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Chapter no 26

Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

“Say what you came to say,” Sadie said.

Sam sat down on Sadie’s couch. “I like your apartment building. I like that strange clown.”

“Can’t you leave me alone? I told Marx I’d be back to work tomorrow.”

“We tried to do something big,” Sam said. “We swung for the fences, and people didn’t like it. But I don’t care. like what we did.”

“That’s easy for you to say,” Sadie said. “Everyone thinks it’s my game, and you supported me in my folly. They think your game, Ichigo, is the good game, and my game is the failure.”

“That isn’t true.”

“And maybe you thought Both Sides was going to flop, like that reviewer wrote. You let me go out and promote it. If you’d thought it was any good, you would have been front and center, wouldn’t you?”

Sam looked at Sadie. “Wait. What?”

She glared at him. “If you’d thought the game was good, you would have taken all the credit.” She paused. “Like you always do.”

Sam had been proud of her work and of his own. He’d stayed home because his foot was unreliable and pain management would have been difficult on the road. Sam opened his mouth to explain himself, but then he changed his mind. He went into her kitchen and poured himself a glass of water from her fridge.

“Help yourself,” she called, sarcastic and unrelenting. “What’s mine is yours. Except when it’s something no one else likes.”

“Come on, Sadie. You wanted to promote Both Sides.”

“I didn’t want to. I was willing to, because you wouldn’t. And it wasn’t easy. I’m not Sam Mazer. Strangers don’t naturally love me.”

it.”

“So I’m clear: It’s work when you do it. But it’s a vacation when I do

“Yes, I think it’s easier for you.”

“Easier for me, or you could even call it something I’m good at.

Something I’m good at that, maybe, you’re not good at,” Sam said.

“You’re saying the game flopped because I was bad at promoting it?” Sadie asked.

“No, of course not. I was trying to get you to admit that promoting Ichigo had been work. Stop looking for an argument. And for the record, I put everything I had into Mapletown. I’ve never put more of myself into a game.”

“Sam, you couldn’t have put everything into it. You were never here!” “I worked my ass off,” Sam said. “And I’ve had a hard year, not that

you ever asked. And what is wrong with you?” “What do you mean?”

“Come on, Sadie. There are only two of us in this relationship. I want to know what is wrong with you. You’ve had some problem with me ever since we moved back to California.”

Sadie didn’t say anything. She shook her head. “You’re a complete bitch all the time for no reason?” “Screw you, Sam.”

“Say it,” Sam said. “It’s worse for me not knowing what it is.” “I don’t care what’s worse for you,” Sadie said.

“That is so typical of you,” Sam said. “Sit there and suffer and don’t tell anyone what’s wrong.”

“You’re the one who does that,” Sadie said.

Sam banged his hand on Sadie’s coffee table. “What is it? Sadie, this is unfair. I have no idea what I’ve done. Clearly you think I’ve done something.”

“You have no idea?” “No idea,” Sam said.

She took the Dead Sea CD out of her bag, and she flung it at him. “What is this?” Sam asked.

“You tell me.”

He looked at the CD. “It’s Dov’s game. So?”

Sadie looked him in the eye. “You knew Dov had been my boyfriend, and that’s why you wanted me to go to him. You pretended like you didn’t.” “So what if I knew? Ulysses was perfect for Ichigo. Sadie, this is

crazy.”

“You already said that.” “But it is crazy.”

“Stop calling me crazy. I thought you were my friend, but—”

“Sadie, I am your friend. You’re my best friend. Or I was until you decided two years ago that I wasn’t.”

“I thought you were my friend, but you’re a liar and a manipulator.” “That isn’t true.”

“Isn’t it? You let everyone think you made Ichigo by yourself.”

“That isn’t true. I can’t control how they wrote the stories. I tell everyone you’re my partner. I tell everyone you’re brilliant.”

“You made us take the Opus deal because it was better for you.”

“You know why we took the Opus deal. We talked about the reasons.” “got stuck making the sequel. I got stuck doing the work while you

went on a coronation tour.” “That isn’t what happened.”

“But the worst thing you ever did to me was making me go to Dov for Ulysses.”

“I didn’t make you.”

“I know I could have built that engine, if I’d had more time. If you hadn’t pushed me to go to Dov, I wouldn’t have ended up in a relationship with him for three years. Do you know how much power he had over me and how hard it was to leave him?”

“It’s not my fault you got back with him. You can’t blame me for his actions or for yours. You can’t blame me for everything, but it seems like you do.”

“Admit it, Sam,” Sadie said. “You wanted Ulysses, and you didn’t care about me.”

“I care about you more than anyone,” Sam said. “But do I regret that I wanted you to get Ulysses? Do I regret that we got rich, and we get to make basically whatever we want now, even ill-conceived, pretentious art games like Both Sides? No, if Ulysses led to that, I would tell you to go to Dov and get Ulysses every time.”

“You think Both Sides is ill-conceived and pretentious?”

“I think it was pretty obvious that it was never going to be Ichigo, but it was what you wanted to do, so I supported you.”

“You’re saying it’s my fault?”

“No, I’m agreeing maybe it was more your idea than mine.” “Ichigo was my idea, too. They’re ALL my ideas.”

