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.
The office was almost completely dark. That Thursday, Emilia stayed later than most of her colleagues. She was finishing writing a column, checking and rechecking her work. Even at a fashion editorial, the commenters could be malicious. She thought they sometimes forgot there was a person behind the writing. Finally, she presses send. She’d been writing for a while, but the butterflies never seemed to subside. The feelings of accomplishment after a successful column lasted for about 30 minutes, while misinterpreted or well-meaning but poorly-executed columns had the ability to linger in her psyche for weeks. She was trying her best to side-step any avoidable pain. Writing about dating didn’t always elicit the most compassionate of responses from readers.
Emilia’s phone rang as she unplugged her computer. She stuffed her laptop in the briefcase her grandmother had given her five years earlier as a graduation gift.
“Hi Mom, I’m still at the office,” she said into her phone.
“You’re still there, honey? They work you too hard,” said Cathy, in the well-meaning way she always did.
“It helps that I like what I do,” she replied. It was a half-truth she had been telling her parents for years. They felt guilty that she couldn’t pursue a more creative career in writing. The college loans she had taken on still determined her professional decisions, something she resented herself for, not her parents.
“Okay, well baby, I’m with Aunt Rita, you’re on speaker.”
“Hi, Aunt Rita, I saw Patrick this morning. He looks good!” she replied.
“He’s such a good boy, isn’t he, Emilia?! He’s just so happy in New York, he loves his job you know! My little sports agent!”
Emilia paused. “Uh huh! Of course! Listen, Mom, I’ve got to go. I’m late for a date.”
“Ahh, with who?! That banker guy???” screeched Aunt Rita on the other end.
“Thank you, Mother, for making that public knowledge. No, a new guy. I’ll talk to you guys later. Love you!!”
“Love you!” her mother and Aunt said in unison.
Emilia grabbed her purse and hustled out of the office – she was going to be late. There was only one light left on and it was her bosses down the hall. She waved as she passed the office, feeling her phone buzz in her pocket but ignoring it.
“Oh, hi there, Emilia. You’re still here?” asked her boss, calling her over.
“Hi, Tracy. Yeah, I just finished that piece on college debt causing frown lines. I got your meeting request for tomorrow. Does 10:00 still work?”
Tracy awkwardly cleared her throat, standing up from her desk. “Just come in now. Now is better actually.”
“Now? Oh. Okay,” Emilia replied, glancing down at her phone. It was her date canceling – classic.
“Listen, honey,” she said, touching Emilia’s hand. “You know publications just aren’t the same as they used to be…”
25 minutes later, the dive bar door tinkled open as Emilia rushed in, beelining to the table where Patrick was sitting with two other friends. They were watching sports, but clearly, he was disgruntled. Speaking to them animatedly, he took a big chug of his drink. Emilia walked up to their table, holding back tears.
“Hi Emilia. Oh, thank god you’re here,” Patrick spewed. Standing up to greet her.
“Hi Jason, hi Luke,” she said, kissing their cheeks hello. “Thank god I’m here?”
“Yes. Emmi, you will not believe what happened today!” Patrick continued, taking another huge gulp.
Before he could swallow, Patrick looked properly at Emilia’s distraught expression.
“Emilia. Emmi, what’s wrong?”
Emilia looks at Jason and Luke, embarrassed.
“I’m going to go get a drink,” she said, heading towards the bar. “Hi Tony, vodka. Just vodka, please. Lots and lots of vodka.”
Patrick walked up behind Emilia, grabbing her elbow. She spun around immediately, tears spilling down her cheeks.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” Patrick said, pulling her into his arms. He hugged her tight then sat her on a bar stool as Tony put a large drink into her shaking hands.
“What the hell happened?!” Patrick said, ordering an additional drink for himself.
Emilia, taking a gulp and a very deep breath said, “I got fired. Tracy fired me. Just now, she just…she fired me!”
Emilia, inconsolable, took another swig of her drink while Patrick began to smile, then laugh uncontrollably. Emilia looked at him in disbelief.
“Tony – we’re going to need another round,” hollered Patrick. “Emmi, I quit my job today. I was sitting at my desk and Frank sent me this ridiculous fucking email and I just stood up and walked out. I texted him that I quit from the metro. Do you know how he responded? ‘I was going to fire the fuck out of you anyways – pussy!’”
Patrick wiped Emilia’s tears, simultaneously consoling and laughing. She couldn’t help but start to giggle, then she too was laughing uncontrollably.
“So, you’re telling me we’re both unemployed?” she asked in a state of disbelief.
“We’re both unemployed, baby,” Patrick replied, clicking his glass against hers. “This calls for shots.”
“We’re free! We’re free from the bullshit! You can figure out what you want and I can write real things. We’re free!” Emilia shouted, arms linked with an equally tipsy Patrick.
