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On the eve of her 27th birthday, Emilia looked over the city from the balcony of her brand new apartment in Downtown Brooklyn. It was an apartment she had just purchased with her best friend and business partner. An apartment they’d purchased with dirty money from a company that they started after a drunken encounter with a particularly jealous bachelorette party. That, however, wasn’t what they would tell the Times… or their parents, for that matter. How they’d gotten here, two best friends from Los Angeles, was a story even Emilia couldn’t believe. They were just L.A. kids! Had New York gotten to their heads? She was beginning to think so, but there was no turning back now. They were in far too deep.
Emilia groaned as her alarm went off somewhere deep at the foot of her bed. She stood up and stretched her arms, rubbing the sleep from her eyes more forcefully than usual. It had been a long night, she barely managed to brush her teeth before she had passed out in her clothes. As she slid from under her covers, the hangover anxiety forcing her from the warm down comforter cocoon, she shivered and pulled on a giant fluffy robe. Her apartment was cold in a way her thin Los Angeles blood still was not accustomed to even five years later.
Emilia snickered as she pulled her long blond hair into a bun, swaying into the living room a little dizzy from a combination of vertigo and leftover booze. Patrick was sprawled across her couch dead asleep, snoring in his typical drunken fashion. Dressed to the nines in nothing but his boxers and a tie, he was startled awake as Emilia dropped the needle on her record player, throwing open the blinds to the tune of Hotel California.
Light streamed through the poorly sealed windows, it was a brisk November morning in New York City. She could see her breath cloud the glass as she watched the city bustle below. The only thing she liked about the cold was the clarity it brought to the air, she felt like she could see better.
Patrick moaned, then sat up with a start, the night’s events slowly dawning on him. Emilia laughed to herself as she went about preparing the coffee, nothing fancy just your typical French Press from Amazon. The space heater in the middle of her tiny living room groaned with old age, somehow producing a burning smell without any warmth to back it up.
“Fuck. Fuck, Emilia, where’s my phone. What time is it?” Patrick searched the couch for his cell phone in a full-blown panic, knocking his jeans onto the floor.
“Early enough for this,” Emilia chuckled, handing him a cup of coffee, “But too late to go home and change. You’re fine, it’s only seven.”
They cheersed their giant coffee mugs as Emilia slid onto the other end of the couch and opened her laptop to stream the day’s news.
“Ahh well, I still have that shirt here, right?” Patrick responded, silently going through the mental checklist of items he needed in order to go straight to the office from Emilia’s apartment.
“Yup. And pants I think,” she said, distracted by the news. Emilia sunk deeper into the couch, absentmindedly handing Patrick a Chips Ahoy cookie she scavenged from her otherwise bare cupboards.
“You never cease to repulse me,” Patrick replied, pushing the cookie back her way.
It was silent for a bit, a comfortable silence that comes from years of friendship. Patrick started singing along to the music.
“Livin’ it up at the Hotel California…”
Emilia laughed. “You sound like your dad.”
Emilia and Patrick were old family friends, the kind that vacation together every summer and call each other’s parents “Aunt” and “Uncle” without really knowing why. They were raised a few blocks away from each other in Los Angeles, attending the same public high school and neighborhood holiday parties. They always felt like family but were never really friends until five years ago when they both became post-university transplants in New York City.
Emilia had texted Patrick first. “My dad told me you moved to New York!?”
“Yeah!” he responded, “Want to get a drink?”
The rest of their lives seemed to unfold from there. They were inseparable from that first drink at the dive bar below Emilia’s apartment, the one they still frequent all too frequently. They became the best friends their parents had always planned.
Patrick poked Emilia in the ribs, making her squirm. “I don’t sound like my dad. You’re the one who used to sing so loud you’d make my ears bleed,” Patrick teased. Finishing his coffee he picked up her half full mug. “Can I?” he inquired. Emilia motioned with her hands for him to kill the coffee, she’d get some at the office.
“Go ahead, asshole,” she replied. “Speaking of ears bleeding, I could actually hear you making out with that girl from across the bar last night.”
Patrick feigned insult. “Well excuse me! Right back at you sweetheart. Who even was that girl you were with? I mean, props! Her body was unreal, but you couldn’t have gotten a room?”
Emilia stood up and stretched, walking back towards her bedroom.
“How do you know we didn’t?” she replied over her shoulder.
