But are we being followed? “Sure, I've had my dalliances...” “Dalliances.” “...Had my mistresses...” “Mistresses.” “...Oh, Zachary, I'll tell you, it was quite quaint! You see, we were apart for one week, she and I—” Philip's friend checked again, surely she wasn't; but yes, still visible and yet growing smaller, still on the phone,—having been free in her time and distance to terminate the first call and commence another illicit; or perhaps affect to terminate what was never a call at all illicit or elsewise—“Yet it is so that I find the...Connubial bliss...” “Connubial bliss.” “...That we share, far more rewarding than any...”—At the bar, and of course she was still on the phone, without the bar, on the same call with Becca her closest friend, she must be—closest and least willing, she must, to be party to any deception enormous or less so—still talking to someone someplace so she couldn't come in phones never work in bars anyway—But are we alone..?
“Philip..?” “No no no, it's okay you can go in.” ..Watched Philip roll his tongue into the space between teeth and lower lip, pulling taught the chin, in a tense grimace through which he smiled, so Zak knew to do that looking away thing, in this case, to the south side of the street, where there was no one.
“C'mon mimsy winsy. You no wanda go in bar bar with Pheeelie?” “Nah—no it's alright, you can just go in. I just want to finish my call.” “But I weally weally WEALLLLLY want you to come wifff!” lolling his eyes, “limsy nimsy nimsy!”—and watched the chin grow prunelike, tighten, intensify; did Zak watch—“Why—are you making such a—“ whispered “big deal out of it?” she, and then laughed “Ha ha ha” opening her mouth and making the sounds so Philip would know that it wasn't Philip who was making such a whispered big deal out of it but, rather, Pheelie Wheeelie, being a silly bibbidy-dibbidy... Because—becauwwse...”—The hands began to shake.—looked into the bar again and saw the bar again...And not mimsy wimsy inquiring of Philip as to why Pheelie Wheelie was being such a bibbidy-diddidy, as this wasn't earthly possible so that it was less interrogatory than itself a silly question.
So at last, in they went, Philip and Zak without her, and where had we left them I see people sometimes—people like you,” he said, Philip, “going through life,” he said, “searching.” “Searching.” “Well, since I fell in love.” “What are we searching for?” “That's the thing. I don't know and you don't know either. I mean, who are we kidding?” “We're still young.” “But not as young as we were yesterday.” “You're even younger than I...” “Exactly! That's my point, exactly.
“What are we after? What are we really searching for? Is it a connection. Like the kind I have? With her. Like: one that isn't just about knowing for a certainty that the person you like the most hasn't been talking on the phone with anyone you don't know or talking to anyone you do know but doing so without your knowing or knowing that they were talking to that person and not their best friend, but also knowing that they probably are talking to who they say they're talking to? No, if you were looking for that then you would have settled down with Brynn.
“Do you really think you're going to get some... Beautiful woman? Is that even an ambition worth having? Trust me, they've overrated. What you aspire to have in love is almost as petty what you aspire not to have. Beauty is...” Ephemeral, but it can never be forgiven.—Success and failure must both be courted,—and health must be maintained,—and happiness must be pursued,—but death shows up whenever he wants.
And so they drank, even before the end of a phone call that hadn't been a phone call. Obsessed with Brynn as a mate for me. Why, I'll never understand. He doesn't know her, yet has decided. And his deciding must be as ill-conceived and arbitrary as his deciding on his because she's Brynn and not the other one Philip would draw the line at because the other one certainly wasn't though she wasn't like the way Brynn was and that's how he knew they were meant to be the idiot he is because you are what you look like and look like what you like to look like when you look nicely at each other and see each other and what you look like to her and her to you and what you most mean to who you like the most until you cease to look like you and begin to look like who likes other people who look like maybe.”
