M. O. B. R.
Andy came out in the June issue of Runway.
Oddly, only two people noticed, one being herself.
"Lily, why are we here?" Andy leaned on the table, narrowly avoiding a puddle by her elbow. She rubbed at her itchy eyes, then squinted at the gigantic train-station type clock suspended over the bar. It read 11.15 PM, which meant – she calculated drowsily – it was exactly midnight.
Once, two long years ago, when she was young and easily amused, she had thought it hilarious: the bar's name was Off the Clock, and of course, the clock was off.
It was ridiculous, that's what it was. The clock, the cracked glass bar, the battered Formica tables; it all reeked of the grand dreams gone terribly wrong.
Nothing's ever as out of fashion as the things that just went out of fashion. Who said that?
"Wait, wait!" Lily chirped. Jesus. She actually chirped. "Drinks first!"
Lily was also funny, long time ago. At the moment though, she was just annoyingly perky. It drained her just to observe Lily's animated chatter with the waitress. How could she talk that much? Andy was all talked out. Her unexpected double shift ended two hours ago. She had covered the beat with Bill Garson, a seasoned city reporter. Ha! The man was a sour, misogynic bastard who parked himself in the first available bar and made her go after the story. Perfect team, eh, Sachs? I'll wrap my mind around it; you'll wrap your legs about it.
She curled her toes and grimaced. Six months out of high heels and her feet still hurt in flats.
She glared at the clock again. In exactly seven hours, she should be back in The Mirror with a finished article in her hands.
At home, a blank page was looming on her laptop. Even here, she could sense the damned cursor blinking the seconds away. Granted, it was an unimportant article. A filler, really. However, in the editor's words, it's a significant step forward from the obituaries, Sachs! Don't fuck it up.
She wasn't convinced. NYC traffic troubles seemed quite a lifeless topic compared to some of her late subjects.
Truth be told, she liked writing those little eulogies. They fit her mood.
In a suicidal move, she actually asked to continue with them, but Jake refused, quite adamantly.
He said, her obituaries were depressing.
She looked at Doug, slumped next to her. His face sallow, his hair in disarray, he looked even worse than she felt. A wave of compassion coursed through her, followed by a shameful trickle of resentment. He, at least, was justified in his misery. She could only blame herself.
Lily, on the other hand, was squirming in her seat, barely containing the need to bounce. Good Lord, Andy couldn't remember the last time she felt the urge. And how rude. A considerate person would have avoided their miserable friends while feeling this chirpy. Oh, but not Lily. No. She had dragged them both out here, cruelly ignoring the pleas or the curses.
Andy couldn't bear looking at that level of happiness for too long without feeling all sorts of ugly things you should not feel looking at your best friend. Envy, mostly. So, she turned her attention to Doug, who was playing with toothpicks, piling them up in a tiny tent before collapsing them all over again. She supposed it was an improvement: at least, he wasn't spelling Mike's name anymore.
She grabbed a toothpick for herself.
"Oh, for God's sake, guys!" Lily snatched the toys away. Then she added, mollifying them. "Look, the drinks are here!"
The flutes of bubbly were pushed in their hands. Andy held her glass up obediently, and tried to look expectant. It was not Lily's fault she was happy. Or successful. Or that her two best friends were miserable morons.
The smile on Lily's face was blinding, when she finally announced. "I. Got. The emo-billiard."
At least, that's how the last part sounded to Andy's ears. She had a sudden vision of the black clad teens playing a particularly artistic pool game.
She blinked, and then looked beseechingly at Doug. He was the alternative art source in their little triangle, after all. Sometimes, she wondered how the two of them would ever communicate without Doug as the interpreter.
Except, he looked just as baffled.
Startled out of his gloom, Doug began cautiously. "Obviously, it's not a disease…"
"Nope. It's only a hot new international exhibition I've been fighting for with six other galleries. Van Bergen & Sons included. " Lily leaned back, stretching like a particularly satisfied cat. "And I won."
"That's great, Lily!" And it truly was. Running an independent gallery in New York made swimming with sharks seem relatively harmless endeavor. Andy, better than most, knew how ruthless the art circles could be. Fashion was a part of it, after all. "Congratulations!"
"Hear, hear," Doug said, and smiled wobbly. "Wonderful news, pal."
Andy tried hard to think of all half-intelligent questions Lily would want her to ask. Contemporary art was definitely not her area of expertise. Unless it involved fashion, or obituaries.
Luckily, Lily raised her glass again.
"And it gets even better…"
"You, my friends, are the first contributors."
Lilly was a great person, Andy reminded herself. Warm, protective as hell, honest to a fault, and generally supportive unless, well, she was being honest. She also had quite pronounced steamrolling tendencies. Meaning, she – more often than not – knew exactly what the right course of action was in any given situation. It made her brilliant at her job, but somewhat overbearing when her focus turned on her oblivious friends.
All of a sudden, Andy had a bad feeling there was a hidden agenda to their little celebration.
