A Long Night

by Brett V. Hoxie

The air was crisp but the tunnel was warm and musty. Ashley sat on a cold metal bench in the subway tunnel underneath Central Park West. She loved imagining what the subway fares did for a living and where they were going as she waited for the trains.

She saw an old man putter around the caution line with a cane. He was tall and looked extremely frail for a man that could still stand. He wore a smile on his face as he looked from the ground to the tunnel. She imagined that he had dinner plans with his wife. After a long day of chess in the park with his childhood war friend, he was making his way home to her. She liked the idea of everlasting love. He looked at her and smiled. She thought that maybe he was reminded of his youth when he was courting his wife at a summer carnival somewhere in Long Island.

A young lady wearing a nice suit sat down at the opposite end of her metallic bench. She imagined that she was an art director at a prestigious advertising firm on her way home from a long day working her way through the creative process. She thought there might be a design problem going on because the woman looked work worry. Not the kind of look someone has on their face when they are going to loose their job, but the look of something to work through. She thought she could see the woman working out the problems in her head. The woman caught Ashley looking at her and turned away in disgust.

The ground began to shake and screeches could be heard at the end of the tunnel. The train was coming. She looked up and saw a young man running down the steps. He was in a hurry. Maybe the man was late meeting his friends at a bar midtown. He probably liked basketball because it was Thursday night. She thought she noticed a yellow
orange scarf around his neck meaning he was probably a Knicks fan. She grew up watching the Trailblazers and instantly hated him. Whatever she thought. At least the Trailblazers didn’t get swept last year in the first round of the play offs.

The train stopped quickly as her mind went through that tough series with the Mavericks. The doors opened and she rose to her feet. People began making their way into the cars. Something ripped. She pulled and turned thinking, she had just caught her jacket on the bench.

The contents of her purse spilled everywhere as her bag slid to the cold cement. The doors of the train closed in front of her and her surprise quickly turned into panic.

“No, no, no! I can’t miss this train,” screamed Ashley.

She had to get to Brooklyn as quickly as she could. She wanted to surprise Brad at a party in Prospect Heights. She took off her jacket and pushed her debris into it. The train screeched away as she pushed her way through the people trying to make their way out. She burst from the stairs into the pouring rain.

“Just my luck. Never trust the weatherman,” she muttered as she reached the top step of the subway tunnel drenched in rain already. “Taxi,” she screamed as loud as she could flailing her arms in the rain.

A good looking taxi jolted from the furthest lane. She opened the door and threw her jacket into the cab. The driver took off before the door was even shut.

“Where you goin,” the cab driver said. He was a short and stubby Jamaican man. His haggard grey face perked up into the rear mirror.

“Brooklyn please. Flatbush and Prospect,” said Ashley.

She instantly forgot about her spilled contents sitting on the seat next to her and sat back. She looked out the window and watched the water trickling down the glass. She loved New York City and this was one of the reasons she moved here. Not only did she get to see and enjoy the wonderful rain she grew up with in Astoria, but also she got to see it fall between the never ending buildings. The rain had a different fall pattern unlike anything she had ever seen. Here the rain somehow fell perfectly straight down the narrow channels that made the streets of the city.

She wanted to jump out of the cab and do a Gene Kelly dance in the puddles. The cab slowly made its way south along Park and Bowery until they reached the Manhattan Bridge. Wallabout Bay actually looked beautiful for once. The rain was falling in sheets and simply coalescing into the bay. The lights of the city shed wavering reflections back at her. She was almost there. The reflection reminded her of a trip her and Brad once took Niagara. It reminded her of the lights reflecting off the mist.

She was always excited to see Brad. They had been together for awhile now and she thought that maybe she could be falling in love with someone. She thought of the old man in the Subway and smiled. She went over all the good times she had with Brad. Her smiled faded.

Niagara was the only trip they had taken. If she counted it as a date, then her and Brad’s date count didn’t even leave her two hands. Well relationships couldn’t always be like the movies. She was happy in the moment and that was all that mattered.

The cab turned left onto Prospect Place. She thanked the driver and tipped him with a fifty she found in the leftovers of her spilled purse. As she stepped out of the cab, her foot found ground under six inches of puddle and she dropped her newly filled purse into the gutter.

