A Moon Walk in Brooklyn

by Michael Fumai

I fantasized about being beamed from the Enterprise to a utopian ship, where replicators served up fresh baked croissants and dusty bottles of Pinot Grigio. The entire crew wore white and flashed wide smiles.

But something happened halfway there; an unanticipated malfunction, and my body came to a halt. All of the atoms that made me me hung there like a mobile above an unmade bed of black space. A gentle snow from a dead star washed over me.

“There’s no snow in space,” Brooke said. “There’s no water. You got to have atmosphere.”

“I know that,” I said. “I just thought it was something cool to think about, you know.”

On the TV, Worf rolled his eyes at Data. The Klingon and Picard started a debate on just how human Data really was. The android, modest as ever, shrugged off any notion of humanity.

The AC in the window struggled to suck in Brooklyn’s stale, virtuous air over Greenpoint Avenue.

“But maybe anything’s possible out there,” I said. “What do we know? We’re not even sure what the earth’s core is made of, and we live here. Imagine it, Brooke…floating in deep space, just for a few moments.”

“I’d be happy just to get the chance to hang out on the Enterprise,” Brooke said, fanning herself off with a four-month-old issue of Harper’s. “You know I’ve always had a thing for Worf.”

Kenny slugged back a can of Heineken on the other couch. He looked like he was thinking about something, like he was there in space with me, staring somewhere past the flat screen, where a pair of Brooke’s jeans draped over her elliptical.

“What about it, Kenny. Space, or this heat?”

“Space? No way, man. I’m terrified of flying. I haven’t been on a plane since ’97.”

“So you take four or five Xanax. You wouldn’t know if you were on a space ship or a bus.”

Kenny swallowed a mouthful of beer hard and then shook his head. “So weren’t we going to do something before? Why don’t we all get out of here for a while. Get some air.”

“What Kenny means, Chris, is that he wants to go to the Matchless.”

Kenny had an excuse. He wanted to go and knock down pints and forget that he was ever afraid of heights. But, Brooke’s? Of course the Enterprise had its appeal, but what was so bad about humoring me?

I went and grabbed a beer from the fridge. It gave a start when I opened it, as if it was shocked that I was making it do more work in those unfair temperatures. “You want a beer, Brooke?”

“No thanks. I think I might go for a run in a bit.”

“I’ll take one,” Kenny said.

I threw one to my best friend. I took my beer and pressed it against my forehead. The fridge went back to its blissful humming in concert with the dying AC.

“It’s probably not a good idea to be jogging, you know,” I said, catching myself rubbing my hand against my shorts. One of Brooke’s long brown hairs mixed in with the sweat from the beer and had gotten stuck to the back of my hand. Her hair was like that. It showed up in the weirdest places.

“I’ll be fine, Chris. I read somewhere that going outside is safer than being in space.”

“I was watching this movie,” Kenny said, “and this guy was working on a satellite or something and a piece of debris smashed right into his visor. His face turned into an icicle on the spot.”

I had forgotten to keep the really cold part in mind. Besides, those Starfleet-issued jumpsuits never looked like they fit anybody right.

We walked down the three sets of stairs together from Brooke’s and my apartment. Outside there wasn’t as many people walking around as I’d thought there be for an early Saturday evening. I suspected it was because New York City had grown tired of the summer. It wasn’t novel anymore, being able to walk outside in a pair of shorts and a tank top, when the sun stayed out longer than the night.

A little bit of sweat had made people forget about the crueler season.

Brooke finished stretching her legs out against our building. “You want to meet us at the Matchless when you’re done?” I asked.

“I’ll text you when I get home. If not, we should go grab sushi on 4th Street. I heard about a new place.”


We parted ways on the sidewalk. Brooke jogged in the opposite direction on Greenpoint Ave. in pink and yellow Nikes. Even after almost five years of being together I never passed up an opportunity to check out her ass, especially when she was wearing tight black jogging pants. Even Kenny gave a sideways glance underneath the brim of his worn-out Mets hat.

“I love you,” I said. But she was already six or seven paces away. I watched to see if those words caught her as she ran passed a cell phone repair shop and a man in a linen suit looking for something in his pockets.

“She heard you,” Kenny said.

Missy set us up with a couple of pints of Sixpoint, on the house. She used to work with Kenny over in Tribeca at the bar where he had first started bartending. They had dated for a while, ages ago.

