Author: Dev Bentham
Money can’t buy happiness. Jacob Nussbaum knows this better than anyone. He’s a corporate lawyer deep inside a huge New York firm, where he works overtime, sacrifices any chance at a personal life, and has been selling his soul for years. With a secretary as his only friend, he trudges on, until his whole world is blown apart by a manila envelope of photos—evidence that one of the firm’s partners is the dirtiest lawyer in one hell of a filthy business.
In search of the truth, Jacob travels to a small northern Wisconsin fishing resort. There he meets Ben Anderson, a brutally lonely man, who knocks him off his feet. Ben prompts Jacob to reevaluate his life. He’s a dozen years older than Jacob, still recovering from the death of his long time love, and doesn’t want to leave anyone a widower. But a jaded New Yorker on a soul-searching mission might be just the man to convince the grieving Ben that it’s never too late to begin again.
The subway station stank of piss and echoed with the cacophonous clatter of hundreds of pairs of shoes pounding down the stairs and across the concrete platform. The train pulled in with a screech of brakes and a blast of hot air, and Jacob braced himself for the sweaty press of bodies that colored his morning commute. The subway was too hot in the summer and cold in the winter, not to mention smelly and uncomfortable all year around, but it ferried him efficiently from his apartment to work. And he enjoyed the walk to the station from his apartment and from the station to his office. It helped him think.
Clutching his briefcase like a football, he pushed onto the train along with the other Long Island City residents on their way to jobs in Manhattan or beyond. The commute was an opportunity to escape the rarefied atmosphere of corporate law and mix with real people who were just worried about getting from one day to the next. From down the car, another man caught his eye and held it—an assessment, a question, an invitation. There’d been a time—through his twenties and into his early thirties—when the mahogany perfection of the man’s skin or the flex of his biceps or arch of an eyebrow would have been enough. But at thirty-six, Jacob was too old for the hollow joys of casual sex and knew better than to imagine a real relationship could survive the rigors of his eighty-plus-hour-per-week job. He broke eye contact. Some men were meant to be alone. Much as he wished it weren’t true, he’d become one of them.
Fifteen minutes later the train stopped, and within minutes Jacob was trotting up the steps and emerging into the full-on, oven-like heat of the city in July. In the street, cars inched by bumper to bumper. He inhaled gas fumes, food truck grease, coffee, and sweat. Eau de Manhattan morning. As usual Jacob had stayed up too late working and was exhausted, but he took a deep breath and joined the throng of well-dressed men and women on their way to work.
Walking into the building lobby was like moving from the frying pan to the freezer. New York might drown when the polar ice caps melted, but temperature control in the buildings would still be extreme. Maybe they’d all boat to work. Jacob smiled to himself. Years before, he’d let a friend talk him into taking a rowing class up on the Harlem River. He’d joked at the time that he didn’t need the class. As an associate at the firm, he already knew how to be a galley slave. But it had been great exercise. That wouldn’t be a bad way to get to work after all.
He wedged himself into a crowded elevator and pushed the button for the twenty-fifth floor. Tired and lonely, not exactly the life he’d envisioned back in law school, when he’d been working his ass off to graduate near the top of his class and land a job at a prestigious firm. It didn’t get a lot more prestigious than Jacob’s firm. Representing some of the most powerful corporations in the world, they took up two of the building’s thirty-five stories. Expensive real estate, and they billed accordingly. Jacob was a partner. A real success story, even though he sometimes had to tune out the little voice in his head whispering that more often than not his clients didn’t deserve to win.
He stopped by the executive bathroom to wash the subway dust off his hands and give his suit a quick brush. For what they were paying, clients expected to see him beautifully groomed, right down to his manicured fingernails. Relatively tall and powerfully built, Jacob nicely filled out his tailor-made Italian suit. With his sharp nose and dark deep-set eyes, he was too ethnic looking to be considered handsome by their WASPish clientele. Instead he’d cultivated a look that was a little haughty, a little brooding, a lot overworked.
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