Heyday

There was something about the way he had looked at her that morning that told her to go back up to the apartment that evening, after work but before she went to the gym on her way home from the office. As she came up out of the subway her phone beeped briskly to register a missed call. Blake. She ignored the subsequent beep to indicate his voicemail and switched off the sound on her phone before stowing it in an inside pocket of her shoulder bag. She crossed the street and then the square that marked the neighborhood’s entrance, and fished the keys to her brother’s building out of the pocket on the inside of her running jacket, where she usually kept her wallet and her iPod shuffle and her gloves.

Her brother Grant lived on the the third floor of a brownstone around the corner from the neighborhood square, in a part of the city that seemed transported from Edinburgh or some other centuries-old European city. She climbed the front steps and let herself into the building, flipped on the stairwell lights on the wall just inside the vestibule, and trudged up the two flights of steps. She paused outside his apartment door, took a deep breath, and knocked softly.

“Yeah?” He called from behind the door, as if he had been expecting her. She imagined him sitting at his high desk, back to the door, bent over his laptop, typing away. He was probably still in his pajamas; breakfast dishes with half-eaten toast and a buttered knife were probably shoved toward the back of the desk along with two or three mugs of half-drunk coffee now cold; and he probably hadn’t moved or eaten anything since she’d left that morning.

Keys still in her hand, she unlocked the apartment door and went in. He was just as she’d imagined, still dressed in navy blue flannel pants and green fleece slippers and a grey t-shirt. He looked up from his desk in the front room and swiveled on his stool.

“You should get a more ergonomic chair,” she said. “If you’re going to sit there all day.”

He got up and pulled the dishes off the desk. “I’m working.”

“I know,” she said.

In his heyday, Grant had been a top financial consultant for a market strategies startup in the city. But his breakup with Blake and the subsequent reshuffle of his daily life had been devastating and he had quit his job to start over completely, unable to continue one vein of his existence while another was experiencing a catastrophic aneurysm. Now he sold other people’s possessions on eBay and wrote an advice column for an online financial planning magazine and he never got dressed and he rarely did anything around the house unless he knew Kate, his older sister, was coming. And even then Kate came one morning each week, like this morning, to make him breakfast, to make sure that he had real-life human contact at least once a week.

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