Even if our drinks weren’t free the Matchless was still a pretty cool place. It had a good mix of people. Kenny said there were too many hipsters on the weekends. But I didn’t mind them as much as he did. Besides, they were grittier than your typical hipster. They sported colorful tattoos, and chips on their shoulders. But their gripe wasn’t with us, or athletes, or stay-at-home moms. The men in expensive business suits, the ones preoccupied with eviscerating all the wild and beautiful things of this world, they were the villains in their crosshairs.

“Check that out,” Kenny said, pointing with a nod somewhere behind me. I turned around to find a brunette leaning over, talking to her blonde friend, her thin blue shirt agape with a pair of breasts that you could only describe as perfect. “Holy shit,” I said. Kenny laughed and patted me on the back. I knocked back a few swigs of beer.

“You gotta love it,” Kenny said.

Whoever had been sitting on our stools before us had been wearing that weird hemp oil perfume that always threw my sense of smell for a loop.

“You okay?” Kenny asked.

“Yeah, why? Don’t I look okay?”

“I don’t know… you just seem bummed. Quiet.”

I tried to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror behind the bar but the light was too dim and there were too many bottles of liquor in the way.

“You’re single, you get to do anything you want.”

“Oh, that’s not all it’s cracked up to be, and you know it. Besides, that wasn’t what I was talking about.”

I downed the rest of my beer. “Me and Brooke are fine if that’s what you mean. I’d tell you if something was up.”

“Alright, just checking,” Kenny said, bringing his hands down on the copper-top bar. “Missy, my beautiful princess, can we have two more Sixpoints, please.”

“Panama” was playing on the stereo system. I nodded my head back and forth, mouthing the words in time with David Lee Roth, hoping to not look as unhappy as Kenny thought I did.

What was Panama anyway? I knew it was somewhere between the Caribbean and the Pacific, and it was famous for its canal. That’s all I could come up with. Not so impressive for someone who taught English at a community college.

Maybe it was one of those bits of paradise that rich people liked to keep secret for themselves. I would’ve known that though. Brooke’s family was rich. In fact, it killed them to think that their daughter was living in Brooklyn, slumming it. “Isn’t that where all the rappers live?” her mother asked me once.

“If I get the guts will you go over there with me? All you got to do is talk, you know…that easy way you got.”

“Dude. I’m here to relax, not to get caught up in one of your missions. Besides, didn’t you just get done telling me that I was depressed?”

“Yeah, and you told me you were fine. Come on, man, I haven’t asked you to be my wingman in forever.”

“She’s out of your league. Both of them are way out of your league,” I said, noticing other dudes flanking their perimeter.

“I got nothing to lose then. Please, before I get too drunk.”

“Brooke wants to move,” I said. It was more than I wanted to reveal at the time but I didn’t want to end up being Kenny’s wingman.


“She’s been checking out places in the Theater District. New job, new place I guess.”

“She got another job?”

“I already told you this. Yeah, digital archivist. Digital media…archivist. Whatever it’s called.”

“Maybe you did, I don’t know. You guys always got so much stuff going on. Well, good for her. Cheers. That sucks that you’re moving back to Midtown though.”

“That’s just it. It’s weird, Ken…I get the feeling that she doesn’t want me to come with her.”

It was the first time I had ever said what I thought about her wanting to move aloud. It was one part relief, two parts that homesick feeling.

“What?? That’s crazy, man. Of course she wants you to go with her. Did she say she doesn’t want you to go with her?”

“No, no. It’s just…”

“Well, there you go. Hey Missy, can we get a couple of more pints, and two shots of…of…Maker’s Mark.”

“Kenny, it’s four o’ clock in the afternoon.”

“It’s on me.”

We stayed at the Matchless for about another half hour, just long enough for Kenny to strike out with both the blonde and the brunette.

As we walked up Manhattan Avenue he laughed it off but I knew some part of him was hoping for a better outcome.

The sun was hovering over the East River, still bright, but beginning to fade. Normally I would have walked all the way up Manhattan until I hit Greenpoint and Kenny would’ve caught the G along the way, but I was buzzed and something about the rhythm of the day made me want to go the long way around.

We shook hands, and then Kenny man-hugged me. “Peace out,” he said. “Everything’s going to be fine, man.”

“I’ll see you Tuesday,” I said, turning the corner onto Nassau.

