Silas Sellers Rock

Party

Party for 2

Two thin knuckles rap against an old wooden door with a sharp clicking noise. Two knocks. It is eight fifteen exactly, and Gary Stein was apprehensive. It had been a very, very long time since he had seen his old friend, and he did not know what to expect. They had gone to school together once, a very long time ago. Benson was always a strange and capricious soul, subject to sudden fits of inspiration or madness. After Benson had dropped out he had completely lost touch with the man. It was as if he didn’t want to be found. It was quite sad, really, as they had been the best of friends. Gary had many a fond memory of he and Benson. On Friday nights they could be found in their dorm, making up for their work in a habitual late night crawl. The TV glow would show some comedy or another, and they would gorge themselves on snacks and write their hearts out through the night. However, all that changed when Bensons previously studious demeanor began to change. He began to fall into an obsession; he was endlessly fixated on this… Project. He refused to ever tell his friend what it was. That’s what really got to him, that his own best friend would hide it from him like that. Benson would constantly sneak off to work on it alone, stranding his friend alone in his room on many a Friday night to quietly drink himself to sleep with no company at all. The whole situation exploded on a fateful day when the two screamed at each other in a spiteful fit of emotion, having them both file for a room change. They never saw one another since. Gary often wondered what path his former friend had taken with his life, but never had the heart to contact him.

            Now, years later, Gary had written two books, gotten married, had a child, and most recently was invited to a house party regarding the publishing of Benson Dale’s very first book. His wife, Heather, tapped her foot next to him, her mouth letting out a little cloud of steam into the night air. “A Brooklyn apartment. I seriously never thought he had it in him, from the way you described him at least.”

She thought he was a deadbeat.

“You thought he was like… A more rebellious type? Didn’t want to be part of society?”

She thought he was an awful influence on Gary.

“No, I just… I didn’t expect for him to be doing so well for himself. That’s all.”

The door suddenly flung itself open, revealing a white painted hallway with a long mirror. A man with stylized grey hair, a strong jaw and thick-rimmed glasses. He flashed the couple a wide smile.

“           Gary! It sure has been far too long since I last saw you. And who is this lovely missus?”

He escorted them into the home, which was lit with candles, featured a slew of modern furniture and abstract artwork. Gary looked around, feeling lost in this strange, massive apartment. All around him were people who he had never seen before, fabulous affluent Brooklynites conversing lightly. It was completely alien to him, and he couldn’t catch a single sentence that he could fully understand. Interestingly enough, it seemed like not a single person discussed the new book, or even had an idea of what it was about. Heather, however, fit in perfectly, and was instantly lost in the crowd, leaving Gary defenseless and alone in a strange and awkward situation. He tried to talk to Benson, but he was too busy entertaining his other guests. Gary couldn’t take it anymore, and loosened his tie, grabbing a drink off the counter and sitting down in an armchair in the corner. He looked onto the party scornfully. These people had no connection to the real world; all they talked about was their own which they had created. As his eyes scanned the room they fell on a woman who was sitting nearby him in a faded blue, slim fit dress, who appeared to be staring right at him. She was much older than everyone at the party, and had a cigarette clenched between her lips hard enough to strangle it. Her eye makeup made him feel like he was being watched by a hawk. He sidled over to her, trying not to meet her gaze. She made him immensely uncomfortable, but not nearly as disconcerted as the rest of this wretched place. His weak voice piped up.

“H-hey. Who, uh, your not like the rest of these people. Who exactly are you?”

            The woman’s head didn’t turn as she stared. She crossed her arms tightly and spoke through her cigarette. “Georgia Dale.” This information did not surprise him; only confirm his suspicions. “You’re Benson’s wife?”

“Fiancé. Same name.”

“Oh. Isn’t that a little weird?”

“Isn’t what a little weird?”

“Being with someone with the same family name. Have you ever wondered if you’re distantly related?”
“No.”

“Fair enough.”

“You aren’t having fun?”

            “Why would I? Benson and I were friends so long ago, I don’t even remember what he was like, only that we had a big fight and didn’t talk to each other. Now, at a time when I wasn’t even sure if he remembered me, he invites me to a party in a strange city where I don’t know anybody. Hell, now that I’m here he’s just ignoring me. I don’t feel comfortable. At all.”

