Tracy isn’t responding. The others out on the farm aren’t responding. I’ve been writing them for days. Seriously. Days. I’ve called Oliver and got no answer. I’ve checked on Morris and Rodney’s cat. I’ve gotten Karen’s mail.
It’s been two weeks.
Yes. Two weeks since the night they went out there with a mind to spend the night. Is it me? Am I being too conservative? Are my friends having a fabled “lost weekend” that will stretch into a month and who the hell am I to be worried?
But if Ever came back as fucked up as he did from one night… what are the others like… right now?
And I’ll admit, it’s hard not to be a little offended. I’m not usually too sensitive, I get it. People have fun. Maybe they’re on a bender.
But at this point, I don’t know.
I don’t have the whole story yet, you see? But I will. All the things I told you earlier on, they’ll be told to me soon, those things and a lot more.
But two weeks after Tracy and Ever return all I can think about is that Tracy isn’t writing me back, her new boyfriend is dropping out, and the rest of my friends have vanished into what’s beginning to feel like a black hole of a farm.
Maybe they’re hurt. That’s what I’m thinking. That’s where I’m at. Maybe some middle of nowhere hillbilly broke into the farm and slashed all their throats. Why not? How else do you explain radio silence from everyone you know, all at once?
I imagine them talking about me like we so recently talked about Oliver. They’re all together, saying how I’ve changed, how I wouldn’t understand where they’re at. Maybe they’re all barefoot like Ever was. Growing their hair out. Turning their backs on the lives they were leading, lives that included me.
That’s kind of how it feels now. You see? Like I was in a show and that run has come to an end. We were a hit for a minute and now it’s just… over. The costumes have been put away, the marquee has been changed, we can start forgetting our lines.
Who called it? Who ended the run?
I’m taking temp jobs again because I have to. I also have no impetus not to, no friends in the city to distract me or talk me out of shitty gigs, to tempt me with late night discussions over bottles of rum. It’s really an incredibly weird moment in my life and I’m fully aware of that fact. It’s so weird that I start equating myself with Ever. Here, he’s changed so drastically and now, so have I. But I didn’t choose to, see?
Then again… did Ever?
I’m thinking I need to get over this dark feeling I have about Oliver and his farm. As if he’s part of some CIA mind control cartel. But how can I? He went west, he lost himself. My friends went west, they lost themselves. Now, I’m a little fuckin lost. To the point where I’m not even sure what I would say to them if they did show up tomorrow. Karen’s stack of mail is high enough to where it looks like somebody moved out of state. Did they move? Move on?
I have a confession. More of a story. A bad one. I followed Ever one day. I was losing my shit about Tracy, she’s not writing me, nobody is, and I’m thinking her and Ever got back together, she told him she kissed me, he got weird about it, okay. And while none of that feels like anything they would do, who the hell knows anymore? So I go to his place in Brooklyn. I wait outside. This is like seven in the morning. I wait, He comes out around nine. I’m thinking okay, he’s going to meet up with Tracy. I’ll see them together and I’m just going to confront them. Walk right up and say hey what’s going on? What the fuck happened to everybody? But that doesn’t sound exactly right. What if he is upset about the kiss? But I don’t think he is. I’m all confused and not sure why I’m spying on a friend. It’s not like me, of course, but here I am. Ever is dressed weird again. Unlike the Ever I know. Sweat pants and that open sweater. His hair is longer, he has a beard. He’s heading for the same subway station he walked me to last time I saw him.
And I follow.
I follow him underground. I wait on the platform, far enough away. I think to myself that at least this is one good sign: Old Ever wouldn’t have noticed anybody following him and New Ever hasn’t either. Maybe he’s still in there somewhere. The train goes into Manhattan. He’s for sure going to see Tracy. Right? Right. But Ever gets off at Fulton Street. I follow.
He’s walking downtown, a place none of us really ever go. I’ve been once or twice for a temp gig but that’s it. Not our world down here. This is for the business men and women. An artist might feel like a deer on a city street down here. Like you might get hit. But Ever walks with as much purpose and direction as I’ve ever seen him. I think about calling out to him. Because it’s getting to the point where I’m feeling really strange about what I’m doing. And here’s Ever, walking straight downtown like he’s got a meeting but of course I know there’s no meeting. The guy told me he was dropping out and he looks like he’s dropped all the way. But maybe. Right? Maybe he’s rethought all that and in downtown Manhattan lies the happy medium between Old Ever and New. I don’t know. I’m confused as hell.