I passed a bistro where tiny sparrows hopped through the maze of tables and chairs. There was a woman sipping on an iced coffee drink and casually moving things around in her salad with a fork. The little boy that was with her was eating gelato, a children’s book in front of him on the table. They looked at me as I walked by, not like an intruder, but as if I understood something about their world. It was the first time all day that I felt like I belonged somewhere.

Brooke had sometimes talked about having kids. She’d say things like, “Look at that little girl in the dress, Chris. Isn’t she so pretty?” or “If we have a boy I think we should name him Chase.” I never said much about it beyond agreeing.

I started feeling bad for Kenny, wishing that he had at least gotten one of the girls’ phone numbers. He hadn’t had the best of luck with women lately. And then I imagined I was Kenny for a moment. Except things going the other way around in the Matchless.

But then the next awful morning I’d be thirty-three, hung-over, and alone. Brooke gone would be like being in a bad black and white movie, all of life’s color on the other side of a glass wall.

I headed up Lorimer trying not to beat myself up, but I couldn’t help thinking about other times I probably disappointed Brooke. She had wanted me to try indoor rock climbing with her. That never happened. Then there was yoga, watercolor painting workshops, taking a wine tour in the Finger Lakes. I even tried to get out of seeing Jersey Boys again last week, but I ended up having to go because I had already promised.

An athletic store’s window display had a mannequin wearing a basketball jersey and shorts whose authenticity looked questionable, but the Nikes on its feet looked like they were made to walk on the moon. I stood there looking through the murky window. The disco ball hanging down next to the mannequin turned ever so slowly back and forth, throwing specks of light on its aviators.

It was like an art student’s diorama. The snow white mannequin, inanimate, unflinching, defied time. It would be there forever, long past me, dusty and alone as the sun went down, the mirrored ball reflecting only the things that happened in the dark.

Brooke had just gotten out of the shower when I got back to the apartment. She was in a blue towel in front of the mirror combing out her hair. Steam was curling behind her, but the AC kept making it vanish. Van Morrison was playing on my old Onkyo record player. I’d dragged that thing around with me to every apartment I’d ever lived in.

“Hey, what’s up,” she said. “How was it?’

“It was alright,” I said. “I missed you.”

“What do you got there?”

I put the yellow plastic bag on the table and took out the box. I held up one of the Nike Air Maxes.

“Whoa…,” Brooke said, taking the sneaker from my hand. “That’s wild. Where are you going with these?”

“With you. I wanted to start running with you again.”

Her brown eyes softened. You could feel a shift. Something heavy and cynical had unloosed and fell into the hole in the middle of the world. Suddenly all of the things that I always worried about every day just seemed to fade away. That almost never happened, and I wanted to hold on to that feeling for as long as I could.

I moved towards Brooke until I was holding her. She smelled like citrus and jasmine. It was the moisturizer she always put on after she took a shower.

She let me kiss her. And I kissed her like I hadn’t in a while, with a hope that was not unlike the one I’d conjure up when I was a kid, throwing a penny into a fountain.

But then she opened her eyes and pulled away.

“Do you remember the other night when it was raining and I was sitting by the window?”

“Yes,” I said.

“It wasn’t because I had a bad dream. I hadn’t even gone to bed yet. I couldn’t sleep. I just kept thinking about what my mother had told me one weekend when she came and visited me at college. It was right after the divorce. She said, ‘Brooke, darling, don’t ever settle to be comfortable like I did.’”

“You never told me about that…are you? Comfortable?”

“No. I always thought mom was crazy for leaving my father. You’re lucky if you can pull off being comfortable in this life.”

Brooke put the other sneaker in the box and went back into the bathroom.

I grabbed a beer from the fridge and then headed over to the window. Surrounded by jazz, and piano, and all of those thoughts I didn’t want to think trying to make their way back in again, I watched slices of the sun fan through the frail spaces between brick buildings.

“How about if you pick where we go to eat tonight,” Brooke said from somewhere behind me. “I’m sorry if I do that…always saying where we should go…”

There was a remorse in her voice that shouldn’t have been there. It should have been all mine.

I didn’t answer her right away. I just kept standing there, sipping on my beer, picturing us somewhere else. Like that house overlooking the Sound we always talked about, where we would run, while boats cast their nets into the cold waters below.

Michael Fumai is a new New Englander where he works and writes in Providence, RI. He is a graduate of Drew University and the MFA program at Sarah Lawrence College. His short fiction appears in The Fat City Review and Cease, Cows.