december 31, 2004
You see her up front first, a set of eyes in a sea of eyes. As you work your way through your hits and build to the New Year countdown and the song everyone is there to hear, you keep coming back to her. You often pick people out of the crowd and center back to them whenever it gets overwhelming and you need a place to focus your attention. Sometimes it’s a husband with his arms crossed who was dragged there that you’re determined to make have a good time, sometimes it’s someone in sync with every word, sometimes it’s a moment between you and a girl you might not see after that night unless you send someone to invite her backstage later. You notice her because she doesn’t move like the others. She sometimes laughs at your jokes and occasionally sways to the music, but she doesn’t know the words, she’s not fervent like most people are at the front; the ones who fought for the good tickets. Her friend clings to her and screams the words so loudly you can hear her over your own voice booming in your in ears. She raises her eyebrow at you with a knowing smile when you come back to her for the fifteenth time and you’re forced to look away with a stupid grin on your face as you feel the rush of embarrassment turning your face red.

As the illuminated numbers counting down off stage gets closer to midnight, you wish you could kiss her. Instead, you count down the seconds into the mic for your rowdy drunken crowd, “THREE…. TWO…. ONE… HAPPY NEW YEAR!” and watch as the thousands of people erupt into applause as confetti and streamers rain down from the rafters. You squint into the chaos and try to find her in the madness, but your guitar tech is trying to shove the next guitar into your hands, and you get distracted putting it on. You need to meet her. As the crowd continues to kiss and celebrate you walk over to tell one of the crew members to invite her to the party afterward but when you try to point her out, she’s gone.

"Happy New Year, everybody!" you speak into the mic as you shield your eyes against the spotlight and try to see another glimpse of her. "Let's try not to fuck it all up this year." You spend the last two songs of the night looking for her, wondering if she turned into a pumpkin that was crushed under the feet of the first row.

Later at the party backstage you’re sloppy and drunk and you’ve taken a few things and it’s mixing badly, but you don’t care. That’s when you see her standing across the room talking to her friend and one of the crew. It's a sign. “Hey,” you go over to her with the bravado that comes from being fresh off a set and very high. “How’d you like the show?”

The friend gushes about her experience but you barely hear it, all you see is her one shouldered shrug and a smile. “What, don’t you fucking like music?” It’s more aggressive and contemptuous than you mean it to be, but you want her to like you. You want it to be easier. Maybe you can count down to midnight one more time with her.

She squares up to you. “It’s not my kind of music.”
june 28, 2005
september 27, 2006
"Ryan, can we talk about kids?"

With your chin resting against the top of her head where she can't see your face, you frown. You only just got home. You walked through the door and, in a flurry of desperation, you ended up on the couch, tangled and entwined as your bodies made up for all the lost time while you were away. To show her you hear her you give a low hum in the back of your throat. Do you have a choice?

"I know it's something we talk about maybe doing one day, but I'm ready. I'm not getting any younger." Her voice is gentle but firm, she's made a decision. "And it could be good for us, for you, don't you think? How do you feel?"

How do you feel? Guilt bursts through the door you've been trying to nail shut and rushes over you as you think about Heather, How days before you shouted her down when she confronted you about things a d.a.r.e officer said in her class that made her think of you. How now she won't take your calls. You think about how hard it would be to have to deal with a baby. And another set of watchful eyes once they were older. eyes that would actually live with you. "I don't know," you say.

"You don't know how you feel, or you don't know it would be good for us?" She's never bought your evasion tactics; she doesn't accept your listless I don't knows, your languid escape attempts. You can sense that she especially won't let this one go, that promising a future conversation about it isn't good enough anymore.

"It would be good for us," you lie. "And I do want it," you lie again. "It's just a crazy time, we have the tour coming up and I'm not going to be here much for the next year or two."

Her hand strokes your arm as she thinks, and you close your eyes and think about making an excuse to shower so you can crush up one of your pills. "So, after this tour?" she asks.

"Yeah!" you push excitement into your voice, "I swear, baby."

"But there's always another tour. And then another. And then an album. And then another tour." She knows you too well to accept that answer.