The woman has seemed to stop listening, and was lighting up her cigarette again. He sat there and watched her as she continued to ignore him, beginning to take her makeup equipment out of her bag, which sat snugly between her legs. He cleared his throat, and she looked over at him. “Just go talk to people already. You’re being kind of a prick. They’re just like you, I promise.”

            Gary gave up, finally deciding that he was not going to get any sort of sanctuary in the company of this woman. He stood, dusted himself off, took a drink from the counter and approached a charming young couple that shared a couch by the window. He stood over them, and simply stood for a second without saying a word before coughing out: “Hey, who are you two?” They seemed a little perturbed to be disturbed in the middle of their flirtatious whisperings, but they turned the charm on and both chastely shook Gary’s hand. “Haha, hello. I’m Chuck. You probably know about me, actually. Chuck Sara. The Galvanic Thought?” Gary shook his head, and Chuck seemed instantly bored with the conversation, letting his companion take over. “I’m Karen. Nice to meet you.”

“Are you a writer too, Karen?”

“As a matter of fact, I am. I write opinion pieces for the New York Times and various magazines.”

“Wait. You mean… Karen Sara? Hm. I think I’ve read something you wrote. Did you review Love and Mercy?

“Oh! Yes I did! That was actually one of my favorites. Did you like it?”

“Very much, it was very insightful. So how did you get mixed up with Benson?”

“Oh, well… actually, that’s a bit awkward for me. You see, I actually, I actually had a bit of a falling out with Benson. You know, once upon a time.”

Gary suddenly felt much more awake, like he had felt a snake in between his sheets. “What was that all about?”

“Well, after he dropped out, he actually… He actually came to live at my place for a little while. About a year. I was friendly with him, but, you know, not that friendly with him. Not enough for him to just show up at my doorstep and expect to be let in.”

“Oh, damn. Did he tell you anything about how he dropped out?”

“Yeah. I mean, a little. A little bit. He told me that he got really carried away. Wrote something that was much too controversial for his… position. He destroyed it afterwards. I’ve never read it. He stayed with me for months. He just couldn’t get a job, nobody would accept him. God, that was really a sad time for him. He didn’t know what to do with himself at all. He had no money, barely and friends left, none of his family would return his calls… I honestly thought he should check into an asylum. You know. For his own sake. But he put on a brave face and kept telling me that when he finished his project, he would finally get his life back into shape. But, you know, I had to kick him out eventually. His writing was clearing going nowhere and every day he did less and less. He slept on my couch every day, ate ramen exclusively, and wouldn’t get up until… Wait a second. What was your name again? Gary? It’s Gary, right?”

Gary nodded, a little scared of what was coming next.

“Oh… Shit. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to… Ok. He talked about you a lot. But, like,”

Both at the same time they said “Not in a good way.”

Gary nodded again sadly. “Yeah, I thought so. It probably took him a long time to get over that.”

Karen stood up and made a move as if to put her hand on Gary’s shoulder, but changed her mind halfway through and stood with her arm awkwardly half extended. She quickly drew it back and pretended to be adjusting her belt.

After a long minute of silence Gary looked at watch without telling the time. “Well, I have a lot more people to greet, so, you enjoy the rest of the party! Haha…” She laughed along with him. “Yeah, you should… Get on that.”

            Gary pushed through the crowd to the food and leaned against the table. Georgia was nowhere to be seen. A man with a pointed noise and round glasses, wearing a grey turtleneck, had seemingly invaded his quiet escape in this massive party. He looked a bit like an uglier Steve Jobs. The man was chatting up two younger women in a somewhat obscene show of flirtation. As Gary watched him, something scratched at the back of his brain. He looked up from his drink and stared at the guy for a second. The thought continued to germinate in his mind until the second that the man got up and began to leave, when Gary grabbed the crook of his arm, causing him to turn around. They looked at each other for a second before Gary sputtered “Professor Bonnette?”

Bonnette’s eyes widened, and he caught Gary up into a hug. “Gerald! It has been so long! Why, I should have expected you at Benjamin’s party, shouldn’t I have?” The two women looked irritated and tugged on the grey turtleneck, but Bonnette swatted them away. “What are you still doing here? Can’t you see I’m conversing with a person of actual substance? Go away!” He hadn’t changed whatsoever since he had taught English.

“It really has been so long! Tell me about yourself, Gary. What have you done since I taught you? I read your book. Phenomenal, I can see a lot of myself into your work.”

