. Things for times like this. He ground his knuckles into his eyes and tried to remember. Showers. That was one thing. Showers. It was a dumb idea, but something he could do. And he didn’t have to get up at any particular time the next morning. That took some of the pressure off.

So he got into the shower. It was a hotel shower, and a nice hotel. The water pressure was good. The little wrapped soap was still on the sink counter, so he had to lean out while he was sopping wet to grab it.

He ended up crying in the shower. His thoughts were too fragmented to make anything out of them. He couldn’t let himself make anything out of them. (Casey, so uncomfortable, cuttingly cold.)

He was afraid to fall asleep, because he couldn’t stand to be alone with his thoughts for too long. (Casey shouting, Did I ever even know you?)

He turned up the volume on ESPN to try to drown it out.

(And why did it make Casey uncomfortable, had he really—had he really never known that Dan was, that Dan—was he now sifting back through their friendship, looking for—was Casey—Dan couldn’t stand it, couldn’t fucking stand it, his mind was full of a thousand rattling screaming insecurities.)

On the television, there was a commercial for life insurance. “What would your loved ones do if you were gone?” intoned the narrator, ominously.

Dan shut his eyes and put the pillow over his head.

 

It was a long, shitty night. He barely slept. Every time he tried, if he started to drift off he’d hear Casey again, You thought I was an asshole?, and he’d jolt back to consciousness, heart pounding.

“The thing is,” he said out loud to the infomercial that came on around four, “I thought you knew.”

I thought you knew, and you were tolerating me. I thought you knew how I—I thought you knew.

When he finally fell asleep, he slept fitfully for a few hours, but he was wide awake again by ten in the morning. He needed to leave his hotel room. That much was clear. For the sake of his mental health, if nothing else, he needed to get to the fuck out of there. The tangled sheets mocked his sleeplessness.

And he wasn’t that far away from Winchester House. Casey had made fun of him for it (and the thought was an instantaneous lancet of pain), but there was something to be said for enjoying some time in the company of a ghost. A ghost who was, presumably, crazier than you.

So he got up and took another shower and put on a t-shirt and jeans, and he went to the house.

He’d been before. It had been a while, though, and his mind was only half-there, so he kept being surprised at things. The thick panes of glass caught the weak sunlight, and he marched up and down the stairs with the rest of the pack of tourists. A middle-aged woman whose hat proudly proclaimed her allegiance to the Milwaukee Brewers was smiling broadly at him. He ignored her resolutely.

He almost cried in the courtyard after the tour, but he got his shit together and managed to escape.

He drove around restlessly after that for a while. (I thought you knew. Because if you didn’t know, and now you know, then now you know.)

(And he couldn’t bear the idea of the pity in Casey’s eyes. He kept flinching away from it in his mind, over and over again. What was worse, the anger or the pity? It was impossible to tell. It was a photo-finish.)

He knew he was burning too much gas on the rental, but it was better than trying to do anything else. (How very Joan Didion of him.) He got on freeways, looped up and back, and finally pulled back in to the hotel.

He got dressed for Iris’s show. He had, true to his word, brought a suit. He looked good, he thought, tugging on his cuffs; he had a bad habit of wearing suits that were off the rack, but he’d gotten this one tailored, and it hit his wrists just right, broke beautifully on his insteps. He’d even brought a pair of tasteful platinum cufflinks. Subtle. Refined. Elegant. Things he had been trying to become.

His hands shook while he did his tie. God, he didn’t want to see anyone. But he’d promised her. (Jesus fucking Christ, Casey bellowed in his memory. Not another thing.)

He realized belatedly that he hadn’t eaten, and told himself he’d get something back at the hotel. Two nights of room service wouldn’t kill him.

The gallery was filling up with people when he arrived. It was aggressively bland. White, sterile, pristine, like all self-consciously modern galleries, which they inevitably were these days.

He could see a server circulating with a tray of champagne flutes, but too far away to grab one. Someone did graze him with a tray of canapes, and he stole three or four in one fell swoop. He stopped to look at a few pieces; they were pure Iris, all swirled greens and blues, viscous deep colors dripping like motor oil. He couldn’t pay attention. They might as well have been finger-paints. Someone offered him champagne, and he took it, trying to sip it slowly.

“Daniel!” said Iris, close by. He turned, finding himself smiling reflexively—it wasn’t genuine, but he managed it. She’d chalk it up to the crowd. She knew he didn’t love crowds.

“Hey, beautiful.” He leaned in for an air-kiss on each cheek. It drove him nuts with other people, but he and Iris had been doing it for too long for it to annoy him. Ever since they were college kids, self-centered and half-broken.

“How are you liking it?”

“Your work is, as always, exquisite.”

She smiled. “You can just say it if you think it’s too artsy-fartsy.”

“Not if I value my life, I can’t.”

“I’m so glad you’re here.”

