Jimmy pushed open the door and bit his lip, turning his face away from the chill of the wind. It was cold. December in New York was always cold, or so Adam kept telling him. But it was Jimmy’s first winter in the city, his first winter anywhere north of Georgia, so it was all new to him. He was learning. A little at a time.
A blond head caught his eye as he zipped up his coat, and he stopped what he was doing to turn and stare, a force of habit. It wasn’t Adam, though. It never was.
“Cut it out,” he mumbled to himself, fumbling to dig his gloves out of his pockets and pull them on before he started shivering. He was being pathetic. He and Adam weren’t together anymore, and he was going to spend this New Year’s alone, and he had to quit obsessing. “You dumped him,” he reminded himself, as if that made it any easier. A gray-haired woman in a business suit glanced at him and then quickly averted her eyes, and he clamped his mouth shut. Now stop talking to yourself. You look like a crazy person. This time, he kept the thought unspoken, at least. Progress.
He had his gloves on now, so he adjusted the straps of his backpack and started moving, joining the masses trudging toward the subway. God, he’d never get used to how crowded it was here. Another thing for Adam to tease him about. Come on, you wuss! he yelled, and Jimmy was there, right there in the memory, running after Adam and grinning because Adam’s smile was infectious. He was smiling big this time, laughing, and the light made his eyes sparkle greener than usual when he looked over his shoulder to make sure Jimmy was following. Don’t be afraid of the big bad city! Jimmy ran faster, keeping an eye on all that blond hair as the head it belonged to ducked and weaved through the crowds of commuters, of tourists, of school kids. Adam was compact and quick, with the lungs of the eighteen-year-old track star he was and the energy of the seven-year-old brat he must surely once have been, and he led Jimmy on a merry chase, down one set of subway stairs and up another, around a corner, through a souvenir shop. When Jimmy finally reached him, he had to grab him by both arms and haul him in quick for a kiss, because it was the only way he knew Adam wouldn’t wriggle away. And also because he loved kissing him. They were out of breath and messy and still laughing, but they stopped where they were, right in the middle of a busy sidewalk in Chinatown, kissing, smiling, lingering. I love you, Adam said, and it made Jimmy’s heart thump a little louder than usual. It always did.
Jimmy shook his head, shaking loose the memory. He had made it into the subway station now, though he hardly remembered getting there. But he slid his metrocard through the reader and pushed through the turnstile, cheeks warm now from the wind burn, or the memory. All the benches were taken, of course. So he leaned against a support beam, staring down at the tracks. Adam liked to watch for rats, though Jimmy thought that was kind of gross. But he seemed to be doing it anyway. Why would you want to see rats? he asked, and this was an old memory now, from one of their first dates. Back before they’d really established that dating was what they were doing.
It’s not about wanting to. It’s about seeing the ultimate. I saw one the size of a poodle once.
Jimmy had laughed then, shoving Adam’s shoulder a little in that playful way that didn’t mean anything if it was two straight guys hanging out, but meant a lot if it wasn’t. You did not. He couldn’t stop grinning. Adam was grinning too.
I did too! Not like that’s so unusual here. Look, that one’s about to ask you for a collar and some kibble.
It wasn’t so funny when he looked where Adam was pointing, and good Lord, what kind of city grew rats that big? Poodle, no, but it would probably give a schnauzer a run for its money. He stepped back a little, right into Adam, who had to put his hands up, catching him, and they laughed again as they stumbled. And then Adam slid his palm down Jimmy’s arm and took his hand, and that was it. That was the moment for Jimmy to either pull his hand away and pretend there was nothing between them or hold on and go for the ride.
He held on.
Standing in the same station now, staring at the same tracks, he found he didn’t regret that, actually. He wouldn’t change anything. The last four months had been amazing, and if he was honest with himself, they were the four months he’d been waiting for kind of all his life. They were the reason he’d transferred from Valdosta State to NYU in his senior year, the reason he’d traveled so far from home. He’d come to New York to fall in love, and he had.
Someone shoved past him, and with a start, Jimmy realized that the train had pulled into the station and the crowds were stepping on board. He stood up, adjusted his backpack again and stepped on too.
He was busy when Maura tapped him on the shoulder. Very busy. That was why he didn’t turn around. “Hey,” he said, focusing on the books he was shelving. “What’s up?”
“Wondering how you were doing,” she said. “You want to get some coffee?”
“Can’t.” He still didn’t turn around. “Library seems like a great work-study gig, right? Until it’s semester break, and all the professors want the new books up by—”
“He misses you.”
Jimmy stopped, exhaling, his hand still on the spine of Advances in Biochemistry. “I don’t want to talk about this.”
“How long are you going to keep punishing him? He’s apologized a million times.”
“And that makes it okay?” He took another book off the cart but just held it, fingering the cover.
“It was one kiss. He was drunk. It didn’t mea—”
“Maura, I really don’t want to—”
“Oh, come off it!” Her voice was loud now, insistent, and Jimmy saw several people staring now when he turned around. She saw them too, and shifted into a harsh whisper. “Haven’t you ever made a mistake? He loves you.”
He was tired. More than anything else, he just felt tired. “I can’t do this,” he said, and he set down the book in his hand and walked away. Thankfully, she didn’t follow him.
He would have been mad at Adam for siccing Maura on him, but he knew it was probably her own idea. She was used to being the bossy big sister, so she thought she could be Jimmy’s too, even though Jimmy was actually a year older than she was. But she loved them both, and he knew that. He knew that Adam loved him too.