The Lost Night - Andrea Bartz



I had the dream again: lying on the floor with blood pouring out of me, trying to cry out but I can’t make a sound. The scratched floor spreading out around me, round yellow lights overhead. This time, for added fun, I knew someone was coming for me, but I couldn’t figure out if it was to help me or finish me off. This morning I finally Googled around to see if there’s a universal meaning, like dreaming that your teeth fell out. Apparently all the blood means that I’m emotionally drained, my life force leaking out. One site even noted that it could indicate “bitter confrontations among you and your friends,” which is a little on the nose.

I’m still mad about the fight. We’ve started speaking again, and I can tell she’s eager to just pretend it never happened and go back to normal. She thinks she’s such a good friend, but she has no idea what’s actually going on with me. She never asks. She thinks she loves me, when really she just likes showing the world we’re a pair: This is my cool friend Edie, and never mind whether anything’s going on below the surface.

It’s almost funny that she’s jealous—you really want all this? I’ve got a boyfriend who doesn’t trust me. A best friend who’s using me. Parents who alternately call me up crying or remember I exist only when I’m somehow inconveniencing them. I guess she and I are both pretty fucked up, in different ways.

It’s the Fourth of July. Independence Day, as Mom and Dad always insist on calling it, like card-carrying snobs. They’re at Uncle John’s again this year, Mom probably on her sixth vodka soda, sitting on sweaty lawn chairs and eating overbarbecued burgers and feeling smug about the fact that they’re in Connecticut. I scoffed at the idea of going with them, but of course now I’m alone in a musty apartment in Bushwick, writing a stupid diary entry while all my roommates and friends are on the rooftop drinking from red Solo cups and watching some band.

It’s sunny, and a holiday, and those are both facts that make things a little worse, because I know I should be enjoying the day like a normal human. It’s hard to describe: When I’m out with a crowd and we’re having a good time, it is fun, I do recognize it as fun, but I don’t quite connect with it. It’s like I’m eighteen inches away watching all the fun happen. And then as soon as the fun thing is over, a fog settles over everything again.

Okay, I can hear the band on the roof from all the way down here, so I guess I’ll head up there. Maybe I’ll get up on the ledge, make people nervous. Standing four feet closer to heaven and looking at the sidewalk eight emptied floors below.

Maybe today’s the day I’ll jump.

Chapter 1


Fat chickens packed into factory farms, maggots wriggling like a thick white carpet, buffalo fumbling toward the edge of a cliff: all spacious situations compared to the New York City subway at 6:00 p.m. The doors slid apart, but I was stuck; my fellow commuters barely moved, and I bleated out apologies as I smashed against bodies, squeezing onto the platform right as the doors thudded closed again. I took a few steps and peered through the windows at the people still inside, crammed like stuffed animals at the bottom of a claw vending machine.

I was so tired. A feeling I had a lot these days. A part of me wanted to go straight home, heat up something frozen, and maybe watch old, stupid reruns, but I’d been the one to suggest these plans. In a rare flare of nostalgia, I’d fired off the message, forgetting in the moment that I’d once sworn to myself that I’d never open up Pandora’s box. It was almost as if boredom had made me reckless.

I pushed through the throng of commuters at the foot of the subway stairs. Outside, rain made its way through fabric and onto my ass, my knees, my feet. The feeling I’d been wrestling with all day grew, the panicky dread that swells before a first date. What if this reunion mucked up my last good memories from that single, singular year? When I reached the restaurant, an inoffensive bistro in boring Midtown West, a man snapped his umbrella closed in my face and for some reason I apologized to him, knee-jerk.

Inside, I was