“Me, too,” he said, and almost meant it.

“It’s been a long time.” She had a champagne flute, too, a single raspberry bobbing at the top of it. “I don’t know what’s worse, when people aren’t looking at my work or when they are.

“God, I know what you mean.”

“It’s the funniest thing,” Iris said. She was wearing a drop-dead gorgeous dress with a slit up one leg that revealed her perfectly toned thigh, and a pair of sky-high pumps. “Somebody was here who said he was a friend of yours. I didn’t know any of your friends were coming.”

“Neither did I.” Dan smiled at her, trying to think. “I can’t imagine—”

And then, suddenly, he could. He could imagine, and it was preposterous, except a heartbeat later it was true: there was Casey, standing just to the left of Le Monde, eyes wide and face pale. They stared at each for a thousand years. Casey’s mouth moved, like he might say something.

Dan had to leave.

He turned and walked, as fast as he could, out the gallery’s main entrance. He grabbed at the wall as he started to lose his balance; it was rough under his hands. He dragged himself around the side of the building, unsteady, and leaned back against the wall.

He was choking. He couldn’t breathe. He reached up for his bowtie, which was strangling him, and yanked at it, trying with uncoordinated hands to get it to lighten up for a fucking second.

There was the sound of footsteps. “Danny,” said Casey.

“Shut up!” yelled Dan, unbearably furious, the rage sluicing through his veins like molten lava. There was no good reason for Casey to be there. Why the fuck was Casey there. Who’d asked him, Dan thought, savagely, bracing his hands on his knees, trying to breathe.

Dan distantly heard himself as he started to yell. He wasn’t even sure why he was so angry with Casey, except that Dan had been holding it together, God damn it, trying to hold himself together, and Casey couldn’t even let him have that, couldn’t let him—“what do you want from me,” he shouted, and then, “what more could you possibly—”

And then Casey kissed him

 

Casey

kissed

him

 

kissed him

 

it didn’t make any—what was—it didn’t make any sense

 

the warmth of Casey’s hands on his cheeks, his jaw, like a thousand stolen moments in his daydreams; except in his daydreams Dan had never been choking, struggling to breathe around a knot of rage and fear and guilt in his throat, his mouth had never tasted like tears

 

what was happening

 

Casey let go and the breeze made Dan’s face feel so cold

“I can work without you, but how am I supposed to live without you?” asked Casey, with the rushed cadence of something he’d memorized, like a teaser they’d over-worked.

Dan stared at him. There was a phantom sensation, Casey’s fingers still touching his lips.

“What do I want from you? I figured it out. I finally fucking figured it out. I want you to marry me,” Casey said. “I thought you—I didn’t know—it’s you, Danny, for God’s sake—”

Dan knew, with a sudden certainty, that he needed to throw up, and that he needed to be very far away from there.

He held up his hands. Casey stopped talking, mouth still hanging open stupidly.

Dan turned and walked away, and kept walking, faster and faster.

 

He made it back into the gallery on autopilot, not thinking anything at all; he went into their men’s room and threw up, and then rinsed out his mouth at the sink, and then put his elbows on the counter and pressed his hands against his face.

“Oh, honey,” said Iris.

He jumped. “What the fuck!”

“It’s my show, I can go in the men’s room if I want to.”

“I don’t actually think you can,” he said.

“Who was that asshole?”

“That was—” He found himself laughing, high and hysterical. There were only two stalls, and no one was in either of them. “That was Casey, Iris.”

Her eyebrows climbed. “The Casey?”

Somehow, in all those years, they’d never met. And Iris didn’t own a television. But Iris had heard tell of Casey, in the early days, when Dan had still on occasion gotten shit-faced and waxed poetic about Casey’s charms, and Iris had always looked at him with her level, steady stare, and he’d finish by saying, He’s married, anyway.

“Yeah.” He bent over, folding his arms, and rested his forehead against the cool tile of the counter.

“Here?”

“Yeah.”

She was silent for a moment. He didn’t open his eyes.

“Daniel,” she said. “What did he do?”

He shook his head

“What did he do?

“He—” And Dan couldn’t finish the sentence. It was too absurd. It was ludicrous. Asked me to marry him was the kind of thing no one said, no one like Dan said. And he hadn’t even let himself think the whole thing in once piece yet.

She stood by him, still and quiet, waiting.

After a long few minutes he picked up his head.

“I have to go,” he said. “I have to get back to my hotel. I need to leave.”

She nodded, watching him.

“I’m sorry,” he added. “I’ll—I’ll buy something later.”

“Danny. Babe.” She grabbed the back of his neck and shook him lightly. “You don’t have to buy me, okay? I’m here for you. You need me, you say so, and I’ll ditch this thing.”

He shook his head. “I need to be alone.”

She raised one eyebrow in disbelief, but she nodded and stood back, and she let him go. Because she was kind, she let him go.

