After a long night of drinking way too much whiskey in wine glasses, all five men pass out at about the same time. None dream. At least one guy gets up to use the john and pisses all over the seat. A golden retriever with a silver snout guards the ratty apartment. She sniffs the men while they sleep.
An angry car on the street below wakes the lightest sleeper who then can’t get back to it. With eyes still closed, he sits up and scratches his head. Then he stands up and loses his balance, nearly stepping on another man. He worms his lanky legs into a pair of worn Levis, laces up his sneakers and peeks into his wallet. The twenty makes him smile. He pats the dog’s head and tiptoes out the door. She watches him leave.
The man’s sunglasses reflect high-rise buildings and a blue sky. He doesn’t have a hangover. Not yet. His walks five blocks to a bagel joint he’s visited once before. He buys a dozen assorted for his pals who probably won’t eat again until dinner, if at all. During the walk back, he catches his reflection in a store window and thinks of his father. Especially with the cigarette between his fingers. He stops at a produce stand to look at apples.
New York apples in autumn are like no other apples in the world. Fresno’s got nothing on these New York’s varieties. Cortland and Rome, Rhode Island Greening and Red Delicious. He’s never seen such a display of fruit. He flicks away his cigarette and picks up an Empire. His looks over his sunglasses to inspect its skin. It’s perfect. He buys it, and as he walks away his chest locks up. He slows to catch his breath while people drone by in both directions. One bumps his shoulder and doesn’t even excuse herself. Beads of sweat grow on his forehead.
He looks down at the apple in his hand. So simple and yet, so magnificent. What is he doing? His life as he knows it is a sham. He steps to the side of the walk, sets the bagels down and leans the weight of his entire body against a brick building. Tears fill his sunglasses and he removes them from his face. He remembers the farm back home. Winds blow an ocean of tall grass, mountains appear in clouds kicked up by harvesting combines. His old man holds the ladder steady as his small hand reaches for a cluster of fat grapes. His dad tells him to grab an extra handful for himself. They’ve got enough already. They’re going to have a damn fine year after all.