"That was before you, it'll be different now."

"I don't mind you being away, we could still have a baby."

You need a better excuse. "I already missed one baby. I don't want to miss another one."

She lifts her head from your chest and looks at you, her face painted with affection. "I know, I'm sorry. I don't want you to miss this one too. After the tour is good." you smile and wonder how long it will be until she sees through you.
september 19, 2009
warmth surrounded him, held him, suspended him in a moment that dragged on forever.
ryan
a voice sparkled in some far place, more a feeling than a sound.
ryan you're drowning
he opened his eyes and found her standing next to the bathtub where he lay submerged. he frowned, confused. he wasn't drowning, his chin ghosted the top of the water and his face felt dry.
you told me you were getting better
the voice, her voice, glinted and danced in the light.
you told me you were okay

he was so comfortable. too comfortable for this conversation, he didn't have any words for her but he tried anyway.

iwasjust tryingto takea

it came out in a slurry and her expression deepened. valleys formed in the creases between her eyebrows, standing in sharp contrast against the blur of the rest of her face. she was so worried but he didn't know why. there was nothing to worry about when everything was this good.
october 15, 2009

ryan mackay
so uh, i was just served.
jean patano
i know a good divorce lawyer.
ryan mackay
how'd you know it was divorce papers?
jean patano
i had a feeling it was coming.
ryan mackay
you had a feeling.
jean patano
she's been trying to get you help for a long time, it makes sense that she would give up.
ryan mackay
so you've been sneaking around behind my back talking to her?
jean patano
you're being paranoid.
ryan mackay
i don't think i fucking am, jean.
call disconnected
october 15, 2009
- november 2009
november 18, 2009


jean patano
you need to stop calling her, stop texting her, stop sending her letters, stop showing up, all of it.
ryan mackay
i need her back.
jean patano
i understand but you're scaring her.
ryan mackay
she doesn't scare that easy.
jean patano
ryan do you understand what she will do next if you don't leave her alone?
ryan mackay
what?
jean patano
she'll get a restraining order.
ryan mackay
it's not like i'd ever hurt her. she knows that.
jean patano
i know that and maybe she knows that, but it can't keep going on like this. she's out of your house, she will not speak to you. it's over, it's done. you have to move on.
ryan mackay
i can't without her.
jean patano
will you let me take you to rehab? you told her that you would go.
ryan mackay
so she's talking to you about what i said in my letters?
jean patano
she's talking to her lawyer about them, who is talking to your lawyer, who is talking to me, remember? why don't you make good on that promise?
ryan mackay
there's no point without her.
jean patano
i know you're going to do what you're going to do, but you could change things this time.
ryan mackay
i don't care anymore.
jean patano
you didn't care even with her, it's just another excuse.
ryan mackay
fuck you, man. you don't even... whatever.
jean patano
am i wrong? she's been trying to get you to go for years and you wouldn't. now you're being erratic, you're showing up at her door in the middle of the night and not remembering it, you're calling her every day when she wants you to stop. you're out of control and getting worse, don't you see it? you could show her change.
call disconnected
december 23, 2009


from: olivia mackay
to: heather mackay
subject: hi
date: december 23, 2009

Hi Heather,

I am so sorry I didn't contact you sooner. I wasn't sure it was a good idea, and to be perfectly honest I still don't know if it is. I don't want to upset you but I wanted to tell you that no matter what's happened between your father and I that I will always be there for you if you need anything even if i can't stay in contact with him. I don't want to put a wedge between you two or cause a problem, but I don't want you to think I left without thinking about you. We were never as close as I would have liked, but I hope you know that I will always be an email or message on Facebook away. It's up to you if you'd like to keep me added.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas this year,
Olivia
december 31, 2009

january 1, 2010
"How you doin, bud, long night?" Josh called through the door as he slipped the key card into the lock. When it beeped and the light flashed green, he gave a single knock and opened the door. "I don't know how I'm up so early. Was a good show last night though." He spoke loudly as he came around the corner into the living room of the hotel suite and looked over the mess of clothing, empty bottles, and a chair that had been tipped over. "Looks like you went harder than me after." He picked the chair up off the floor and righted it as he made his way across the small room to the attached bedroom with the door partially cracked open.