“It’s nice that you see it that way, and if it helps you to make a villain out of me, go for it. But if I hadn’t pushed you to make Ichigo, where would you even be? You’d be one of a hundred programmers at EA working on Madden Football, if you were lucky. There aren’t that many girls in our field, you know. You’d probably be working for Dov. He’d probably have you handcuffed to your desk.”

Sadie’s eyes grew wide. She had never told him about the handcuffs. “How do you know about that?”

“Christ, Sadie, it was obvious. You had welts around your wrists for, like, two years. Marx and I used to—”

“You’re such an incredible asshole. Sometimes, I hate you.”

Sam realized he might have gone too far. “Sadie, I shouldn’t have said that last thing. Please. Do you remember that day in your old apartment at MIT? You said we would forgive each other, no matter what we did or what we said.”

“I didn’t know what I was agreeing to,” Sadie said. “I was young and stupid.”

“You’ve never been stupid.”

Sadie turned away from Sam. “Did you ever ask yourself why I was depressed?”

“I…I thought you’d broken up with your boyfriend. That’s what your roommate said, I think. I didn’t even know it was Dov.”

“Yet,” she said. “You didn’t know yet. But yes, it was Dov. But that’s not the reason I was depressed.” She pulled her head to her knees, her head buried under the habit of her hair. “Everyone thinks Ichigo is about you, but it’s really about me.”

“What do you mean?”

“Ichigo is about a boy who has been lost at sea, but it’s also about a mother who has lost her child. I never had a child, but I might have…” She turned away from him. She hadn’t told anyone about the abortion, not Dov, not Alice, not Freda, and even now, she struggled to say the word to Sam.

Sometimes, it seemed as if it had never happened. On a snowy day in January, she had taken the train to a clinic in Back Bay. They had told her to bring a friend, but she went alone. The whole thing had taken an hour; the procedure itself, ten minutes. The nurse had warned her about possible pain, but she had felt nothing. (She wouldn’t even end up bleeding as much as she did for a regular period.) She rode the T back home, and that night, she went out for drinks with her roommate. She had a White Russian, a rum and Coke, and a seven and seven, treacly college-girl drinks, and when she returned to her apartment, she passed out in her bed. At first, the roommate had thought she was hungover, but after Sadie had been in bed a week, the roommate finally demanded, “What’s wrong with you?”

“I broke up with Dov,” Sadie had lied. “Good riddance.”

Sadie had been in bed for eleven days when Sam showed up in her room, demanding to talk about Solution.

“I felt so ashamed,” Sadie said. “And maybe that’s why I let him do the things he did.”

“Sadie.” Sam’s voice was filled with tenderness and love for her. “Sadie, why didn’t you ever say?”

“Because we never say anything real to each other. We play games, and we talk about games, and we talk about making games, and we don’t know each other at all.”

He was about to tell her that that was bullshit, that no two people had ever shared more of their lives together. That if she didn’t know him, no one

knew him, and he might as well not exist. But at that moment, Sam started to feel the phantom pain. He hadn’t had an episode in several months, and he didn’t want to have one right now, in Sadie’s apartment. He didn’t want to be weak and vulnerable when she hated him this much. He had become practiced at sensing the signs of it: the tension in his jaw and his forehead, the hyperawareness of every scent (the ocean, Sadie’s hand cream, rotting fruit in a garbage can outside), the bile in his throat, the electric pulses up his spine, the throb, the ache, the pulse of the missing limb. He opened his backpack, and he took out a joint. He lit it and then he inhaled deeply.

Sadie observed him, suddenly bemused, as if she were watching an animal do something unexpected: an elephant paint a picture, a pig use a calculator.

“You don’t mind if I smoke in here?” Sam said.

“Do what you want,” Sadie said. She stood up to open the gauzy cotton curtains and the window behind them. The sun was setting over Clownerina. “Since when do you smoke pot?”

Sam inhaled and then he shrugged.

She returned to the couch, positioning herself as far away from him as she could. The tendrils of smoke reached across the sofa to her, like sepulchral fingers beckoning, and a pleasant haze began to fill the room, turning everything that had been sharp, soft-focused. The pot’s miasma was strong and spicy, and despite herself, Sadie could feel herself mellowing.

“What is this?” she asked.

“Some kind of sinsemilla,” he said. “I don’t remember the name.” He did remember the name. It was one of those puerile names that growers gave pot—Bugs Bunny, Magic Kitten, Rollergirl—as if the only reason anyone smoked pot was for childish hijinks. He didn’t want to say the name out loud in that moment.

She shifted closer to him and she reached for the joint, palm up. Sam looked at her outstretched hand, which he knew as well as any hand except his own—the precise pattern of the lines that made up the grid of her palm, the slim fingers with the purplish veins at the knuckles, the particular creamy olive hue of her skin, her delicate wrist, pinkish, with a penumbral

callus that must have come from Dov, the white gold bracelet she wore that he knew had been a gift from Freda on her twelfth birthday. How could she honestly think he wouldn’t know about the handcuffs? He had spent hours sitting next to her, playing games and then making them, staring at her hands as her fingers flew across a keyboard or jabbed at a controller. Tell me I don’t know you, Sam thought. Tell me I don’t know you when I could draw both sides of this hand, your hand, from memory.

“Sam?” she said.

He passed her the joint.

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