It was 4 a.m. when they finally poured out of Finn O’Brian’s, Tony sending them away with well wishes and an assured hangover. The two best friends stumbled into Emilia’s apartment like college kids returning to a dorm.
“No alarms for us! No work for us tomorrow!” Patrick sang, lighting a cigarette and perching on the open windowsill.
“Preach!” replied Emilia, accepting his offer of a drag.
“Emilia. This is the best thing that has happened to us, you know. Let’s swear right now that we won’t take another bullshit job. We won’t do anything that doesn’t stimulate or challenge us, or isn’t at least a little bit fun.” Patrick said, staring at his best friend in the eyes.
“Deal,” Emilia said, wrapping her pinky around his. She yawned, squeezing her friend’s arm before she teetered over to bed, passing out on top of the covers. Ten minutes later, Patrick put out his second cigarette and walked over to the bed. He looked down at Emilia, smiling easily. “Come on Emmi, in bed you go.” He rolled his sleeping friend under the covers, tucking her in.
“Love you, Patrick,” she mumbled, rolling over in her sleep.
“Whatever, weirdo,” he replied, swaying to the couch. Staring up at Emilia’s ceiling in nothing but his boxers and tie, Patrick was totally content for the first time in years.
The next morning, Emilia groaned as she rolled over in bed. It was just 7 o’clock, but she couldn’t sleep. She stared at the ceiling, talking to herself. “Shit. I got fired.” She sat up at bed, yelling louder now. “Shit, Patrick, I got fired. Patrick! I got fired!”
Patrick stumbled into Emilia’s room, lounging lazily on the edge of her bed. “Yes, and I quit, remember? We’re free!”
Emilia got out of bed, pacing back and forth. She paced until she got dizzy, grabbing the door frame.
“Coffee. I need coffee now.”
“It’s already on, come to the kitchen,” Patrick coaxed, nudging his friend out of her bedroom and into the kitchen. Patrick handed Emilia a cup of coffee and a Chips Ahoy, plopping on the couch beside her. “Remember Emmi… we’re free!”
Emilia winced. “I don’t know about you Patrick, but I’m free for about one more month until rent is due. I can’t stretch my savings very far in this city, not with my loan payments and expenses.” She was beginning to panic, running her hands through her tangled hair.
“Yeah,” Patrick sighed, “Me too.”
He stood up and walked to the kitchenette to pour himself another cup of coffee, opening the cupboard doors one by one.
“Well, you have one bottle of whiskey and a can of beans, so we could ration that out.” He opened the fridge next. “Oh! And a can of whipped cream! How long can we live off that?”
Patrick took the whiskey and the whipped cream from the kitchen and re-joined Emilia on the couch, pouring a hefty amount of each into their mugs. It was a whiskey in your coffee kind of morning.
The two took their spiked coffees to the window and sat on the frame, watching the city wake up. “I don’t think I can get myself to apply to another bullshit job. I’ll lose my mind!” said Emilia frankly.
“You’re telling me. I’ve got to make an entire career shift.” Patrick shivered. A light snow started to fall gently onto the fire escape outside Emilia’s window, sticking to their eyelashes.
“Okay, well until we know for certain what we want to do, we can’t sell our souls again. We can’t just go to another firm, or another magazine and get stuck in the same bullshit cycle we were in,” Patrick continued.
Emilia took a deep breath. “You’re right. Life is good, you know that? Yes. We’re unemployed, single, 26-year-olds drinking whiskey for breakfast, but life is fucking beautiful.” She stuck her hand out the window, catching snowflakes on her palm.
Patrick turned to look at his friend. “You’re a good one, you know that?” he said.
“Love you,” Emilia replied.
“Love you, too,” Patrick whispered back. Tucking her hair behind her ear. “Do you really though, Emmi? Like… love me for real?” he asked, looking down.
“Patrick… I mean, of course. What? What are you saying?” Emilia tried to look at Patrick, but he was avoiding her gaze. Now that she thought about it, was a little weird that he had said the words – he never said the words.
Patrick took Emilia’s hand, finally looking deep into her eyes. She was frozen, all she could do was stutter.
“Whaaat. What, Patrick, um…” she sputtered.
“Emilia. If you really love me, if you really do…” he continued.
“Patrickkkk?” she whispered.
“If you love me….you’ll call my mom and tell her we can’t afford to come home for Christmas!” he screamed, laughing hysterically and bolting from the windowsill, slipping back into the apartment.
“No! No fucking way! No way!”
“Nose goes! Nose goes! Sorry not sorry. It’s on you. You love me, you’ll do it!” he taunted, refilling their glasses with whiskey and coffee.
“Oh god,” thought Emilia. “What the fuck am I going to tell my mother?” .