February 8, 2008


A week after the Budds left town, three weeks after Lucas Budd’s arrest, David woke up at nine p.m. and decided that he was going to be okay. Enough time had passed wallowing around. He made an active decision to get over it, and…he just got over it. Some people might have wasted time on self-reflection, but David had more important things to do.

He sat up slowly, rubbing his left eye. He hated waking up after dark, it always threw his sense of time off. Through the wall he heard his father, grunting as he played Madden in his home office, and though David knew that the sun had only just set, it still felt like was an ungodly hour for his dad to be up.

David stretched, the hem of his t-shirt rising above the hem of his boxers and exposing a few inches of his smooth belly. He cracked his neck and ran his hand through his hair a few times because he wanted it to look intentionally tousled, not…you know, bedridden.

David played with his bangs and tried to remember when he’d gone to bed. It must have been sometime in the afternoon, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on when. His mom had come home for lunch around two, and he was still awake then, sniffling on his bed with a sheet around his shoulders. Pathetic.

This morning—well, in the strictest sense it was the evening—David was a new man. He shook off the depression and sadness of the last couple of weeks, literally shook them off, starting with his fingers and moving all the way down his body, and he was ready to become a useful member of the world again. He needed a shower.

And pancakes. Yeah, pancakes! That’s exactly what he needed. What better way to reboot your life than with a big plate of hot, buttery, syrup-drenched…

David opened the door of his bedroom and sniffed the air tentatively. Dinner at David’s house was always a random affair, dependant on a variety of factors. Sometimes it happened as early as seven, sometimes at nine, occasionally as late as Letterman. At least half the time it didn’t happen at all, despite the best intentions of everyone involved.

He couldn’t smell anything, certainly not pancakes. There was a hint of vanilla in the air, but that probably signaled that his mother breezed through the house recently, between “work” and—what day was it? Thursday?—her book club.

David rolled off his bed and did exactly three push-ups, then grabbed his towel and strolled down the hallway towards the guest bathroom. He had a bathroom of his own, of course, but he’d locked the maid out of his room for about three weeks now and, well, a man couldn’t be reborn in a slightly mildewy bathroom.

He passed by his father’s overstuffed office. His dad was behind the desk, his shoes off but his suspenders still on. He was holding a video game controller and cradling a phone between his shoulder and ear as he guided the New Orleans Saints to a second-round playoff victory. “Hello, Lambert Funeral Home? I need to cancel that hearse. Yeah, sorry…turns out my son is alive after all.”

David ignored him. “Who’s winning?”

“Who do you think?” Harry Sebastian was a lifelong Saints fan, and his Madden sessions were dedicated to recreating the happiest day of his life: the Saints' Super Bowl victory over the Colts. “Wanna play?”

“Shower,” David said, in way of explanation, and moved off down the hall. He was smiling by now, though, because David Sebastian has another secret: he’s a morning person. (“Morning” being a term loosely defined as “when one eventually gets out of bed.”) He knew so many people, Litta’Bit especially, who made such a big deal out of being total grumps when first waking up that David was always slightly ashamed of being, as his Uncle Arthur always said, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Forty-five minutes later, David was back in his bedroom, pulling on his second-favorite pair of jeans. One advantage, however small, of Alexander being out of town was that he could get away with wearing his jeans as often as he liked. He grabbed a graphic tee—some sort of oversized curlicues were silkscreened up near the shoulder—and cut the tags out before putting it on. No better way to restart your life than with the starchy smell of a new shirt; he knew he’d been holding this one aside for a reason.

Socks, a leather necklace, some bracelets…he was ready to face the day. Night, that is. He sighed happily and, sitting down behind his computer, got to work on correcting three weeks of absenteeism.

First he looked at his cell-phone. He’d missed three calls while he slept that afternoon, all of them from Litta’Bit. She didn’t leave any messages, though. David knew it was because she hadn’t planned out the conversation beyond “Hi.” She’d been alternately worried about and mad at him the last few weeks, and he guessed he deserved it. He would have to do something nice for her, maybe send her flowers or at the very least find an online greeting card. Maybe he’d do something with construction paper if he felt particularly inspired later that night.

Moving on to the computer, he checked his email and answered a couple that were particularly important. His uncle had sent him an itinerary for his upcoming Chicago trip; and Patrick (his special friend in—what a coincidence!—Chicago) had written him a few delicious notes. The rest were spam or easily ignored for another day or so.

He started up Messenger and flipped through all the off-line messages he’d gotten in the last few weeks. They started off casual, but then eventually became variations on the same theme: “Where are you?”, “wots up, where u been??”, etc. David looked through his truly startling Buddy List to see which of his hundreds of Buddies were online.

Litta’Bit was off-line, which meant either Robert was over at her house or the power was out in her neighborhood. Otherwise, she would have been online and probably no more than five feet away from the computer. Andre was online, but he didn’t answer any of David’s messages. This wasn’t surprising…Andre was always registered as being online regardless of whether he was actually around or not. Andre was so rude, it was like he’d never heard of an Away message. Geesh.

