Local Jealousy

The sun sank into an orange haze over the humming borough of Queens, its low light casting long shadows that crisscrossed the streets like a lattice of lives connected and yet so distinct. On a weathered park bench, forgotten by the exodus of rush hour, sat two old friends: Jamie, who had the seasoned look of one for whom the city’s every corner held a memory or mischief, and Alex, a drifter at heart, who’d been everywhere but belonged nowhere.

“So there I was at Jack’s, you know, the local on Ditmars, just popped in for a pint,” Jamie began, an unfurling twinkle in his eye.

Alex shifted, a pang of longing buried beneath their coat, a want not for the tale, but the sense of it—belonging. “Your local?” they echoed, a whisper in a storm of remembrances.

Jamie nodded, oblivious to the weather changing on Alex’s face. “Yeah, and there’s this guy, right, whole get-up like he’s jumped out of a prohibition docu-drama. Fedora and all. Anyway, he orders a Guinness—”

“—Your local…” Alex’s words trailed like steam from a vent, rising and dissipating unseen.

Interrupting his flow, Jamie squinted at Alex, sensing the disconnection but charging on. “—A Guinness, and as the bartender pours it, this dude eyes everyone like we’re all gonna sprout wings or something. When the bartender brings it over, he slaps a hand on it, passing it through, I swear to God, a shimmering hoop of light—”

Unseeing, unhearing, Alex’s yearning billowed out, wrapping around the ‘local’, not for the fables it fostered but for the anchor it promised. “But you’re in the neighborhood…”

“—Transfigures the damn pint, Alex! It looked the same but smelled like pears. Says it’s how they drink it where he’s from. Bartender can’t believe it—yeah, the thing about the neighborhood,” Jamie plowed on, the ebb and flow of his delivery speaking to years soaking up the village bar talk.

Alex twitched. Brick, beer, and belonging—the trinity of the ‘local,’ a thing of elusive permanence. “I’d give anything for a local…for a neighborhood that’s more than an address, more than just geography—”

Jamie slowed, the buzzer of his story pausing. “I didn’t realize—”

He finally saw it, the weather on Alex’s soul—a tempest for a stools’ flick against hardwood, laughter bouncing off the low ceiling, faces known without names, stories without end. But Alex had stood too long on unfamiliar corners and slept beneath too many different patterns of stars to feel more than a fleeting visitor in each.

“—But never mind the guy, right? The thing is everyone bought a round after that, a real show of, I dunno, community?” Jamie shrugged, his words fumbling a touch, less certain than his local myths. “It’s nothing fancy, just…”

“—Just home, Jamie. Just home to everyone but the passing nomad.” Alex’s voice was a resignation letter written too many times. “I missed it, the homely twilight of an unassuming place where stories more outlandish than the city tales could live in the quiet, in the cheers, in a pint.”

Jamie flickered a look over Alex, a haze of empathy in his gaze. “Next time you’re in town, let’s grab a pint at Jack’s. You’re as local as any of us, mate.”

Alex met Jamie’s offer and a smile crumpled the edges of their wistfulness. “A local lend, then?” they mused. That would be enough for now, borrowing Jamie’s roots and, just for an evening, pretending they grew from their own feet.