Patrick laughed, looking for his pants. Then, he paused and jumped up to follow her, trailing behind his friend like a kid on the playground.
“Wait… wait, what?” he dropped his voice to a whisper. “Emilia. Emilia! Did you actually get a room? Is she here? In your room?!”
Emilia closed the bathroom door and turned on the water, leaving Patrick to tiptoe into her tiny bedroom to either confirm or deny the inquiry on his own. She loved a good cliffhanger.
By the time they both showered, Emilia was still digging through her closet looking for Patrick’s clothes. Finally, she found them with a victorious “Ah-ha!”
“Can we get back on track?” Patrick said, taking the shirt from her and turning around so he could begin to get dressed.
“Patrick. I can’t even remember her name, I was like five whiskeys deep at that point. You asked the DJ to put on N’Sync for god sake.”
“I mean, N’Sync is a great band,” he replied.
Emilia stuck her head out from behind her changing panel and raised a single eyebrow.
“Whatever, stop diverting. Admit I wing-manned the shit out of you last night! That doesn’t even matter, my bigger question is: are you gay now? Because obviously you know I’m so cool with that.”
Emilia laughed out loud. “I am whatever I want to be – it’s 2018,” she replied, stepping from behind the changing panel to assess her outfit in the mirror. “Great to know you’re okay if I make out with girls in front of you at the bar though. How very feminist of you.”
“I’m a giver, Emilia. Just, just don’t pick the ones I want to hook up with please.”
“Patrick, my goal is to simply find anyone in New York City you haven’t hooked up with.”
“New York is a big city, Emmi, there’s bound to be a few.”
Emilia rolled her eyes, adjusting her tights. “Thoughts?” she inquired, pointing to her outfit.
“Hot,” he replied, shooting her the finger guns and an exaggerated wink.
Emilia nearly hurt herself rolling her eyes. “Okay. Out of my apartment, let’s go.”
As they walked along the street, wrapped in coats and scarves, Patrick moaned. “Frank has emailed me six times. That moron does so much coke he fires off emails literally all night long. Fuck you, Frank. The guy seriously needs to lay off the uppers.”
Emilia, for the second time that morning, raised an eyebrow. “Kettle meet pot?”
“Hey – I’m strictly recreational. It helps me forget my miserable fuckhead boss who’s the real drug addict.”
“Why are you still at that firm? Never in your life have you wanted to be a sports agent. It doesn’t exactly fit your aesthetic.”
Patrick shrugged, sniffling in the cold. “I’m waiting for my calling. I mean, one day I’ll just know, right? One day I’ll just know what I want to do. After all, not all of us can be fancy writers.
Emilia punched her friend in the arm. “Please. I’m a slave to a fashion magazine writing fluff columns for rich kids. Do you know they asked me to write the horoscopes last week? I mean I did it, but fuck them. I want to write something that means something. I guess that’s not unique though, don’t we all want to do something that means something? Isn’t that what growing up is – realizing that very little of what you do means anything?” she continued, more to herself than to him.
“Stop that,” he said firmly. “You won’t be writing about dating forever. By the way, we have to buy tickets home for Christmas. My mom said your mom said we were coming home for the Christmas party. Our dads are doing some sort of musical number from their frat days?”
“Wow, I’m hungover,” she replied haphazardly, sipping from a bottle of sparkling water while they weaved in between pedestrians. “Okay, I’ll look for tickets tonight. Maybe we can Airbnb our places for a few weeks, make some money.”
“Whatever you think, just tell me how much to Venmo. Wanna do dinner tonight?”
“I can’t, I’ve got a date. I’ll call you after? There’s that late night happy hour by my place.”
They stopped at the corner to face each other.
“Are we alcoholics?” Patrick inquired, only partly kidding.
“I mean, alcoholic best friends?” Emilia offered.
“I’ll take it,” he replied, turning to head to the office. Patrick hated work in a visceral way, most of the time he was there he was deeply miserable.
“Hey! Love you!” Emilia yelled over her shoulder, slipping in her headphones.
“Whatever, weirdo!” Patrick replied. She already knew how he felt.
As Patrick walked towards his metro stop, filing down the stairs into a sea of hundreds of other employees just like him, his breath became shallow and quick. It wasn’t the metro that made him claustrophobic, it was his life. Was there anything more than this?
If only Patrick knew how quickly things could change. In just a few weeks, his quiet desk job would be the least of his worries. .