“Shit,” she screamed.

“Everything all right lady,” said the cabbie as he looked over his seat.

“Yeah I’ll be fine. Just not having the greatest night,” she said as she closed the door. She quickly grabbed her wallet, lipstick, and phone from the puddle. “I just got this one last month.” Her phone was dead. She didn’t know anyone but her friend from work and Brad at the party.

A roll of quarters had managed to fall on the curb instead of into the puddle. She had laundry to do. “Thank god,” she said picking it up. She walked to the door managing to put her jacket back on.

She knocked on the door. “Hey I’m here for Sean’s thing and I’m freezing,” she said with a shiver. She could see her breath frosting the glass on the front door. Music could be heard from somewhere at the back of the brownstone.

She grabbed the knob and turned it. It was open. She stood there for a moment holding the door knob. Finally the night was going to get better. She pulled her lipstick from her pocket and fixed her hair in the reflection of the glass. Ashley slipped through the open door and closed it behind her,

People were standing everywhere. She didn’t think that this many people could fit in such a small place. Everyone was dressed warm and holding some kind of beverage. She wasn’t surprised to see some steam rising from some of them. The house had many doors and rooms leading this way and that way. Everyone had warm smiles on their faces and laughing could be heard above the music. She thought she could smell pumpkin above the booze. She smiled and made her way through the space. The furniture was modern and the owner obviously made something of a good income.

How am I going to find Sean and Brad out of all these people? This place is huge she thought to herself as she pushed her way into the kitchen area. She saw Sean standing by a table talking with more coworkers that looked familiar.

“Sean! Sean I thought I’d never find people I knew here,” she said shoving her way next to them.

“Hey Ashley, I think you’ve met Joyce and Becky, and this is David.” She smiled and hugged them. “We were just talking about that story that Fletch wanted the office to move on.

“Oh my god, how lame is that,” she said and everyone laughed. Work was always an easy thing to talk about because it seems like everyone hates their job. Sean grabbed her a beer and popped the cap. “Where is Alice tonight,” he said as he handed the beer to her.

It was so cold she had to pull her jacket over her hand to grab it from him. He apologized. “She is seeing a band somewhere near Columbia tonight with a guy she likes. Have you seen Brad anywhere? My phone fell in the water.”

He laughed, “You broke another phone? We have to get you something indestructible.” He paused to think. “Last time I saw him, he was hanging out with Janice and a bunch of people in the theater room.”

Sean winced. “What,” questioned Ashley.

David threw his hands up in excitement. “This place has a theater room! I have to see it!”

Sean smiled and put down his empty beer. “It’s pretty nice. Leather seats with like a massive screen,” he said. “I’ll show you. It’s pretty awesome.”

“I bet,” said Ashley sarcastically as she followed behind Sean.

They lunged back into the crowd of people. They moved down a hall that had more people then it should have had. She smiled and said hello to some people she recognized or greeted her. They reached a big leather door at the end of the hall and went inside. The room was dark with mood lighting turned low. People were crowded around the many leather seats talking in low voices. Some people sat watching what was on the screen. The room had beautiful wood walls and perfectly lighted movie posters at regular intervals.

A comedy movie was projected on the film screen in the front of the room.  Some people were laughing historically in the small front row with a big bowl of popcorn.

Ashley giggled at the scene on the screen and turned to Sean. “I don’t see them anywhere. You usually can’t miss Brad. He is always wearing something goofy.”

One of the leather couch sitters looked up at them overhearing Ashley. “The dude with the goofy feathered fedora?”

“I told him never to where that hat outside,” Ashley replied.

The guy turned towards Ashley. “Yeah I overheard him saying that he wanted to see what the bedrooms looked like.” Sean once winced at at the guy.

“Oh thanks! Sean you want to find them with me real fast? I want to watch some of this movie. Maybe later we could find out where that guy got the popcorn.”

Sean looked conflicted. “Yeah lets see what we can find.”

The pair ventured out a side door leading to the stairs. “Jees, this place is great,” Ashley said, her eyes growing wider by the second. The pair climbed the stairs to a new hallway.

Sean opened and closed a door. “Yeah, it’s one of Fletch’s friends. She said they were out of town and we could all come here because of the hard work we put in last month’s issue.”