“Oh, yeah, thank you, that means a lot to me, but I really need to find my wife. She’s been alone for a while, and I really have to catch up with her. You know.”

Gary’s eyes darted around the room for Heather, silently searching for an escape from the man who had terrorized his impressionable young self for his entire college career.

“Oh ho ho! So there is a misses Stein, eh? Well, to be frank, I didn’t think you had it in you! Congratulations, you dog you!”

He slapped Gary on the back with his wiry hand with more strength than his limber form suggested. He always had a habit of knocking people on the back exactly as they took a sip from their drink, which Gary could never fully decide was intentional.

“As for me, I’ve been through three wives, and let me pass another word of wisdom to my brightest student- keep em on their toes, eh?”

Bonnette accentuated his cryptic and inscrutable statement with a wink that simply added another layer of assumed understanding, which Gary did not possess whatsoever. Bonnette began to talk again. He had a strategy with conversations- if you said something so inappropriate and baffling that it made your other take pause, that gives you a sparkling opportunity to speak again without being rude. “Anyway, please bring me to this wife of yours, I must see what caliber of woman belongs to professional writer Gary Stein!”

Gary opened his mouth to speak, but he had long since realized that literally nothing he could say could change the old man’s mind. Instead, he peered through the crowd to where he could see heather laughing alongside a couple affluent looking writers, which Gary instantly recognized as writers that he knew from college or lived nearby. He took a mental note. As soon as Professor Bonnette was inside the circle, he dominated their conversation instantly. Throwing his arms in the air, he announced: “Well well well! Is this not the gorgeous Mrs. Stein! Charmed, I’m sure.” He took hold of Heather’s hand and planted a kiss on the back. She looked around at the others, mouth agape. “Oh. Hello! Um. That’s unusual. You can, you can just call me heather. And you are…?”

            Gary made a snap judgment- something was going on here, and he couldn’t let professor Bonnette drag him along like this. He had no time to entertain the old man’s ramblings. He surged forward and grabbed Heather’s arm away from the Professor. “Alright, this was all very nice, but Heather and I need to have a little talk. Right now. Good to see you Andrew! Ill talk to you later. Goodbye.” He rushed the bewildered and wide-eyed Heather away from the little group with professor Bonnette stammering- “Well, how horribly rude!” he elbowed whichever guest was closest to him. “His book wasn’t all that great, really, you know.”

            Gary pulls her into the hall and pushes aside the coats as to sit on the bench. Heather stares at him with confusion and outrage. “Gary, what the hell are you doing? Who was that guy? You’re being ridiculously rude! Seriously, this is so inappropriate! Look at this place; this is a real suave Brooklyn party! This is a massive opportunity to meet other influential writers! This is really the wrong time for one of your neurotic… episodes!” Gary shook his head. “I’m not having an episode! Look, I knew the guy, ok? This… This isn’t something he would do. He was against this. He was a socialist, all right? This is way too… Fancy, I guess. For lack of a better word.”

“What the hell? That was years ago! Dozens of years ago! He probably wizened up. Honestly, Gary, how could you-“

            Their conversation was cut short by someone opening the door. They both put on weak smiles and let him put down his coat, then resumed their argument as soon as he had left the room.

“Look, Gary, listen to me. No, stop squirming, look me in the eye. You haven’t seen Benson in years. He’s changed. You’re upset. I get it. It is bringing up upsetting and awful memories from a part of your life that was pivotal and transformative. I understand. But people change, ok? Don’t think about Benson. Think about yourself! This could be an extremely important moment for your career. This is a huge opportunity, and who knows? Maybe after this you and Benson will reconnect. But for now, just hunker down. Just try to have fun. It’s the least you can do. I promise that after this everything will all go back to normal. Ok?”

They looked at each other for a minute.

“Ok.”

