Recovery and Rehabilitation

Jessica Langan-Peck

I made a face at him. I had been staying up late with Angie, addressing envelopes, choosing centerpieces, making seating charts, or else tossing and turning next to the radiator in my studio, where I was living now. “Never tell a lady she looks tired.” My body always warmed up in the same way when I drank saké, starting near my sternum and moving out. The sides of the little cup got sticky. There was a time when Miles would have fed me a piece of his sushi across the table, and I would have taken it, embarrassed, hoping the other people in the restaurant weren’t watching. There was a time when I would have held my hand in front of my mouth while chewing. I looked at him now, at the way I could see his forehead through his curls, and I wanted to reach across and lift the hair and expose the hairline that was moving back. We had agreed: no reminiscing. Inside jokes? I couldn’t remember them anyway. Me: thinner, softer. Miles: balder, shorter.

While we waited, I drew diagrams of the round reception tables on a napkin and he leaned across the table to look. “Where am I sitting?” Miles asked. I said I didn’t remember. I drew a picture of my dress, with its one shoulder and strange diagonal neckline. “It makes me look like origami,” I said.

Leaning on his elbows, he laughed.

“How’s your family,” I said.

He didn’t answer right away and I noticed our little carafe of saké, with its graceful neck, was empty and I looked for the waitress. I was checking him for signs of muscle memory, for leaning forward, for touching my arm. I was checking myself. She brought another carafe and we poured, clinked, to weddings, to our friend, to letting bygones be gone.

He said his parents, in their dotage (they said), were driving each other crazy at the farm, but that everyone was hanging tough. I talked about work when I knew he really just wanted to hear about my brother, whom he loved. Finally, I said, “He’s doing well. He’s keeping bees now, at our cousins’ on Long Island.”

Here was Miles animated. “You’re kidding! That’s fantastic. Can I go? I’m going, tomorrow.”

“Sure,” I said. “I’ll call him and ask.” My brother was living in the house that had been our mother’s in Southampton. He was starting an apiary, he said, for the people of New York, because people in cities love that kind of thing. It was true, he’d just been written up in a locavore blog. He was still fucked up from the winter before, when he left the hives outside and every bee died. He was letting his beard get wild. I knew if I called him he would take a long time to answer the phone, and he would talk slowly, and he would sound surprised to hear from me.

When the food came we put it into our mouths quickly, working and working the big pieces of rice and fish and seaweed until they were swallowable. I let the tips of my boots touch the tips of his under the table, because we were cold, because I’d drank on an empty stomach. I tried to remember what it had been like when I’d seen him before. It could have been in the park, with our knees up, him telling me the pavement burn scar on my knee was the same color as my eyelids sometimes, or it could have been at an ill-fated party in Bushwick where he told me my scarf matched my toenail polish and I shook hands with his new girlfriend. Instead of talking, we chewed and listened to the couple next to us, who, it seemed, were on a date. The girl was Asian, small and very pretty, and the boy was bearded and wearing flannel. “I’m so relaxed right now,” he was saying. “I feel like there is a warm washcloth on my brain, between my brain and my skull.” I kicked Miles under the table to see if he’d heard. He was drinking the last of his water, his long nose hidden in the big plastic glass.

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