"You wanna get breakfast, man?" Josh knocked again on the door as he opened it the rest of the way and braced himself for the disgruntled face of a strange girl who wasn't expecting company, but instead found a messy, empty bed. "I... oh," there was a pause as his gaze swept the space and noticed a tuft of hair of someone sitting on the floor on the opposite side of the bed. "You already up?" Josh spoke casually but the cold feeling of dread was already crawling across his skin as he moved around the room and saw a pair of legs sticking outward.

There he found Ryan slumped against the side of the bed with his head tilted unnaturally downward. Josh's attention snapped to the needle and the blue tone of his skin. For a moment he froze, wondering if this was it, the moment he always knew would come, then pushed himself into action. He smacked Ryan's face and shouted his name. He grabbed his friend roughly by the collar and dragged his body until he lay flat on his back. As he counted the compressions he tried to remember where the narcan kit had gone.
April 16, 2010
june 28, 2010
INT. HOTEL ROOM – NIGHT

Ryan is slumped over against the wall and picks up the phone, his fingers barely able to make the call. Ryan holds the phone to his ear.

AUTOMATED OPERATOR (V.O.)
We're sorry; you have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please check the number and try your call again.


RYAN
      (slurring)
Liv, call me back
      (pause)
I love you


AUTOMATED OPERATOR (V.O.)
We're sorry; you have reached a number that has been disconnected or is no longer in service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please check the number and try your call again.


december 31, 2010
"One year clean, man, that ain't nothing," Josh clapped Ryan on the shoulder as they waited in the green room for their call to the stage.

"Not until tomorrow," Ryan reminded him as his foot tapped against the leg of the coffee table. His insides twisted at the thought of it being one year already. When he closed his eyes he could still feel himself slipping slowly into comfortable nothingness. He let the feeling lick at him before Josh's voice brought him back.

"Yeah well," Josh shrugged his shoulder and handed Ryan another beer from the ice bucket near him. "I'm not letting you out of my sight tonight, so I get to talk about it now."

With the forced laugh of someone trying to reach acceptance, Ryan twisted off the cap and reached out to tap the neck of the bottle against Josh's. "Here's to a year then."

"You sure you're gonna be alright up there tonight?"

It was Ryan's turn to shrug. "Yeah it's okay."

january 1, 2011
Heather waits for the Happy New Year, Baby text before she clicks through the videos from the night before, mixed curiosity about how the show went and whether or not her dad made it through on his feet this year. She watches him uncharacteristically plant himself at the mic stand, dressed in black and backlit in blue, but before she can think about it, she focuses on the pattern of rhyming syllables in black streaks of Maybelline run down your cheeks again, and skips the YouTube video back to snap appreciatively along with the rhythm the sounds form. One two three, one two three...
May 7, 2013


is'this still your number? i dunno anymore. sometimes'i feel you hearing me and know you get these sometimes'i dunno. this probably isn'tyour number anymore. m'getting married tomorrow. she's nice. you wouldn't like her. youd'think she was too nice. too nice too nice too nice. wish'you were nicer. i wish we had babies. im'sorry, i had too much to drink tonight. bye.
july 6, 2018
May 19, 2019

ryan mackay
i need someone to eternal sunshine the last few hours out of my head is all.
heather mackay
would you really do that, if you could?
ryan mackay
yes. would you?
heather mackay
temporarily. maybe. not forever. it would be like everyone knowing something i didn't. what would you erase?
ryan mackay
what if it erased it from everyone?
this time i got pantsed when i was seven.
heather mackay
it still feels like losing something important. what if i need it someday? spin again.
ryan mackay
i eternal sunshined a lot of it myself in a janky ass open wires and antennas sticking out of a bike helmet sitting in a lightning storm kind of way. so it saves me from a real long list. i'd erase marriage number two.
heather mackay
you'd forget the whole thing? even the good things?
ryan mackay
all of it. zap me clean.

