Homecoming. That's what it felt like — a great big return to what used to be.
I was back at the newspaper — "this is where you belong," the editor said, and Ziegler looked and sounded just the same, just as New York as ever, a pretty good trick for someone who broke on through to the other side nine years ago.
The newsroom was at the top of a tricky flight of stairs, so steep they were almost vertical. Dori, my co-conspirator in the TV news biz, was having trouble navigating the slats. "It's because I may be carrying a new producer with me," she said.
"Whatever you do," I cautioned as I helped her up the stairs, "don't name him Ronald."
"Or her," Dori said.
They were celebrating in the newsroom, exchanging high fives with a curious two-finger slap, delivered low. It wasn't a celebration of their new hire; they were simply happy about being badasses. I spied Dengler, the great photog and —overjoyed at seeing him again — gave him a twirling hug.
I was a reporter again. My one true talent, reborn. So many ideas for stories — not just the chance to flex my writing chops. Opportunities to fully exploit video, audio, the web. All the things I had learned since leaving the paper would now become part of my new ways, my new life.
"This is going to be great," someone said to me, and we lifted a scotch toast to the future. Outside it was raining hard, a real toad-strangling downpour, and the water steamed in the heat.
"I love your new Facebook profile pic," Malibu said.
"Hear hear!" said the Daveinator. "It's good to see you smiling!" I didn't have the heart to tell him it was an old picture.
The Muse walked into the room and I did my best to ignore her, which meant I kept sneaking glances in her direction. "Why is she here?" I whispered to Wingo, who was suddenly, comfortably, by my side.
"She belongs here," Wingo said. "Face it, dude."
Wingo gave me That Look. "This is the way it's supposed to be. This is the way it's always going to be," he said. "This is your life."
I woke up and looked at my phone: 3:32 a.m. I spoke her name out loud, sighed, and went back to sleep for 88 more minutes, until the alarm started playing the piano riff to "Layla."
"Rejoice," I said. "Rejoice."