            It was getting late and many party guests were already giving their early goodbyes. Gary slumped against the buffet, which was now almost entirely finished, and topped off his fifth glass of wine. Both Benson and his fiancé had been missing in action for the past fifteen minutes, so he assumed this meant that the party was just about done. Professor Bonnette sat nearby, nearly passed out from the overwhelming excitement of the evening. Heather sat on the couch opposite from him, and was trying not to fall asleep. If it weren’t for the loud and obtrusive French music that blasted from speakers in every corner of the room, it would’ve been a very restful atmosphere, with a mutual sense of belonging filling up the space. The music stopped suddenly, causing Heather to start. “Excuse me? Is this on?” Benson spoke from every corner of the room. He sat on the counter in the middle of his apartment, in full view of all partygoers. As soon as he had their attention a small cheer went up for his sake, glasses of wine raised to his name. Gary raised his as well. Benson only laughed good-naturedly and fixed his glasses. “So, how are all of you enjoying my party?” Another round of cheers sounded in response. “Good! Good. I’m glad. You know, when you get to a certain age, you begin to realize, that life isn’t out there somewhere, waiting to happen. Life is right now. You’re living, right this moment! Yeah, a shocker, I know. But sometimes, you have to do the wild and crazy thing, even when you know it won’t end well. Well, anyway, I’ve been waiting for such a long, long time to give you this speech. All of you. You all have a special place in my heart. Let me explain…”

By this time, Benson has stood up and began to slowly graze through the crowds, one hand on the microphone and the other curled behind his back. “You see, in our beautiful country, power means a lot. I didn’t really understand that when I was younger, and I let a lot of opportunities slip right out of my hands. I had college in the bag, that’s for certain. But I thought that college could wait. I put my own personal trails over the big ones. I thought that life would wait for me. And so life moved on without me. And many of you moved on without me. But that’s fine. So, fast forward, how many years was it? Oh, I don’t know. But here we are again. Hahaha, look at you, looking among yourselves suddenly with new eyes. It took you a while to recognize each other, didn’t it?”

The crowd had basically fallen silent at this point, many of them whispering to each other in confusion. Gary and Heather watched with intensity, only looking at each other once to make sure they were thinking the same thing.

            “Oh yes, a writer’s party. I don’t toot my own horn often, but I felt like it was a good idea. I remember all of you, very, very well. Come on. How about another round of applause for your good buddy Benson?”

He was greeting with staring and silence. He laughed, the same laugh as before, but suddenly the friendliness of it was appalling.

“Come on people. You’re in my house, sitting on my furniture and drinking my wine. That’s right. Mine. You guys didn’t think I could do it, right? I have to admit, I didn’t think so either at one point. Hey, Karen. Yeah! My good buddy Karen! Oh, Karey, don’t be so shy! Come on up here! Remember when I was couch surfing and ended up on your doorstep? And now here you are on MY couch! Hahaha! That was so long ago I can scarcely remember. Why don’t you remind me how I came to leave your house, finally? Why don’t you remind us all?” Karen stared at her lap, her hands folded squarely on her knees. Her husband simply looked on, dumbfounded and at a loss for words. Benson squatted down and held out the mike for her. “Come on. Tell everyone, whydoncha?”

Karen slowly took the mike and Benson smiled down at her over his glasses. “I kicked you out.” He nodded deeply and took back the microphone.

“Thank you Karen. Come on, guys, why so glum? THIS IS A PARTY. Relax.” He strolled over to the professor. A couple people had quietly made their retreats already. Gary was looking for a way through the crowd. He already knew how this was going to go. Benson was going to pick apart the insecurities of each of the people who had lost faith into him, one by one. Karen was easy- she was already guilty even though she had been completely reasonable. He had a fear growing in his stomach that he was going to be the last one, the grand finale.

Benson circled around Bonnette like a shark. The professor sat with his body entirely erect, scowling at his attacker. “Good evening professor! I’m so happy you could make it. And really, what would this party be without your gung ho attitude? Not much of a party, that’s what.” The professor turned towards him with an arrogant air, looking him in the eye. “I’m not going to play games, Benjamin. You were a brilliant student, I’ll give you that, but how you gained any of this is beyond me.”

“Why, of course it isn’t! That’s why you teach, and don’t do, isn’t it?”

The professor looked as though he had been hit with a hammer. “What is that meant to imply, young man?” Gary clicked his tongue and handed Bonnette another glass of wine. “What, I was merely saying that you aren’t much of a worker.”

“Not much of a –“

“More of a teacher! You see?”

The professor was furious, and could only half hide it. He could not shout at Benson, he could not scream or accuse him or dominate him- then Benson wins. But if he just sits here and takes it, Benson also wins. But he does not know enough about Benson to play his game better than he could.