Rewatching the performance eight years later, she's inclined to believe him. The happiness she wants to feel for how swept away he seemed to be on stage that night is choked by how sad that must mean he was. Heavy keyboard chords now seem to carry more of the weight of needing something that isn't there anymore than they did before. When he throws his arm out to the side with his eyes closed tight and sings I prayed for answers, her heart sinks in her chest.
february 7, 2020


jean patano
I've asked around and no one has kept in touch with her.
ryan mackay
did anyone seem like they were bullshitting?
jean patano
no, When she cut you off she dropped off the map for everyone.
ryan mackay
i've been going through the names of her friends that i could remember and i've found a few but i still can't find her page if she has one. do you know how facebook works?
i'm gonna try sending them some messages and ask if they have her number or email or something.
jean patano
are you sure that's a good idea?
ryan mackay
What else am I supposed to do?
jean patano
Maybe it's a good thing you can't find her. Is this really what you should be doing when you're freshly sober? It seems like you're trying to find an excuse to relapse again.
ryan mackay
I need to do this.
jean patano
Okay. See you at soundcheck.
february 12, 2020
Singlemindedness overtook Ryan as he poured over pages of Olivas located in Los Angeles after he didn’t hear back from any of her old friends he had sent messages to. Did they even get his messages? Google searches left him with more questions than answers as he tried to find out what happened when a locked account was messaged. It seemed like he would just be sent to some void, maybe. What was the point of that? Why would someone want to not even have a chance to look at the messages being sent to them? What if it was important? What if she didn’t live in L.A. anymore?

Ryan squinted at all the small circular pictures of the accumulated Olivias, not recognizing any of them. What if it wasn’t a picture of her? His eyes narrowed at yet another dog photo as he scrolled past it. She could be any of them and there he was skipping over her. But what was he supposed to do, send them messages too? More pathetic messages sent out into the void, never knowing if his embarrassment and shame was even being read by anyone? He scrolled by someone who reminded him of a friend of hers, one he hadn’t searched yet. What was her name…. Erin? He opened a new tab and hovered his fingers over the keyboard as he let her last name come to him. After a few presses, there she was with unlocked posts full of comments with an Olivia and a picture he knew. His heart stopped.



ryan mackay
hey liv. so i dunno if you're going to get this because i just made this account and have no idea what i'm doing. i tried to send a friend request but maybe it didn't go through or you don't use facebook anymore, it's hard to tell because it's locked up like fort knox. i know i don't have a good track record with leaving you alone, and i'm sorry for all those embarrassing fucking calls and messages and all of that, but i promise this isn't like that. i got sober a while ago and every time i start thinking about the steps there's making ammends on the horizon and all i can think of is you. it's been ten years, you know. maybe it would be good to talk. maybe it's selfish for me to want to. i wanted to call you but i don't know anyone who knows your number. i hope you get this, and i hope to hear from you.
January 4, 2021


olivia howell
happy new year, heather! how was your christmas? how is new york?
heather mackay
hi olivia, how's it going? holidays were good. i moved back to la after thanksgiving and bought our house in los feliz. how are the kiddos?
olivia howell
i'm doing well. the girls are good, running circles around steven and i. your house with your dad? are you happy to be back?
heather mackay
i missed it here a lot, especially the weather. yeah, i took the house off his hands, he bought the one next door and now we're neighbors.
olivia howell
neighbors, that's very sweet. how is he?
heather mackay
good. sober for a year in a few days.
January 31, 2021
February 26, 2021