This hallway didn’t have any people at all. Pictures of the owners and their life adventures lined the walls. The music softened as they ventured further down the hall. Soft moaning could be heard has they passed a bathroom on the right. Ashley stopped in front of Sean and he closed his eyes.

“Do you hear that,” she whispered softly. Her face had begun to show slow realization of what might be happening. Sean looked down. He was an innocent bystander of this situation who had always just pegged Brad as an asshole. Ashley stepped forward to the last door on the right.

Sean mustered up some courage and tried to diffuse the possible explosive situation. “You know they could be outside, we haven’t checked there yet,” he said half turning away.

“No. I have to see this for myself,” Ashley said knowing exactly what Sean meant to do.

The moaning began to grow in excitement. Sean, realizing there was no way to avoid the situation, stepped behind Ashley. He and Ashley had started at the magazine in the same month three years ago and they had grown to become good friends. He had never liked Brad but it was his business to not interfere with other peoples business unless he was being paid to do so as a journalist or an editor. He stood by his friend knowing he may become a casualty of war.

Ashley pushed the door open slowly wishing in her head that she was about to walk in on two people she had never seen before . The room was softly lit with light coming in through the windows that hung over the bed opposite of the door.  Ashley felt like she was interrupting two friends sharing an intimate moment just so she could get a toothbrush. They could barely be seen awkwardly standing in the door. The hallway was dimly lit hiding the faces of the two intruders.

A masculine and toned back could be seen emerging from the top of the bed. Two feet with curling pink toenails rested on strong shoulders shuddering in synchronization of the growing moans. Sean and Ashley had unfortunately entered the room at that unfortunate passionate second. The woman under the toned back and strong shoulders moaned loudly enough for the people watching in the theater room to think they might have missed something interesting on the screen.

Ashley’s eyes began to fill up, spilling tears down her cheeks. Just as her smile created dimples, her sad frown created small pools of sadness. She couldn’t make a sound as the couple completed their deed. Sean stared in disbelief at Ashley
and then at he couple. He felt guilt becoming entangled in this devastating situation.

“Oh Janice,” Brad whimpered up to ceiling. Ashley’s face now soaked more then the rain outside could ever do, reached for the only thing in her pocket: her dead cell phone.

“OH BRAD,” she screamed as she threw the phone with all her might at the toned back and strong shoulders. Her aim was on tonight and the phone hit Brad squarely in the back of the head.

“Fuck,” he screamed. “Ashley!? What are you doing here!” Brad scrambled on top of Janice, thrashing sheets around like a violent pacific storm.

“Fuck you Brad. And Janice… Fuck you too. Brad I never want to see you again.” She knew that could never happen. They all worked together. Ashley turned around and ran through the door behind Sean.

Sean remained for a second. He looked like a colossus standing in front of the door now. His shoulders stood high and his hands at his waste. If it were a different situation, it looked as though he was trying for the part of Superman.

Sean flipped on the light. “I suggest you both get dressed and then get out of here,” Sean said half turning out of the door.

He stopped and looked back at Brad. Their eyes locked. Brad had fear written all over his face. He felt even more exposed knowing only a thin sheet separated him from the sheer force of Sean.

“Make sure you find your way to the street from the terrace. Don’t let me see you downstairs.

Sean walked out of the door and made his way to Ashley on the stairs.

“A part of me knew this about him. But I guess another part of me didn’t care,” Ashley said smiling as she wiped away her last tear.

The guilty pair emerged from the door. Sean grabbed the railing but Ashley was too quick to get up. She walked up to Brad and stood in front of him. Brad and Janice stopped not knowing what to say or do with their clothes halfway on.

Brad opened his mouth to say something. Ashley swung her fist has hard as she could clenching her roll of quarters. Brad fell hard leaving Janice gasping. Ashley dropped the quarters onto his stomach and brought her hand across Janice’s face forcing her back into the room with a whimper.

“You heard him. Take the back way,” she said turning from the fallen pair.

Ashley marched back to Sean who stood dumbfounded on the top stair. “Come on,” she said, “Let’s go find that popcorn.” Sean smiled and followed her down the stairs sharing a laugh.