Gary was only half paying attention now, he needed to think. The other guests watched like their favorite boxer was losing a match. Benson and the professor were engaged in a battle of words- it didn’t matter if the Professor beat him here, just by fighting back he had made everything see the crass and prideful side of himself. The damage was done and he moved on. Gary watched him move backwards chronologically through his life, farther and farther, closer to himself. Most of the partygoers had silently made their exits by now. One person of particularly weak constitution was throwing up in the bathroom, the noise only partially muffled. Benson would occasionally shoot him a glance. He was coming up. Heather and Georgia were watching him now. Many of them were watching him now. Everyone had a suspicion at one point that Gary was the start of it. He had to make a decision. He was scared to death, but he wasn’t about to let Benson do this to him. Somebody had to make a stand. And only he understood him well enough to turn his game against him. Benson was standing in front of him before long. The silence was palpable. It felt like he was struggling through thick tangles of cobwebs. “Gary! Gary, Gary, Gary. I’m so glad you ended up making it. I mean, what would this party be if you weren’t here? You’re the one, Gary. You’re the piece de resistance. You know that, right? Look at him. He knows it, fellas. Where do I begin…” He paces in front of Gary, scratching his beard in thought and swirling his drink. “You’re a little bit of a prodigal son, aren’t you? Crawling back to me after so long. You were always a meek little thing, weren’t you? You never talked to me back then.” There was fire in his eyes, but Gary faced him up and steeled himself, stating:

“Let me stop you there.”

“Oh? Well that’s certainly different.”

“You…”

“Yeah? What is it Gary? No need to be polite. Let me have it.”

“I’m not going to stand here and allow you to shame us like this.”

His eyebrows were so furrowed that they almost coalesced into one. He continued: “I knew that something was going on. I recognized the other guests. I know you better than everyone else here combined, and you haven’t changed a goddamn bit. I think I have you figured out. You want us all to see each other fall to you, so we can all know that you have us beat, right?”

Benson looked at him sidelong, still secure in his lofty righteousness but tickled by a fearful curiosity. “Go on.”

Gary was coldly determined. This was a chink in his armor. Of course, he hadn’t exactly thought of what he was going to drill on Benson yet, and he was sweating bullets just to find some ammunition. But he had an inkling, the feeling of something taking root, just like when he first sets down his pencil to write. He just needed to stall him a little longer.

“Where have you been all this time, Benson, while we were all living our lives? You disappeared. What have you been doing since you dropped out?”

Benson smiled at him. “I could ask you the same question, Gary. I’ve read your books. Good pieces of work, I assure you, but it begs the question… Two books? You’ve been at it for quite a while. And yet, you’ve only published two novels. Now, what have you been doing with your time to fill in the gap that-“

“Articles.”

“What?”

“Journalism. For online newspapers.”

Benson wasn’t fazed and quickly chose another plan of attack. His eyes were wide open now, and he was watching him over the rims of his glasses.

“Online newspapers! Hmmph. What a joke. I thought you were headed for great things. I remember you in high school. You were somebody then. People thought that you were going somewhere. Now look at you- almost middle aged and just finishing your second book. Tick tock, Gary. Your brief window of success is moving passing. You’re old Gary. The man with promise is dead. Your time is running out.”

Suddenly, Gary had it. His mental seed exploded into the flower of an idea inside his brain – everything seemed to come together. He looked at Benson, then around at the colleagues around him. He looked at his wife, who had appeared skulking in a hallway, and at his chic Brooklyn flat which spread out around him. He looked back at Benson, who was saying something but he couldn’t hear what it was. The words thrust themselves from his lips:

“You’re still a child.”

“Oh, there we go.”

“I mean it. You haven’t grown up. You’re right, I’m older. But you? You’re smarter than you were, and you know what your doing with your life, certainly. You’ve learned how to have a job and have a wife and buy a house and do your taxes. But you’re still exactly like were you were in college. Look at this big new flat – you haven’t written a book yet, and already you’re living like a college bachelor.”

Benson was watching him very closely, but there was nothing smug about him now. He was taken by surprise. He was taking a real, honest think about Gary’s words. It was the kind of argument between old friends that had all the ferocity of a real fight, but they know each other too well to make any sort of deep wound. Yet another thing about him that hadn’t changed.

“I mean, look what you’re doing. All these people came here because you invited them. You spent your time and your money making this big, empty event, just so you can spend a good twenty minutes giving us all a big, empty, I-told-you-so. And you know what? You’re right. We did wrong you. But do you, with all your reason and your calculation; believe that this makes us even? I mean, most didn’t even stay long enough to hear your speech. They just left. It was a massive, petty display of vengeance, and most of these people don’t even remember you.”