Now this was interesting, though: Emily was online, which didn’t happen too often. She tended to only be on Messenger when she wanted to chat with people. She was old-fashioned like that.

DAVID: Marco?

DAVID: Marco?

DAVID: Marco?

EMILY: Polo!

DAVID: Finally.

EMILY: Sorry, I was playing Minesweeper.


EMILY: No, I really was.

DAVID: Come on, it can’t be that boring over there.

DAVID: Get your Dad to play Monopoly with you with real money.

EMILY: Wow, that’s the best you can do?

DAVID: Sorry, just woke up.

They chatted for a little while as David sorted his email. Emily told him she was bored, that there was nothing to do with her boyfriend out of town and The Gang apparently on hiatus. Also, her mother kept bothering her. David told her that he was a new man, and that he wanted pancakes.

He thought about inviting her over, but his room was messy and even though it was only about ten, it felt a lot later than it really was. Besides, he still had so much to get done…being reborn could be kind of a hassle.

After a while, Emily said she “guessed” she was going to bed, and that she’d talk to him soon. David told her they needed to hang out sometime, and then she was gone. He felt bad for her, but not for any reason he could put his finger on. He’d have to tell Litta’Bit to take her shopping or something.

David opened up his browser and checked his LiveJournal, his Kanga, his Match.com inbox; then he checked his MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook profiles. (And then he checked his secret MySpace, Friendster, and Facebook profiles, the ones his parents and most of his friends didn’t know about.) He had a lot of work to do…some people can disappear from the web for a few weeks and no one’s the wiser. It’s safe to say that David isn’t one of these people.

He was just updating one of his Blogspot sites when his dad yelled up the stairs for him to come down. In his office, Harry Sebastian had taken his Saints back to the Super Bowl. He had an unlit cigarette in his mouth and he had on one of the fedoras he wore in all of his TV commercials. He looked up at David and whistled. “I haven’t seen you this dressed up in a few weeks. Or even dressed.”

David sat down beside his dad on the small leather sofa. “I’m a new man, dad.”

His father pointed at the screen, where the pixelated Saints had the ball and were up by five, with :57 seconds left in the fourth quarter. “I paused it with a minute left to go so you can watch us take it all the way.”

Almost immediately, though, the Colts intercepted, and David's dad swore softly. “But will it be enough?” John Madden asked them. David knew more about sports than the rest of The Gang put together; part of this was because of his dad, of course, and part of it was his more personal interest in certain athletes. He thought for a second about picking up the other controller and taking over, but he knew better than that. He was a better player than his dad, and if David pulled out a Colts victory at the last second, well…

“Oh hey, your mom called during one of your seven consecutive showers.” His father didn’t look up from the screen. Brady threw a 35-yard bomb that connected for a first down. “Damn it. Dang it. Anyway, her affair with Antonio the Latin lover is running long tonight, so us boys have to fend for ourselves.”

David and his dad had so many running jokes that their conversations were often incomprehensible to eavesdroppers like us. Her affair with Antonio the Latin lover was actually his mom’s Thursday night book club. The women spent about an hour sipping wine and talking half-heartedly about whatever book they didn’t quite get around to reading. If it was running long, though, it meant that the women had dispensed with the pretense of the book altogether and were just drinking cocktails and gossiping. David could relate.

It came down to the last play of the game. The Colts were within ten yards of a touchdown with only seconds left to go. Peyton Manning lofted a slow pass over the heads of his opponents. The clock ran out. A lone unguarded Colt waited patiently in the end zone, watching the ball float right towards him. Finally, with a desperate lunge, a Saints linebacker flew forward and, with just the tips of his fingers, knocked the ball to the ground.

The game was over. All throughout the city of New Orleans, every bar, from the most expensive lounge to the grossest dive, erupted in frantic cheers. Enemies embraced and ancient rivalries were temporarily forgotten. Old men sat wordless in front of their television sets, and the images they never thought they’d see were reflected in their tears. Fireworks went off, guns were fired in the air, and bonfires sprang up in the streets. Giddy policemen ran their sirens just for the joy of the sound. A bewildered Satan looked up from his throne of skulls as the first flakes of snow began to fall on his sulfurous kingdom. The New Orleans Saints had won the Super Bowl.

David’s dad jokingly pumped his fist and even got his son to high-five him. “Boo-ya!” he muttered as he turned off the game, and David wondered where in the world he’d picked that up.

But the game was soon forgotten—after all, the Saints won the Super Bowl at least a few times a week in their house—in favor of the discussion about where the two of them would go out to eat. “What time is it, 10:15? I think Canizzaro’s seats until 10:30, but Rocco would let us in if we got there a little late. Where else? Chez Fillíon is closed, but the upstairs bar serves food…”

“Hey, dad?” David looked up at his father and smiled. “Isn’t IHOP open all night?”