The car lurched to a stop in front of the apartment building. Len leaned back in the driver’s seat and fished through his pocket for his cigarette case. When he found it, he lit one of the Luckys and let the draws of dense smoke numb every inch of him.
He looked up at the third story window. The light was off, just like all the rest, yet there was an awareness that seemed to radiate from it’s dark frame. Probably just his nerves, just his paranoia, just the liquor, but he still couldn’t shake the feeling that what hung beyond that double pane of glass was looming over him. He flipped on the radio to distract himself and turned it until he heard the velveteen lilt of Billie Holiday. Then he turned his gaze to Harry.
The soak had balled up his new suit jacket and was drooling on it as he slept, pressed up against the passenger window. Len thought of what might happen if he didn’t stay stopped there, if he pulled away from the curb without waking Harry. What would tomorrow bring if he just turned the car around and–
The drunk stirred, his rosy jowls shuddering as he shook away the sleep. “Lenny,” he said wearing a delirious grin. “One helluva bachelor party, huh?”
Len took another drag and nodded.
Harry saw his cigarette and licked his chops like a hound. “Mind if I bum one?”
“Last one,” Len said.
Harry scowled. “Somethin’ wrong?”
Lenny shook his head, but his eyes danced nervously in the direction of the window.
The cheerful intemperance in Harry’s cheeks waned. “Come on now,” he grumbled. “We both knew this was going to happen eventually.”
“Yeah? Then why didn’t we ever talk about it.”
Harry removed his fedora and ran a hand through his muss of greasy hair. “I mean, is there anything to talk about? What do you want me to do?”
“Not go up there,” said Len. “That’s what I want you to do.”
Harry cackled. “Okay, I don’t go up there. What happens next?”
Len didn’t say anything.
“That’s what I thought,” Harry went on. “You’re not stupid, Len, you just like to play the part. What you need is to go home and clear your head, and on that note, so do I.” He opened the door, letting the cool September air fill the cab. But when Harry put his foot on the pavement a hand clamped itself around his wrist and pulled him back down to his seat.
“You can’t do this,” cried Len. “Goddammit, you just can’t.”
“Enough,” Harry said through gritted teeth. “You’re making a scene. Marla and I are going to be living here, remember? I’d prefer it if all my neighbor’s didn’t think–”
“Didn’t think what?” shouted Len. “Can’t you say it? Even now, while the rest of the world is sleeping?”
Harry’s eyes became thin slits of fire. “You just couldn’t have been mature about this, could you?” he asked. “No, I suppose that was expecting too much. You’ve never been one to live in the real world.”
He squeezed Harry’s wrist tighter yet and the two of them locked eyes. “The world I live in is more real than yours will ever be.”
“Let go of me, Len,” Harry said coolly. “Let go and go sleep off whatever this is.”
“Sure,” said Len. “But if you set foot inside that door, if you walk up those stairs, then all of this is over.” Len loosed his grip.
Harry pulled away, rubbing at the mark the other man had left and staring at it. “It can’t be over,” he said after a long while. “It can’t be over because it never really was.”
Len watched as the man fumbled with his keys before disappearing into the apartment. He didn’t turn back, didn’t even give so much as a glance over his shoulder. And when the light appeared in the third story window, Len knew that he’d seen Harry for the last time.
He lit another cigarette and shifted back into drive. But instead of heading back to his apartment, he turned west toward the highway. He wasn’t going to the wedding, or the reception, or any of the next forty-odd years of arduous politeness and silent, sequestered seething. He was going to drive until the world everyone else lived in was as real as his own. He was going to see what tomorrow would bring.