But when they dance, they come alive, Zak knew, and it was only in that dance they might speak to be heard, listen see or be seen; so they danced and danced, and Zak only watched, watched the bar and watched the women gathering in the light around the bar, and when the music stopped she disappeared again, and Philip disappeared, when then she appeared before him, before Zak she did, “I have an important question,” she said, “I need to know,” she said, well of course it was all true because who would ever tell a lie for any reason and why? She wanted to know because, you see, they'd all been in a university together, as you don't know, and there was some question of a party: Philip. “As a joke,” he had thought he, Zak, first heard of it, or it wasn't but it did happen but was done in front of some women for their entertainment as a joke. But she was concerned and Zak knew why.
She said she had “a right to know.” “A right,” he said. She said “I think it would only be fair if I were told.” “Why..?
“...And by which I don't mean, 'why, because it's not': I mean the opposite of that.”
“I know your meaning,” she said.
They walked out of the bar because it wasn't clear whether Philip had left and was walking west on the street that ran at right angles to the avenue along which moving north they'd accessed the bar, or in another direction altogether; or hadn't left or would soon leave. But it was alright, Zak thought, because, as she said, nothing was clear to any of them and he'd figure out what had happened later on and call her if they weren't within eye or ear shot and it was on. She thought he might be asleep in a pile of trash around the corner, weeping and saying I should have been there over and over again and not telling her what it meant which he does sometimes and not only when he's drunk, she testified, but then he's always drunk these days, Zak knew, this friend with whom, as roommates during their Freshman and Sophomore years, he'd only become inebriated on six or seven occasions; as for her, unsurprisingly, always drinking yet never drunk, having as she did a wooden leg.
Zak remarked the phone hadn't rung yet, but still he must know, why must she?—It'll ring any moment, and who will answer? Part of me doesn't care. That part you share with the seeing world.—Of course.—How could you care?—What sort of monster would care?—No, it wasn't just a matter of that. Of being something, whatever it was, to inspire fear, something unclean hazily defined behind doors around corners to confirm the dread that a vast dark expanse awaited the end of a close dark passageway—about trust and honesty,” which must be feted because death will arrive uninvited.
“I called you eighteen times mimsy wimsy! “Oh, bibbidy-dibbidy Pheelie Wheelie. Me phoney phone offy offff. Why did you call me eighteen times?” “Because I wuvvy wuvvyv wuvv wuvv my mimsy wimsy and they danced and sang and kissed and he watched and the song was over so she disappeared again, and he wept and by now there were more people, which pleased neither Zak nor Philip:
Another round and one shot, he returned from the bathroom and Zak was red: there was a girl around the bar, there was a girl standing next to her, there were men in the shadows, Philip knew, as they poured in and poured in, and knew his grasp of that intelligence, afore alluded, to faltered, pacing and pacing, “Do you really think you're going to do better than Brynn, Zak? Do you honestly believe that you'll find anyone else? How long has it been since the date with the black girl?!”—the tongue burrowing deeper, the chin became a prune, became alive with dancing gooseflesh, became a white ball of tension—“You're a miserable bastard. I'm not going to let you drag me down. I'm not going to let you drag us down. Anna hates you. Do you know that, Zak..?” ...So many men in the shadows increasing, increasing the distance around the bar, with masculine faces, in dark tall movement—“bet you didn't know that, Zak. She hates your guts because you're a bitter lonely bastard who takes it out on everybody else all the time!” Closing in now, he knew, Philip did, that she wasn't out front, she was back in the bar, had been there all along, surrounded by them, the men, shades in the bar—“Calm down, Philip, for Christ's sake.” “She hates you, man!” “Is your friend alright?” “I think he's just...” “Jesus, how many more people are they going to let in this place?” throwing himself loose of the barstool uncomfortably tucked Philip staggered to the dance floor, to the entrance-way; and the gooseflesh dancing and burning, his cheeks red, ears burning, he searched and searched for her but where could she be? What could she be doing? Who could she be with? And where is she? And why would she do this? And why is she doing this to me? Why is this happening to me? Where I am? Who am I? What am I? Where is she?“ “Calm down, Philip, for the love of God! You're going to snap.” But then it was even too horrible to bear without the fetters of sanity, because it couldn't be borne, had never been, would never be borne; because his search was complete, the alley cleared, the desert and the pitch black before him.