Ever makes a right, I follow. He makes a left, I follow. More than once I think he has to know I’m behind him. He has to! I’ve been tailing him since Brooklyn and it’s beginning to feel like if he did turn around and see me he would have every right to never want to speak to me again.
Whatever this is, these two weeks, the farm, I just don’t buy that it has anything to do with Tracy and me. Ever doesn’t look disconsolate. Doesn’t check his phone. There’s nothing forlorn in his stride along the buildings downtown, his reflection so out of place in every first floor pane of glass we pass.
He starts looking around, looking up. Looking for the place he’s going. The place he’s got to be. I almost call out to him. I’m close. Once. Twice. I even lift my arm to wave hey Ever hey hey I’m right here what are you doing downtown I just happened to be downtown too.
He stops in front of an old building. He looks up. This is it. He enters.
I reach the building and I’m thinking, okay, he’s going to see me for sure now. There’s no more getting around that. I’m going to enter this building and he’s going to be standing in the lobby and there’s just nothing I can do about it. I enter, prepped to confront him, ask him where everyone is, where are my friends, what the fuck happened at Oliver’s farm?
He’s not in the lobby but I see the door to the stairwell closing and so okay, Ever’s taking the stairs.
This is probably a new age place, right? A hippy-dome. This has something to do with him discovering himself. Maybe he’s even buying drugs.
I enter the stairwell, can hear him trudging up above me. I climb. He climbs. I climb. He climbs. We’re passing floors two, three, four, ten, twelve, fifteen, eighteen.
I stop there because I hear a door open and close and so Ever has exited the stairs at the nineteenth floor and I’m feeling so incredibly out of breath that I consider just waiting for him here, forget it, whatever he’s got to do, let him.
But I follow. Out to the nineteenth floor. The halls are empty, echoey, and I’m looking through frosted glass office doors and I realize we’re in a very old building. It smells old, feels old, creaks as I follow.
I see a silhouette, movement, behind one of the doors. I wait. I think. I decide.
I enter, prepared to apologize for walking into a stranger’s office.
But there’s nobody else in here. No desks. No nothing. Just me.
And Ever climbing out the window.
“Ever!” I yell. Because now it doesn’t matter that I’ve been following him. Now it doesn’t matter that he’s become someone else. Right now I don’t care about Karen or Baum, Morris or Rodney, Connie or Tracy, none.
And I’m to the window just as his second foot snakes out of the frame and I look out and see him standing on the ledge and he looks at me and he laughs. It’s righteous the way he laughs, full of promise, as if my arriving here, at this very second, only proves that what he’s decided to do is the exact right thing to do.
“Ever, what are you doing?”
He doesn’t look down. He doesn’t look at me. But he speaks.
“The worst part about finding yourself is reaching the end.”
“Hey woa, woa.” Then I’m yelling down to the sidewalk for help. Cause I can’t do it. I can’t fit on that ledge with him. I can’t grab him. “HEY! HELP!”
“It’s fine,” he says. “Shit, it’s way better than that.”
He doesn’t look down. He doesn’t look up. He just stares ahead.
“Ever,” I say, desperate. “Think of Tracy. What will this do to her?”
“Tracy?” Now he does look at me. As if I’d brought up a stupid TV show in the middle of a holy ceremony. “Tracy’s moved on,” he says.
“Ever, I’m sure she hasn’t.”
“She’s gone,” he says. “Back to Carpenter’s Farm.”
I don’t understand but there’s a lot I don’t understand and so now I actually do reach for him. But I’m not close enough.
“Why?” I ask him. Meaning why do this? Why now? WHY?
But he answers as if I was asking about Tracy.
“Because Oliver told her what’s in the barn is why,” he says.
Then he looks straight ahead again. I yell down to the people below.
And Ever steps off the ledge of a building in downtown Manhattan, under a sun so bright it makes the crops at Oliver’s farm look alive.