You Can't Stay Here

Miles Doyle

We were half-drunk and ready for a fight. This time, about the holidays. After our third or fourth round at the bar, Nancy brought up Christmas. She wanted to spend it out west with her sister, Karen. I was against the idea. A few years back, right before Nancy and I started up together, Karen ran into some trouble in Sacramento. What kind of trouble, Nancy never told me exactly. “Bad enough,” was all she said. It must have been, because before long Karen left for Santa Cruz, where she paired up with some guy named Terrance, an evangelical type with good hair and tanned forearms. He managed an artichoke cooperative a few miles outside of Pescadero, and Karen helped him with his books. They shared a rented one-bedroom Craftsman three blocks from the ocean. Nancy said Karen was in a better place now, that she was finally happy.

“We can dip our toes in the Pacific,” Nancy said, “and then open our presents on Christmas morning. Doesn’t that sound lovely?”

I told Nancy I wanted to stay in New York, just me and her, an idea she dismissed with a flick of her wrist. She got like that sometimes, imperious and stately, like a pampered housecat. It was one of the things I hated about her.

“It will be good for us,” she said, “and it will be good for Karen.”

I told her what I thought about her sister.

She smacked the edge of the table, spilling our drinks and putting an end to our evening. The bar had emptied around us. It was last call.

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