"Lily," she asked warily. "What is that exhibition about?"
"I'm glad you asked." Lily gazed somewhere far away and Andy, recognizing the look, braced for impact. "It's actually a conceptual work, a perpetuum mobile, if you will, that feeds on human emotion-"
"Sounds just like Mike." Doug sighed, reaching for a toothpick.
"…dealing with archetypical human issues amalgamating the new proposals with traditional museum collection concept-"
"Lily," Andy broke in. "What. Is it. About?"
"I'm trying to tell you-"
"Nope, you are most definitely not," Andy said firmly. "And what the hell is the Emo-billiard?"
"M.O.B.R. An abbreviation, you Philistine." Lily rolled her eyes, then uncharacteristically fell silent.
"Which stands for?" Andy prompted. She really had a very bad feeling about this.
Lily licked her lips. "The Museum of Broken Relationships."
"Look, it's like this." Lily leaned forward. "The authors, two conceptual artists, are asking people to send them the, um, leftovers of their broken relationships. You know, the things you can barely look at right now-"
Doug whimpered. Andy squeezed his arm in support and dipped her elbow in the puddle.
"-so you hide them away under the bed and years later, when you stumble upon them, you wonder what the hoopla was all about."
Covertly, Andy sniffed at her sleeve. Beer. At least the stink took her mind away from her own secret stash. And thank God it was a top secret stash, or Lily would be looking at her the same way she was fixating Doug. Poor boy was squirming already and Lily had only just begun.
"Well, these two are proposing a new way to deal with the pain. Get rid of the baggage right now. Send it over! Share with the thousands of other heartbroken souls. It's a catharsis!" Lily threw her hands in the air. "Respect what you had with your ex; immortalize it if you wish. But-"
Lily pointedly looked at both of them. "Get. Over it."
Andy stared, mouth open. Of all the harebrained ideas…
"Now. It is customary to collect new exhibits for every showing. So, I'm starting with you two. Give up your misery."
"Wait a sec-"
"No." Lily slapped the table. The glasses jingled. "I had enough. You two," She stabbed the accusatory finger at both of them, "have been moping around for months."
"But,-" Doug tried weakly.
"Give over your stuff." Lily narrowed her eyes. "And I may let you walk away unharmed."
Involuntarily, Andy winced at the word stuff, and then winced again for wincing in the first place.
"I don't qualify," she said firmly and crossed her arms. "I am not miserable. Just a bit down."
"Ha!" said Doug, of all people.
"And certainly not because of Nate!" Andy said heatedly.
"I am not talking about Nate," Lily stopped for effect and then drawled. "Andrea."
Shit! "I shouldn't have told you."
"Yeah, well, you didn't have to." Lily said sweetly. "It's been obvious ever since you started worshiping at that particular church. And its Priest…ly."
Blood surged to Andy's cheeks. Bitch. Trust Lily to hit you when you're down.
"That. Was. Low," she said through her teeth. Were they ever getting over that? They stared at each other for a minute, tension rising in the air. She could hear Doug making conciliatory noises in the background.
Finally, Lily relented. "Yeah. It was."
She leaned back in the chair, without breaking the eye contact. "But the fact remains. You are pining."
Andy looked down. She actually thought she was doing quite well. It's been a week since she last opened her bedside drawer.
"I promise, guys," Lily said gently, "it will be good for you."
"I don't know, Lily. It sounds like dirty laundry." Doug said timidly.
"Not if you don't get into specifics." Lily said. "The personal details like names or addresses are strictly forbidden. And you can't sign your full name."
"That's…" Andy shook her head. "It's not really my thing."
"Think about it." Lily said. "You don't have to agree this minute. I'll just pester you until you do."
Andy was staring at her laptop. Fuck. Writing a single sentence took her such a long time, the screensaver greeted her every time she tried. Not her fault. It really was difficult to feel enthusiastic about the NYC sewage system renovation plans.
Plus, there was that conversation in the Off the Clock two days ago. It just wouldn't go away.
It was just like Lily, opening a can of worms, insisting on dealing with the issues, when both she and Doug were doing so well burying them. Why was letting the things fester so terribly wrong?
And yet, the idea poked at her, tenacious like a hardheaded bulldog. Even if it was silly. Or intrusive. For Pete's sake, the whole concept of feeding off other people's misery... not to mention the obvious voyeurism involved and God knew what other possible neuroses.
The phone rang. She grabbed at it, eager to do anything but stare at The Mirror logo bouncing off the edges of the screen.
There was a sniffle on the other side.
"I'll do it, if you do it."
"Staring at my desktop doesn't work, anyway." Doug sniffed again. "I'm sick of feeling like this."
"All right, Doug," Andy said. "All right."
Deep in thought, she shuffled into the kitchen, opened a bottle of red wine, and poured a generous amount in a glass.
She sipped the wine and stared at the screensaver.
Then, she opened a new document and started writing.
It was actually funny how effortlessly it was all pouring out.