 

He drove back to the hotel in a daze. Now that the adrenaline was starting to wear off, now that Casey was gone, his brain was replaying not just that entire conversation but the one before it on repeat.

Now when Casey’s voice from the phone call replayed in his head, the anger sounded a lot like fear. Like Casey realizing something, realizing he’d been an idiot, and getting defensive about it.

It was insane. It was absolutely fucking insane. Casey didn’t like men, thought Dan, for the millionth time, and then remembered that wasn’t true anymore; Casey had told him, hadn’t he, he’d said it, out loud, that he liked men, and then he’d added, not everyone, or anything, and Dan’s single treacherous moment of wobbly, nauseating hope had gone up in flames. Dan knew what a let-down looked like. What someone trying to let him down easy looked like. He didn’t need a picture book of it.

Only. Only. If Casey hadn’t known. If he’d been trying to reassure Dan, not disappoint him.

If Casey—

The panic was suddenly overwhelming and he had to pull over to throw up again.

Because, he thought, spitting, if Casey hadn’t known, that meant there was no reason why Casey would have told him sooner. Casey would have kept quiet. God, Casey was such a WASP, he could easily have kept quiet about it to his grave. (The Dana incident came to mind.) Casey, sitting there, wanting Dan, and convinced Dan didn’t want him. Of course Casey wouldn’t have said anything. And of course Casey, being Casey, once he realized he was wrong, had reacted with a) anger b) panic and c) a huge, unnecessarily dramatic scene.

He got back to the hotel parking lot and sat in the car for a long time after he turned the engine off.

And then he got up, and he was racing. He had to—Casey would be headed to the airport. He was completely certain of that. He changed back into his t-shirt and jeans, brushed his teeth, threw his suit back in his carry-on, and left the hotel key next to the television.

He drove the rental car back to the airport, hoping he wouldn’t pass any speed traps or at least the cops would be napping or getting blowjobs or something, and found himself in line for the next ticket to La Guardia. He was in luck. It was the right time for the direct flight.

 

He craned his neck, hoping to find Casey at the terminal, but a flight had recently left for Los Angeles. He figured that was probably it. He blinked at the number, which was swimming, for some reason, surely not the suspicious tight prickling in his eyes, and then he went and found his own gate, and waited.

He boarded in a daze. The flight attendants smiled at him with their rote formality—he thought they must hate the red-eyes—and he took his seat, on the aisle. The fan above his seat was jammed on high, and he fiddled with it for a couple of minutes before giving up and digging his sweatshirt out of his bag. It felt totally surreal, the beige aircraft interior, the blue patterned cushions, even the heavy weight of the belt buckle across his lap. This was not where he was supposed to be.

But it was where he needed to be, because he needed to know.

They gave him a pack of peanuts. He realized he was starving.

He slept, a little, although not well. He woke up confused, and for a second couldn’t think why he was on a plane. Was he on assignment? And then he remembered and he barked out a laugh. There was no one in the center seat, and the person in the window seat only stirred vaguely in her sleep.

He was flying across the continental United States to ask Casey what the hell he meant. And whether he still meant it, after how Dan had walked away.

I want to marry you, said Casey again in his head. It’s you, Danny.

He closed his eyes and thumped his head against the seat back behind him.

 

When they deplaned, Dan knew the odds were slim, but he checked anyway.

Flight from LAX, said the board. Delayed. Arriving.

So he walked to the gate. Okay, maybe he, maybe he ran. Maybe he dodged around a whole family with their bags on their shoulders and hips, maybe he almost knocked over a tired-looking guy in a suit. (Who flies in a suit?) But the important thing was, he was standing there, next to a row of seats, when people started shuffling off the plane.

They all looked tired. It was a long flight. Dan ought to know. He’d put on his sunglasses before he got off the plane, superstitiously worried that someone would recognize him. As far as he could tell, no one had.

And then he saw Casey, Casey with red eyes, like he’d been crying—which he couldn’t have been; Casey didn’t cry. But like he’d wanted to, maybe.

Dan wanted to say something, but he was frozen in place, watching Casey walk towards him without seeing him. He had to say something, anything, or Casey would walk by him and he’d miss his chance again. He had to—

Casey’s eyes flickered over and past him and then back, and then Casey came to a complete halt.

“You look like the Unabomber.” Casey’s voice was scratchy. But his face was coming alive, eyes searching Dan’s face, hand twitching on the strap of his duffel bag.

“God, I know.” Dan found himself talking, meaningless, high-pitched babble, and he stopped himself with effort.

“Why are you here?” asked Casey, and his voice broke on the last word.

“Same reason I’m dressed like the Unabomber,” said Dan, who hadn’t realized he had been making up his mind until that exact minute, and as Casey started to say something, Dan leaned in and kissed him.

Casey’s face alone was worth it.

“Come on,” said Dan, his heart starting to finally lighten. “We have to get a cab.”