The room was dead silent. People stood tight lipped and motionless becoming part of the scenery. Benson couldn’t say anything to sway them anymore. Gary had taken them out of his narrative- they had roused back into reality. Benson was angry, but also desperate. It looked as though if he were just a little more drunk, he would take Gary’s life right there, but some sort of respect stopped him. Only Gary knew why. It had taken a while, but now that he had sorted out his panic and Benson’s grand illusion, he could see it. Benson liked him. He still liked him, after all this time. He had probably read his books. Maybe he liked the others to. That was Benson’s weakness- he could not stop thinking about them after all this time. However, Gary felt no sympathy. Because the truth was, he did not like Benson. His twisted love only made him more pathetic in Gary’s eyes. He did not hate Benson, but he would not show him mercy. Not after all of this.

He opened his mouth and prepared to come back to the offensive. “Wha–“

Before he could say another word a booming shout came from the bedroom doorway, nearly making him jump. Georgia strode towards the center of her room, her authoritative presence knocking those who blocked her out the way. She had all the determination about her as the same bird of prey Gary had subconsciously likened her to. She tossed the butt of her cigarette into the trash bin with a single jerking motion, brutally efficient. Benson saw her and immediately put his wine down, then took a few probing steps towards her. “Baby,” he said with all the charm he could muster, “Baby, what are you doing out here? Go back to our room, I’m almost done…” She shut him up with a glance. “I don’t know exactly what you’re doing, but it’s over.” She turned to the sobered remains of the party and swept them to the door with her hands. “Out of my house!” She screamed at a completely average volume. Benson had taken her by the hip and furrowed his brow prominently. “Baby, baby wait, come on, not like this, this is important-“

“And you!” She furiously whispered. “I don’t know who you used to be or why you brought all of this here, but you are not- and I repeat, not, going to drag me back into whatever kind of little mess you made for yourself after college. I dealt with it once, and here you are again, undoing the careful little bow that binds my goddamn sanity. You know what?” She smiled a smile that was both very cold and very genuinely relieved. “You get out to.”

“What? No. Wait. Let’s talk about this. These decisions don’t happen overnight.”

“Why not?”

By now Gary was moving away with the crowd, the couple’s words becoming drowned out the shuffle of feet and the creaks of zippers being adjusted.

 

            Gary stood in the pitch-black street at the bottom step of Benson’s stoop, futilely scanning the opposite street for any trace of their car. Heather was a little ways down, cursing as she rooted for the keys. There was something very calm, very restful, about just standing still after the party among the others looking for their vehicles and bickering with each other. As he stood motionless, he felt something move a ways to his left and stop there. He looked over idly and Benson was standing there, lighting a cigarette. Gary was shocked at first, because he somehow looked very different. Perhaps that is why nobody but Gary seemed to notice him. He was peering into the dark and squinting over his glasses. He had a bit of a slump to him. It was clear what had happened- he wasn’t living here anymore. Benson looked back at him, his lips slightly pursed. They stared at each other in silence, Benson’s eyes like they might’ve been flowing with tears had he been a little less accustomed to situation. They both watched each other, arms at their sides, not speaking a word.

Gary always felt that staring at someone and having them return the gesture can tell you more than anything, because it can communicate words that would never be said otherwise. This stare seemed to say that under other circumstances, maybe, they could still be good friends. Maybe they could’ve let go of their differences on that very first day, and maybe they wouldn’t be here, on the street, neither of them wanting to be there. Gary also realized that this was a Benson who, for a rare moment, had no plan at all. He had no idea what he was doing. He had nowhere to go, nothing to do, his plan had fallen flat and he was back on the street like before. All of a sudden, Benson wasn’t a performer, or a mastermind, or a supervillain, he was just a man standing in the dark and wondering where he is going to sleep and eat tonight. They continued to stare at each other in an extraordinary moment of silent empathy and understanding which Gary had never experienced before in his life when Gary felt a tug on his sleeve. He looked stupidly over at Heather, who had said his name a few times. “Gary. Come on. Let’s go.” She jingled the keys in her other hand. “It’s around the block.” Gary turned around, giving Benson one last look of exasperated neutrality. He had no idea to think of him anymore. Benson watched them leave with a clenched frown, Gary’s arm entwined with Heather’s, walking away from him and back into their lives.