I went in for a routine health screening with my nurse Brenda. “Eric, how’s Peter this week?” she asked mid-blood draw. “Fine I think,” I said as I winced and looked the other direction. “Why do you ask?” “He called for a Zoloft prescription two weeks ago, and I also referred him to a therapist. You know, since he got laid off, and the whole thing about your boss dying and him getting arrested. Your life is so crazy! Oops, I drew two vials too much. I was distracted, sorry.” She was terrible at the whole patient privacy thing—and maybe the nursing thing too—, but I was grateful that Brenda tipped me off. I didn’t want Peter to go this alone, nor did I want to approach him without Bart, so I called my bearded buddy first.
Work had been so hectic for me lately, and Omar was a welcome distraction in my free time. The same went for Bart: his nighttime work schedule had him sleeping at odd hours, plus he was trying to fit in time with his even busier boyfriend. We both cleared our schedules that night for Peter, and I invited my two best friends over for pizza. That’s when Bart and I told Peter that we had heard about his being laid off. It took darling Peter a minute to find his words: “Classic Brenda,” he said. “Who needs Facebook? I should just start using her to disseminate all of my life updates.” He paused again. “Sorry I didn’t tell you guys. You’ve both been so tunnel vision lately, and it seemed rude to bring you both down with my silly distractions.” He was too ashamed to make eye contact and fought for each word, seeming very defeated.
“Eric, I didn’t want you to blame yourself for any of this either. I’m being hard enough on myself for what happened to Sam, and I know it’s weighing on you.” Peter was being very careful with his words, though it seemed he had rehearsed this a few times. “My boss finally got his wish—they gave him budget cuts and so he took out middle management. Or rather, just me. I got good severance, at least. So I’ve been laying low. I just have no idea what to do next. Maybe jump ship from publishing too, you know? I don’t really like that it exists almost wholly in New York. Maybe I don’t even want to be here my whole life. I should do something more universal, more adaptable.” I understood him there; I really felt like New York and LA were my two options with talent management. “Stick with us, Petey, please,” Bart said. “We’re your best friends, the best support system. Take your time and find new footing here. Yeah?” Now, no words from Peter. He hadn’t rehearsed this part.
The evening ended on the cliffhanger of Peter contemplating an exit from New York. I didn’t take him too seriously; after all, this was his first real disruption in a while, aside from a breakup the year prior. “This is the only time I’ve hated New York,” he texted both of us before bed. Bart texted back: “Think of it as a relationship, you and NYC. It’s your first big fight, and you can’t jump ship. You’ve got to iron it out, add complexity to the relationship.” Then I chimed in: “And remind yourself what you love most about this place, and why it’s worth the worry.” Then, darling Peter texted a photo of the three of us. It was from the photobooth at Brooks Brothers near Union Square. We had all been shopping for ties in late 2012 and popped into the booth for some goofy photos. “This is what I love most about New York,” Peter wrote. “Thank you, boys.”
I called Talia the next morning, wanting her two cents on everything. She was no stranger to hating and loving New York. “Poor Peter,” she said. “He’s in a fight that he will probably win, but he will lose it if he allows himself to.” “Well, it’s not like we move here with the intention of staying forever, right?” I asked. “Of course not,” Talia replied. “We go there to prove something to ourselves. We all came from nice nests, and abandoned that security to feel bigger and taller. Maybe he’s hit his ceiling. I suspect his ego is just deflated, though. Let’s assume it will pass. I regret every day that it never passed for me.” As we spoke, I stared out the window at the snow, rain, and slush. I prayed to God—a lifeline I rarely ever took—for sun and high spirits, if only for darling Peter.
Peter took a page out of my unemployment book, flying home to see his family and to clear his head and hopefully miss everything here in the meanwhile. I got a text from him on Day 2: “Miss Walnut Creek is not enjoying her homecoming tour. Overbearing Chinese mother won’t shut up about finding a new job. Gonna stay in the city for a couple days.” That made me nervous, because Peter loved San Francisco more than he loved putting on a pair of heels—and he had plenty of high school and college friends who could validate his presence there. “Operation smother darling Peter is in full effect,” I texted to Bart. “Time to play some major defense.”