"Hey! God, what are you doing here?"
"How's it goin'?"
"Okay. Um...how's work?"
"Yeah? Good. Those Velvet Night spots are yours, aren't they? I crack up every time I see one."
"Yeah, they are--I can't believe you caught that. Jesus, what the hell are you watching? That thing's only running at four in the morning."
"No rest for the weary, isn't that what they say?"
"I thought it was no rest for the wicked."
"Yeah, well. We're talking about me, not you."
"Ah, very funny. So...school's good then?"
"Yeah. Umm, my mom said Deb told her Ben won a major book award. I guess there's some big dinner in New York you're all going to? Michael must be really proud of him."
"Yeah, yeah, it's a big to-do. Emmett's threatening to dress as his favorite literary heroine."
"Let me guess--Scarlett O'Hara."
"Nope. Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz."
"Oh jeez. I'd pay to see that--Michael would shit! New York City, huh? I can recommend a good hotel if you guys need one."
"I think they're putting us up at the Plaza. I'll let you know if that falls through."
"Yeah, do. Well, uh, I better check out."
"Generic toilet paper, dental floss, and light bulbs? *That's* what brought you out to the grocery store at midnight?"
"Not as glamorous as cottage cheese, guava juice and glutton-free bread, huh?"
"Wouldn't kill you to eat something, you know. You're skinny as shit."
"I forget non-food stuff when I'm shopping for food. I always have to make a special trip."
"Ah. So...how's Ethan?"
"You always say it like you're making fun of him."
" I usually am."
"Shut up. He's fine. He didn't like Rome very much, but he loves Florence. Says he can't understand why anyone ever leaves."
"So, you crazy kids gonna backpack all over Europe this summer?"
"No. I'm taking three classes over the summer term. I'm going to graduate next December."
"Jeez, why so early?"
"I have the credits. Why waste time in school when I can be an impoverished artiste with a college degree?"
"Hasn't anyone told you these are the happiest, most carefree years of your life?"
"Thanks a lot. Now I'm totally depressed. You willing to buy a bottle of Jim Beam for an old friend?"
"But, you're a minor. That would just be...wrong."
"Right, right. I forgot what a stickler you are for rules and regulations. Guess I'll, uh...go. See you."
"Yeah. See you."
"Uh, tell Ben...tell him congratulations. The book really was good."
"Yeah? I'll take your word for it."
"Like I'm going to believe you didn't read it? The first thing you did was rifle through it looking for your name."
"I don't know who you're talking about."
"Right. Hey, I'm not proud. I did the same thing. Just my luck, I wasn't there. Sort of like...like I'd never even been."
"I didn't mean that. Jesus, if I could take that back I would."
"No, shit, that was...stupid. Drama princess, remember? He got Emmett and Ted perfectly, didn't he? Kind of...romanticized Michael a little bit, but it worked. I mean, it's how he sees Michael, maybe not how he is exactly, but how Ben sees him. I liked that."
"I mean it. Fuck no regrets, I regret that. I regret a whole fucking shitload of things but nothing more than that."
"Brian, don't. It's okay. I shouldn't have said anything."
"No it's not. It's not okay. I don't wish you'd never been, okay? Even when things were at their absolute fucking shittiest, I never wished that. Ever."
"Ever. Say, 'I know.'"
"Say it. Say 'I know.'"
"Don't whisper it like some little secondguessing faggot. Say 'I know' like you fucking know I could never mean something like that. Ever."
"God, you're such a bully. I guess I'll head out then. I kind of need to use some of this stuff right away."
"Why didn't you come back to Woody's or Babylon after you and Ethan split?"
"I never said Ethan and I broke up."
"Well, you know. In Deb's ear, out her mouth."
"God, what part of 'don't say anything' was confusing to my mother? It's not like it was this major...thing. I mean, he's in Italy for a year, then he'll tour Europe for another year. There was nothing else to do."
"So you're going to hide out in your little hovel and become a monk until Music Box Boy comes back home?"
"No, I'm going to double up on my class schedule, graduate, then get the hell out of Dodge."
"Mm. I don't really like that plan very much."
"Can't help you there."
"Sure you can. New plan--dinner with me, tomorrow night, at Mitchell's."
"That's a little short-sighted for a lifeplan."
"Sometimes starting small is a good idea. Dinner tomorrow. Life plan, somewhere down the road."
"This isn't a good idea. I'm gonna go."
"It'll be like...like a date. Not like a date, it'll be a date. A date."
"Come on, you don't have to..."
"I'm not messing with you. It'll be a date. You shower, shave, dress yourself up a bit. I'll pick you up, you'll tell me I look fantastic--and I will--we'll drive to the restaurant and eat a meal--which God knows you could use. We'll make civilized small talk, critique the fashion sense of other diners, then I'll take you home and deposit you safely on your doorstep."
"Look, let's just forget it. This isn't some sign here or anything. Just because we happen to run into each other at the store, you can't all of a sudden..."
"Justin. It's 12:30 in the morning. This grocery store is a half hour from the loft, forty-five minutes from my office, a fucking hour from my gym, and about 12 zip codes away from Liberty Avenue. Do you honestly think it's a coincidence that I'm buying guava juice here?"
"Dinner, huh? At Mitchell's?"
"Dinner. At Mitchell's."
"Can I have dessert?"
"That depends. Can I?"
"No fat after seven, remember?"
"I think I'll have something with more protein than fat."
"Dinner sounds good."
"Dessert sounds better. Pick you up at six, okay? Later."
The sequel: Fine Dining