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  • The Long Islands, ultimately, weren't the problem. My body could handle them. It knew them, intimately. The problem was something else. It wasn't out of my system all night. It wasn't out of my system when I woke up.

    The toughest part was how it ruined brunch. Brunch is my favorite part about Long Islands. The eggs, the potatoes, work a spell upon those iced teas. They clean up. They kiss you on the lips with new life. But they had no idea what to make of this new situation. I kept drinking orange juice. I had two glasses, ordered a third.

    The orange juice started tasting weird. It started tasting like the glue on stamps. Discouraged, I tried an egg, which tasted like sawdust. Then I tried the potatoes, which tasted like a mixture of aftershave and popcorn. I decided it was time to make for the bathroom, but it was one of those brunches. I was at about 11 o'clock, and the nearest exit from the table was half past six.

    Then I threw up. Since there was really nowhere to throw up, my stomach rained down upon my clothes. Since we hadn't driven, it was a walk to get home. It wasn't like I'd brought a change of shirt.

    Often, in Long Beach, the sidewalks are deserted. Everyone is in cars, and you can't see into them. On this bright morning, the sidewalks were bustling. A group of three tall guys faced us. The tallest one, who I accurately remember as about twelve feet tall, noticed my situation. I noticed him noticing. Well, naturally, I thought to myself. You didn't really think it was going to stop getting worse with brunch, did you?

    "What the fuck happened to you?" he asked.

    "I'm not feeling very well," I answered, diving behind the nearest understatement.

    "It was the cops?" he said. I'm including a question mark, but at the time, there wasn't one.

    "Not really," I said.

    "Oh, the fucking cops. What did they do? They get on you with their sticks? What did you ever do?" he asked.

    I decided not to say anything. To pass the time, I started looking at my shirt as though it was a painting.

    "They say, let me ask you some questions. But it's not just a bunch of questions with them. It's never that," he said. His voice was rough, or at least it sounded that way as we stood together under the sun.

    "He's really just feeling pretty bad," volunteered the woman next to me, helpfully. At the time, we were married.

    "I'll bet he is. Well, listen, man. We've all been there. They never try that shit with me, because they know me. So, now you know me, OK?" He pointed at his face, which was pitted with the remainders of teenage acne. "They call me Scarface. Like, the movie. Scarface of Long Beach. The next time this happens, we're all gonna be there."

    "Thank you," I said.

    "Seriously. Easy to remember. Scarface. We've got your back, man. I'm sick of seeing this happening to people."

    He nodded at his friends, and very formally, they all stood aside to let us pass. I made it home, of course; if you're afraid of nothing, it is easier to make it home.
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