ryan mackay
Hi
olivia howell
Hi. It's been almost a month since I sent that request, I was wondering if you'd changed your mind.
ryan mackay
Nah I was just being prideful, but I've given that up for lent.
olivia howell
Have you?
ryan mackay
I'm trying to. I tried to message you a year ago, did you even get it? What made you change your mind about talking to me?
olivia howell
I saw it. Enough time has passed.
ryan mackay
It's been a long time.
olivia howell
It has. How are you?
ryan mackay
I'm good, I'm good, how are you?
olivia howell
I'm well. Happy.
ryan mackay
Happy is good. This is weird.
olivia howell
A little.
ryan mackay
Is this a talk one time and then you ghost me deal or will we talk again? I just wanna know how much pressure I should be putting on this.
olivia howell
Let's see how it goes, okay? There's no pressure.
ryan mackay
Okay, okay, deal. Can I see you?
olivia howell
We could have coffee.
ryan mackay
Your place? My place? Somewhere else?
olivia howell
Let's pick somewhere neutral.
ryan mackay
You don't want me to know where you live.
olivia howell
It's not just that, I also think it would be healthy for us.
ryan mackay
Alright alright neutral it is. When?
olivia howell
You're in a rush.
ryan mackay
I'm always in a rush. I'm sorry.
olivia howell
I remember. I think we need to talk a little first.
ryan mackay
Okay. What should we talk about?
olivia howell
Are you still sober?
ryan mackay
Yeah. One year one month 17 days.
olivia howell
That's amazing, congratulations. I'd like to hear more about that. Have you already looked at my posts before sending this, or should I give you the run down?
ryan mackay
I haven't looked.
olivia howell
I'm married, my husband steven and I have two girls.
ryan mackay
Wow Congrats I got divorced again.
olivia howell
I heard about that, I'm sorry. Do you have anyone in your life now?
ryan mackay
I've been seeing someone since last summer.
olivia howell
That's great. How is your family?
ryan mackay
The family is the family, they're good. and your mom?
olivia howell
We lost her four years ago.
ryan mackay
I'm sorry, she was a cool lady.
olivia howell
Me too. How is Heather?
ryan mackay
Heather is good, she lives next to me now. She bought my house when I bought the one next door.
olivia howell
That's really sweet.
ryan mackay
That's me. When can I see you?
olivia howell
Impatient.
ryan mackay
This doesn't feel real, does this feel real to you? It won't feel real until I see you. I just want to talk like actual humans.
olivia howell
Alright, Ryan. What are you doing Monday?
ryan mackay
Having coffee with you.
march 1, 2021
Ryan slumped against the steering wheel. His arms curled over his head and his fingers gripped the back of his jacket at the nape of his neck until his knuckles turned white. His gut twisted and knotted and wound so tightly that he felt he was about to split in half.

“Hi.” You hear her before you see her. Her voice travels down your spine and you straighten in your chair as you turn to look at her. The same. She’s the same. You look at the laugh lines around her eyes, she is smiling at you but you can see it’s a nervous one. “Hi,” you say stupidly back. She seems to relax, and you wonder what she was expecting you to do.

It was supposed to feel better than that. It was supposed to feel like letting go, like freedom, like the past was no longer pushing him down with a boot to the back of his head.

“This one of the girls was taken a few weeks ago,” she leans across the small circular table and tilts her phone screen toward you, and you lean in to look as if you hadn’t seen that photo days ago when you’d poured over every single post she’d ever made. “That’s Daisy on the right, and Emily holding the balloon with the hearts.” You aren’t really looking at the faces of her smiling, beautiful toddlers, you’re looking at her out of the corner of your eye and the way she smiles when she sees them. She catches your eye and sits up.

With his teeth pressed so tightly together it felt as though they would shatter into a thousand pieces and fill his mouth with shards, a groan formed in his throat.

When she asks if Heather is well you smile and tell her yes like you didn’t scroll back through ten years of secret comments; the Happy Birthdays, the Can’t wait to hear all about your new places, the How have you beens.

a sob raked through his body.

“I’m so sorry, Liv,” you tell her. “It.." You have rehearsed what you’re going to say, all the apologies you need to make; but in the moment, you can’t remember any of it. She doesn’t stop you, she doesn’t reach out to tell you it’s okay before you can continue. She keeps her fingertips ghosting the sides of her coffee cup, alternating between looking at you and looking at the table between you. “I ruined everything. I think about it all the time.” She looks at you, her eyes pierce you, slice you open, spill out your innards onto the table between you. “I don’t,” she tells you, “I don’t think about it all the time.” It’s not meant to hurt you. It’s supposed to absolve you, free you, save you from the pain of believing that you have been hurting her every day since the world ended. you feel the ground slip out from under you.

Ryan curled tighter into himself and ducked down between the door and the steering wheel and cried.