Andy: Penumbra

I haven't had a serious hangover in years, and waking up to this one, I vow that it will be years before my next one. The concept of work comes to me, an imperative floating above the landscape, and it pulls me upright, but the headrush pulls me back down again. I feel awful, but I don't want to move, so I lie there, reconstructing my history, putting together again the day gone by, and as I piece it together, I remember that work isn't quite so urgent. Strangely enough, this gets me going; I medicate myself, asprin and a tall glass of water. I stagger to the kitchen, pour myself another glass of water, sit down at the table. It becomes a game, how much fluid will my system absorb? Bloated but perking up, I sack out on the couch, trace backwards along the events of my yesterday, think about things and plan for my expanding future. I call Irene, give her the longer version; I call my sister and the short version becomes the long one. Call waiting beeps me, it's Irene again, her questions and heffalumped ideas lead me to create the ridiculously long version. I tell Chester too, but cats don't experience change in the same way as people do, he flicks his tail at me and I go off to work.

I check my mail, out of habit; I finish up the checkin I'd been making at the instant hell had broken loose, more for a sense of internal closure than anything else. Then I march down to Andy's cave, I'm in luck and he hasn't eaten yet, so I march him out the door and into my car, and we go off for a midafternoon lunch at the Siam Kitchen. Staying or going? I ask him, before he has a chance to ask me. This is important. He is concerned, he is quiet, a hair forlorn. Then he begins to explain. Lloyd Beecham, the Lloyd Beecham, now apparently at Altreon, IM'ed him. Beecham is putting together a penetration team for the Googolbase, and he wants Andy on the team. Don't that beat all? I ask, they're breaking us up for parts, and it looks like you're the prize in the Crackerjack box. Andy grins wryly, I prefer to think of myself as the marble in the oatmeal. I nod at this, if I had any doubt before, there is none now. Then this is your firehose, Andy, I tell him, Go for it. Lloyd fucking Beecham. Andy is pinned, he is torn, I am no Irene but now that I know to look for these things I can see them. He doesn't actually reply, just thinks for a while and then blurts out, You? Going or staying?

Staying, I say, my place is here. I think, but do not add, this much I knew before Berman had even begun to speak. There are two ways this might go now, two ways that I can see, when Andy replies, I know that I have guessed correctly. I feel in place, too. I like work, I like the atmosphere. The people. So much he will say, and no more. If he thinks more, he does not say it. He pauses, and goes on, things are coming together, finally. It makes sense, I don't want to give this up, things have been changing for the better. So I lean back and breathe in and out, and I say, so they have, and now Lloyd Beecham wants you to be his right-hand man, I'm serious here, this isn't fame and fortune. It's better: it's raw coolness. A pause, a twist of the head, a change in tone. Yeah, it's a good team here, but that's already doomed, I don't know if we'll ever all be in the same room at once again. Pause again. And things working out, it's not any of us, it's not me. Andy spreads his arms, looks at his plate, cracks some joints, exhales and looks at me, square on.

I haven't had a friend like you in a long while. And Irene. Tom. Glenn. Back to square zero? I hold his gaze, I gesture upwards with my arm, we look out to the bright sun beyond the glass. You're seeing possibilities, Andy. And once you can see them, they're everywhere. Call me an optimist, call me ignorantly fortunate, but still. I go on, There are possibilities for you in New York. You know it. I lean towards him a bit, this I have to get exactly right. And I promise you, not back to square zero. Never. The conversation turns to other things, a little wrap-up post-mortem on a buffer overrun in code that'll never be used again, the minimal gossip on the plans of the others. We pay, we stand and go, I drive Andy back to the office and just before he leaves the car, I put my hand on his shoulder and say to him, Don't let us, don't let me, hold you back. Don't let anyone. Andy says nothing, but tosses me a quick and loose salute as he cards himself through the door. It's horrible advice, it's ghastly and wrong, I am blatantly violating it in my own actions, if challenged I'd need to turn to semantic quibbles and lame distinctions, and I can only hope that Andy takes my subtler meanings, that he understands what I have said for him and him alone. As for me, I drive on to the roadside flower stand two towns over and get a bouquet for Irene, and then I go home and call up Benny, to see if his company still needs engineers.